Category Archives: Ambulance Services

Another NCTracks Debacle? Enter NC HealthConnex – A Whole New Computer System To Potentially Screw Up

North Carolina is mandating that health care providers link with all other health care providers. HIPAA be damned! Just another hoop to jump through in order to get paid by Medicaid – as if it isn’t hard enough!

If you do not comply and link your health care practice to NC HealthConnex by June 1, 2019, you could lose your Medicaid contract.

“As North Carolina moves into data-driven, value-based health care, the NC HIEA is working to modernize the state-designated health information exchange, now called NC HealthConnex.” About NC HealthConnex website.

NC HIEA = NC Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) and created by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-414.7. “North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority.”

North Carolina state law mandates that all health care providers who receive any State funds, which would include Medicaid, HealthChoice and the State Health Plan, must connect and submit patient demographic and clinical data to NC HealthConnex by June 1, 2019. The process could take 12 to 18 months. So you better get going. Move it or lose it, literally. If you do not comply, you can lose your license to participate in state-funded programs, including Medicaid.

If you go to the NC Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) website article, entitled, “NC HealthConnex Participant Base Continues to Grow,” you will see the following:

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 3.21.53 PM

I highlighted the Session Law that, according to the above, requires that health care providers who receive state funds must connect to NC HealthConnex. See above. However, when you actually read Session Law 2017-57, it is untrue that Session Law 2017-57 mandates that health care providers who receive state funds must connect to NC HealthConnex.

If you follow the citation by NC HIEA (above), you will see that buried in Session Law 2017-57, the 2017 Appropriations Bill, is a clause that states:

“SECTION 11A.8.(e)  Of the funds appropriated in this act to the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Central Management and Support, Office of Rural Health, for the Community Health Grant Program, the sum of up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) in recurring funds for each fiscal year of the 2017‑2019 fiscal biennium shall be used to match federal funds to provide to safety net providers eligible to participate in the Community Health Grant Program, through the Rural Health Technology Team, ongoing training and technical assistance with respect to health information technology, the adoption of electronic health records, and the establishment of connectivity to the State’s health information exchange network known as NC HealthConnex.”

As you can plainly read, this clause only allots funds to provide training and assistance to providers eligible to participate in the Community Health Grant Program. The above clause certainly does not mandate that Healthcare providers who receive state funds connect to NC HealthConnex.

Session Law 2017-57, only mandates $150,000 for training and assistance for HealthConnex.

So what is the legal statute that mandates health care providers who receive state funds must connect to NC HealthConnex?

Ok, bear with me. Here’s where it gets complex.

A law was passed in 2015, which created the North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA). NC HIEA is a sub agency of the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NC DIT) Government Data Analytic Center. NC HIEA operates the NC HealthConnex. The State CIO maintains the responsibility if the NC HealthConnex.

Supposedly, that 2015 law mandates that health care providers who receive state funds must connect to NC HealthConnex…

I read it. You can click on the link here. This subsection is the only section that I would deem apropos to health care providers accepting State funding:

“In consultation with the Advisory Board, develop a strategic plan for achieving statewide participation in the HIE Network by all hospitals and health care providers licensed in this State.”

What part of the above clause states that health care providers are MANDATED to participate? So, please, if any of my readers actually know which law mandates provider participation, please forward to me. Because my question is – Is participation REALLY mandated? Will providers seriously lose their reimbursement rights for services rendered for failing to participate in NC HealthConnex?? Because I see multiple violations of federal law with this requirement, including HIPAA and due process.

HealthConnex can link your practice to it if you use the following EHR programs:

  • Ace Health Solutions
  • Allscripts
  • Amazing Charts/Harris Healthcare Company
  • Aprima
  • Athena Health
  • AYM Technologies
  • Casehandler
  • Centricity
  • Cerner
  • CureMD
  • DAS Health/Aprima
  • eClinicalWorks
  • eMD
  • eMed Solutions, LLC
  • EPIC
  • Evident- Thrive
  • Greenway
  • ICANotes Behavioral Health EHR
  • ICAN Solutions, Inc
  • Integrity/Checkpoint
  • Kaleidacare
  • Lauris Online
  • McKesson Practice Partners
  • Medical Transcription Billing Corporation
  • Medinformatix
  • Meditab Software, Inc.
  • Meditech
  • Mediware-Alphaflex
  • MTBC
  • MicroMD
  • Netsmart
  • NextGen
  • Office Ally
  • Office Practicum
  • Oncelogix Sharenote
  • Patagonia Health
  • Physician’s Computer Company (PCC)
  • PIMSY
  • Practice Fusion Cloud
  • Praxis
  • PrognoCIS
  • PsyTech Solutions, Inc.
  • Qualifacts – Carelogic
  • Radysans
  • Reli Med Solutions
  • SET-Works
  • SRS
  • The Echo Group
  • Therap
  • Trimed Tech
  • Valant
  • Waiting Room Solutions

The law also requires:

  • Hospitals as defined by G.S. 131E-176(13), physicians licensed to practice under Article 1 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, physician assistants as defined in 21 NCAC 32S .0201, and nurse practitioners as defined in 21 NCAC 36 .0801 who provide Medicaid services and who have an electronic health record system shall connect by June 1, 2018.
  • All other providers of Medicaid and state-funded services shall connect by June 1, 2019. See changes in 2018 Session Law below.
  • Prepaid Health Plans (PHPs), as defined in S.L. 2015-245, will be required to connect to the HIE per their contracts with the NC Division of Health Benefits (DHB). Clarifies that PHPs are required to submit encounter and claims data by the commencement of the contract with NC DHB.
  • Clarifies that Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LMEs/MCOs) are required to submit encounter and claims data by June 1, 2020.

New from the 2018 Legislative Short Session, NCSL 2018-41: 

  • Dentists and ambulatory surgical centers are required to submit clinical and demographic data by June 1, 2021.
  • Pharmacies are required to submit claims data pertaining to State services once per day by June 1, 2021, using pharmacy industry standardized formats.

To meet the state’s mandate, a Medicaid provider is “connected” when its clinical and demographic information pertaining to services paid for by Medicaid and other State-funded health care funds are being sent to NC HealthConnex, at least twice daily—either through a direct connection or via a hub (i.e., a larger system with which it participates, another regional HIE with which it participates or an EHR vendor). Participation agreements signed with the designated entity would need to list all affiliate connections.

Let’s just wait and see how this computer system turns out. Hopefully we don’t have a second rendition of NCTracks. We all know how well that turned out. See blog and blog.

Medicaid participation continues to get more and more complicated. Remember the day when you could write a service note with a pen? That was so much cheaper than investing in computers and software. When did it get so expensive to provide health care to the most needy?

Step Right Up! CMS Announces New Medicare-Medicaid ACO Model

Come one! Come all! Step right up to be one of the first 6 states to test the new Medicare-Medicaid Affordable Care Act (ACO) pilot program.

experiment

Let your elderly population be the guinea pigs for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Let your most needy population be the lab rats for CMS.

On December 15, 2016, CMS announced its intent to create Medicare/caid ACOs. Currently, Medicare ACOs exist, and if your physician has opted to participate in a Medicare ACO, then, most likely, you understand Medicare ACOs. Medicare ACOs are basically groups of physicians – of different service types – who voluntarily decide (but only after intense scrutiny by their lawyers of the ACO contract) to collaborate care with the intent of higher quality and lower cost care.  For example, if your primary care physician participates in a Medicare ACO and you suffer intestinal issues, your primary care doctor would coordinate with a GI specialist within the Medicare ACO to get you an appointment. Then the GI specialist and your physician would share medical records, including test results and medication management. The thought is that the coordination of care will decrease duplicative tests, ensure appointments are made and kept, and prevent losing medical records or reviewing older, moot records.

Importantly, the Medicare beneficiary retains all benefits of “normal” Medicare and can choose to see any physician who accepts Medicare. The ACO model is a shift from “fee-for-service” to a risk-based, capitated amount in which quality of care is rewarded.

On the federal level, there have not been ACOs specially created for dual-eligible recipients; i.e., those who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid…until now.

The CMS is requesting states to volunteer to participate in a pilot program instituting Medicare/Medicaid ACOs. CMS is looking for 6 brave states to participate. States may choose from three options for when the first 12-month performance period for the Medicare-Medicaid ACO Model will begin for ACOs in the state: January 1, 2018; January 1, 2019; or January 1, 2020.

Any state is eligible to apply, including the District of Columbia. But if the state wants to participate in the first round of pilot programs, intended to begin 2018, then that state must submit its letter of intent to participate by tomorrow by 11:59pm. See below.

dual-acos

I tried to research which states have applied, but was unsuccessful. If anyone has the information, I would appreciate it if you could forward it to me.

Participating in an ACO, whether it is only Medicare and Medicare/caid, can create a increase in revenue for your practices. Since you bear some risk, you also reap some benefit if you able to control costs. But, the decision to participate in an ACO should not be taken lightly. Federal law yields harsh penalties for violations of Anti-Kickback and Stark laws (which, on a very general level, prohibits referrals among physicians for any benefit). However, there are safe harbor laws and regulations specific to ACOs that allow exceptions. Regardless, do not ever sign a contract to participate in an ACO without an attorney reviewing it. 

Food for thought – CMS’ Medicare/caid ACO Model may exist only “here in this [Obama] world. Here may be the last ever to be seen of [healthcare.gov] and their [employee mandates]. Look for it only in [history] books, for it may be no more than a [Obamacare] remembered, a [health care policy] gone with the wind…”

As, tomorrow (January 20, 2017) is the presidential inauguration. The winds may be a’changing…

NC Medicaid: Ready or Not, the Onsite Reviews Have Started; Are You Ready?

Planning for the inevitable is smart. And it is inevitable if you are a provider and you accept Medicaid that you will undergo some sort of review, whether it is onsite or database checks, in the near future. And only two outcomes can result from this upcoming review:

Are YOU ready for that test???

So, it is imperative to arm yourself with knowledge of your rights, a liability insurance policy that covers attorneys’ fees (and lets you pick your attorney), and confidence that your billing practices comply with rules and regulations.  If you do not know whether your billing practices comply, do a self-audit or hire a knowledgeable billing expert to audit you.

Read or not here they come…

Beginning June 9, 2014, Public Consulting Group (PCG) began scheduling post-enrollment site visits to fulfill federal regulations 42 CFR 455.410 and 455.450, which require all participating providers to be screened according to their categorical risk level: high, moderate, or limited.

What does being high, moderate, or limited risk mean?

If you are limited risk, the state will check your licenses, ensure that you, as a provider, meet criteria for applicable federal and state statutes, conduct license verifications, and conduct database checks on a pre- and post-enrollment basis to ensure that providers continue to meet the enrollment criteria for their provider type.  This is the only category that does not need an onsite review.

If you are moderate risk, the state does everything for you as if you are a limited risk plus perform on-site reviews.  (Enter PCG).

If you are high risk, the state will perform all reviews as if you are a moderate risk but also will conduct a criminal background check, and require the submission of a set of fingerprints in accordance with §455.434. (And you thought fingerprints for only for the accused.)

Let’s discuss in which level risk you fall.  NC Gen. Stat §108C-3 spells out the risk levels.  Are you a new personal care service (PCS) provider getting ready to start your own business?  You are high risk.  Are you a directly-enrolled behavioral health care provider rendering outpatient behavioral health care services?  You are high risk.  Do you provide HIV Management services?  You are high risk.

Here is a list of high risk providers:

  • Prospective (newly enrolling) adult care homes delivering Medicaid-reimbursed services.
  • Agencies providing behavioral health services, excluding Critical Access Behavioral Health Agencies
  • Directly enrolled outpatient behavioral health services providers.
  • Prospective (newly enrolling) agencies providing durable medical equipment, including, but not limited to, orthotics and prosthetics.
  • Agencies providing HIV case management.
  • Prospective (newly enrolling) agencies providing home or community-based services pursuant to waivers authorized by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under 42 U.S.C. § 1396n(c).
  • Prospective (newly enrolling) agencies providing personal care services or in-home care services.
  • Prospective (newly enrolling) agencies providing private duty nursing, home health, or home infusion.
  • Providers against whom the Department has imposed a payment suspension based upon a credible allegation of fraud in accordance with 42 C.F.R. § 455.23 within the previous 12-month period. The Department shall return the provider to its original risk category not later than 12 months after the cessation of the payment suspension.
  • Providers that were excluded, or whose owners, operators, or managing employees were excluded, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General or another state’s Medicaid program within the previous 10 years.
  • Providers who have incurred a Medicaid or Health Choice final overpayment, assessment, or fine to the Department in excess of twenty percent (20%) of the provider’s payments received from Medicaid and Health Choice in the previous 12-month period. The Department shall return the provider to its original risk category not later than 12 months after the completion of the provider’s repayment of the final overpayment, assessment, or fine.
  • Providers whose owners, operators, or managing employees were convicted of a disqualifying offense pursuant to G.S. 108C-4 but were granted an exemption by the Department within the previous 10 years.

Here is a list of moderate risk providers:

  •  Ambulance services.
  • Comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Critical Access Behavioral Health Agencies.
  • Hospice organizations
  • Independent clinical laboratories.
  • Independent diagnostic testing facilities.
  • Pharmacy Services.
  • Physical therapists enrolling as individuals or as group practices.
  • Revalidating adult care homes delivering Medicaid-reimbursed services.
  • Revalidating agencies providing durable medical equipment, including, but not limited to, orthotics and prosthetics
  • Revalidating agencies providing home or community-based services pursuant to waivers authorized by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under 42 U.S.C. § 1396n(c).
  • Revalidating agencies providing private duty nursing, home health, personal care services or in-home care services, or home infusion.
  • Nonemergency medical transportation.

Here are the limited risk providers:

  • Ambulatory surgical centers.
  • End-stage renal disease facilities.
  • Federally qualified health centers.
  • Health programs operated by an Indian Health Program (as defined in section 4(12) of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act) or an urban Indian organization (as defined in section 4(29) of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act) that receives funding from the Indian Health Service pursuant to Title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.
  • Histocompatibility laboratories.
  • Hospitals, including critical access hospitals, Department of Veterans Affairs Hospitals, and other State or federally owned hospital facilities
  • Local Education Agencies.
  • Mammography screening centers.
  • Mass immunization roster billers.
  • Nursing facilities, including Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded.
  • Organ procurement organizations.
  • Physician or nonphysician practitioners (including nurse practitioners, CRNAs, physician assistants, physician extenders, occupational therapists, speech/language pathologists, chiropractors, and audiologists), optometrists, dentists and orthodontists, and medical groups

According to the June 2014 Medicaid Bulletin, the onsite reviews will last approximately two hours and PCG will send 2 representatives to conduct the review.

How to prepare for the onSite reviews

  1. Read and learn. (or re-learn, whichever the case may be).

“Providers will be expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of N.C. Medicaid through responses to a series of questions.”  See June 2014 Medicaid Bulletin.

Knowledge is power.  Brush up on your applicable DMA Clinical Coverage Policy.  Review the NC Medicaid Billing Guide.  Re-read your provider participation agreement.  If you don’t understand a section, go to your attorney and ask for an explanation.  Actually read the pertinent federal and state statutes quoted in your participation agreements because, whether you know what the laws say or not, you signed that agreement and you will be held to the standards spelled out in the federal and state statutes.

  1. Call your liability insurance.

Be proactive.  Contact your liability insurance agent before you get the notice of an onsite review from PCG.  Have a frank, open discussion about these upcoming onsite reviews.  Explain that you want to know whether you policy covers attorneys’ fees and whether you can choose your attorney.  If your policy does not cover attorneys’ fees or does not allow you to choose your own lawyer, beef up your liability insurance plan to include both.  Believe me, the premiums will be cheaper than an attorney from your own pocket.

  1. Be confident.

Presentation matters.  If you whisper and cower before the PCG reviewers, you will come across as weak and/or trying to hide something.  Be polite and forthcoming, but provide the information that is asked of you; do not  supply more information than the reviewers do not request.

I always tell my clients before their deposition or a cross examination by the other side, “Answer the question that is asked.  No more.  If you are asked if your favorite color is blue, and you favorite color is red, the correct response is “No,” not “No, my favorite color is red.”  Do not over-answer.

If you do not believe that you can be confident, ask your attorney to be present.  I had someone tell me one time that he did not want an attorney present because he felt that the auditors would think he was hiding something and he did not want to appear litigious.  I say, this is your company, your career, and your life.  If you need the support of an attorney, get one.  Whenever I give this advice, I try to imagine that I am telling the same advice to my mother.  My mother, bless her heart, does not have the confidence to stand her ground in high pressure situations.  She would rather yield her position than be the least bit confrontational.  If that also describes you, have your attorney present.

  1. Know your rights.

What if you fail the onsite review?  Can you appeal?  You need to know your rights.  When you get a notice from PCG that an onsite review is scheduled, contact your attorney.  Make sure that BEFORE the onsite review, you understand all the possible consequences.  Knowing your rights will also help with #3, confidence.  If you know the worst case scenario, then you stop creating worse case scenarios in your mind and become more confident.

Ready or not, the PCG reviews are coming, so get ready!