You’ve Got to be Kidding. . . the Government Wants More “Bounty Hunters” Conducting Medicare Audits?

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Medicare Audits

(March 12, 2010): Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama  intends to back additional bipartisan plans to stamp out waste in government-run medical programs for the elderly and needy.  The White House said this new effort to root out improper payments in the Medicare and Medicaid programs could double taxpayer savings over the next three years to at least $2 billion.

“We cannot afford nor should we tolerate this waste of taxpayer dollars,” the White House said.   The government believes that approximately $54 billion was lost through improper Medicare and Medicaid payments in 2009. Medicare is the government-run program covering elderly Americans and Medicaid is for the country’s poorest.

President Obama is seeking to crack down on waste and fraud as his administration strives to secure an overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system to contain costs and expand coverage to tens of millions of more Americans.  The action endorses Republican-backed proposals on alleged health care wrongdoers.

Similar to the current RAC reimbursement scheme, the proposed new plan will offer private auditors a share of the money that they recoup in order to encourage them to work harder to uncover improper payments under Medicare and Medicaid.   President Obama is also expected to back bipartisan legislation to expand the ability of government agencies to undertake these so-called payment recapture audits by providing more funds.  No additional information on how this will impact CMS was given.

As many health care providers will readily attest, over the past year, it appears that there has been a marked increase in PSC and ZPIC audits, almost all of which are accompanied by demands for extrapolated damages.  Once again, this points to the importance of self-assessment and an effective compliance strategy.  Asked to comment on this new “risk” to health care providers, Robert W. Liles, Managing Partner at Liles Parker, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, responded:

”Our firm has represented a number of health care providers around the country.  We have aggressively fought to have improper claims denial overturned.  This new risk will increase the likelihood that providers who have not been subjected to RAC audits in the past may now find themselves being examined by RAC-like auditors in the future.  Coupled with existing PSC and ZPIC audits, sole practitioners, small practice groups and clinics will find their coding and billing practice under the spotlight.  Unfortunately, based on recent cases we have handled, it appears that PSCs and ZPICs are increasingly imposing their own views regarding what is required, well beyond the four corners of CMS-authorized provisions set out under LCDs and LMRPs covering the services at issue.  Fortunately, when faced with the facts, ALJs have applied a reasonable approach and most of the claims at issue have been found to be payable.  We recommend that health care providers carefully review their documentation practices to lessen the likelihood that ZPICs, PSCs, RACs and these new third-party reviewers can successfully argue that the claims don’t qualify for coverage.”

Should you have any questions regarding these issues, don’t hesitate to contact us.  For a complementary consultation, you may call Robert W. Liles or one of our other attorneys at 1 (800) 475-1906.

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