Personal service care fraud; a growing problem for Medicaid

Medicaid personal care service (PCS) fraud cases made up a “substantial and growing” portion of cases investigated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MCFUs) and greater oversight is recommended by the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG). In a report covering the PCS work of MFCUs over fiscal years 2012-2015, the OIG found that these cases comprised over 12 percent of the total investigations and accounted for 34 percent of the convictions (OIG Report, OEI-12-16-00500, December 6, 2017).

Background

Personal care services are those services that support consist daily living activities, including bathing and dressing, meal preparation, and transportation. PCS providers assist the elderly, people with disabilities, and individuals with chronic or temporary health conditions, allowing these persons to remain living in their homes and communities. PCS are typically delivered through either an agency-directed PCS or a self-directed PCS, through which beneficiaries hire and supervise their own provider. PCS are offered either as an optional benefit through a Medicaid State plan or through demonstration projects and waiver programs. States are required to develop their requirement and qualification standards for PCS providers, resulting in widely varying requirements across the country.

Growing percentage

The OIG found that during the three-year review period, PCS fraud cases made up a substantial and increasing number of MFCU cases and outcomes. In FY 2015, such cases made up 12 percent of total investigations and over the review period, they made up 38 percent of indictments, and 34 percent of convictions. Furthermore, during the review period, indictments increased 56 percent and convictions increased 33 percent. Payments to PCS providers represented $13 billion out of $524 billion total Medicaid expenditures during FY 2015.

Recommendations and challenges

MCFUs have recommended that State Medicaid either enroll PCS attendants as Medicaid providers, or include PCS attendants in a provider registry. This would allow for the assignment of unique provider identification number to PCS attendants to include on claims for reimbursement. Some form of enrollment or registration is needed, as the inability to identify individual PCS attendants restricts the ability to identify fraudulent providers. MCFUs have suggested that enrolling PCS attendants in Medicaid would better inform them about Medicaid procedures and requirements.

MCFUs have also recommended the use of background checks for attendants. They found that the current, minimal, background check requirements could put vulnerable beneficiaries at risk. For example, a PCS attendant in Arizona pleaded guilty to theft and financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, after having stolen checkbooks, cash, credit cards, and personal items belonging to the beneficiaries. The PCS agency checked for felony arrests and found none; the attendant had, however, numerous misdemeanor convictions and had previously lost her nursing assistant license.

The MCFUs have also recommended using additional documentation requirements, such as requiring require PCS attendants to provide detailed or standardized timesheets and to show the start and stop times for the services. The currently minimal PCS documentation means that PCS claims data may not contain the identity of the PCS attendant, the number of hours worked, or the time of day during which the services were provided.

Lastly, the MCFUs recommended that State Medicaid agencies implement a variety of controls regarding oversight of PCS providers and their services. These controls include more frequent in-home supervisory visits, training for PCS attendants and cross-reference attendant and beneficiary location. For a variety of reasons, beneficiaries may be reluctant to report abuses and more frequent in-home visits could curtail fraud.

Funding issues

The units reported that their efforts to protect beneficiaries are hamstrung by their ineligibility to receive Federal funding to investigate and prosecute complaints in nonfacility settings. Such complaints are often referred to other agencies. Those agencies often do not receive the same level of training on patient abuse and neglect that MCFU staff receives and may have severely strained resources.

Conclusions

The report found that the volume and increase of MFCU investigations and prosecutions indicates that PCS remain vulnerable to fraud. The report noted that the recommendations are similar to those made in previous reports and states that it is crucial that federal funding authority be expanded to allow MFCUs to investigate and prosecute cases of patient abuse and neglect in nonfacility settings.

Despite uncertainty about ACA most states moving forward with Medicaid expansion

Although the future of Medicaid funding is unclear with the ongoing efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), many states were still working to expand Medicaid services and benefits, according to a joint Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Health Management Associates (HMA) report. In an annual survey collecting data about Medicaid policies in place or implemented in fiscal year 2017 and policy changes that will be implemented or are being discussed for fiscal year 2018 in each state and the District of Columbia, KFF and HMA noted that some of the biggest changes are occurring in eligibility policies, managed care reforms, and the expansion of benefits.

Eligibility and Premiums

In 2017, seven states made changes to expand Medicaid eligibility and in 2018 another seven are planning to implement eligibility expansions. These changes include eliminating the 5-year bar on Medicaid eligibility for lawfully-residing immigrant children or providing coverage for a new eligibility group of individuals who are chronically homeless, justice-involved, or in need of substance abuse or mental health treatment with an income below 5 percent of the federal poverty level. A few states are looking to make changes to restrict Medicaid eligibility by imposing work requirements and asset tests.

In recent years, many states have made changes to the way Medicaid coverage is handled when beneficiaries are in the criminal justice system. Some states have opted to suspend coverage when someone is incarcerated rather than terminate coverage, as they have done previously, so it is easier to reinstate coverage when the beneficiary is released. Additionally, some states have developed initiatives to work with and train criminal justice employees to assist with Medicaid applications after a person is released.

Managed Care

Twenty-nine of 39 states with risk-based managed care organizations (MCOs) reported that 75 percent or more of their Medicaid beneficiaries were in enrolled in MCOs as of July 1, 2017. Most states carve-out certain services, such as behavioral health services, from their MCO contracts. In 2017 at least six states took steps to carve in behavioral health services into their MCO contracts and ten states reported plans to work toward carving in behavior health services in 2018. Twenty-six of the 39 MCO states reported that they would use the funds available for inpatient psychiatric treatment or substance use treatment under the 2016 Medicaid Managed Care Final Rule; however, many states commented that the 15-day limit was too restrictive for the type of treatment that it was meant to cover. Sixteen states in 2017 and 17 states plan in 2018 to include specific initiatives to encourage MCOs that cover LTSS to expand access to home and immunity-based services (HCBS).

Benefits

Twenty-six states reported new or enhanced benefits in 2017 and 17 states plan to add or enhance benefits in 2018. These added benefits include mental health and substance use disorder services, alternative plain therapies, family planning and cancer screenings. Nineteen states reported new or expanded initiatives to expand dental access or improve oral health outcomes in 2017 or 2018. Additionally, 19 states reported initiatives to expand the use of telehealth in 2018 or 2019. For 2018, 22 states reported plants to adopt or expand initiatives such as patient-centered medical homes or accountable care organizations in an effort to encourage integrated care. Fourteen states in 2017 and 13 states plan in 2018 to report expansions and additions to the HCBS programs, including personal supports, supported employment, home delivered and medically tailored meals among others.

Although most states are continuing to look ahead to expand Medicaid benefits and eligibility, almost all states are still concerned about the negative fiscal consequences that they would face in the proposed limits on federal Medicaid spending. Medicaid directors from the 32 ACA Medicaid expansion states reported the states would not be able to continue providing coverage for expansion population, or the coverage would be at a substantial risk, if the ACA federal match was terminated.

Expiration of federal funding threatens state CHIP programs

In light of the fact that federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on September 30, 2017, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analyzed the impact upon states and potential outcomes. Without an extension of federal funding for CHIP, KFF reported that states have or will run out of federal CHIP funding and may face budget shortfalls for CHIP, which covered 8.9 million children in 2016.

According to KFF under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) the enhanced federal funding matching rate was further increased by 23 percent. With this, the CHIP federal matching rate ranged from 88 percent to 100 percent. Because nearly all the states included federal funding for CHIP when creating their FY 2018 state budgets, nearly all the states will face a budget shortfall if the federal funding is not extended.

In the absence of an extension of federal funding for CHIP, some states will have to reduce CHIP coverage. States that have CHIP-funded Medicaid expansions must maintain the underage under the ACA “maintenance of effort” requirement, leaving state costs to increase in the face of lower federal Medicaid match rate. However, states with separate CHIP coverage are not required to maintain it, and states may freeze enrollment or discontinue CHIP coverage altogether.

In the short run, states can continue to use federal funding accrued through the September 30 expiration. Eleven states reported that they would run out of federal funding for CHIP by the end of FY 2017, and at least one state reported that their funding would be depleted at the expiration date. By redistribution of unspent CHIP funds, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was able to provide enough additional funding to allow that state to maintain coverage without a budget shortfall through October. CMS was also able to provide redistributed funds to several other states that were close to running out of funds.

In order to address the expected states’ budget shortfalls, Congress is working on legislation for continued funding. Both the Senate and the House have reported bills out of committee to provide an extension of federal funding for CHIP. The bills from the House and Senate contain many of the same provisions, including a five-year extension for federal funding of CHIP and a transition down from the enhanced 23 percent match provided by the ACA. However, the House bill includes some additional provisions not included in the Senate bill. Both bills still need to be debated and voted upon by the full House and Senate, and if both are passed, Congress will have to reconcile the difference between the two bills.

CHIP and DSHs face difficult financial roads without quick congressional move

Without congressional action, authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program will end on September 30, 2017, with the end of fiscal year (FY) 2017. Cuts to disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments are also scheduled to take effect on October 1, 2017. If the authorization lapses and the cuts take effect, states will face budget shortages in their attempts to keep the CHIP program solvent and DSHs, which already operate on tight budgets, will be exposed to greater financial strain. A number of other health care related provisions are also slated to lapse on September 30, 2017, if Congress does not act, according to a Congressional Research Service (CSR) report.

Action

On September 28, 2017, the Energy and Commerce Committee announced that it would markup a bill to extend funding to the CHIP program. On the same day, members of Congress authored a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) expressing concerns regarding the impact of the DSH cuts and calling for congressional action.

DSH cuts

Stakeholders have made ongoing attempts to procure action from Congress to delay the DSH cuts. On September 18, nine hospital organizations urged lawmakers to further delay the start of Medicaid DSH cuts authorized by Section 2551 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) (see Hospital organizations again advocate for delay of Medicaid DSH reductions, September 19, 2017). The cuts would have gone into effect in 2014 but legislation delayed the reduction. The reduced payments were designed to account for decreases in uncompensated care, yet, DSHs warn that planned increases in coverage rates under the ACA have not been realized, exposing providers to unfair payment reductions.

CHIP

Although the impact of a delay in CHIP reauthorization will differ from state to state, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis revealed that “states would face budget pressures, children would lose coverage, and implementation of program changes could result in increased costs and administrative burden for states” if Congress does not reauthorize the CHIP program by the end of FY 2017 (see States face budget shortages if Congress doesn’t extend CHIP funding, September 11, 2017).