Kusserow on Compliance: Hospital insurance trust fund will be exhausted by 2026

This year’s Medicare Board of Trustees Annual Report found that the  hospital insurance (HI) Trust Fund will be able to pay full benefits until 2026. The Medicare Program is the second-largest social insurance program in the U.S., with 59.9 million beneficiaries and total expenditures of $741 billion in 2018. By comparison, in terms of size, the Department of Defense entire budget during this period was $686 billion.

The Trustees projected that total Medicare costs (including both HI and SMI expenditures) will grow from approximately 3.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2018 to 5.9 percent of GDP by 2038, and then increase gradually thereafter to about 6.5 percent of GDP by 2093. The SMI Trust Fund, which covers Medicare Part B and D, had $104 billion in assets at the end of 2018. Part B helps pay for physician, outpatient hospital, home health, and other services for the aged and disabled who voluntarily enroll. It is expected to be adequately financed in all years because premium income and general revenue income are reset annually to cover expected costs and ensure a reserve for Part B costs.

However, the aging population and rising health care costs are causing projected costs to grow steadily from 2.1 percent of GDP in 2018 to approximately 3.7 percent of GDP in 2038. Part D provides subsidized access to drug insurance coverage on a voluntary basis for all beneficiaries, as well as premium and cost-sharing subsidies for low-income enrollees.  The President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, if enacted, would continue to strengthen the fiscal integrity of the Medicare program and extend its solvency.

CMS has already introduced several initiatives to strengthen and protect Medicare that includes increasing choice in Medicare Advantage and adding supplemental benefits to the program; and offering more care options for people with diabetes; providing new telehealth services; and lowering prescription drug costs for seniors. CMS is continuing to advance policies to increase price transparency and help beneficiaries compare costs across different providers.

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: Questions board-level compliance committees should be asking

HHS OIG compliance guidance calls for a Board-level committee to oversee the Compliance Program (CP). The HHS Inspector General noted that the best boards are those that are active, questioning, and exercise (constructive) skepticism in their oversight, asking probing questions about the compliance program. Boards need to know what type of questions they should be asking, and compliance officers should assist them with this problem. However, compliance officers in turn should be prepared to provide full and complete answers to them. The OIG and American Health Lawyers Association developed specific suggested questions that Board’s should be asking in their jointly produced “Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Compliance: A Resource for Health Care Boards of Directors” and “Corporate Responsibility and Health Care Quality (2007): A Resource for Health Care Boards of Directors”. The following are drawn from these advisory documents:

  1. Does the compliance officer have sufficient authority to implement the CP?
  2. What is the level of resources necessary to properly implement and operate the CP?
  3. Has the compliance officer been given the sufficient resources to carry out the mission?
  4. Have compliance-related responsibilities been delegated across all levels of management?
  5. What evidence is there that all employees are held equally accountable for compliance?
  6. How has the code been incorporated into corporate policies across the organization?
  7. What evidence is there that the code is understood and accepted across organization?
  8. Has management taken affirmative steps to publicize importance of code to employees?
  9. Have compliance-related policies been developed that address compliance risk areas?
  10. Are there policies/procedures for CP operation and how they should be reviewed/updated?
  11. What kind of document management ensures compliance-related documents are up to date?
  12. What is the scope of compliance-related education and training?
  13. What evidence is there of the effectiveness of CP training?
  14. What measures enforce training mandates and provide remedial training?
  15. What evidence is available that employees understand compliance expectations?
  16. How are compliance risks identified?
  17. What is the evidence that identified compliance risks are being addressed?
  18. Is the board being kept up to date on regulatory and industry compliance risks?
  19. How is the compliance program structured to address such risks?
  20. How are “at risk” operations assessed from a compliance perspective?
  21. Is conformance with the CP periodically evaluated?
  22. Does the CP undergo periodical independent evaluation of its effectiveness?
  23. What is the process for the evaluation and responding to suspected compliance violations?
  24. What kind of training is provided to those who conduct investigation of reported violations?
  25. How do the CO, HRM, and legal counsel coordinate in resolving compliance issues?
  26. What are the policies to ensure preservation of relevant CP documents and information?
  27. What policies address protection of “whistleblowers” and those accused of misconduct?
  28. What are the results of ongoing compliance monitoring by all program managers?
  29. How is ongoing compliance auditing being performed and by whom?
  30. How often is sanction-screening conducted and with what results?
  31. Are results from sanction-screening included in a signed report by the responsible parties?
  32. Has the CP been evaluated for effectiveness by a qualified independent reviewer?
  33. What evidence regarding effectiveness of hotline operation and follow-up investigations?
  34. What are the metrics being used to evidence CP effectiveness?
  35. What are the results of an independent review and assessment of the CP?

 

More information regarding available tools and resources available to assist in answering these questions, contact Daniel Peake at (dpeake@complianceresource.com) (703-236-9854).

 

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: Tips on finding the right hotline vendor

One of the critical elements of an effective compliance program outlined by OIG compliance guidance is the establishment and maintenance of communication channels with employees and management. Such communication permits employees to report sensitive matters outside the normal supervisory channels. Both the U.S. Sentencing Commission and DHHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) call for a hotline. Results from the Ninth Annual Healthcare Compliance Benchmark Survey conducted by SAI Global and Strategic Management Services found that 55 percent of organizations outsource their hotline. Daniel Peake of the Compliance Resource Center provides hotline services and explained there are many reasons why so many choose to outsource their hotline. Although there are benefits of maintaining the function in-house, it is far outweighed by the advantages of outsourcing it to a professional vendor service. He cited some of these reasons why so many decide to use a professional vendor service, including the following:

  • Cost of staffing with qualified people in-house is prohibitive
  • Systems must blocked and “backstopped” to prevent anonymous caller identification
  • Those answering the calls in house should not be highly visible to the work force
  • Calls should never be answered in an area where they can be overheard by others
  • Hotline vendors have the training and experience to handle complainants
  • Callers are nervous and speaking with an outside party generally is reassuring

TIPS FOR EVALUATING HOTLINE VENDORS

  1. Cost of operation. Vendor’s services should be a set fee under $2/employee/year.
  1. Contract. Avoid contracts not permitting cancellation by 30 day written notice. Client should be held by good service, not by contracts.
  1. Industry expertise. Seek vendors knowledgeable of health care issues.
  1. Hotline services. Must include both live operator and Web-based reporting. Either approach alone has its deficiencies and is not a best practice.
  1. Policies and procedures. Vendor should assist with developing operating protocols for following up an allegations and complaints received through the hotline.
  1. Timelines. Insist on a provision of a full written report within one business day of receipt of the call. For urgent matters, it should be immediate.
  2. Reports provided. Written reports must clear, concise, and of high quality.
  3. Report Delivery. The manner the report is delivered is important. There is security problems with reports provided either by facsimile or email. Insist on secure web-based reporting with notification of a report being provided via email.
  1. Insurance. Like any other vendor, the company should have at least one to three million dollars liability coverage.

 

For more information, Daniel Peake can be reached at (dpeake@compliancereource.com or (703)-236-9854)

 

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: Time running out for nursing and long term care providers’ development of mandated compliance programs

Tips to meet the challenge in a timely and cost effectively manner

The OIG issued voluntary Compliance Program Guidance for Nursing Facilities in March 2000, followed by Supplemental Compliance Program guidance in September 2008. However, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) made compliance a mandate and it is a game changer for this sector. The new mandates note as a condition of enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid “a facility shall . . . have in operation a compliance and ethics program. . . .”   HHS was directed to issue regulations “for an effective compliance and ethics program for operating organizations” and CMS has issued those regulations with a deadline for organizations and facilities to meet these requirements by November 28, 2019. At that time, state survey agencies will begin assessing facility compliance for compliance.

Tom Herrmann, J.D., served over 20 years in the OIG Office of Counsel and for the past ten years has been a compliance consultant, specializing in nursing home compliance programs. He noted that many nursing facilities lagged behind in developing effective compliance programs because it was viewed as cost prohibitive. Those that implemented programs following the OIG guidance will have little difficulty in meeting the standards. For those who delayed program development, time is running out. State survey agencies will conduct compliance audits following the CMS State Operation Manual “Guidance to Surveyors for Long Term Care Facilities”.  Survey protocols and guides for State Survey Agencies have also been posted by CMS and can be reviewed by nursing homes in preparation for the reviews.  When building or improving the compliance program, CMS requires an annual review of its compliance and ethics program to assess the resources needed for an effective compliance program that includes mandatory training for all covered persons. For more information regarding advisory services in building effective compliance programs, Tom Herrmann can be reached at therrmann@strategicm.com or via phone at (703) 535-1410.

Kash Chopra, JD, provides compliance staffing for clients. She explained that many nursing homes may not require hiring a fulltime compliance office, however, designating someone on the staff to act as a compliance officer as a secondary duty is not a good idea and seldom works satisfactorily. Invariably, the primary duties drive out time for the compliance responsibilities.  One solution that should be considered is using an expert as a Designated Compliance Officer (DCO) to quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively build and manage the program. The OIG in its compliance program documents specifically advises: “For those companies that have limited resources, the compliance function could be outsourced to an expert in compliance.”  For more on staffing compliance officers, Kash Chopra can be reached at 703-236-1291 or at kchopra@strategicm.com

Daniel Peake of the Compliance Resource Center said that many nursing home clients have found an economical solution to the costs of building and managing their compliance program by outsourcing key elements, such as hotline services, sanction screening, compliance training, code and policy development. These services can take a big bite out of the work of building an effective compliance program at a very small price for most organizations providing nursing or long term care. For more information about the cost and benefits of outsourcing key compliance elements, Daniel Peake can be reached at (dpeake@compliancereource.com (703)-236-9854).

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.