By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Over the past year I have observed an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against psychologists and other mental health professionals.
I have recently seen a number of audits initiated against psychologists and mental health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF) and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because this area of medical practice has been identified as one fraught with fraud and abuse. Sometimes these are only “probe” audits, initial audits requesting one (1) to five (5) medical records. Other times the MAC has been requesting anywhere from 120 to 375 records.
This blog is the first part of my two-part series on Medicare and Medicaid audits initiated against psychologist and other mental health professionals.
Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).
Zone Program Integrity Contracts (ZPICs), are the primary Medicare fraud detection contractors. If a probe audit, MAC audit or other investigation of audit suspected fraudulent billing, the ZPIC may come in. The ZPIC also identifies and target various CPT codes, areas of medical practice, services and equipment that are highly susceptible to fraud. It will then initiate a ZPIC audit on its own. ZPICs receive bonuses based on amounts they recover for the Medicare program.
OIG Annual Work Plan.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) publishes a work plan each year which discusses the areas, types of medical services, CPT codes, equipment and tests it considers to be most susceptible to fraud and abuse. The new plan is usually published in the fall for the work year. It is available online.
Psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health counselors, as well as facility administrators, compliance officers, attorneys and billing and coding experts should review this work plan each year to learn what the OIG considers to be fraud and abuse and why. Measures should be immediately implemented to remedy any problems in your practice or facility that are identified.
Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.
In many cases an audit or investigation may be convened against a facility, individual or group, based on the filing of a qui tam or whistle blower’s case. You won’t know this, however, because these cases are filed under seal and stay sealed, often for years. These suits are based on false claims that have been filed for Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, Veterans Administration (VA) or any other federal or state program. They are usually filed by disgruntled, former employees. These may cause the initiation of any of the types of audits discussed above.
If you suspect that this has happened, you should immediately retain legal counsel to represent you or your organization. If OIG special agents (S/As) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents are involved, it would be foolish not to retain an experience health law attorney before you speak to anyone.
I have also seen an increase in Medicaid audits by state agencies, as well.
Ordinarily, Medicaid audits are initiated by the program integrity section or division of the state agency that administers the Medicaid program, or one of the agency’s contractors. The states are under increasing pressure from the federal government to be much more aggressive in identifying Medicaid fraud and recovering the overpayments.
If Medicare or any of its contractors recover an overpayment from a provider, they will also notify the state Medicaid program and Tricare program. These will them initiate audits and collection actions.
States are now contracting with ZPICs to help detect fraud and make recoveries of large overpayments from Medicaid providers. Additionally, the Medicare ZPICs may also detect and recover Medicaid overpayments, as well.
Future Blog on This Topic.
Check back next week, I will continue to share my insight into Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against psychologists and other mental health professionals.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare and Medicaid Audits.
Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), 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), 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. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), 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.
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.
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