Kusserow on Compliance: CMS improperly paid $367M for outpatient physical therapy

The OIG issued an audit report that found sixty-one percent of Medicare claims for outpatient physical therapy services reviewed did not comply with Medicare medical necessity, coding, or documentation requirements, resulting in an estimated overpayment of $367 million for outpatient physical therapy services that did not comply with Medicare requirements. These overpayments occurred because CMS controls were not effective in preventing improper payments for outpatient physical therapy services. The Medicare Part B program paid approximately $2 billion for outpatient physical therapy services provided to beneficiaries and past OIG reviews of individual physical therapy providers identified claims for outpatient physical therapy services that were not reasonable, medically necessary, or properly documented.  The OIG analyzed a stratified random sample of 300 outpatient claims for physical therapy services. The OIG’s stated objective was to determine whether Medicare claims for outpatient physical therapy services complied with Medicare requirements. Errors identified fell under three categories:

  1. Services that were not medically necessary, including services which were not reasonable—there was no evidence that the services would be effective, the services did not require the skills of a therapist, or there was not expectation of significant improvement.
  2. Coding did not meet medical requirements—timed units claimed did not match units in treatment notes; missing modifiers; and incorrect codes.
  3. Documentation did not meet Medicare requirement—plan-of-care deficiencies; treatment note deficiencies; and recertification deficiencies.

The OIG recommended CMS: (1) instruct the Medicare contractors to notify providers of potential overpayments so that those providers can exercise reasonable diligence to investigate and return any identified overpayments, (2) establish mechanisms to better monitor the appropriateness of outpatient physical therapy claims, and (3) educate providers about Medicare requirements for submitting outpatient physical therapy claims for reimbursement. CMS generally disagreed with these findings and believes further analysis of the sampled claims is warranted to determine whether the claims met Medicare requirements, according to the report.

 

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

CMS delays implementation of bundled payment models

CMS has further delayed the implementation date of the Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) Incentive Payment model and modifications to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model by three months. This additional delay, CMS said, is necessary to allow time for additional review, to ensure that the agency has adequate time to undertake notice and comment rulemaking to modify the policy if modifications are warranted, and to ensure that in such a case participants have a clear understanding of the governing rules and are not required to take needless compliance steps due to the rule taking effect for a short duration before any potential modifications are effectuated.

CMS issued a final rule on the two models January 3, 2017. Pursuant to the Trump Administration’s “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” memorandum, on February 17, 2017, CMS issued a final rule that delayed the effective date of the January 3, 2017 final rule, for provisions that were to become effective on February 18, 2017, to March 21, 2017. CMS’ March 21, 2017, interim final rule postponed the effective date of the January 3, 2017 final rule from March 21, 2017, until May 20, 2017. The applicability date of the new regulations at 42 C.F.R. Part 512 and specific CJR regulations are delayed from July 1, 2017, until October 1, 2017. CMS sought comments on a longer delay of the model start date, including to January 1, 2018.

Under the CJR model, which began April 1, 2016, acute-care hospitals in certain areas receive retrospective bundled payments for episodes of care for hip and knee replacements. All related care within 90 days of hospital discharge from the joint replacement procedure is included in the episode of care. The January 3, 2017, final rule made several changes to the model.

Under the CR Incentive Payment model, acute care hospitals in certain geographic areas will receive retrospective incentive payments for beneficiary utilization of cardiac rehabilitation/intensive cardiac rehabilitation services during the 90 days following hospitalization for an acute myocardial infarction or coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

The American Hospital Association criticized the pace of these mandatory demonstration projects as “too much, too soon” and said, “We will continue to urge that any new bundled payment programs be of a voluntary nature.” In addition, HHS Secretary Tom Price has asserted that CMS exceeded its authority with bundled payment initiatives like the CR and CJR models.

Florida hospital improperly billed Medicare almost $300,000 over two years

For over two years, University of Florida Health Jacksonville did not comply with Medicare billing requirements, due to inadequate billing controls. The noncompliance resulted in overpayments of at least $273,000, according to an audit by the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Claims

The 695-bed not-for-profit hospital submitted 11,134 inpatient claims during the audit period (January 2013 through September 2014). Medicare paid the hospital $167 million on those claims. The OIG audit evaluated 1,305 inpatient claims that were potentially at risk for billing errors. From those claims, the OIG selected a random sample of 154 paid claims, totaling $1,964,826. Although the OIG determined that the hospital complied with billing requirements for the majority of the claims (133), the audit revealed that the hospital failed to comply with Medicare billing requirements for 21 claims, resulting in a net overpayment of $63,881 for the audit period. Based upon the sample, the OIG extrapolated that the hospital improperly received overpayments of at least $273,346 between January 2013 and September 2014.

Errors

For 19 of the 154 claims, the hospital billed incorrect diagnosis-related group (DRG) codes. For example, in one case, the hospital submitted a claim with a secondary diagnosis code 599.0 (urinary tract infection), despite the fact that the patient’s medical record indicated the patient had no signs or symptoms of a urinary tract infection. In other words, the hospital had no basis to assign code 599.0. The hospital attributed the billing mistakes to human error. The noncompliance related to the DRG codes accounted for the vast majority of the errors and led to net overpayments of $47,165.

When a patient is discharged from an acute care hospital and readmitted to the same hospital on the same day for symptoms related to the prior stay, the hospital is required to combine the original and subsequent stay into a single claim. The OIG determined that for 2 of the 154 audited claims, the hospital incorrectly billed Medicare for related discharges and readmissions that occurred on the same day. The hospital attributed the improper billing to human error.

Recommendations

The OIG recommended that the hospital:

  • refund the estimated $273,346 in overpayments to the Medicare program;
  • identify and return similar overpayments; and
  • strengthen billing and coding controls to ensure future compliance.

 

Objections

The hospital objected to the findings regarding 11 of 21 inpatient claims. Additionally, although the hospital acknowledged that human error contributed to the 10 other errors, there was “no evidence to support systemic coding or billing concerns.” The hospital also challenged the OIG’s authority to extrapolate a payment error rate.

 

 

Compliance advice offered to providers in the orthotic and prosthetic arena

There are high clinical documentation standards for orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) providers. Non-compliance with these documentation requirements can result in numerous adverse consequences for O&P providers, including: audits; recoupment of payments already received; loss of contracting and provider privileges; civil money penalties; loss of credentialing, certification, or licensure; the risk of getting on the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) radar, and exclusion from participation with any physician that accepts government funding, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Understanding and applying compliance requirements in the O&P arena was the focus of a Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) webinar offered by Tonja Wise, CHC, Corporate Compliance Manager, O&P Compliance Officer, Shriners Hospitals for Children International.

Wise’s presentation began by explaining why the O&P provider needs compliance and how O&P is different from other specialties. She then discussed the O&P provider’s obligations in the areas of documentation, provider notes, coding, and billing. Wise also noted the importance of the prescribing physician, who shares some of the documentation responsibility with the O&P provider. A summary of Wise’s major points of these topics include the following:

  • As a result of recent fraudulent activity and increased payment recoveries, O&P has become the new durable medical equipment (DME) when it comes to audits and scrutiny by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
  • O&P suppliers that intend to bill Medicare (and Medicaid in most states) must be accredited. The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) and the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) both offer this service. Going through accreditation is good practice for ensuring that the organization meets the Medicare Supplier Standards and the accreditation standards.
  • Medical documentation must corroborate the O&P provider’s chart and justify the order written and device supplied. Documentation of the orders, delivery, use and care instructions, and safety are very specific.
  • Documentation requirements include a signed HIPAA acknowledgement; consents for treatment; a valid dispensing order prior to delivery; a signed, detailed written order prior to billing; a detailed delivery receipt; complete, comprehensive O&P provider notes; safety checks completed; and proof of patient care and instructions.
  • Provider notes should be complete, comprehensive, and compliant. This means each patient visit should have an independent, detailed note. The initial evaluation and the delivery visits are the most involved and will be the most important to the payor or auditor. These notes must outline all of the information necessary to support medical necessity.
  • It is the responsibility of the certified O&P provider to ensure that the appropriate Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes are selected.
  • Know the federal requirements for the warranty period for O&P devices. CMS requires a 90-day warranty for all new devices. State Medicaid warranty periods may differ. The O&P provider does not need a new prescription for repairs if the provider delivered the device, unless major components are being replaced.
  • All bills should be reviewed for accuracy and consistency prior to submission. Confirm that diagnostic codes on all orders are consistent with the claim. Ensure all modifiers are included with the claim and are accurate.
  • Prescribing physicians are responsible for providing orders that meet CMS criteria for all O&P devices, documenting all medical necessity for the device being ordered, providing accurate diagnosis data (O&P providers cannot diagnose), and supplying any medical documentation necessary to support the O&P provider’s claim.

Conclusion

Wise believes that the best protection for an O&P provider is to have a robust compliance program in place to monitor coding, billing, medical necessity, and documentation. To ensure this compliance, she suggests that the O&P provider do the following:

  • Conduct annual compliance education.
  • Utilize access to O&P resources for guidance.
  • Be knowledgeable of federal, state and local requirements.
  • Be educated on payor requirements.
  • Read and understand the local coverage decisions (LCDs) and reference them frequently.
  • Be a self-auditor and audit frequently.
  • Ensure that any regulatory updates or major changes to O&P are communicated throughout the organization.