The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to increase rewards paid to Medicare beneficiaries and others whose tips about suspected fraud lead to the successful recovery of funds to as high as $9.9 million. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced proposed regulations that would increase the penalties on April 24. In addition, a new funding opportunity released this month supports the expansion of Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) activities to educate Medicare beneficiaries on how to prevent, detect and report Medicare fraud, waste and abuse.
The Obama Administration has made health care fraud prosecutions and settlement a key element of its health care cost containment plan. Over the last three years, the administration claims its enforcement efforts have recovered over $14.9 billion in fraud, some of which resulted from fraud reporting by individuals.
Summary Of The SMP Incentive Reward Program Proposals
The SMP is a national, volunteer-based program that empowers Medicare beneficiaries to prevent and report Medicare fraud, waste, and abuse. Since 1997, HHS reports more than 7,000 referrals have been made to CMS and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for investigation since 1998.
Under the proposed changes, CMS is proposing to increase the potential reward amount for information that leads to a recovery of Medicare funds from 10 percent to 15 percent of the final amount collected. HHS currently offers a reward of 10 percent up to $1,000 under the current incentive reward program. In changes are modeled on an IRS program that has returned $2 billion in fraud since 2003, HHS proposes to increase the portion of the recovery on which CMS will pay a reward up to the first $66 million recovered – this means an individual could receive a reward of $9.9 million if CMS recovers $66 million or more.
HHS began paying rewards to individuals who reported tips that led to the recovery of funds in 1998. According to HHS, to date, HHS has recovered approximately $3.5 million as a result of this program and paid just $16,000 for 18 rewards. The proposed changes are similar to the IRS whistleblower program that has resulted in recoveries of over $2 billion since 2003.
To expand the SMP program’s capacity to reach more Medicare beneficiaries, the Administration for Community Living issued a new funding opportunity. Each of the current 54 SMP projects is eligible for varying funding levels, up to a total of $7.3 million across the program.
HHS says thhese proposed changes will support the administration’s comprehensive approach to program integrity, including the work being done with the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, a joint effort between HHS and the Department of Justice to fight health care fraud. The Obama Administration credits this joint effort with recovering a record $4.2 billion in taxpayer dollars in fiscal year 2012.
The proposed increase in the reward for blowing the whistle on health care fraud is intended to fuel further reports by beneficiaries, workers and others of suspected health care fraud. Health care providers should share any concerns about the proposed increase in the rewards as well as review and tighten their health care fraud prevention and risk management to defend against rising exposures.
For more details, read a fact sheet on the proposed rule available here for more details.
For More Information Or Assistance
If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to 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, Ms. Stamer has more than 25 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.
A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experience with health plan privacy and data security matters, Ms. Stamer serves as the scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Technical Session meeting with OCR each May and has worked, spoken and published extensively on these and other privacy and data security concerns and controls. Extensively published and a popular speaker on HIPAA and other data security matters, Ms. Stamer works extensively with health care providers, health plans, employers, insurance and financial services, technology and other clients on privacy, data seurity and other privacy and cybercrime concerns. She also serves as the Scribe for the ABA JCEB Agency Techical Sessions Meetings with the Office of Civil Rights which occur each May in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to DEA and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters 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. You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to ask about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.
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If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.
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