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.
About Solutions Law Press
Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:
- Hollywood Pavillion & Other Fraud Convictions Show Individuals Risk Prison Time For Health Care Fraud Involvement
- 55 Hospitals To Pay $35M+ To Settle FCA Claims Charges On Kyphoplasty Procedures
- Whistleblower Collects $2.7 M of $14.5M Sound Inpatient Physicians Overbilling Settlement
- OIG Urges CMS To Step Up Efforts To Recover “Overpayments”
- Ambulatory Care Orgs Face New Joint Commission Standards Beginning January 1, 2014
- HHS Continues Preparations For Health Care Marketplace By Awarding $32M Of Grants To Up CHIP & Medicaid Enrollment
- Hospital Pay $275K To Settle HIPAA Charges After Sharing PHI With Press, Workforce In Response To Fraud Reports
- OCR Makes Technical Corrections To HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule; September 2013 Enforcement Deadline Looming
- National Provider Calls: Medicare Shared Savings Program Application Process — Register Now
- Feds Arrest 36 More California & Florida Providers On Defrauding Medicare Of More than $66 Million
- CMS Proposes To Further Tighten Medicare Provider Enrollment Rules
- HHS Proposes Increasing Health Care Fraud Reporting Rewards To Up To $9.9 Million
- CMS Proposes Changes To Accute Care Hospital & Skilled Nursing Facility Prospective Payment Rules
- OCR Shares New Tools to Educate Consumers and Providers about HIPAA Privacy and Security
- Bad Economy, Not Health Care Reform Accounts For Slowing Health Care Cost Trend
- Amgen Settlement Highlights Anti-Kickback Exposures From Whistleblowers, Need For Effective Compliance & Risk Management
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©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.
Does CMS guidelines or penalties apply for a private payer who committed Upcoding?
It depends. Federal health care fraud laws were amended as part of HIPAA to apply to all federal health plans, which HIPAA amended to include private as well as public plans. Private health care plan claims often are now a major part of federal civil and criminal health care fraud prosecutions. However some rules and sanctions are different when the fraud is committed with respect to a private health plan versus a federal plan such as Medicare and Medicaid. Also what constitutes fraud, the presumptions, the administrative procedures, and other rules also can vary because of the differences in the rules for determining what is and is not covered, the various jurisdictions and other factors. Parties with concerns should engage qualified legal counsel for specific advice concerning the particular circumstances and their implications.