Hospitals should act quickly to adopt appropriate compliance policies and tighten outpatient and inpatient admissions recordkeeping and associated billing activities to minimize exposures signaled by audits announced by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG).
OIG reportedly is auditing inpatient and outpatient hospital claims for new and established patients to identify potential overcharges by some hospital-based outpatient clinics that may have resulted from treating established patients as if they were new patients. OIG’s Office of Audit Services reportedly sent letters to some hospitals in October, asking about a handful of claims for new patient visits that OIG suspects the hospital should have billed as established patient visits. In addition to requesting specific information about line items on the claims and their internal controls for billing new versus established patients and provide descriptions of written policies and procedures governing the facilities classification of new versus established patients and internal controls for detecting errors.
Medicare typically pays more for new versus established patients since CMS implemented the outpatient prospective payment system in 2000. Since 2008, CMS rules have specified that patients who visit the hospital outpatient clinic within three years are established patients, and after that they are new, with Medicare paying more for the latter. See(73 Fed. Reg. 68502, 68679 (November 18, 2009). Data mining technology increasingly used by CMS and other federal fraud investigators facilities the ability of Medicare and others to identify errors in coding and billing resulting from misclassication of existing patients as new.
Many hospitals may be exposed under this requirement for a variety of reasons including failure to appropriately track and coordinate inpatient and outpatient admission data, defaults built into recordkeeping systems and omissions to timely update practices or training. In contrast to the risk of overbilling from incorrectly treating patients as new, hospitals that bill all patients as established to overcome inadequacies in their ability to track new versus established patients often leave money on the table unnecessarily by foregoing added reimbursement that the facility otherwise would qualify for it could reliably identify new patients.
While strengthening coding and billing to ward of risks, may debate the appropriateness of CMS’ new versus existing patient distinction outside the physician office context. Critics contend that unlike in the physician office context, the level of care or resources delivered for a new patient compared to a patient who previously visited the hospital doesn’t generally differ. Parties with these concerns should continue to ensure appropriate compliance with existing rules while providing input and feedback to CMS and other regulators about their concerns with the policy’s suitability.
For Help With Monitoring Developments, Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs
If you need help reviewing or commenting on the Tests Procedures or monitoring or responding to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, can help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and A Fellow in the American Bar Association, State Bar of Texas and other prominent organizations, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, health plans, their business associates and other health industry clients to set up and administer medical privacy, EHR and other technology and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. She regularly designs and presents HIPAA and other risk management, compliance and other training for health plans, employers, health care providers, professional associations and others.
Ms. Stamer also regularly works with OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. For instance, Ms. Stamer for the second year will serve as the appointed scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Agency meeting with OCR. Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance often appear in medical privacy and other technology, risk management and compliance-related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications Among others, she has conducted privacy training for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.
You can get more information about her experience here.
Other Recent Updates & Resources
If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in the following recent updates on health care, health plan and employee benefits, human resources and other risk management and compliance matters. Recent examples on health care compliance and risk management matters include:
For more resources and publications training materials by Ms. Stamer, see here.
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©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. nonexclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.