Improper Billing Of Private Payers Increasing Source Of Liability & Risk For Providers

Physicians or other health care providers now have even more to worry about when a Medicare or other federal program audit reveals overpayments – repayment demands from commercial insurers and self-insured health plans, who are secondary payers.  Federal officials and private payers alike increasingly are coming after providers to recover overpayments or other inappropriate billings identified through audits or other investigations.  In the face of these actions, providers should use care to ensure that their billing and compliance programs appropriately manage and monitor the defensibility of claims billed to private payers as well as those to Medicare or other government programs.

Most  health care providers recognize  the significant exposure they incur from overbilling Medicare or other federal programs as a result of the highly publicized, heavy-handed audit and enforcement activities of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ).

Unfortunately, many health care providers don’t recognize that overbilling private payers can carry similar risks and liabilities.  Amendments enacted as part of the anti-fraud provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) added private health plans to the list of plans protected by federal prohibitions against fraudulent billing by providers.

While CMS, OIG and DOJ tend to emphasize Medicare and other federal program recoveries in media releases about their overbilling and health care fraud enforcement efforts, careful review of these actions increasingly shows that these enforcement actions often also cover overbilling of private health plans uncovered in connection with the underlying  Medicare or other federal program overpayment audit or investigation.   For instance, upcoding and other false billing of claims was the basis of the federal criminal health care fraud prosecution of the Chief Executive Officer of a small, rural Texas health care clinic.  Texas Clinic CEO Sentence Highlights Risks Of Upcoding. See, also Pharmas Face New Pressure To Put Patients Before Profits After GlaxoSmithKline Record $3 Billion Health Care Fraud & FDCA Settlement.

Unfortunately, many providers have failed to recognize and adequately respond to these and other clear indicators of their exposure to fraud, recoupment and other enforcement actions from sloppy or otherwise improper billings to private insurers and self insured plans.  With health care reform increasingly focusing on reducing health care expenditures in the private as well as public arena, already existing federal and state enforcement against providers for improper billing of private payers will inevitably grown.

Taking into account these and other trends toward stepped up enforcement against aggressive billing by providers of private insurance or self-insured plans, physicians and other providers should not be surprised or unprepared to respond to recoupment or other audit and enforcement actions like that recently reported by Nina Youngstrom in AIS Health about the recoupment demands by commercial insurers against a Kansas health care clinic based on the Medicare audit findings of overpayments. See,  Secondary Payers Hit Physician Group With Recoupment After Medicare Audit Findings.   Rather, physicians and other health care clinics must be ready to prove and defend their billings to private payers as well as Medicare and other government payers.

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 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD 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. Her presentations and programs include a wide range of compliance, risk management and other workshops, programs and publications.

Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, 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 responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see  here.

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THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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