Kusserow on Compliance: Increased CMS Spotlight on Nursing Facilities

CMS and states visit nursing homes on a regular basis with “survey” or “inspection” teams to determine if the nursing homes are providing the quality of care that is required by Medicare and Medicaid, as well as to identify deficiencies in meeting CMS safety requirements. When deficiencies are identified, they must be corrected, and, if serious ones are not corrected, it may lead to termination from participation in Medicare and Medicaid.

Most facilities correct their problems within a reasonable period. However, some have significantly more problems that the norm with a pattern of serious problems persisting over three or more years. Although some facilities institute enough improvement that they are in substantial compliance on one survey, significant problems often resurface by the time of the next survey. Such facilities are referred to by CMS as a “yo-yo” or “in and out” compliance history. These facilities rarely address underlying systemic problems that are giving rise to repeated cycles of serious deficiencies. To address this problem CMS created the “Special Focus Facility” (SFF) initiative that is a listing of problematic nursing homes that have had a history of serious quality issues and are included in a special program to stimulate improvements in their quality of care.

Those on the SFF list are visited in person by survey teams twice as frequently as other nursing homes (about twice per year). The longer the problems persist, the more stringent the enforcement actions, including imposition of civil monetary penalties (“fines”) or termination from Medicare and Medicaid.  Within about 18 to 24 months after a facility is identified by CMS as an SFF nursing home, CMS expects: (1) improvement & graduation off the SFF; (2) termination from participation in Medicare/Medicaid programs; or (3) extension of time on SFF because of some progress or change of ownership. For more information check the CMS website that posts SFF Nursing Homes in five (5) categories:

  1. newly added to the SFF;
  2. failing to show significant improvement since being posted on the SFF;
  3. showing significant improvement by the most recent survey, and CMS is monitoring;
  4. graduating off the SFF because they not only improved, but they sustained significant improvement for about 12 months (through two standard surveys); and
  5. terminated by CMS from participation in Medicare and Medicaid within, or voluntarily chose not to continue such participation.

To assist in improving Nursing Home quality, CMS began rating all nursing homes using a Five-Star Quality Rating System that can be found at https://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.

 

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.

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

Kusserow on Compliance: Meeting nursing home compliance program legal mandates

The November 28, 2019 deadline approaches for skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes to adopt and implement an effective compliance and ethics program as a condition of participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. At that time, state survey agencies will begin assessing facility compliance with implementation of an effective compliance and ethics program. Yet, the OIG continues to find major problems with that health care sector. The OIG recently reported that posthospital extended care services or Medicare beneficiary coverage must be preceded by an inpatient stay in a hospital for not less than three consecutive calendar days. The OIG found that CMS improperly paid 65 of the 99 skilled nursing facility (SNF) claims sampled by the OIG.  Projecting from its sample, the OIG estimated that CMS improperly paid $84 million for SNF services over a two-year period.

Those nursing homes that followed the OIG guidance will have little problem in meeting the new mandate, but those who did not have only months to come into compliance. Organizations trying to catch up should consider having a compliance expert perform a gap analysis to identify elements needed for the compliance program and how be able to evidence program effectiveness. A gap analysis should provide a “road map” and step-by-step plan for bringing a facility into compliance with the mandates. Those that have already implemented a compliance program should consider having an effectiveness evaluation conducted by experts to verify that the program will meet mandated standards.

For more information about meeting the standards of these new mandates, Tom Herrmann may be reached at thermmann@strategicm.com or at (703) 535-1410.

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: CMS announced updates to nursing home ratings

CMS announced updates in April 2019 to Nursing Home Compare and the Five-Star Quality Rating System. Its purpose is to provide tools for consumers to compare quality between nursing homes. This comes in advance of the November 28, 2019 deadline for skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes to have implemented an effective compliance and ethics program as a condition of participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The new tools announced have been created to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes and identify areas they may want to ask about when looking at nursing home care. Nursing Home Compare has a quality rating system that gives each nursing home a rating between 1 and 5 stars and those with 5 stars are considered to have above average quality and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality below average. There is also a separate rating for each of the following three factors:

 

  1. Health Inspections include findings on compliance to Medicare/Medicaid health and safety requirements from onsite surveys conducted by state survey agencies at nursing homes.
  2. Staffing Levels are the numbers of RNs available to care for patients in a nursing home at any given time.
  3. Quality Measures for care are based on resident assessment and Medicare claims data.

 

The April 2019 changes include revisions to the inspection process, enhancement of new staffing information, implementation of new quality measures, and lifting of the “freeze” on the health inspection ratings instituted in February 2018 to hold up the star rating score until all nursing homes were surveyed at least once under the new survey process. In April, users of the site will be able to see the most up to date status of a facility’s compliance, which is a very strong reflection of a facility’s ability to improve and protect each resident’s health and safety. CMS is also setting higher thresholds and evidence-based standards for nursing homes’ staffing levels, recognizing that nurses have the greatest impact on the quality of care nursing homes deliver. As such, CMS is assigning an automatic one-star rating when a Nursing Home facility reports no RN is onsite. In April 2019, the threshold for the number of days without an RN onsite in a quarter that triggers an automatic downgrade to one-star will be reduced from seven days to four days. The new Update includes:

 

  • changes to the quality component to improve the identification of quality differences among nursing homes, raising expectations for quality, and incentivizing continuous quality improvement;
  • adding measures of long-stay hospitalizations and emergency room transfers;
  • removing duplicative and less meaningful measures;
  • establishing separate quality ratings for short-stay and long-stay residents; and
  • revising the rating thresholds to better identify the differences in quality among nursing homes making it easier for consumers to find the information needed to make decisions.

 

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: 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.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

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