Kusserow on Compliance: Huge fraud schemes involving telemedicine and DME

– Charges against two dozen people involving over $1.2 billion

 – Administrative Action against 130 DMEs submitting $1.7 Billion in claims

The DOJ announced charges against 24 defendants—including the CEOs, COOs, and others associated with five telemedicine companies, the owners of dozens of durable medical equipment (DME) companies, and three licensed medical professionals—associated with health care fraud schemes involving more than $1.2 billion. CMS and the Center for Program Integrity (CPI) have taken adverse administrative action against 130 DME companies that had submitted over $1.7 billion in claims and were paid over $900 million. The scheme involved payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by DME companies in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine companies for back, shoulder, wrist, and knee braces that were medically unnecessary.

The DOJ alleges those charged with paying doctors to prescribe DME either without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephonic conversation with patients they had never met or seen. The proceeds of the fraudulent scheme were allegedly laundered through international shell corporations and used to purchase exotic automobiles, yachts, and luxury real estate in the United States and abroad. Some of the defendants obtained patients for the scheme by using an international call center that advertised to Medicare beneficiaries and “up-sold” the beneficiaries to get them to accept numerous “free or low-cost” DME braces, regardless of medical necessity. The international call center allegedly paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to telemedicine companies to obtain DME orders for these Medicare beneficiaries. The telemedicine companies then allegedly paid physicians to write medically unnecessary DME orders. Finally, the international call center sold the DME orders that it obtained from the telemedicine companies to DME companies, which fraudulently billed Medicare. Collectively, the CEOs, COOs, executives, business owners and medical professionals involved in the conspiracy are accused of causing over $1 billion in loss.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: New OIG Work Plan items

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued updates to its Active Work Plan (Work Plan). The Work Plan outlines ongoing and planned audits and evaluations for the fiscal year and beyond. Recent additions related to Medicare/Medicaid include the following:

  1. Medicare Part D Rebates Related to Drugs Dispensed by 340B Pharmacies. Drug manufacturers often do not pay for Medicare Part D prescription rebates filled at 340B-covered entities and contract pharmacies because the manufacturer already provides a discount on the drug. The OIG will conduct a study to determine the potential rebate savings if Part B program sponsors and manufacturers could agree on eligible prescriptions filled at 340B pharmacies that receive rebates.

 

  1. Characteristics of Part D Beneficiaries at Serious Risk of Opioid Misuse or Overdose. An OIG data brief found that about 71,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries were at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose in 2017. The OIG will study: (1) the characteristics of these beneficiaries, including their demographics and diagnoses; (2) the opioid utilization of these beneficiaries; and (3) the extent to which these beneficiaries have had adverse health effects related to opioids and any overdose incidents.

 

  1. Ensuring Dual-Eligible Beneficiaries’ Access to Drugs Under Part D: Mandatory Review.

Part D plans that meet certain limitations have the discretion to include different Part D drugs and drug utilization tools in their formularies. Under the Affordable Care Act, the OIG conducts an annual study to review the extent to which Part D sponsors’ formularies include drugs commonly used by Medicaid and Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

 

  1. Nursing Facility Staffing: Reported Levels and CMS Oversight. CMS uses the Payroll Based Journal auditable daily staffing data to analyze staffing patterns and populate the staffing component of the Nursing Home Compare website. It aids the public determine the results of health and safety inspections, quality of care at nursing facilities, and staffing. The OIG will issue two reports to: (1) describe nursing staffing levels that facilities report to the Payroll-Based Journal; and (2) examine CMS efforts to ensure data accuracy and improve resident quality of care.

 

  1. Medicare Part B Payments for Podiatry and Ancillary Services. Medicare Part B covers podiatry services for medically necessary treatment of foot injuries, diseases, or other medical conditions affecting the foot, ankle, or lower leg. It does not cover routine foot-care services unless they are: (1) necessary and integral part of otherwise covered services; (2) for the treatment of warts on the foot; (3) in the presence of a systemic condition or conditions; or (4) for the treatment of infected toenails. The OIG will review Part B payments to determine whether podiatry and ancillary services were medically necessary and supported in accordance with Medicare requirements.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG adds new work plan items for 2019

The HHS OIG’s six new Active Work Plan (Work Plan) items for 2019, including the following:

  1. Medicare Payments for Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory Tests in 2018: Year 1 of New Payment Rates. Medicare Part B covers most lab tests and allowable charges without beneficiary copayments. The Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA) mandates CMS release an annual analysis of the top 25 laboratory tests by expenditures and for them to set payment rates for lab tests using current charges in the private health care market; and the OIG will conduct a study on this data.

 

  1. States’ Compliance with New Requirements to Prevent Medicaid Payments to Terminated Providers. The 21st Century Cures Act requires CMS to provide states with information on Medicaid providers that have been terminated to prevent them from treating enrollees or receiving Medicaid payments. The OIG will examine the extent to which the CMS terminations database have resulted in terminations of all state Medicaid programs and the amount of payments associated with terminated providers; and examine which contracts between states and managed care entities include a provision that excludes terminated providers from all managed care networks.

 

  1. Follow-up Review on Inpatient Claims Subject to the Post-Acute-Care Transfer Policy. Previous OIG reviews found (a) hospitals did not comply with the Medicare post-acute-care transfer policy, resulting in overpayments by the Medicare program; (b) hospitals would use the “to home” patient discharge status codes on their claims even though the patient was transferred to a post-acute-care setting; and (c) CMS’s common working file edits related to beneficiary transfers to home health care, SNFs, and non-IPPS hospitals were not working properly. The review will determine if CMS corrected the CWF edits, ensure that the edits are working properly, and that they recovered the identified overpayments.

 

  1. Utilization and Pricing Trends for Naloxone in Medicaid. Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. There is concern its high cost may impede increased access to the drug. The OIG will (a) produce a data showing trends in utilization of and expenditures for naloxone in Medicaid over a 5-year period; (b) compare the cost-per-dose of naloxone under Medicaid compares to other available prices; and (c) determine the proportion of all naloxone paid for under Medicaid between 2014 and 2018.

 

  1. Medicare Outpatient Outlier Payments for Claims with Credits for Replaced Medical Devices. Hospitals are required to submit a zero or token charge when they receive a full credit for a replacement medical device, however CMS does not specify how to reduce charges for partial credits. The OIG will focus on overstated Medicare charges on outpatient claims that contain both an outlier payment and a reported medical device credit.
  1. Duplicate Payments for Home Health Agency (HHA) Services Covered Under Medicare and Medicaid. HHA coverage requirements state that they are responsible for providing all services either directly or under arrangement while a beneficiary is under a physician authorized home health plan of care.  Medicare pays a single HHA overseeing the plan.  For dual eligible beneficiaries with no other coverage who are receiving HHA services, Medicare is the first payer, because Medicaid is generally a payer of last resort.  The OIG will determine whether states made Medicaid payments for HHA services provided to dual eligible beneficiaries who are also covered under Medicare.

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Meeting sanction checking mandates

As the HHS Inspector General, I created what is now referred to as the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) that was followed by OIG compliance guidance documents which call for checking employees, physicians, vendors, and contractors against the LEIE. The OIG considers all claims and costs associated with an excluded party as potentially false and fraudulent and can lead to significant financial penalties and more. The OIG Special Advisory Bulletin on the Effect of Exclusion provides very useful information in assessing this risk area. CMS mandates, as a condition of enrollment, providers may not employ or contract with individuals or entities that are excluded from participation in any federal health care program and call for checking not only against the LEIE, but also the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), now part of the System for Award Management (SAM). CMS further called upon State Medicaid Directors to establish their own sanction data base and requires providers to check it on a monthly basis. To date, 40 states have moved to establish their own Medicaid sanction lists with other states in the process of doing the same. This has increased the sanction screening burden exponentially, not only for the compliance office but other departments as well. HR often has responsibility of sanction checking new hires and periodically current employees. Procurement is also affected because they handle the screening of vendors and contractors. The Medical Credentialing Office must ensure checking on physicians who have been granted staff privileges.  Other federal sanction databases worth screening are maintained by the DEA and FDA, as well as the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Terrorist Watch List.

Daniel Peake, of the Compliance Resource Center (CRC), works with clients to provide a variety of CRC services that includes providing sanction checking services, as well as the investigation and resolution of potential hits. He noted that the time and resources necessary for developing and maintaining a search engine, along with regularly collecting and updating sanction information from many databases is not very cost effective. This high cost of using internal resources to develop and manage the sanction checking has resulted in the great majority of health care entities subscribing to a vendor service that provides a search engine to their established databases. Vendors can afford the high cost of maintaining the currency of the data because they amortize the costs over many clients. The problem is that that vendor quality, cost, and reliability can vary enormously.  From experience, he offered the following tips for those considering a vendor:

 

Tips on choosing a vendor search engine service

  1. Know the cost up front with a fixed rate, not based upon per click searches.
  2. Contract should permit cancelling without cause at any time, if dissatisfied.
  3. Ensure vendor has liability insurance ($ 1 to 3 million preferably).
  4. Determine other services included (e.g. policy templates, regulatory updates, etc.).
  5. Determine how much “help desk” assistance is available to resolve potential hits.

 

For more information, contact Daniel Peake at (dpeake@complianceresource.com) (703-236-9854).

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.