Kusserow on Compliance: OIG reports top unimplemented recommendations

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Top Unimplemented Recommendations: Solutions to Reduce Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in HHS Programs is an annual OIG publication. These recommendations, if implemented, are ones that would most positively impact HHS programs in terms of cost savings, program effectiveness and efficiency, and public health and safety. All were derived from audits and evaluations issued through December 31, 2019, which predated the COVID-19 public health emergency. Fourteen of the 25 were related to Medicare and Medicaid. The recommendations called for CMS to:

  1. Take actions to ensure that incidents of potential abuse or neglect of Medicare beneficiaries are identified and reported.
  2. Reevaluate the inpatient rehabilitation facility payment system, which could include seeking legislative authority to make any changes necessary to more closely align inpatient rehabilitation facility payment rates and costs.
  3. Seek legislative authority to comprehensively reform the hospital wage index system.
  4. Seek legislative authority to implement least costly alternative policies for Part B drugs under appropriate circumstances.
  5. Provide consumers with additional information about hospices’ performance via Hospice Compare.
  6. Continue to work with the Accredited Standards Committee X12 to ensure that medical device-specific information is included on claim forms and require hospitals to use certain condition codes for reporting device replacement procedures.
  7. Analyze the potential impacts of counting time spent as an outpatient toward the three-night requirement for skilled nursing facility (SNF) services so that beneficiaries receiving similar hospital care have similar access to these services.
  8. Provide targeted oversight of Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) that had risk adjusted payments resulting from unlinked chart reviews for beneficiaries who had no service records in the 2016 encounter data.
  9. Require MAOs to submit ordering and referring provider identifiers for applicable records in the encounter data.
  10. Develop and execute a strategy to ensure that Part D does not pay for drugs that should be covered by the Part A hospice benefit.
  11. Ensure that States’ reporting of national Medicaid data is complete, accurate, and timely.
  12. Collaborate with partners to develop strategies for improving rates of follow-up care for children treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  13. Develop policies and procedures to improve the timeliness of recovering Medicaid overpayments and recover uncollected amounts identified by OIG’s audits.
  14. Identify States that have limited availability of behavioral health services and develop strategies and share information to ensure that Medicaid managed care enrollees have timely access to these services.

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 LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Medicare overpaid hospitals $267M for post-acute care transfers to home health

An HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit identified 89,213 inpatient claims totaling $948 million at risk of overpayment because of hospital transfer policies to home health agencies for post-acute care. The OIG selected a stratified sample of 150 claims which was reviewed by an independent medical review contractor to assess the relatedness of the home health services to the hospital admission. The review found that Medicare improperly paid most inpatient claims subject to the transfer policy when beneficiaries resumed home health services within 3 days of discharge. Hospitals failed to code the inpatient claim as a discharge to home health services when the hospitals applied condition codes 42 (home health not related to inpatient stay) or 43 (home health not within 3 days of discharge). Of the 150 inpatient claims in the sample, Medicare properly paid for just three claims. As a result, CMS improperly paid for 147 claims, for a total of $722,288 in overpayments. Medicare should have paid these inpatient claims using a graduated per diem rate rather than the full payment. The OIG estimated that Medicare improperly paid $267 million during a 2-year period for hospital services that should have been paid a graduated per diem payment.

Prior OIG audits identified Medicare overpayments to hospitals that did not comply with Medicare’s post-acute-care transfer policy and in response CMS instituted new corrective actions into the system. The OIG later found the policies were still not properly designed. The result is that hospitals may be using condition codes to bypass CMS’s system edits to receive higher reimbursements for inpatients transferred to home health services. Compliance officers should consider this—the transfer of patients from hospital in-patient care to post-acute care at home health agencies—as a risk area warranting an internal review.

 

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 LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Ninth Circuit reinstates unnecessary admissions whistleblower case

Federal Court established grounds for “medical necessity” fraud cases

A compliance high-risk area worthy of attention

On March 23, 2020, the Ninth Circuit reinstated a False Claims Act (ACA) “whistleblower” suit alleging a hospital and various physicians orchestrated medically unnecessary inpatient admissions resulting in the submission of more than $1.2 million in false claims to Medicare. This reversed the District Court ruling that FCA allegations failed because “subjective medical opinions…cannot be proved objectively false.”

The Circuit Court decision follows others that established the lack of “medical necessity” claims can proceed under the FCA. The qui tam relator in the case alleged that certain admissions to the hospital were not medically necessary and were in fact contraindicated by the patients’ medical records and the hospital’s admission criteria. As a result, the hospital allegedly submitted, or caused to be submitted, Medicare claims that falsely certified that patients’ hospitalizations were medically necessary. The relator was a nurse who reported 65 admissions that “failed to satisfy the hospital’s own admissions criteria” and noted that the admission rate from related nursing homes with was over 80 percent during the relevant time period. The nursing home operator had acquired fifty percent ownership in the hospital that resulted in a spike in admissions from those facilities. After repeatedly attempts to bring the issue to the attention of management, she was fired.

The Court held that a physician’s clinical opinion must be judged by the same standard as any other representation, including whether the physician: (1) knows the clinical opinion to be false; or (2) renders the opinion in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. This means that a physician’s certification that inpatient hospitalization was “medically necessary” can be false or fraudulent as any opinion that is not honestly held. In short, a false certification of medical necessity can therefore give rise to FCA liability.

Compliance officers at any hospital should make this message known to the executive leadership and medical staff.

 

 

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 LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

CMS final rule reduces hospital administrative burdens

 

CMS issued a final rule to reduce unnecessary burden for health care providers, allowing them to focus on their priority—patients. Included in the rule is the removal of Medicare regulations identified as unnecessary, obsolete, or excessively burdensome. The rule removes the requirements for a facility to:

 

  • Request or allow swing-bed patients to perform services for the facility.
  • Provide an ongoing activities program that is directed by a qualified professional because the patient’s activity needs are addressed in the nursing care plan.
  • Employ a qualified social worker on a full-time basis because of the hospital swing-bed and Critical Access Hospital (CAH) bed limit requirements for those with more than 120 beds.
  • Assist residents in obtaining routine and 24-hour emergency dental care because of the existing requirement for hospitals and CAHs to provide care in accordance with the needs of the patient.
  • For CAHs, to perform a review of all their policies and procedures.
  • To disclose the names of people with a financial interest in the CAH.
  • For Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), to review the patient care policies and facility evaluation annually, changing the frequency to every two years.
  • For a hospital’s medical staff, to attempt to secure autopsies in all cases of unusual deaths and of medical-legal and educational interest.

 

Hospitals, CAHs, and Home Health Agencies (HHAs) under the rule will be required to:

 

  • Have new discharge planning requirements—as mandated by the IMPACT act for hospitals, HHAs, and CAHs—which require facilities to assist patients, their families, or the patient’s representative in selecting a post-acute care (PAC) services provider or supplier by using and sharing PAC data on quality measures and resource use measures.
  • Have revised language that now requires a hospital (or CAH) to discharge the patient, and also transfer or refer the patient where applicable, along with his or her necessary medical information (current course of illness and treatment, post-discharge goals of care, and treatment preferences), at the time of discharge, to not only the appropriate post-acute care service providers and suppliers, facilities, agencies, but also to other outpatient service providers and practitioners responsible for the patient’s follow-up or ancillary care.
  • Have revised compliance language for HHAs that now requires these facilities to send all necessary medical information (current course of illness and treatment, post-discharge goals of care, and treatment preferences), to the receiving facility or health care practitioner to ensure the safe and effective transition of care, and that the HHA must comply with requests made by the receiving facility or health care practitioner for additional clinical information necessary for treatment of the patient.
  • Send necessary medical information to the receiving facility or appropriate PAC provider (including the practitioner responsible for the patient’s follow-up care) after a patient is discharged from the hospital or transferred to another PAC provider or, for HHAs, another HHA.
  • In the case of hospitals, ensure and support patients’ rights to access their medical records in the form and format requested by the patient, if it is readily producible in such form and format.
  • Allow multi-hospital systems to have unified and integrated Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement (QAPI) programs and unified and integrated infection control and antibiotic stewardship programs for all their member hospitals.
  • Allow hospitals the flexibility to establish a medical staff policy describing the circumstances under which a pre-surgery/pre-procedure assessment for an outpatient could be utilized, instead of a comprehensive medical history and physical examination.
  • Additionally, CMS is moving to clarify the requirement to allow the use of non-physician practitioners and doctors of medicine/doctors of osteopathy (MD/DOs) to document progress notes of patients receiving services in psychiatric hospitals.

 

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 LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

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