Kusserow on Compliance: July/August 2018 Work Plan updates

The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) work planning process is dynamic and adjustments are made throughout the year to meet priorities and to anticipate and respond to emerging issues with the resources available. Effective June, 2017, the OIG has been updating its Work Plan monthly. The following are the updates posted for July and August 2018:

  1. 3-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT). 3D-CRT is a radiation therapy technique that allows doctors to sculpt radiation beams to the shape of a patient’s tumor provided in two treatment phases: planning and delivery. Hospitals bill Medicare for developing a 3D-CRT treatment plan using Current Procedural Terminology code 77295. Automated prepayment edits prevent additional payments for separately billed radiation planning services if they are billed on the same date of service as the 3D-CRT treatment plan. However, Medicare allows additional payments if they are billed on a different date of service (e.g., 1 day before). For a form of radiation similar to 3D-CRT, Medicare requirements prohibit payments for separately billed radiation planning services when they are billed on a different date of service. OIG auditors will determine the extent of potential savings to Medicare if it had implemented the same requirements for 3D-CRT planning services.

 

  1. Identification of HHS Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities. The OIG will perform a series of IT audits at the HHS Operating Divisions in an effort to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities and possible compromise of the HHS Office of the Secretary and its OPDIVs’ systems and networks.

 

  1. HRSA’s Oversight of Funds for Access Increases in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (AIMS). The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) administers AIMS grants and last year HRSA awarded $200 million in AIMS grants to 1,178 health centers nation-wide intended to expand access for existing Health Center Program grant recipients to mental health and substance abuse services, focusing on the treatment, prevention, and awareness of opioid abuse. The OIG will review HRSA’s internal controls to determine whether they are suitable for (1) awarding AIMS grants and (2) monitoring AIMS grant recipients.

 

  1. Increased Payments For Transfer Claims With Outliers. While the transfer rule reduces the Diagnosis Related Group (DRG), Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH), and Indirect Medical Education (IME) payments on a Medicare beneficiary’s claim, the methodology for calculating cost outlier payments can result in such payments being higher than what would have been paid in a nontransfer context. Under the transfer rule, CMS reduces the DRG payment by applying a graduated per diem payment on the Medicare claim of the hospital transferring the patient to another setting early in the patient’s hospital stay. Because DSH and IME payments are determined as a percentage of the reduced DRG payment, they are also reduced. By contrast, by reducing the threshold above which a claim qualifies as an outlier, the application of the outlier methodology at 42 CFR Sec. 412.80(b) can result in an increase in the outlier payment in transfer cases. The plans to produce a report describing the extent to which additional Medicare outlier payments negate the reduction in DRG, DSH, and IME payments of transfer claims.

 

  1. Review of Post-Operative Services Provided in the Global Surgery Period. Section 523 of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) requires CMS to collect data on post-operative services included in global surgeries and requires OIG to audit and verify a sample of the data collected. The OIG will review a sample of global surgeries to determine the number of post-operative services documented in the medical records and compare it to the number of post-operative services reported in the data collected by CMS. The OIG plans to verify the accuracy of the number of post-operative visits reported to CMS by physicians and determine whether global surgery fees reflected the actual number of post-operative services that physicians provided to beneficiaries during the global surgery period

 

  1. SAMHSA’s Oversight of Accreditation Bodies for Opioid Treatment Programs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that 2.5 million people have an opioid use disorder related to prescription pain relievers and/or heroin. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), provided by opioid treatment programs (OTPs), is a significant component of the treatment protocols for opioid use disorder and plays a large role in combating the opioid epidemic in the United States. SAMHSA issued final regulations to establish an oversight system for the treatment of substance use disorders with MAT. These regulations (42 CFR Part 8) established procedures for an entity to become an approved accreditation body, which evaluates OTPs and ensures SAMHSA’s opioid dependency treatment standards are met. The OIG plans to determine whether SAMHSA’s oversight of accreditation bodies complied with Federal requirements; and will include SAMHSA-approved accrediting bodies that have accredited OTPs

 

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.

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Copyright © 2017 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Congressional hearing on Medicare fraud

The HHS Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services provided Congressional testimony related to Medicare fraud and began by noting that Medicare spending $700 billion annually on behalf of 59 million beneficiaries has grown to the point where it is more than 15 percent of all federal spending. With increasing number of beneficiaries and rising health care costs, it is estimated that Part A Trust Fund will be depleted by 2026; and spending for Medicare Part B will grow by more than 8 percent over the next 5 years, outpacing the U.S. economy. Medicare and Medicaid improper payments reported by HHS was $90 billion a year with two thirds involving Medicare fee-for-service payments due to errors associated with insufficient or no documentation. Although improper payments may occur in all types of health care, home health, skilled nursing facility (SNF), and inpatient rehabilitation facility (IRF) are areas of particular concern, representing 33 percent of the overall estimated improper payment rate for Medicare fee-for-service.

Responding to this high level of improper payments, the OIG is using advanced data analytics help the agency more effectively assess risk and pinpoint oversight efforts. The OIG uses data analytics to analyze millions of claims and billions of data points. At the macro level, the OIG analyzes data patterns to assess fraud and other types of risk across Medicare services, provider types, and geographic locations to prioritize our work and more effectively deploy our resources. At the micro level, the OIG uses data analytics, including near- real-time data, to identify potential fraud suspects for more in-depth analysis and to efficiently target investigations. OIG enforcement efforts involve a three-pronged approach that focuses on prevention, detection, and enforcement. The CMS’s Fraud Prevention System (FPS) was cited as serving an important tool with data analytics and predictive analytics for fraud-detection.  Once suspected fraud is identified, the OIG investigate the facts and pursue enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable and recover misspent taxpayer dollars.

 

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.

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG report on vulnerabilities in the Medicare hospice program

15 specific actions recommended to reduce Hospice vulnerability

4 million Hospice beneficiaries with an annual cost of $17 billion

CMS plans to increase hospices reimbursement by $340 million

 

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported on numerous evaluations, audits, and investigations of the hospice program that have resulted in questioned costs, as well as criminal and civil prosecutions. The result of this work has identified vulnerabilities in the program. By way of background, the objective of hospice is to provide great comfort and care to beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers at the end of a beneficiary’s life. This program has grown steadily over the past decade, with Medicare now paying about $17 billion annually on behalf of 1.5 million beneficiaries—grown from a half million in 2000. According to CMS, hospice expenditures are anticipated to continue rising 8 percent annually as more beneficiaries utilize the care. In their review of this program, the OIG found:

  1. Hospice providers do not always provide needed services to beneficiaries; sometimes provide poor quality care; and were not able to effectively manage symptoms or medications, leaving beneficiaries in unnecessary pain for many days.
  2. Beneficiaries and their families and caregivers do not receive crucial information to make informed decisions about their care.
  3. Hospices’ inappropriate billing costs Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars that included billing for an expensive level of care when the beneficiary does not need it.
  4. A number of fraud schemes in hospice care negatively affect beneficiaries and the program with some involving enrolling beneficiaries who are not eligible for hospice care, while other schemes involve billing for services never provided.
  5. The current payment system creates incentives for hospices to minimize their services and seek beneficiaries who have uncomplicated needs with a hospice being paid for every day a beneficiary is in its care, regardless of the quantity or quality of services provided on that day.

The OIG recommended that CMS implement 15 specific actions that relate to seven areas for improvement. The OIG called upon CMS to:

  1. Strengthen the survey process-its primary tool to promote compliance-to better ensure that hospices provide beneficiaries with needed services and quality care.
  2. Seek statutory authority to establish additional remedies for hospices with poor performance.
  3. Develop and disseminate additional information on hospices, including complaint investigations, to help beneficiaries and their families and caregivers make informed choices about hospice care.
  4. Educate beneficiaries and their families and caregivers about the hospice benefit, working with its partners to make available consumer-friendly information.
  5. Promote physician involvement and accountability to ensure that beneficiaries get appropriate care.
  6. Strengthen oversight of hospices, including analyzing claims data to identify hospices that engage in practices that raise concerns.
  7. Take steps to tie payment to beneficiary care needs and quality of care to ensure that services rendered adequately serve beneficiaries’ needs, seeking statutory authority if necessary.

Meanwhile CMS announced in proposed rulemaking plans to increase payments for hospices by 1.8 percent, or $340 million, up from $180 million increase last year. CMS also included under the new Proposed rule:

  • New standards to help determine what measures hospices will no longer have to report under its meaningful measures initiative.
  • Changes to the Hospice Compare policies site to correct massive amounts of incorrect addresses, phone numbers and profit status for providers.
  • Beginning January 1, 2019, Hospices will have 4½ months after the end of each quarter to review and correct data that will be reported publicly on the website.
  • Physician assistants will be recognized as attending physicians for Medicare hospice.
  • Aggregate cap limiting overall annual hospice payment will increase by 1.8 percent to $29,205.44.

 

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.

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Copyright © 2017 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Four physicians charged in $200M prescription fraud scheme

A CEO and four physicians were charged in a superseding indictment in an investigation of a $200 million health care fraud scheme that involved a network of Michigan and Ohio pain clinics, laboratories, and other medical providers. Additional charges included wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and distribution of over 4.2 million medically unnecessary dosage units of controlled substances and medically unnecessary injections to Medicare beneficiaries, some of whom were addicted to narcotics. These included oxycodone, hydrocodone and oxymorphone. Some of the opioids were resold on the street.

When a medical review was made of the injection claims, it was found that 100 percent of the claims were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement. In order to conceal the continued billing of these fraudulent claims to Medicare, the defendants created new shell companies and continued to engage in the same billing of fraudulent claims, often changing only the name of the company on the door to the medical practice and/or inventing new suite numbers to conceal the continuation of the fraudulent practices at the same location. Defendants also owned a diagnostic laboratory to enable them to order medically unnecessary urine drug testing from the laboratory. When Medicare conducted a medical review of claims submitted by the laboratory, it determined that 95 percent of the claims were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement and ordered the diagnostic laboratory to repay $6.9 million in improper payments.

Another scheme involved money laundering in connection with a $6.6 million wire transfer and the withdrawal of $500,000 in cash, which was hidden in plastic bags in the closet of the house.  The indictment alleges that transferred proceeds derived from the conspiracy were used to allow the defendants to live an extravagant lifestyle and spend millions of dollars on luxury items—clothing from retailers like Hermes, rare Richard Mille watches, and exotic automobiles such as a Lamborghini and Rolls Royce Ghost. The proceeds were also used to purchase a mansion and other real estate in the Detroit, Michigan area and to sit courtside or in the first row of NBA basketball games, including the NBA Finals.

 

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.