Medicare Audit

Government Discovers Extensive Overbilling of Cancer Drug to Medicare

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

It’s no surprise that the government is aggressively pursuing Medicare fraud. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), made a surprising discovery. An audit uncovered that more than three-quarters (3/4) of all Medicare claims for the breast-cancer drug Herceptin were billed incorrectly, according to Modern Healthcare. This was found during an audit conducted on physicians and hospitals from around the country between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2010.

To read the entire Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Audit Results from Around the Country.

Three different audits were released to the public by the HHS OIG. All of these audits showed roughly the same information. Health care providers have been billing Medicare for full multiuse vials of the drug Herceptin, when patients actually only need a smaller portion. Medicare does not pay healthcare providers for any part of the drug that is discarded, because it can be preserved for up to 28 days and reused. The auditors suggest that payment from Medicare for an entire multiuse vial is likely to be incorrect. We saw a similar situation with the drug Avastin and Lucentis being used by ophthalmologists several years ago.

The results of the audits were released in January 2013. One audit found eighty-five percent (85%) of 1,073 Herceptin vials used in Ohio and Kentucky were billed incorrectly. In Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, the government auditors found that seventy-eight (78%) of 713 claims investigated were wrong. The overpayment amount was around $682,000, for these audits.

Florida’s District Found to Have Overcharged 78% of Bills.

According to the report, HHS auditors found overcharges in seventy-eight percent (78%) of bills for 1,330 vitals of Herceptin submitted to First Coast Service Options, Inc. This company serves as the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for HHS District Nine, which primarily includes providers in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The overcharges for Herceptin were $1,325,409.

In the report, the government recommends that First Coast Service Options, Inc., do a number of things. The first is to recover the more than one million dollars in overpayments. It’s also recommended that First Coast Service Options, Inc., implement system edits that review multiuse vial drugs that are billed with units of service equivalent to the dosage of an entire vial. The government also suggests that these audit results be used as an educational tool for teaching correct billing practices to physicians and hospitals.

Click here to read the entire report on District Nine.

How to Respond to a Medicare Audit.

Remember, there is no such thing as a “routine” Medicare audit. The fact is that if you find yourself or your practice at the center of a Medicare audit, there is some item you have claimed as a Medicare provider or the amount of claims Medicare has paid in a certain category that has caused the audit. We’ve come up with a list of actions that we use and recommend you take when responding to a Medicare audit. Click here to view that list.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Investigations.

The best time to respond to and defeat an allegation of overpayment is at the very beginning. That is why it is essential that you obtain qualified counsel to help you through the process. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.


For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Why do you think hospitals and physicians incorrectly bill for Herceptin? Are audits like these necessary? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “OIG Finds Widespread Herceptin Overcharges.” Modern Healthcare. (January 21, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130121/NEWS/301219959/oig-finds-widespread-herceptin-overcharges

Jarmon, Glorida. “The Medicare Contractor’s Payments to Providers in Jurisdiction 9 for Full Vials of Herceptin were often Incorrect.” Office of Inspector General (January 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Herceptin%20FL%20Overcharges.pdf

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Occupational Therapists, Podiatrists, Psychologists and Optometrists Being Scrutinized in Medicare Audits

1 Indest-2008-1George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Our firm has recently seen an increase in the number of occupational therapists (OTs), speech therapists (STs), podiatrists, psychologists, optometrists and other licensed health professionals being scrutinized in Medicare audits and recovery actions. Often these result from claims submitted for evaluation or treatment entered in nursing homes or assisted living facilities (ALFs).

You Must Provide Complete and Detailed Documentation of Care Rendered.

In many cases, the provider may not have complete documentation of the care rendered because it has been placed in the patient’s record at the facility. Unfortunately, Medicare does not see this as an excuse to provide copies of all relevant medical records in support of claims during an audit. The provider must still obtain the records and forward them to the auditor. Failure to do so will result in a complete disallowance of claims for treatment or services.

Other Problems with Fort Comings in Documentations.


Other problems we have seen with forth comings in documentation that has resulted in claims denial include:

1. Failing to have a physician’s order, prescription or referral specifically requesting the services indicated,

2. Failing to have a legible signature from a doctor ordering such services, or the physician’s typed/printed name with the letters “M.D.” or “D.O.” after the name,

3. Lack of proof of medical necessity for the services rendered,

4. Illegible medical records or illegible medical records entries,

5. Failure to have a start time and stop time for services that are billed based on the amount of time spent with the patient,

6. Failure to have the signature (electronic or manual) of the individual health professional delivering the services on the health records documenting the delivery of those services.

Such deficiencies are easy for health professionals to avoid at the time of the delivery of services. Some of these may be corrected before the documents are produced in response to an audit request. However, after the documents have been provided as a response to an audit request, it may be too late to do anything about these document deficiencies.

Obtain Representation Early.

A health law attorney experienced in Medicare and Medicaid audits can save a provider tens of thousands of dollars in claims and overpayments being reimbursed to payers. Obtain representation at the earliest possible time.

Check Your Professional Liability Insurance Policy.

Many professional liability insurance policies will pay for the cost of legal representation in a Medicare or Medicaid audit. If your insurance company does not offer this benefit, you may purchase separate insurance coverage which does provide this benefit for only a small premium. Ask your insurance agent for information on this type of coverage. After you need it, it will be too late to purchase it. This mistake could put you out of business and negatively affect your professional license.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.
For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

New Hampshire City Auditing Ambulance Service for Allegedly Overbilling

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On July 16, 2012, a New Hampshire city allegedly launched an audit into its primary ambulance service, American Medical Response (AMR), after the company acknowledged overbilling hundreds of patients since 2011, according to a Union Leader article.

AMR Allegedly Incorrectly Billed More Than 300 Ambulance Trips.

According to the report, an in-house audit by the city showed that 323 ambulance trips out of nearly 5,000 in 2011 and 2012 had been incorrectly billed. This amounts to slightly more than six percent (6%). AMR attributes the overbilling to human error.

After concerns that the billing problems could be more widespread, it was decided the ambulance service should be audited by an independent auditor.

AMR is reported to have forgiven any outstanding incorrect balances and issued $16,000 in refunds to patients who had already paid the incorrect bills.

Patients’ Bills Allegedly Exceeded the Amount AMR was Authorized to Charge.

Residents describe a common bill for ambulance transportation to be more than $1,000 for a single ambulance trip, which is approximately sixty-six percent (66%) more than AMR is authorized to charge under its contract with the city.

The city began its contract with AMR in January 2011, after the city’s previous ambulance service went out of business. The city’s fire chief said that under AMR’s contract, the company cannot charge more than thirty-five (35%) above the Medicare rate.

AMR is allegedly cooperating in the review, but the audit will take about a month to complete.

Ambulance Services Companies Are Easy Targets for Medicare Audits.

Recently, ambulance service companies have become the target of Medicare audits and are frequently accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Medicare and Medicaid audits can result in overpayment demands reaching into hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessment of fines. Ambulance services were included in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) work plan for fiscal year 2012 as an area that would be subject to scrutiny. Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) are launching audits of ambulance service providers and emergency medical transportation companies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until its too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, ambulance services companies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Siefer, Ted. “Independent audit begins on Manchester ambulance service billing.” Union Leader. (July 23, 2012). From: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20120724/NEWS06/707249979

Siefer, Ted. “City will conduct audit ambulance service over overbilling.” New Hampshire.com. (July 28, 2012). From: http://www.newhampshire.com/article/20120729/NEWS0603/707299953/1007

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Major Medicare Offender Sentenced to Prison for Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud Scheme

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

The former owner of four mental health facilities in South Florida and North Carolina was sentenced to fourteen (14) years in federal prison on February 25, 2013. The former business owner pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare out of tens of millions of dollars from 2004 through 2011, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). He had previously been convicted of cocaine trafficking but decided to move to Medicare fraud supposedly because he thought it would be safer. In total the former mental health facility owner was indicted for defrauding the government of nearly $63 million. As part of his plea, he was ordered to repay $28 million.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Unnecessary Services, Illegal Kickbacks and Fake Mental Health Records.

The scheme, headed by the former business owner, involved three mental health clinics in Miami, Florida, and one in Hendersonville, North Carolina. All four facilities allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for services that were unnecessary or otherwise not provided. The clinics also paid bribes to local assisted living facilities (ALFs) in order to provide a steady stream of patients that were in no need of services. Employees of the clinic would then fabricate entire mental health records for the patients in order to bill the government programs. The former mental health facility owner and his employees allegedly thought that creating the medical records would aid them in avoiding detection by federal auditors, according to an article in the Miami Herald.

To read the Miami Herald article, click here.

Co-Conspirators Feeling the “Heat.”

Fifteen (15) of the former business owner’s co-conspirators have been charged for their alleged roles in the health care fraud scheme. Ten (10) defendants have already pleaded guilty, according to the DOJ.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. These departments help make up the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) that works to stop Medicare fraud across the country.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What do you think of the former business owner’s sentence? Do you think it is enough to deter other would-be criminals from scamming the government? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Miami Businessman Who Stole Millions from Medicare Sentenced to 14 Year.” Miami Herald. (February 26, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/26/3254507/miami-businessman-who-pleaded.html

Department of Justice. “Owner of Mental Health Facilities Sentenced to 168 Months in Prison in Connection with $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (February 25, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/February/13-crm-234.html

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

August 27, 2012, Marks the Start Date of the CMS Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR)

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On July 31, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on its website that hospitals should brace themselves for prepayment audits beginning August 27, 2012.

The CMS originally announced the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR) Demonstration Project in November of 2011 for a January 1, 2012 start date, then delayed it to June 1, 2012, then again to, “summer of 2012.”

To see the official announcement from the CMS, click here.

 

Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) will Review Claims with High Rates of Improper Billing.

The Recovery Audit Prepayment Review allows Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), (commonly known to attorneys representing provers as “bounty hunters”) to review claims before they are paid to ensure that the provider has complied with all Medicare payment rules. RACs will conduct prepayment reviews on certain types of claims that have been found to result in high rates of improper payments. The goal is to cut improper payments before they even happen.

The Initial Launch of Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will Center Around Seven States.

The Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will focus on seven states with high volumes of fraud and error-prone providers. These states are: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Texas. The Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will also include four states with a high volume of claim with short inpatient hospital stays. These states are Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Here are the RACs for those states from the CMS:

HealthDataInsights serves California and Missouri
7501 Trinity Peak Street, Suite 120
Las Vegas, NV 89128
(866) 590-5598

Connolly Inc. serves Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina
One Crescent Drive, Suite 300-A
Philadelphia, PA 19112
(866) 360-2507

CGI Federal Inc. serves Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio
1001 Lakeside Ave., Suite 800
Cleveland, OH 44114
(877) 316-RACB

Diversified Collection Services serves New York and Pennsylvania
2819 Southwest Blvd
San Angelo, TX 76904
(866) 201-0580

To see the name of the RAC for your state, click here.

 

More States May Look to Be Included in the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration Project.

CMS is expecting that the prepayment reviews will help lower error rates by preventing improper payments instead of searching for improper payments after they occur. If these reviews are successful, other states will be included in subsequent roll-outs of the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration.

 

Goals for the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration.

In 2012, President Obama set three goals for cutting improper payments this year: curbing overall payment errors by $50 billion, cutting Medicare error rate in half and recovering $2 billion in improper payments, according to CMS. The prepayment review program is intended to help achieve those goals. It will also play a big part in preventing fraud, waste and abuse.

The demonstration project will last for three years.

Click here to learn more on the Recover Audit Prepayment Review Demostration.
 

My Concerns with Widespread Prepayment Reviews.

Our concerns with the widespread use of prepayment reviews are many. Prepayment reviews, especially when used where there is no indication of any fraud or a high error rate, can slow down a health provider’s cash flow to the point that it is put out of business. This is especially true for those that are predominately reimbursed by Medicare. The small business provider is at a greater risk.

In addition, the increase in professional time, salaries, copy costs, handling costs and postage greatly increase the administrative burden and the cost of doing business. To date, we have not seen or heard of any proposal by CMS to reimburse the provider for this additional unnecessary and unplanned expense.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Sources:

Cheung, Karen. “Prepayment Audits Start Aug. 27.” Fierce Healthcare. (July 31, 2012). From: http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/prepayment-audits-start-aug-27/2012-07-31

CMS.gov. “Recovery Audit Prepayment Review.” CMS.gov. (July 31, 2012). From: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/CERT/Demonstrations.html

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We have recently received numerous communications from health care professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, assisted living facilities (ALFs), group homes, and psychologists, who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

What Happens on Prepayment Review.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit determinations can be very detrimental. An error rate in excess of fifteen percent (15%) will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review. While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit the documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted and have that claim and its supporting medical records’ documentation audited, prior to any claims being paid. Often the auditing agency will come back to the provider again and again to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up processing of the claim for months. Often the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money, because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without ever getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, respiratory therapists, and others always hire the Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in audits from the very beginning.

A Real-Life Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we know of, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied one percent (1%) of the claims audited. However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. Every claim the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to make a decision on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. The therapist currently has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no decision. No decision means no review or appeal rights.

The therapist conveyed to me that he recently contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller health care providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger health care providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

Another reason to challenge overpayment demands as a result of an audit is because the audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for a number of future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of significant recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recovers a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.


The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Have you ever been audited? What was the process like? Did you retain legal counsel to help with the process? Was having legal assistance worth it? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. 

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

South Florida Man Admits to a $42 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The owner and operator of a Miami home health care agency pleaded guilty for his part in a $42 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The 43 year-old man pleaded guilty before a U.S. district court judge to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on August 2, 2012.

To see the entire press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), click here.

First Part of the Fraud Operation Involved Kickbacks and Bribes.

The Miami man was the owner of a Florida home health agency that claimed to provide home health care and physical therapy services to eligible Medicare recipients.

In the first part of the scheme, he allegedly would pay kickbacks and bribes to recruiters. In return, the recruiters would provide patients to the home health care agency. His patients, who received Medicare, were used to bill Medicare for $42 million in unnecessary home health care and therapy services, the government alleged.

The plea documents show that patients’ files were falsified to make it appear that these Medicare recipients qualified for the services when many actually did not.

Second Part of the Fraud Operation Included Paying off Doctors.

The second part of this operation involved the owner of the home health agency and his accomplices allegedly paying off doctors. In this exchange, the doctors would allegedly provide the schemers home health and therapy prescriptions, and medical certifications.

The Opertation Busted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

In the end, the crimes resulted in $42 million in false and fraudulent Medicare claims that were filed between January 2006 and November 2009, according to the government. Medicare paid approximately $27 million on those false claims, according to plea documents.

As part of his plea agreement, the home health agency owner has agreed to forfeit two residential properties and cash proceeds of the fraud over to the government.

This case was investigated as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force is a joint effort of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) designed to combat fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques.

To learn more on the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Miami Home Health Care Agency Owner Pleads Guilty in $42 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. Press Release. (August 2, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-crm-965.html

CBS Miami “Health Care Agency Owner Pleads Guilty In $42M Medicare Scheme.” Miami CBS 4 Local. (August 2, 2012). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/08/02/health-care-agency-owner-pleads-guilty-in-42m-medicare-scheme/

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for Medicare and Medicaid Programs is Health Integrity, LCC

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Health Integrity, LCC, was named the Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As the ZPIC for Zone 4, Health Integrity has been performing benefit integrity activities aimed to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid data matching programs.

A ZPIC is a business entity that contracts with Medicare and Medicaid and works with state Medicaid agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and law enforcement officials to identify improper billing and utilization patterns throughout Zone 4.

ZPIC Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

What is a ZPIC?

ZPICs are private companies contracted by the CMS, used to conduct audits for Medicare and Medicaid overpayments. ZPICS also detect, investigate and gather evidence of suspected fraud and abuse to be turned over to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for criminal or civil prosecution.. When you hear “ZPIC,” think “fraud.”

ZPIC audits are initiated by:

1. Whistleblower or qui tam lawsuits,
2. Probe audits,
3. Other audit agency findings,
4. Beneficiary/patient complaints,
5. Hotline complaints, or
6. Complaints and notices from other government programs.

How to Handle a ZPIC Audit.

When a physician, medical group or other health care provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from a ZPIC, things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. A ZPIC will routinely fax a letter to the practice shortly before the end of a business day the day before a site visit/audit to that practice. Auditors will request to inspect the premises, will photograph all rooms, equipment, furniture, and diplomas on walls. They will usually request copies of several patient records to review later. They will request copies of practice policies and procedures, treatment protocols, all staff licenses and certifications, drug formularies, medications prescribed, and medications used in the office. ZPIC auditors will inspect any medication/narcotic lockers or storage cabinets and will request drug/medication invoices and inventories. You will usually be contacted for follow-up information and documentation after the audit and will eventually be provided a report and, possibly, a demand for repayment of any detected overpayments.

For a checklist on what to do after you receive initial notification of a ZPIC audit, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

The Health Law Firm’s Success in a North Carolina Medicaid Action.

In October 2012, The Health Law Firm assisted a North Carolina Medicaid provider in reducing an overpayment demand made by the North Carolina Medicaid program by more than ninety-eight percent (98%). We were brought on to assist the provider in challenging an initial audit. We assembled and submitted documents to the auditor and assisted the client in presenting evidence at the hearing. The final result of the hearing reduced the Medicaid overpayment amount from $1.4 million to just $24,083. To read more on this successful Medicaid action, click here.

State Included in Zone 4.

ZPIC Zones are broken up by state. Health Integrity serves as the Zone 4 ZPIC. As indicated above Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.


The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Have you ever received notification of a ZPIC visit or audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) Investigating the Cardiology Services at Florida Hospitals

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On Monday, August 6, 2012, a New York Times article revealed that cardiology services at some Florida HCA hospitals are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for allegedly performing unnecessary procedures to increase profits.

Click here to see the entire New York Times article posted August 6, 2012.

I previously blogged about and published an article on how a number of medical specialty societies have released lists of unnecessary or ineffective procedures.

To read that article, originally published in Medical Economics, click here.

The DOJ investigating Hospital Chain.

The report cites evidence that some HCA hospitals were performing unnecessary heart procedures for the sole purpose of driving up profits. According to the internal reports, some doctors allegedly made misleading statements in medical records to make it appear to subsequent reviewers that the procedures were necessary.

HCA said the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami has asked for information about reviews that assess the medical necessity of some interventional cardiology services. The company also said the Civil Division of the DOJ has contacted HCA as part of a national review of whether charges to the federal government for implantable cardiac defibrillators met government criteria.

The DOJ indicated it will review billing and medical records at 95 HCA hospitals.

Details About the Procedures and the Company’s Knowledge of Them Were Found by the New York Times.

Details about the procedures and the company’s knowledge of them were found in thousands of pages of confidential company memos, e-mail correspondence among executives, transcripts from hearings and reports from outside consultants examined by The New York Times, as well as interviews with doctors and others. A review of the documents revealed that instead of questioning whether patients had been harmed or whether regulators needed to be contacted, hospital officials asked for information on how the physicians’ activities affected the hospitals’ bottom line profits.

HCA Posts Four-Page Response Letter on Its Website.

Prior to The New York Times story breaking, HCA posted a four-page letter on its website, explaining that The New York Times “appears to be making broad points concerning patient care provided at our company’s affiliated hospitals.”

The letter is complete with two pages of charts detailing totals for certain procedures performed at HCA locations.

According to the HCA letter, the decision on the necessity of some heart procedures is “the subject of much debate in the cardiology community.” It also states that based on Medicare inpatient data, trends concerning the number of cardiac catheterizations and percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs) performed at HCA-affiliated hospitals compare closely to the rest of the nation.

To see the full letter from HCA, click here.

Cardiology Procedures Played a Large Role in HCA’s Profits.

Cardiology is apparently a booming business for HCA, and the profits from testing and performing heart surgeries played a critical role in the company’s bottom line in recent years.

Some of HCA’s busiest Florida hospitals performed thousands of stent procedures each year. Medicare reimburses hospitals about $10,000 for a cardiac stent and about $3,000 for a diagnostic catheterization.

Recently, doctors across the country have been slower to implant stents, instead relying on drugs to treat heart artery blockages. Medicare has also questioned the need for patients who receive cardiac stents to stay overnight at the hospital, cutting into the profitability of the procedures for many hospitals.

The Pressure is on to Root Out Medicare Fraud in All Hospitals.

The need to root out Medicare fraud is high for all hospitals, but the pressure on HCA is even greater. In 2000, the company reached one of a series of settlements involving a huge Medicare fraud case with the DOJ that would eventually come to $1.7 billion in fines and repayments. The accusations, which primarily involved overbilling, occurred when Rick Scott, Florida’s current governor, was the company’s chief executive. He was removed from the post by the board, but was never personally accused of wrongdoing.

As part of the settlement with federal regulators, HCA signed a Corporate Integrity Agreement that extended through late 2008. It detailed what had to be reported to authorities and outlined stiffer penalties if HCA failed to do so.

If there were intentional violations of such an agreement, it would mean “that a defendant, already caught once defrauding the government, has apparently not changed its corporate culture,” said Michael Hirst, a former assistant U.S. attorney in California in an interview with The New York Times.

To read the press release on HCA’s Corporate Integrity Agreement, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, hospitals, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, ambulance services companies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Creswell, Julie and Abelson, Reed. “HCA Discloses U.S. Inquiry Into Cardiology Services.” The New York Times. (August 6, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/business/hca-discloses-us-inquiry-into-cardiology-services.html

Murphy, Tom. “Justice Department Probes HCA Cardiology Care.” The Associated Press. (August 6, 2012). From: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gXsDjWtOXgsrT_PKj5y-gwAyQCjg?docId=8cf91ec16d54407db6f93634099daef6

HCA. (August 6, 2012). From: http://hcahealthcare.com/util/documents/Information_Regarding_NYT_Story_080612.pdf

Justice.gov. “HCA -The Health Care Company & Subsidiaries to Pay $840 Million in Criminal Fines and Civil Damages and Penalties.” Department of Justice. (December 2000). Press Release From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2000/December/696civcrm.htm

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Cardiologists Face Higher Scrutiny by CMS

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

As the U.S. population ages and heart disease continues to be a leading cause of health issues, cardiologists and cardiology practices are finding themselves billing Medicare for more and more visits and procedures.

Along with that increase in reimbursement from Medicare comes an increase in scrutiny.  According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than sixteen percent (16%) of total Medicare spending in 2010, was for cardiovascular care.

Some experts predict that this number will increase as cardiologists continue to adopt state-of-the-art technology and procedural techniques when treating their patients.

All of this means that whistleblowers, Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) auditors, Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) auditors, and CMS’s data mining services are going to be more incentivized to come after cardiovascular reimbursements.

To read more on the high scrutiny cardiologists face, click here to read an article on Modern Healthcare.

The Audits Are Coming.

Cardiology physicians and practices need to understand that just because they are doing things the “right way” does not mean that they will not be the subject of an audit. Auditing can be triggered by any number of things ranging from disgruntled employees, competing practices, dissatisfied patients, random audits, above average billing for certain codes, etc. None of these triggers means that a practice is doing anything wrong, but it will have to face an audit nonetheless.

Being prepared before an audit happens can be the most effective defense.  Review some of these prior articles and blogs we have written for tips in establishing audit protocols and handling audits in general:

–  Self Audit Now to Save Your Practice Later
–  Responding to a Medicare Audit – Practice Tips
–  Checklist on What to Do When Notified of a ZPIC or Medicare Audit and Site Visit – Part 1
–  Checklist on What to Do When Notified of a ZPIC or Medicare Audit and Site Visit – Part 2

The Best Defense for an Audit is to be Prepared Before an Audit Happens.

So long as CMS employs a “pay and chase” method of reimbursement, audits will be a permanent part of the healthcare landscape.  Every medical practice should consult with an attorney experienced in handling Medicare, Medicaid and other third party audits in order to develop effective policies and procedures.  By preparing for an audit prior to its occurrence a practice is in the best position to avoid any kind of sanction or overpayment demand.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Do you think cardiologist and cardiology practices are under a higher amount of scrutiny? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Cardiologists Enmeshed in High-Scrutiny Climate.” Modern Healthcare. (July 8, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130708/BLOG/307089995/cardiologists-enmeshed-in-high-scrutiny-climate

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
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