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You’ve got to be kidding. . . more Medicare audits on the way?

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, Medicare Audits

(March 11, 2010): Medicare audits can be extraordinarily stressful for your organization.  Are your documentation practices compliant?  If not, you should take immediate steps to address any deficient practices you might have.  New Medicare audits are on the way!

According to the White House, President Obama has announced that he intends to back bipartisan plans to stamp out waste in government-run medical programs for the elderly and needy.  The White House said the 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.

I.     The White House is Committed to Fighting Health Care Fraud and Abuse.

As the White House noted, “We cannot afford nor should we tolerate this waste of taxpayer dollars,” 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.

II.   Are More RAC-Type Medicare Audits Ahead of Us?

The 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.

As many health care providers will readily attest, over the past year, it appears that there has been a marked increase in ZPIC post-payment Medicare audits, almost all of which are accompanied by demands for extrapolated damages.  Once again, this points to the importance of sefl-assessment and an effective compliance strategy.

III.   Steps You Should Take to Prepare for a Medicare Audit.

If you have not already done so, we strongly recommend that you implement an effective Compliance Plan — one that has been specifically designed to help present the “risks” that your practice face from day-to-day.  Over the years, our firm has represented a number of health care providers around the country in an effort to improper claims denials overturned.  This new risk will increase the likelihood that providers who have not been subjected to ZPIC or RAC audits in the past may now find themselves being examined by RAC-like auditors in the future. 

Coupled with existing audit risks, 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 some ZPICs appear to impose 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.

We recommend that health care providers carefully review their documentation practices.  How would your documentation look to you if you were in the place of an outside auditor?  In order to lessen the likelihood that ZPICs, PSCs, RACs and other third-party reviewers will deny your claims — you need to fully understand and apply the coverage and payments which apply to your claims / services.  Don’t wait until you are facing a Medicare audit.  Take action now.

robert_w_lile-150x1501Should 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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