Kusserow on Compliance: OIG releases two reports questioning quality of hospice care

80% surveyed hospices had deficiencies

Many cases of harm to beneficiaries cited

The OIG released two reports which found hospices participating in Medicare had one or more deficiencies in the quality of care they provided to their patients. The OIG cited cases where beneficiaries were seriously harmed by poor care or facilities failed to act in cases of abuse. In its reports, the OIG made several recommendations to strengthen safeguards.

In one report—Hospice Deficiencies Pose Risks to Medicare Beneficiariesthe OIG identified significant vulnerabilities in the Medicare hospice benefit and found over 80 percent of these hospices had at least one deficiency. These included poor care planning, mismanagement of aide services, and inadequate assessments of beneficiaries. Over 20 percent of hospices had a serious “condition-level” deficiency, which means that “the hospice’s capacity to furnish adequate care is substantially limited or adversely affects the health and safety of patients.” The OIG called upon CMS to: (1) strengthen the survey process; (2) establish additional enforcement remedies; (3) provide more information to beneficiaries and their caregivers; (4) expand the deficiency data that accrediting organizations report to CMS to strengthen its oversight of hospices; (5) seek statutory authority to include information from accrediting organizations on Hospice Compare; (6) include on Hospice Compare the survey reports from State agencies; (7) include on Hospice Compare the survey reports from accrediting organizations, once authority is obtained; (8) educate hospices about common deficiencies and those that pose particular risks to beneficiaries; and (9) increase oversight of hospices with a history of serious deficiencies.

In its second report—Safeguards Must Be Strengthened To Protect Medicare Hospice Beneficiaries From Harm—the OIG described specific instances of harm to hospice beneficiaries and identified vulnerabilities in CMS’s efforts to prevent and address harm. Some instances of harm resulted from hospices providing poor care to beneficiaries and some resulted from abuse by caregivers or others and the hospice failing to act. Cases revealed vulnerabilities in beneficiary protections that CMS must address. The OIG called for CMS to: (1) seek statutory authority to establish additional, intermediate remedies for poor hospice performance; (2) strengthen requirements for hospices to report abuse, neglect, and other harm; (3) ensure that hospices are educating staff to recognize signs of abuse, neglect, and other harm; (4) strengthen guidance for surveyors to report crimes to local law enforcement; (5) monitor surveyors’ use of immediate jeopardy; and (6) improve and make user-friendly the process for beneficiaries and caregivers to make complaints.

 

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 © 2019 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.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

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

Burden on submitter of quality data to verify successful transmittal

When a provider is required to submit data to CMS by entering data into a system that verifies the data and then transmits it to CMS, it is the provider’s duty to ensure that the data is actually transmitted to CMS. The Provider Reimbursement Review Board (PRRB) held that it is not enough to simply input information into the system when there are mechanisms in place to confirm that the data was successfully transmitted to CMS (Horizon Home Care & Hospice v. National Government Services, PRRB Hearing, Dec. No. 2018-D30, Case No. 16-0143, March 29, 2018).

Background

A hospice provider submitted admission and discharge data files to CMS via the Quality Improvement Evaluation System (QIES) as required under the Social Security Act (the Act). After submitting the information, the system provided a message indicating that the submission file was being processed for errors and a Final Validation Report would be available in the CASPER Reporting application once the data was transmitted to CMS. The hospice provider assumed that the submission was accepted and never accessed the CASPER Reporting application to obtain a copy of the Final Validation report.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) ties submission of certain mandatory quality data to a provider’s eligibility for the annual Medicare hospice benefit increase or market basket update. It also mandates that a hospice’s market basket update be reduced by 2 percent if it failed to report the required quality data. Per this mandate, the Medicare contractor notified the hospice provider that its Annual Payment Update was being reduced by 2 percent.

After checking the CASPER system, the hospice provider discovered that the final validation report indicated that the data contained a facility identifier error and was never transmitted to CMS. The hospice provider requested that CMS reconsider its decision. CMS upheld its payment reduction and the hospice provider appealed the reconsideration decision to the Board.

QRP rule

The hospice provider argues that the plain language of the Quality Reporting Program (QRP) Rule requires that a hospice provider submit the data to CMS but does not require that the CASPER system receive the data from QIES. The Medicare contractor argues that the rule clearly states that the quality “data must be submitted in a form and manner, and at a time, as specified by the Secretary.” The Medicare contractor further argues that it is the provider’s duty to submit the data accurately, completely and timely.

The QIES system notified the hospice provider that it should obtain a validation report from the CASPER system. The Hospice Item Set manual and submission user’s guide both warn that if fatal errors are found, the record will be rejected and a validation report should be run to ensure the data was successfully transmitted. In the 2014 Guidance Manual, CMS warns that the system will provide fatal error and/or warning messages on the Final Validation Report for submitted data that does not meet the requirements.

Decision

The PRRB held that the provider is not required to review and printout its final validation report, however it is in the provider’s best interest to run the validation reports to confirm that the data was input correctly and transmitted from QIES to CASPER. The hospice provider did not perform the recommended steps prior to the submission deadline to assure that the quality data it entered into QIES was error free and transferred to CASPER. Therefore, the hospice provider did not submit the quality data in the form and manner and at the time required by the Act.

CMS announces Hospice Compare website

CMS released the Hospice Compare website on August 17, 2107. The website allows consumers to make informed decisions about hospice providers based upon the quality of care they provide. Consumers can use the website to find providers in their area and compare them using quality of care metrics.

Reporting

 Hospices are required to report to CMS on several quality measures under Section 1814(i)(5) of the Social Security Act (SSA). The Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) requires hospice providers to submit data from the Hospice Item Set (HIS) and Hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (Hospice CAHPS®). The Hospice Compare website compiles data so that consumers can evaluate things like the percentage of patients that were screened for pain or difficulty breathing and whether patients’ preferences were satisfied. The website compiles data from 3,786 hospice providers.

Measures

The Hospice measure set displayed on the website currently includes the following National Quality Forum (NQF) measures from the HIS:

  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Treatment Preferences – NQF #1641
  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Beliefs/Values Addressed- NQF #1647
  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Pain Screening- NQF #1634
  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Pain Assessment- NQF #1637
  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Dyspnea Screening- NQF #1639
  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Dyspnea Treatment- NQF #1638
  • Hospice and Palliative Care- Patients treated with opioids who are given a bowel regimen- NQF #1617

The website will be updated to include the CAHPS data in winter 2018.