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: CMS Preclusion list

Those on Preclusion List are prohibited from MA Plan or Part D sponsor payment

Effective April 2019, under a final rule published by CMS, Part D sponsors, or their pharmacy benefit manager must screen against the Preclusion List and reject any pharmacy claim prescribed by an individual or entity on the Preclusion List. Additionally, effective April 2019, MA plans must deny payment for a health care item or service furnished by an individual or entity on the list. Plans and sponsors must also notify impacted beneficiaries who received care or a prescription from a provider on the Preclusion List in the last twelve months. The list includes those who are currently revoked from Medicare; are under an active reenrollment bar, where CMS has determined that the underlying conduct is detrimental to the Medicare program; or have engaged in behavior for which CMS could have revoked the prescriber and determined the underlying conduct would have led to the revocation. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to, felony convictions and OIG exclusions. Only health care plans approved by CMS will have access to the Preclusion List. MA plans and Part D sponsors will be required to access the list through an Enterprise Identity Data Management (EIDM) account with CMS.  The List will be updated around the first business day of each month. CMS indicated that individuals or entities appearing on the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE) and/or the System for Award Management (SAM) list would also be placed on the Preclusion List.

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.

Rural hospitals hit hard by reductions in Medicare disbursements, declining population

Approximately 3 percent of all rural hospitals closed in the period between 2013 and 2017, which can affect rural residents’ access to health care services. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) did a study to determine how HHS supports and monitors rural hospitals’ financial viability and rural residents’ access to hospital services. The study also details the number and characteristics of rural hospitals that have closed as well as what is known about the factors that contributed to those closures. According to the GAO report, Medicare Dependent Hospitals and for-profit hospitals were some of the hardest hit by reductions in Medicare disbursements, while hospitals in Medicaid expansion states and states with higher enrollment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) were the least affected (GAO Report, GAO-18-634, September 30, 2018).

Rural hospitals

In 2017, 2,250 general acute care hospitals in the United States met the definition of rural. Rural hospitals represented approximately 48 percent of hospitals nationwide and 16 percent of inpatient beds. Rural hospitals spread across 84 percent of the United States land area that is classified as rural and served 18 percent of the United State population that lived in those areas. Rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of elderly residents than urban areas, a higher percentage of residents with limitations in activities caused by chronic conditions, and a lower median household income. Rural areas also face a decreasing population and slow employment growth.

Payment policies and programs

HHS provides key financial support to rural hospitals to provide rural residents access to hospital services through a number of payment policies and programs. CMS administers five rural hospital payment designations, in which rural or isolated hospitals that meet specified eligibility criteria receive higher reimbursement for hospital services than they otherwise would have received under Medicare’s standard payment methodology. The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) administers multiple grant programs, cooperative agreements, and contracts that provide funding and technical assistance to rural hospitals. CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation tests new ways to deliver and pay for healthcare. There are also the broader HHS payment policies and programs such as Medicare and Medicaid base payments, Medicare and Medicaid uncompensated care payments, the state innovation models initiative, as well as other targeted HHS payment policy and programs.

Rural hospital closures

An analysis of data shows that from 2013 through 2017, 64 rural hospitals closed. This is more than twice the number of rural hospitals that closed during the prior 5-year period and accounts for more than the share of urban hospitals that closed and more than the number of rural hospitals that opened. Rural hospitals in the South represented 38 percent of the rural hospitals in 2013 but accounted for 77 percent of the rural hospital closures from 2013 through 2017. Medicare dependent hospitals represented 9 percent of the rural hospitals in 2013 but accounted for 25 percent of the rural hospital closures.

For-profit hospitals are twice as likely to experience financial distress relative to government-owned and non-profit hospitals and represented 11 percent of rural hospitals in 2013 but accounted for 36 percent of closures. Bed size also seems to be a factor as rural hospitals with between 26 and 49 inpatient beds represented 11 percent of the rural hospitals in 2013 but accounted for 23 percent of the closures. While critical access hospitals (CAHs), which have 25 acute inpatient beds or less and make up a majority of the rural hospitals, were less likely than other rural hospitals to close. This may be due, in part, to the CAH payment designation.

Contributing factors

Data shows that rural hospital closures were generally preceded and caused by financial distress. This is partially due to a decrease in patients seeking inpatient care at rural hospitals. There are an increasing number of federally qualified health centers or newer hospital systems outside of the area that create increased competition for rural hospitals. Technological advances have also allowed for more services to be provided in outpatient settings. There is also data showing that the years 2010 through 2016 marked the first recorded period of rural population decline.

Rural hospitals are sensitive to changes in Medicare payments because, on average, Medicare accounted for approximately 46 percent of their gross patient revenues in 2016. Reductions in nearly all Medicare reimbursements and reductions in Medicare bad debt payments have contributed to negative margins for rural hospitals.

Medicaid expansion

According to stakeholders that were interviewed and literature that was reviewed, the strongest factor that likely strengthened the financial viability of rural hospitals was the increased Medicaid eligibility and enrollment under the ACA. A 2018 study showed that Medicaid expansion was associated with improved hospital financial performance and a substantially lower likelihood of closure, especially in rural markets. Drops in uninsured rates in 2008 through 2009 and 2014 through 2015 corresponded with states’ decisions to expand Medicaid, with small towns and rural areas seeing the largest increase in Medicaid coverage and decline in uninsured. Data shows that from 2013 through 2017, rural hospitals in states that had expanded Medicaid as of April 2018 were less likely to close compared with rural hospitals in states that had not expanded Medicaid.

Kusserow on Compliance: Inappropriate denial of services and payments in the Medicare Advantage program

In an update to its Workplan, the HHS office of Inspector General (OIG) added a new project in June. The OIG Office of Evaluation and Inspection will be reviewing and evaluating the question of inappropriate denial of service and payment in the Medicare Advantage program. Medicare Advantage Plans must cover all of the services that original Medicare covers. Capitated payment models are used for these plans. It is based on payment per person rather than payment per service provided. A central concern about the capitated payment model used in Medicare Advantage is that there may be an incentive to inappropriately deny access to, or reimbursement for, health care services in an attempt to increase profits for managed care plans. There have been questions raised as to whether some of the plans may be inappropriately denying service claims as a means to increase their profits.  The OIG plans to conduct medical record reviews to determine the extent to which beneficiaries and providers were denied preauthorization or payment for medically necessary services covered by Medicare. To the extent possible, we will determine the reasons for any inappropriate denials and the types of services involved.

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 © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.