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The Reality of Prepayment Review and What To Do If You Are Tagged – You’re It!

Prepayment review is a drastic tool (more like a guillotine) that the federal and state governments via hired contractors review the documentation supporting services for Medicare and Medicaid prior to the provider receiving reimbursement. The providers who are placed on prepayment review are expected to continue to render services, even if the provider is not compensated. Prepayment review is a death sentence for most providers.

The required accuracy rating varies state to state, but, generally, a provider must meet 75% accuracy for three consecutive months.

In the governments’ defense, theoretically, prepayment review does not sound as Draconian as it is. Government officials must think, “Well, if the provider submits the correct documentation and complies with all applicable rules and regulations, it should be easy for the provider to meet the requirements and be removed from prepayment review.” However, this false reasoning only exists in a fantasy world with rainbows and gummy bears. Real life prepayment review is vastly disparate from the rainbow and gummy bears prepayment review.

In real life prepayment review:

  • The auditors may use incorrect, inapplicable, subjective, and arbitrary standards.

I had a case in which the auditors were denying 100% ACTT services, which are 24-hour mental health services for those 10% of people who suffer from extreme mental illness. The reason that the auditor was denying 100% of the claims was because “lower level services were not tried and ruled out.” In this instance, we have a behavioral health care provider employing staff to render ACTT services (expensive), actually rendering the ACTT services (expensive), and getting paid zero…zilch…nada…for a reason that is not required! There is no requirement that a person receiving ACTT services try a lower level of service first. If the person qualifies for ACTT, the person should receive ACTT services. Because of this auditor’s misunderstanding of ACTT, this provider was almost put out of business.

Another example: A provider of home health was placed on prepayment review. Again, 90 – 100% of the claims were denied. In home health, program eligibility is determined by an independent assessment conducted by the Division of Medical Assistance (DMA) via Liberty, which creates an individualized plan of care. The provider submitted claims for Patient Sally, who, according to her plan, needs help dressing. The service notes demonstrated that the in-home aide helped Sally dress with a shirt and pants. But the auditor denies every claim the provider bills for Sally (which is 7 days a week) because, according to the service note, the in-home aide failed to check the box to show she/he helped put on Sally’s shoes. The auditor fails to understand that Sally is a double amputee – she has no feet.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – Who watches the watchmen???

  • The administrative burden placed on providers undergoing prepayment review is staggering.

In many cases, a provider on prepayment review is forced to hire contract workers just to keep up with the number of document requests coming from the entity that is conducting the prepayment review. After initial document requests, there are supplemental document requests. Then every claim that is denied needs to be re-submitted or appealed. The amount of paperwork involved in prepayment review would cause an environmentalist to scream and crumple into the fetal position like “The Crying Game.”

  • The accuracy ratings are inaccurate.

Because of the mistakes the auditors make in erroneously denying claims, the purported “accuracy ratings” are inaccurate. My daughter received an 86 on a test. Given that she is a straight ‘A’ student, this was odd. I asked her what she got wrong, and she had no idea. I told her to ask her teacher the next day why she received an 86. Oops. Her teacher had accidentally given my daughter an 86; the 86 was the grade of another child in the class with the same first name. In prepayment review, the accuracy ratings are the only method to be removed from prepayment, so the accuracy of the accuracy ratings is important. One mistaken, erroneously denied claim damages the ratings, and we’ve already discussed that mistakes/errors occur. You think, if a mistake is found, call up the auditing entity…talk it out. See below.

  • The communication between provider and auditor do not exist.

Years ago my mom and I went to visit relatives in Switzerland. (Not dissimilar to National Lampoon’s European Vacation). They spoke German; we did not. We communicated with pictures and hand gestures. To this day, I have no idea their names. This is the relationship between the provider and the auditor.

Assuming that the provider reaches a live person on the telephone:

“Can you please explain to me why claims 1-100 failed?”

“Don’t you know the service definitions and the policies? That is your responsibility.”

“Yes, but I believe that we follow the policies. We don’t understand why these claims are denied. That’s what I’m asking.”

“Read the policy.”

“Not helpful.”

  • The financial burden on the provider is devastating.

If a provider’s reimbursements are 80 – 100% reliant on Medicaid/care and those funds are frozen, the provider cannot meet payroll. Yet the provider is expected to continue to render services. A few years ago, I requested from NC DMA a list of providers on prepayment review and the details surrounding them. I was shocked at the number of providers that were placed on prepayment review and within a couple months ceased submitting claims. In reality, what happened was that those providers were forced to close their doors. They couldn’t financially support their company without getting paid.

Ok, now we know that prepayment review can be a death sentence for a health care provider. How can we prepare for prepayment review and what do we do if we are placed on prepayment review?

  1. Create a separate “what if” savings account to pay for attorneys’ fees. The best defense is a good offense. You cannot prevent yourself from being placed on prepayment review – there is no rhyme or reason for such placement. If you believe that you will never get placed on prepayment review, then you should meet one of my partners. He got hit by lightning – twice! (And lived). So start saving! Legal help is a must. Have your attorney on speed dial.
  2. Self-audit. Be proactive, not reactive. Check your documents. If you use an electronic records system, review the notes that it is creating. If it appears that all the notes look the same except for the name of the recipient, fix your system. Cutting and pasting (or appearing to cut and paste) is a pitfall in audits. Review the notes of the highest reimbursement code. Most likely, the more the reimbursement rate, the more likely to get flagged.
  3. Implement an in-house policy about opening the mail and responding to document requests. This sounds self evident, but you will be surprised how many providers have multiple people getting and opening the mail. The employees see a document request and they want to be good employees – so they respond and send the documents. They make a mistake and BOOM – you are on prepayment review. Know who reviews the mail and have a policy for notifying you if a document request is received.
  4. Buck up. Prepayment review is a b*^%$. Cry, pray, meditate, exercise, get therapy, go to the spa, medicate…whatever you need to do to alleviate stress – do it.
  5. Do not think you can get off prepayment review alone and without help. You will need help. You will need bodies to stand at the copy machine. You will need legal help. Do not make the mistake of allowing the first three months pass before you contact an attorney. Contact your attorney immediately.

SB 257 – A New Death Sentence for NC Medicaid Providers!

Buried within the Senate Appropriations Act of 2017 (on pages 189-191 of 361 pages) is a new and improved method to terminate Medicaid providers. Remember prepayment review? Well, if SB 257 passes, then prepayment review just…

got…

bigger.

Prepayment review is allowed per N.C. Gen. Stat. 108C-7.  See my past blogs on my opinion as to prepayment review. “NC Medicaid: CCME’s Comedy of Errors of Prepayment Review“NC Medicaid and Constitutional Due Process.

N.C. Gen. Stat. 108C-7 states, “a provider may be required to undergo prepayment claims review by the Department. Grounds for being placed on prepayment claims review shall include, but shall not be limited to, receipt by the Department of credible allegations of fraud, identification of aberrant billing practices as a result of investigations or data analysis performed by the Department or other grounds as defined by the Department in rule.” Getting placed on prepayment review is not appealable. Relief can be attainable. See blog. (With a lawyer and a lot of money).

Even without the proposals found within SB 257, being placed on prepayment review is being placed in a torture chamber for providers.

With or without SB 257, being placed on prepayment review results in the immediate withhold of all Medicaid reimbursements pending the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) contracted entity’s review of all submitted claims and its determination that the claims meet criteria for all rules and regulations. If the majority of your reimbursements come from Medicaid, then an immediate suspension of Medicaid funds can easily put you out of business.

With or without SB 257, in order to get off prepayment review, you must achieve 70% accuracy (or clean claims) for three consecutive months. Think about that statement – The mere placement of you on prepayment review means that, according to the standard for being removed from prepayment review, you will not receive your reimbursements for, at least, three months. How many of you could survive without getting paid for three months. But that’s not the worst of it, the timing and process of prepayment review – meaning the submission of claims, the review of the claims, the requests for more documentation, submission of more documents, and the final decision – dictates that you won’t even get an accuracy rating the first, maybe even the second month. If you go through the prepayment review process, you can count on no funding for four to five months, if you are over 70% accurate the first three months. How many of you can sustain your company without getting paid for five months? How about 24 months, which is how long prepayment review can last?

The prepayment review process: (legally, which does not mean in reality)

Despite your Medicaid funds getting cut off, you continue to provide Medicaid services to your recipients (You also continue to pay your staff and your overhead with gummy bears, rainbows, and smiles). – And, according to SB 257, if your claims submissions decrease to under 50% of the prior three months before prepayment review – you automatically lose. In other words, you are placed on prepayment review. Your funding is suspended (with or without SB 257). You must continue to provide services without any money (with or without SB 257) and you must continue to provide the same volume of services (if SB 257 passes).

So, you submit your claims.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or its contracted vendor shall process all clean claims submitted for prepayment review within 20 calendar days of submission by the provider. “To be considered by the Department, the documentation submitted must be complete, legible, and clearly identify the provider to which the documentation applies. If the provider failed to provide any of the specifically requested supporting documentation necessary to process a claim pursuant to this section, the Department shall send to the provider written notification of the lacking or deficient documentation within 15 calendar days of receipt of such claim the due date of requested supporting documentation. The Department shall have an additional 20 days to process a claim upon receipt of the documentation.”

Let’s look at an example:

You file your claim on June 1, 2017.

DHHS (or contractor) determines that it needs additional documentation. On June 16, 2017, DHHS sends a request for documentation, due by July 6, 2017 (20 days later).

But you are on the ball. You do not need 20 days to submit the additional documents (most likely, because you already submitted the records being requested). You submit additional records on June 26, 2017 (within 10 days).

DHHS has until July 16, 2017, to determine whether the claim is clean. A month and a half after you submit your claim, you will be told whether or not you will be paid, and that’s if you are on the ball.

Now imagine that you submit 100 claims per week, every week. Imagine the circular, exponential effect of the continual, month-and-a-half review for all the claims and the amount of documents that you are required to submit – all the while maintaining the volume of claims of, at least over 50% of your average from the three prior months before prepayment review.

Maintaining at least 50% of the volume of claims that you submitted prior to being placed on prepayment review is a new addition to the prepayment review torture game and proposed in SB 257.

If SB 257 does not pass, then when you are placed on prepayment review and your funding is immediately frozen, you can decrease the volume of claims you submit. It becomes necessary to decrease the volume of claims for many reasons. First, you have no money to pay staff and many staff will quit; thus decreasing the volume of claims you are able to provide. Second, your time will be consumed with submitting documents for prepayment review, receiving additional requests, and responding to the additional requests. I have had a client on prepayment review receive over 100 requests for additional documents per day, for months. Maintaining organization and a record of what you have or have not submitted for which Medicaid recipient for which date of service becomes a full-time job. With your new full-time job as document submitter, your volume of services decreases.

Let’s delve into the details of SB 257 – what’s proposed?

SB 257’s Proposed Torture Tactics

The first Catherine’s Wheel found in SB 257 is over 50% volume. Or you will be terminated.

As discussed, SB 257 requires to maintain at least 50% of the volume of services you had before being placed on prepayment review. Or you will be terminated.

Another heretics fork that SB 257 places in the prepayment review torture chamber is punishment for appeal.

SB 257 proposes that you are punished for appealing a termination. If you fail to meet the 70% accuracy for three consecutive months, then you will be terminated from the Medicaid program. However, with SB 257, if you appeal that termination decision, then “the provider shall remain on prepayment review until the final disposition of the Department’s termination or other sanction of the provider.” Normally when you appeal an adverse determination, the adverse determination is “stayed” until the litigation is over.

Another Iron Maiden that SB 257 proposes is exclusion.

SB 257 proposes that if you are terminated “the termination shall reflect the provider’s failure to successfully complete prepayment claims review and shall result in the exclusion of the provider from future participation in the Medicaid program.” Even if you voluntarily terminate. No mulligan. No education to improve yourself. You never get to provide Medicaid services again. The conical frame has closed.

Another Guillotine that SB 257 proposes is no withhold of claims.

SB 257 proposes that if you withhold claims while you are on prepayment review. “any claims for services provided during the period of prepayment review may still be subject to review prior to payment  regardless of the date  the claims are submitted and regardless of whether the provider has been taken off prepayment review.”

Another Judas Chair that SB 257 proposes is no new evidence.

SB 257 proposes that “[i]f a provider elects to appeal the Department’s decision to impose sanctions on the provider as a result of the prepayment review process to the Office of Administrative Hearings, then the provider shall have 45 days from the date that the appeal is filed to submit any documentation or records that address or challenge the findings of the prepayment review. The Department shall not review, and the administrative law judge shall not admit into evidence, any documentation or records submitted by the provider after the 45-day deadline. In order for a provider to meet its burden of proof under G.S. 108C-12(d) that a prior claim denial should be overturned, the provider must prove that (i) all required documentation was provided at the time the claim was submitted and was available for review by the prepayment review vendor and (ii) the claim should not have been denied at the time of the vendor’s initial review.”

The prepayment review section of SB 257, if passed, will take effect October 1, 2017. SB 257 has passed the Senate and now is in the House.

 

Another Win for the Good Guys! Federal Preliminary Injunction Granted!!

I do not believe that I have been more excited to post a blog than I am right now. For the past two weeks, an associate DeeDee Murphy and I have been in trial in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For those of you who do not know about the Draconian, governmental upheaval of the 15 behavioral health care companies in New Mexico, see blog. And blog. And documentary.

Going back to what it is that I am so excited to share…

A federal preliminary injunction is rare. It is about as rare as rocking horse poo. But when I met Dr. B, I knew I had to try. Poo or not. Dr. B is a geneticist, who accepts Medicaid. Her services are essential to her patients, who receive ongoing, genetic counseling from her. 70% of her practice comprised of Medicaid recipients.

You see, when Dr. B came to me, she had been represented by legal counsel for over two years but had received no recourse at all. For two years she had retained counsel to fight for her Medicaid contract with the State of Indiana, and for two years, she had no Medicaid contract to render services. For the previous 2 years, Dr. B had been subject to prepayment review and paid nothing – or next to nothing…certainly not enough to pay expenses.

When I met Dr. B, she had not been paid for two years. She continued to render medically necessary services, but she received no reimbursement. She had exhausted all her loans, her credit limit, and even borrowed money from family. She had been forced to terminate staff. Dr. B was on the brink of financial and career ruin. She was about to lose the company and work that she had put over 40 years into. Since her company’s revenue consisted of over 70% Medicaid without Medicaid reimbursements, her company could not survive.

Yet, she continued to provide services to her patients. She is a saint. But she was about to be an unemployed, financially-ruined saint, whose sainthood could not continue.

On December 10, 2015, we filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in the Northern District of Indiana requesting that the Court enjoin the Indiana Medicaid agency (“FSSA”) from terminating Dr. B from the Medicaid program and from continuing to suspend the money owed to her for the past two year period that she had been subject to prepayment review.

Senior counsel, Josh Urquhart, from our Denver office, and I attended and argued on behalf of Dr. B in a 5-day trial from January 19-25, 2016.

On April 14, 2016, in a 63-page opinion, our preliminary injunction enjoining Indiana from terminating Dr. B from Medicaid was GRANTED. Dr. B is back in the Medicaid program!!!!!

The rocking horse poo is rampant!

This is not just a win for Dr. B. This is a win for all her Medicaid patients, as well. Two mothers with children-patients of Dr. B testified as to the fact that their children rely heavily on Dr. B. Both testified that without Dr. B their children would be irreparably harmed.

When Dr. B informed her former attorneys that she was hiring me, an attorney from North Carolina, those attorneys told Dr. B that “anyone who tells that they can get a federal preliminary injunction is blowing smoke up your ass.” [Pardon the cuss word – their words, not mine]. To which I would like to say, “[insert raspberry], here’s your smoke!”
A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, which is why it is rare. However, rare objects exist. The plaintiff must show the court that he/she has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, no adequate remedy at law, and irreparable harm absent the injunction. I felt that we had these criteria covered in Dr. B’s case.

The Court agreed with our contention that FSSA’s without cause termination violates her patients’ freedom to choose their provider. This is a big deal!

In our arguments to the Court, we relied heavily on Planned Parenthood of Indiana. We argued that Indiana’s without cause termination was merely a “business decision” and was not germane to Dr. B’s qualifications. As her qualifications remained intact, to disallow Dr. B from providing medically necessary services violates the patients’ freedom to choose their providers.

The Court held that FSSA “must rescind its without cause termination of Dr. B and reinstate her Medicaid provider agreement until this Court reaches a final decision.”

Even rocking horses poo every now and then.

CMS’ Feeble Attempt to Decrease Medicare Appeal Backlog Will, At Least, Benefit Providers

On August 1, 2015, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) clarified (limited) the scope of Medicare auditors in a published article entitled, “Limiting the Scope of Review on Redeterminations and Reconsiderations of Certain Claims.” (MLN Matters® Number: SE1521).

The limitations apply to Medicare Audit Contractors (MACs) and Qualified Independent Contractors (QICs). This new instruction will apply to audits conducted on or after August 1, 2015, and will not be applied retroactively. Important to note: this instruction does not apply to prepayment review, only post payment reviews.

MLN Matters® Number: SE1521 was published in response to the overwhelming, increasingly, mushroomed backlog of Medicare appeals at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) level. Six years ago, prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of Medicare appeals at the ALJ level was sustainable. Six years later, in 2015, the Medicare appeal backlog has skyrocketed to numbers beyond the comprehension of any adversely affected health care provider, i.e., over 547 days for adjudication!

So in order to combat these overwhelming, bottle-necked and “anything but speedy Medicare appeals,” CMS attempted to rectify the situation by setting new limitations (among other measures) as to the scope of authority that MACs and QICs may present on an audit.  However, these new limitations remind me of the hole that is in my front yard. Yes, a hole. The title of this story is “Inertia: What is Easy to Keep Going, Is Impossible to Pull Back” or “I love my husband’s intentions, but the result looks like the Medicare backlog.”

My wonderful husband and I purchased a small farm at the beginning of the year. If you have been following my blog over the past year, you will know that we have horses, peacocks, a micro pig, two dogs, and a 10-year-old. It is a whirlwind of fun.

Well, included in our purchase was a very shallow, very mosquito-ridden pond. It was about 4-5 inches deep and I never really thought about it. It was a pond. It was not beautiful, but it was not ugly. It was just there.

My husband tells me one day that he is going to “clean out the pond.”

BEFORE (except he already tore up the grass, so I do not have a true before picture):

smallpond

Every day, for three months, I come home to a deeper and deeper pond.

“I’m bound to hit a spring,” he would say. Or “Leroy says that there is a lot of water under our ground.” How Leroy came to this conclusion, I do not know. But, slowly, and almost unperceptively, each day the hole grows wider and deeper.

Until, one day, I come home to this:

AFTER:

hole

It would be funny if it were in your yard. (BTW: For scale, check out the horses (one is white, one is brown) in the top left corner.)

“I love my husband’s intentions, but the result looks like the Medicare backlog.”

You cannot undo digging a hole in your front yard that could swallow an elephant..or maybe two or three elephants. Just like you cannot undo a Medicare appeal backlog that could, potentially, fill my hole with its paperwork. You just have to make do, sit on your front porch, and admire the meteor-like hole that resides in your front lawn.

We (He) have (has) high hopes that our hole will become a lake or a swimming hole. In order to help the cause, I spit in it every time I walk by it. In the alternative, we sometimes aim the sprinkler toward the hole and let it run for a few hours. These are examples of our attempts of reconciling our hole into a beautiful swimming hole.

Similarly, when CMS created these MACs and QICs for Medicare audits, at first, it seemed that the MACs and QICs had no limits as to their scopes of authority to audit. Due to these overzealous and, sometimes, overreaching audits, the appeal backlog increased in number, then multiplied. Similar to the construction of my hole, the appeal backlog grew slowly, at first, then exponentially until the backlog is out of hand and uncontrollable. See blog.

One example of the seemingly limitless authority that the MACs and QICs wielded was that the auditors would provide reasons why claims were noncompliant, the defect could be cured, and the MACs and/or QICs would deny the claim for an entirely different reason.

The auditor would, in essence, be moving the goalposts after you kicked the ball. And the appeal backlog continued to swell.

The ability for the auditors to expand the review of claims beyond which was initially reviewed contributed the massive backlog of Medicare appeals at the ALJ level because more providers appeal an audit with which they disagree (common sense). Just like my hole in my front yard, the backlog of appeals grew, then ballooned until the number of Medicare appeals stuck in the backlog could possibly fill my hole. See blog for the Medicare appeal process and appeal deadlines.

According to the most current statistics available, there is a Medicare appeal backlog of approximately 870,000 appeals.  The average processing time for appeals decided in fiscal year 2015 is 547.1 days.

average time

Look at the balloon effect of “average processing time by fiscal year.” In 2009, the average processing time was 94.9 days (a little over 3 months). Now it is over 540 days (almost a year and a half)!!

“I love my husband’s intentions, but the result looks like the Medicare backlog.”

In an attempt to clear the backlog, CMS released MLN Matters® Number: SE1521, on August 1, 2015, in which “CMS has instructed MACs and QICs to limit their review to the reason(s) the claim or line item at issue was initially denied.” (emphasis added).

An exception, however, is if claims are denied for insufficient documentation and the provider submits documents, the claim may still be denied for lack of medical necessity if the documents submitted do not support medical necessity.

This new instruction found in MLN Matters No. SE1521 is an attempt by CMS to reconcile the huge backlog of Medicare appeals at the ALJ level. It is a small gesture. Quite frankly, this instruction should be self-evident as it is inherently unfair to providers to move the goalposts during an audit. I liken this gesture to my husband aiming the sprinkler toward the hole.

sprinkler

In other words, in my opinion, this feeble gesture alone, will not solve the problem. But, in the meantime, it will benefit providers who have been suffering from the goalposts being moved during an audit.

Once something is so big…

“I love my husband’s intentions, but the result looks like the Medicare backlog.”

Maybe the backlog will be fixed when my hole has transformed to a swimming hole.

The Doctrine of Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies and Medicare/caid Providers

medicaidlaw-nc

What is the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies?  And why is it important?

If you are a Medicaid or Medicare provider (which, most likely, you are if you are reading this blog), then knowing your administrative remedies is vital.  Specifically, you need to know your administrative remedies if you receive an “adverse determination” by the “Department.”  I have placed “adverse determination” and the “Department” in quotation marks because these are defined terms in the North Carolina statutes and federal regulations.

What are administrative remedies? If you have been damaged by a decision by a state agency then you have rights to recoup for the damages.

However, just like in the game of Chess, there are rules…procedures to follow…you cannot bring your castle out until the pawn in front of it has moved.

Similarly, you cannot jump to NC Supreme Court without beginning at the lowest court.

What is an adverse determination?

In Medicaid…

View original post 1,119 more words

The Grim Reaper – Prepayment Review!

Another Win for the Good Guys! Gordon & Rees Succeeds in Overturning Yet Another Medicaid Contract Termination!

Getting placed on prepayment review is normally a death sentence for most health care providers. However, our health care team here at Gordon Rees has been successful at overturning the consequences of prepayment review. Special Counsel, Robert Shaw, and team recently won another case for a health care provider, we will call her Provider A. She had been placed on prepayment review for 17 months, informed that her accuracy ratings were all in the single digits, and had her Medicaid contract terminated.

We got her termination overturned!! Provider A is still in business!

(The first thing we did was request the judge to immediately remove her off prepayment review; thereby releasing some funds to her during litigation.  The state is only allowed to maintain a provider on prepayment review for 12 months).

Prepayment review is allowed per N.C. Gen. Stat. 108C-7.  See my past blogs on my opinion as to prepayment review. “NC Medicaid: CCME’s Comedy of Errors of Prepayment Review“NC Medicaid and Constitutional Due Process.

108C-7 states, “a provider may be required to undergo prepayment claims review by the Department. Grounds for being placed on prepayment claims review shall include, but shall not be limited to, receipt by the Department of credible allegations of fraud, identification of aberrant billing practices as a result of investigations or data analysis performed by the Department or other grounds as defined by the Department in rule.”

Being placed on prepayment review results in the immediate withhold of all Medicaid reimbursements pending the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) contracted entity’s review of all submitted claims and its determination that the claims meet criteria for all rules and regulations.

In Provider A’s situation, the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME) conducted her prepayment review. Throughout the prepayment process, CCME found Provider A almost wholly noncompliant. Her monthly accuracy ratings were 1.5%, 7%, and 3%. In order to get off prepayment review, a provider must demonstrate 70% accuracy ratings for 3 consecutive months. Obviously, according to CCME, Provider A was not even close.

We reviewed the same records that CCME reviewed and came to a much different conclusion. Not only did we believe that Provider A met the 70% accuracy ratings for 3 consecutive months, we opined that the records were well over 70% accurate.

Provider A is an in-home care provider agency for adults. Her aides provide personal care services (PCS). Here are a few examples of what CCME claimed were inaccurate:

1. Provider A serves two double amputees. The independent assessments state that the pateint needs help in putting on and taking off shoes. CCME found that there was no indication on the service note that the in-home aide put on or took off the patients’ shoes, so CCME found the dates of service (DOS) noncompliant. But the consumers were double amputees! They did not require shoes!

2. Provider A has a number of consumers who require 6 days of services per week based on the independent assessments. However, many of the consumers do not wish for an in-home aide to come to their homes on days on which their families are visiting. Many patients inform the aides that “if you come on Tuesday, I will not let you in the house.” Therefore, there no service note would be present for Tuesday. CCME found claims inaccurate because the assessment stated services were needed 6 days a week, but the aide only provided services on 5 days.  CCME never inquired as to the reason for the discrepancy.

3. CCME found every claim noncompliant because the files did not contain the service authorizations. Provider A had service authorizations for every client and could view the service authorizations on her computer queue. But, because the service authorization was not physically in the file, CCME found noncompliance.

Oh, and here is the best part about #3…CCME was the entity that was authorizing the PCS (providing the service authorizations) and, then, subsequently, finding the claim noncompliant based on no service authorization.

Judge Craig Croom at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) found in our favor that DHHS via CCME terminated Provider A’s Medicaid contract arbitrarily, capriciously, erroneously, exceeded its authority or jurisdiction, and failed to act as accordingly to the law. He ruled that DHHS’ placement of Provider A on prepayment review was random

Because of Judge Croom’s Order, Provider A remains in business. Plus, she can retroactively bill all the unpaid claims over the course of the last year.

Great job, Robert!!! Congratulations, Provider A!!!

Tip #12 to Avoid Medicaid Reimbursement/Be Proactive in the Era of Medicaid Audits

Looking back on all my posts, I realized that I have not written a “Tip” lately.  But when I started thinking about my “Tip,” I realized my Today’s Tip is more of a “Tip to Be Proactive in the Era of Medicaid Audits.”

So, I am officially changing the name of my “Tip Blogs” to “Tip #12 to Be Proactive in the Era of Medicaid Audits.” Poof! It’s changed.  (Also, I reserve the right to change the title back at any time.)

My Proactive Tip Today:

No.1: Make sure that your liability insurance covers attorneys fees!!!

No. 2: Make sure your insurance, if it does cover attorneys’ fees, that your insurance allows you to choose you attorney.

First, get a copy of your insurance and read it.  You are looking to make sure that your insurance covers “regulatory audits.”  Here is the important catch…even if your insurance claims to cover regulatory audits, if you receive a Tentative Notice of Overpayment, or a Notice of Prepayment Review, the correspondence will, in some place, state that the action (whichever action it is) is “based on credible allegations of fraud.”  Is that actually a true statement? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.  The result, however, is that some insurance companies claim that, because the Tentative Notice of Overpayment or Notice of Prepayment Review is based on credible allegations of fraud, that attorneys’ fees are NOT covered because fraud is an intentional action.  You will notice that your insurance does not cover actions for fraud.

The insurance companies do not understand that these Notices of Overpayment and Prepayment Review ARE NOT FRAUD. Instead, we are dealing with paperwork nit-picking. And, in many cases, erroneous, paperwork nit-picking.

Second, make sure that your insurance allows you to choose your attorney. What good is an insurance that covers attorneys’ fees, but only covers the fees for these certain 10 lawyers, who have never seen a Medicaid Clinical Policy, graduated law school 2 years ago and passed the Bar on their 4th attempt.  I shiver at the thought.  (Remember, it does not have to be me that you hire, just hire a good, knowledgable attorney).

After realizing many of my clients were in-need of an insurance company/plan that would cover attorneys’ fees for attorneys’ of their choosing, after a bit of research, I found an insurance broker that I recommend.

Here’s the caveat: If you are already undergoing a Medicaid audit, or already on prepayment review, it will not help you to change your insurance at this point.  It would be like a “pre-existing condition” in health insurance.  So this Tip is those health care providers, who are not undergoing an audit currently, but wish to be proactive in protecting their interests.

So, if you are interested in obtaining a liability insurance that will 100% cover your attorneys’ fees, contact:

Edward M. Smith, CIC
Senior Vice President
Rutherfoord
A Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC Company
One S. Jefferson Street,
Roanoke, VA 24011
Direct:  540-767-4053
Fax:  540-342-9747
eddie.smith@rutherfoord.com
www.rutherfoord.com

Dear NC Medicaid Providers, You Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent. From, DMA

How many times have you heard, on TV, the phrase “alleged” suspect?  Or the phrase “innocent until proven guilty?”  Or “presumed innocent?”  In Latin, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat means the burden of proof lies with the one who declares, not who denies.

Most people do not know that this fundamental presumption, innocent until proven guilty (or, presumption of innocence), is not found in our Constitution…at least not explicitly.  The presumption of innocence is widely held to come from the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments.

However, in common law, the presumption of innocence has been upheld.  In Coffin v. U.S., 156 U.S. 432 (1895), the Supreme Court held that “[t]he principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.”

Yes, I understand that, back in 1895, the Supreme Court held the presumption exists in criminal law.  Obviously, this is a Medicaid blog and I have averred, and will continue to aver, that my clients are not guilty of any criminal Medicaid fraud. But, even in the civil arena, a similar presumption of innocence exists and, as pertaining to Medicaid audits, is not being followed.  The civil audits being conducted on health care providers that accept Medicaid are: post-payment reviews, prepayment reviews, and Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits.

I am defining post-payment reviews as audits that are supposed to be used to assure that payments are made for services delivered to beneficiaries.

I am defining prepayment review as a 6 month audit/review (initially…it can be longer or you can have your Medicaid contract terminated after 6 months) conducted on a provider’s records before reimbursement for services rendered due to “credible allegations of fraud,” “identification of aberrant billing practices, “data analysis,” or “other grounds.”

I am defining a RAC audit as an audit of past claims (up to 3 years ago) by another DMA agent either Public Consulting  Group (PCG) or HMS, which determines that, based on its own subjective determination, the providers’ documents are noncompliant and the provider owes the State a monetary amount of $____.  The provider receives a Tentative Notice of Overpayment (TNO).  It is important to note that these TNO amounts are extrapolated.  Which means if the DMA agent finds $1,000 worth of “alleged” overpayments, the agent can extrapolate the amount to be $1 million (This example is merely for the sake of this blog).

Going back to the presumption of innocence in criminal law, as I said, civil law has a similar presumption.  It is called the burden of proof.  In Latin,”semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit,” means, in the best translation of what I have found, “the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.”

Similar to: “The burden lies with the one who declares, not denies?”  I think so.  In essence, the person that accuses another bears the “burden of proof,” not the accused.  But what does that mean?  In simple terms, it means that the person who accuses another must prove every element of the crime/tort/wrongdoing in a court of law.  If that accuser fails to prove every element, then the accusee (the person accused) does not even have to defend him or herself.  Since the burden lies on the accuser, the accuser must prove all elements before the accusee even has to defend him or herself.  If the accuser fails, the case is dismissed.

The weight of the “presumption of innocence” and the “burden of proof” resting on the accuser is the heart of our judicial system, both criminal and civil.

So what happens if we take both the presumption and the burden away?

Johnny could tell the NC Bar that Susie, a local lawyer, has committed unethical acts. The NC Bar would immediately either punish Susie, suspend her bar license or terminate her Bar license without the Bar questioning Johnny, Susie, or even give Susie a chance to defend herself.

Tommy could be shopping at his local Harris Teeter, looking for Super Double coupon deals, and a policeman could arrest him for shoplifting without any evidence, except that Ms. Doe, the little old lady that lives next to Tommy and hates his my dog told the policeman that she saw Tommy shoplift.

Or, even worse, a nearby small pet store could call the IRS, contending its competitor down the road  has committed tax fraud.  IRS, without an investigation, closes the competitor’s shop and forbids any customer to pay it until the full investigation.

How are the above examples any different from these?

You receive a Notice of Prepayment Review.  The Review states that “based on credible allegations of fraud” (you do not get to know who accused you), we are suspending all Medicaid reimbursements to you, effective [DATE].  For the next 6 months you have to prove your innocence.  You cannot appeal this decision. 

Guilty until proven innocent.

Or: You receive a Tentative Notice of Overpayment (TNO) that, based on a review of 10 clients, you owe $500,000 (extrapolated), and the provider has 15 days in which to send the funds.  BTW: you can appeal. But the decision has already been made that you owe the money without hearing your defense.

Guilty until proven innocent.

Or, even better, you have been, for months, trying your hardest to keep up with all the over-inclusive records requests from the Carolinas Center of Medical Excellence (CCME), all the final requests, and all the nebulous denials (for reasons other than what was requested in the final requests).  You get to a hearing or a mediation and discover that, if you provide 5 service notes, that you will have passed prepayment review.  So you tell CCME that you will get the service notes.  And you are told that, most likely, the service notes will be considered invalid, because you will, most likely, re-created the notes, since you didn’t provide the notes earlier.

Hmmmm…How does one prove that is service note is NOT fraudulent?

Guilty until proven innocent.

“It is better to save a guilty man than condemn an innocent one.” Voltaire

NC Medicaid: CCME’s Comedy of Errors of Prepayment Review

For those of you who have been on prepayment review or know someone else who has undergone prepayment review, this is for you.

Remember “A MidSummer’s Night Dream,” by William Shakespeare?  The comedy of errors? Undergoing a Medicaid audit performed by the Carolinas Center of Medical Excellence (CCME) is much like the comedy of errors in “The MidSummer’s Night Dream.”  (MSND)   And much like the events in MSND, everyone involved wants to believe that the audit was just a dream/nightmare, but, sadly, this is real life.

For those of you that were not forced to read MSND in school or did not study Shakespeare in college, MSND portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors, who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. In my humble opinion, the best characters in MSND is Titania and Puck.  Titania is the Queen of the fairies, who is estranged from her husband Oberon because Titania will not give her “changeling” to her husband.  Oberon wants the “changeling” to use in battle, but Titania will not have it. Puck is the court jester, who creates a magic flower that, if struck on a person with Cupid’s arrow, will make the struck-person fall in love with whomever or whatever is first seen upon awakening.

So Oberon devises a plan to use the magic flower on Titania and, while she is awe-struck with whatever or whomever she loves, Oberon will take the “changeling.” Puck strikes Titania with the flower, using Cupid’s arrow, and she is fast asleep.

Meanwhile a group of people are creating a play.  Nick Bottom, whose name Puck decides is another word for “jackass,” is one of the actors.  While Bottom is rehearsing, Puck transforms Bottom’s head into a jackass’ head.  Bottom has no idea and goes about his rehearsal with an ass head.

Titania wakes up, sees the ass-headed Bottom, and falls in love.  While she is in love with the ass-headed Bottom, Oberon takes the changeling.

In CCME’s very own comedy of errors, CCME conducts prepayment reviews for the Division of Medical Assistance (DMA). But in this comedy of errors, the provider (Titania) has its Medicaid contract (changeling) that DMA (Oberon) wants.  DMA (Oberon) sends CCME (Puck) to conduct a prepayment review (the magic flower) to get the Medicaid contract. The provider (Titania) becomes so confused and so frustrated with the process that, when she wakes up from the nightmare of prepayment review, she feels like an ass and has no Medicaid contract (changeling).

Here is CCME’s Comedy of Errors:

On August 6, 2012, Jane Doe receives her notice of prepayment review from CCME.  Jane also receives CCME’s first requests for documents for Medicaid recipients for certain dates of services (DOS).  In actuality, CCME requests hundreds of documents for multiple Medicaid recipients and multiple DOS, and, of course, Jane is given 15 days in which to comply.  But, for the sake of this blog and simplicity, we are going to concentrate on one Medicaid recipient and 3 DOS.

On October 10, 2012, Jane receives a request for documents for Medicaid recipient X for DOS 9/20/12, 9/24/12, and 9/27/12.

Jane complies.  She sends all the documents required to CCME. Remember, since August, Jane has not received any reimbursements for Medicaid, but Jane is expected to continue to service her clients, pay her staff, pay herself, and pay all overhead for her office without getting paid.  I wonder how many other professions would put up with continuing to work without payment.  I expect that if I went to the grocery store, put a bunch of food in my  cart, and tell the cashier that I am not paying until the state government performed an audit of the quality of its food, that I would be arrested for shoplifting.

In November, Jane receives a “Final Document Request” for Medicaid recipient X and DOS 9/20, 9/24, and 9/27.

The only item CCME requests in the signature log of Jane’s staff for all 3 DOS.  So, she sends in the signature log.  Implicit in the Final Document Request is that, since CCME only requested a signature log, that CCME had all other necessary and required documents for these DOS.

In December (remember Jane still had not received any Medicaid payments since August), Jane receives a denial for DOS 9/20, 9/24, and 9/27.  A denial means Jane does not get paid.  According to the denial, DOS 9/20, 9/24, and 9/27 were denied because CCME did not have a treatment plan, signed authorization by the Medicaid recipient, or the service note.  What????

1. Jane sent the treatment plan, the signed consent, and the service note back in October.

2. The Final Document Request only asked for the signature log.  Why didn’t the Final Request request the treatment plan, signed consent, and service note?

The comedy of errors continue.

In January 2013, CCME sends another Request for Documents.  Included in the list of required documents to be sent to CCME are documents for Medicaid recipient X for DOS 9/20, 9/24, and 9/27.

Jane thinks this is odd, but who is she to question the Medicaid auditor?  Plus, if she calls CCME to point out the repetitive nature of the audit, she is just told to comply with the audit.

So she does.  She re-sends all the required documents again.

A week later, she receives another request for DOS 9/27 for the same Medicaid recipient.  She re-re-sends the documents.

In February, she receives denials for DOS 9/20, 9/24, and 9/27.  A week later she receives the third denial for DOS 9/27.

A few days later, after calling CCME, getting transferred to 40 different people, and her repeated request for a copy of her compliance accuracy rate, CCME sends her accuracy rate to her.  CCME determined that Jane’s accuracy rate is 1.25% (you have to get over 70% for 3 consecutive months to pass prepayment review).  DMA terminates her Medicaid contract.

Due to the sequence of events, which I have called the comedy of errors, DMA (Oberon) successfully usurps Jane’s Medicaid contract (the changeling).

I doubt Shakespeare contemplated his “comedy of errors” template would be used in the Medicaid system. And Shakespeare’s version was much funnier.