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Self Disclosure Settlements Help Identify Compliance Risk Areas

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Self Disclosure Settlements Indicate Areas of Compliance Risk

Compliance officers can identify areas of potential compliance risk in a number of ways.  One way is to examine self disclosure settlements under the Stark Law and OIG self disclosure process.  This helps indicate issues that other providers are disclosing to the government and can help identify potential risk areas within your organizations.

Here are a handful of self disclosure settlements that have been published:

A Massachusetts hospital settled several Stark law violations involving failure to satisfy the requirements of the personal services arrangements exception with department chiefs and medical staff for leadership services, and for arrangements with physician groups for on-site overnight coverage for patients at the Hospital. Settlement Amount – $579,000.00

An Ohio physician group practice settled two Stark law violations involving prescribing and supplying a certain type of DME that did not satisfy the requirements of the inoffice ancillary services exception. Settlement Amount – $60.00

A Mississippi critical access hospital settled several violations of the Stark law relating to its failure to satisfy the requirements of the personal services arrangements exception for arrangements with hospital and emergency room physicians. Settlement Amount – $130,000

A California hospital settled two Stark law violations that exceeded the annual nonmonetary compensation limit for physicians. Settlement Amount – $6,700

A hospital in Georgia settled violations involving two physicians and the annual nonmonetary compensation limit. Settlement Amount – $4,500

A physician group practice in Iowa settled Stark law violations after disclosing that its compensation for certain employed physicians failed to satisfy the requirements of the bona fide employment relationship exception. Settlement Amount – $74,000

An Arizona acute care hospital settled a Stark law violation after disclosing a single physician arrangement that did not meet the personal service arrangements exception. Settlement Amount – $22,000

A hospital located in North Carolina settled six Stark law violations for $6,800 after disclosing that it exceeded the calendar year nonmonetary compensation limit for two physicians during three consecutive years. Settlement Amount – $6,800

An Alabama hospital resolved a Stark violation involving a rental charge formula that did not satisfy the requirements of the rental of equipment exception. Settlement Amount – $42,000

A hospital in Maine settled potential Stark law violations relating to arrangements with a physician and physician group practice that failed to satisfy the requirements of the personal services exception. Settlement Amount – $59,000

A Massachusetts hospital settled violations concerning arrangements with two physician practices for call coverage that did not satisfy the personal service arrangements exceptions. Settlement Amount – $208,000

A hospital located in Florida resolved arrangements with three physicians that did not satisfy the personal service arrangements exception. Settlement Amount – $22,000

A Missouri hospital settled Stark law violations involving two physicians for the provision of dental services that did not meet the requirements of the personal service exception. Settlement Amount – $125,000

A North Carolina-based general acute care hospital and its hospice agreed to settle several Stark law violations involving arrangements and payments that failed to meet the physician recruitment, fair market value, and personal services arrangement exceptions. Settlement Amount – $584,700

A hospital in California settled a Stark law violation, which arose from its failure to meet the physician recruitment exception. Settlement Amount – $28,000

An acute care hospital in California settled a violation of the Stark law after disclosing that it failed to meet the personal service arrangements exception for an on-call arrangement with a physician. Settlement Amount – $1,600

A South Carolina general acute care hospital settled several violations of the Stark law involving arrangements with physicians and physician group practices that failed to satisfy the requirements of the FMV compensation exception, the personal services arrangements exception, and the rental office space exception. Settlement Amount – $256,000

A Massachusetts acute care hospital settled several Stark law violations involving arrangements with physicians that failed to satisfy the definition of “entity”, the rental office space exception, and the personal services arrangement exception. Settlement Amount – $199,400

A Louisiana acute care hospital used the SRDP to resolve violations related to professional service arrangements with physicians, a professional staffing organization, and a physician group practice. Settlement Amount – $317,620

A Minnesota hospital agreed to settle a Stark violation that stemmed from a recruitment arrangement that failed to satisfy the requirements of the physician recruitment exception. Settlement Amount – $760.00

A Texas rehabilitation hospital resolved several Stark violations through the SRDP involving arrangements for ownership interests held by certain physicians that failed to satisfy the whole hospital exception. Settlement Amount – $23,730

A general acute care hospital in New York agreed to settle a violation of the Stark law that involved an arrangement that failed to satisfy the requirements of the rental office space exception. Settlement Amount – $78,500

A Florida acute care hospital settled several Stark violations relating to arrangements with multiple physicians for emergency cardiology call-coverage that did not satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $109,000

A general acute care hospital in Florida settled several Stark violations involving arrangement with a group practice to provide residency program services, a physician to provide electronic health records subject matter expert services, a physician to provide Medical Director services, and a physician to provide leadership services for a hospital committee, none of which satisfied applicable exceptions. Settlement Amount – $76,000

An Alabama acute care hospital resolved a violation of the Stark law involving an arrangement with a physician group practice for the rental of office space that did not satisfy the exception. Settlement Amount – $187,340

A Wisconsin critical access hospital used the SRDP to resolve a violation of the Stark law relating to an arrangement with one physician for the provision of emergency room call coverage services at adjacent walk-in clinics that failed to satisfy any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $12,724

A Tennessee acute care hospital settled a Stark violation involving an arrangement with one physician for the supervision of cardiac stress tests that failed to satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $72,270

An acute care hospital in Pennsylvania resolved several Stark violations related to arrangements for Medical Director services with certain physicians and a physician practice that did not satisfy the personal services exception. Settlement Amount $24,740

A general acute care hospital in Ohio used the SRDP to settle violations of the Stark law that involved arrangements with certain physicians for EKG interpretation, medical director services, Vice-Chief of Staff services, and hospital services that did not satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Additional violations stemmed from arrangements with certain physicians and a physician group practice for the donation of EHR items and services that failed to satisfy the applicable exception. Settlement Amount $235,565

A Texas acute care hospital settled a Stark violation involving an arrangement for case management physician advisor services with a physician that did not satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $54,108

A physician group practice in Louisiana resolved a Stark violation relating to arrangements with two physicians that failed to satisfy the requirements of the in-office ancillary services exception. Settlement Amount – $13,572

A non-profit community hospital in Minnesota settled a violation of the Stark law that involved an arrangement with a physician group practice for the rental of office space and provision of support services that failed to satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $9,570

A California acute-psychiatric hospital resolved two Stark violations relating to arrangements with two physicians for the provision of psychiatric services that did not satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $67,750

A North Carolina acute care hospital used the SRDP to settle several violations of the Stark law relating to arrangements with a physician to provide Medical Director Services, a physician group practice to provide medical coding and consulting services, and a physician and a physician group practice for the lease of office space, that failed to satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $87,110.00 19.

A general acute care hospital in Texas resolved a Stark violation involving an arrangement with a physician to provide utilization review services that did not satisfy any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $82,055 20.

A California acute care hospital resolved several violations of the Stark law involving arrangements with three physicians for the provision of on-call services to the Hospital’s emergency department that did not satisfy the requirements of any applicable exception. Settlement Amount – $42,630 21.

An acute care hospital in Oklahoma used the SRDP to settle several Stark violations relating to arrangements with four physicians for the provision of electrocardiogram interpretation services that failed to satisfy the requirements of the personal services exception. Settlement Amount – $124,008

Off-Campus Provider-Based Departments Neutrality

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Off-Campus Provider-Based Departments Site-Neutrality

The 21st Century Cures Act contains new provisions that prohibits the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from paying different rates for services provided in for services furnished in off-campus provider-based department (PBD) of a hospital.    The CY 2015 Outpatient Prospective Payment System Final Rule (79 FR 66910-66914) created a HCPCS modifier for hospital claims that is to be reported with every code for outpatient hospital items and services furnished in an off-campus provider-based department of a hospital. This 2-digit modifier was be added to the HCPCS annual file as of January 1, 2015, with the label ‘‘PO.’’ Reporting of this new modifier was voluntary for CY 2015, with reporting required beginning on January 1, 2016.

The 21st Century Cures Act revises this policy beginning January 1, 2017, with some exceptions. One exception is for OPBDs that billed for services furnished as of November 2, 2015 (the date the law was enacted). The 21st Century Cures Act expounds on this exception and permits providers to be grandfathered under the old rules if the Secretary received a properly filed provider-based attestation for the site from the provider prior to December 2, 2015.  Furthermore, if  an off-campus provider-based department was in development as of November 2, 2015 and made a timely filing of a certification to CMS,  the old rules can be applied even though the department was not operating as of the cut-off date.

John H. Fisher, CHC, CCEP is a health care attorney at the Ruder Ware law firm.  John is actively involved representing clients on legal and compliance issues.  He has represented clients in creating compliance programs and in a variety of operational issues.  He also assists providers in addressing risk areas and potential compliance issues including preparing self-disclosure and working with the government to resolve disclosed compliance issues and overpayment.  John consults as a subject matter expert and provider legal backup to other attorneys and law firms from around the country on specialized compliance, regulatory and health care issues.  John has followed legal issues impacting health care provider for over 25 years.  As such, he is knowledgeable on the current legal standards as well as the historic perspective that is often relevant to an appropriate analysis.  

“Incident to” Billing Rules Clarified by CMS for 2016

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Recent Changes to Medicare “Incident To” Billing Rules

incident to billing rules supervision requirementMedicare permits a physician to bill for certain services that are furnished by a nurse practitioner or other auxiliary personnel under what is referred to as the “incident to” billing rules.  The “incident to” rules permit services or supplies furnished as an integral, although incidental, part of the physician’s personal professional services in the course of diagnosis or treatment of an injury or illness to be reimbursed at 100% of the physician fee schedule, even if the service is not directly furnished by the billing physician.

A significant requirement to permit the services of physician extenders to be billed as “incident to” services requires direct personal supervision by the physician. The supervising physician does not necessarily need to be present in the same room where the procedure is being performed.  The “direct supervision” standard requires the supervising physician to be “physically present in the office suite and immediately available to furnish assistance and direction” during the time when the  auxiliary personnel is providing the service.

The 2016 Medicare physician payment rule provided some clarification on how the direct  supervision requirement under the “incident to” billing rules operates.  The new rule clarifies that the physician who directly supervises the applicable auxiliary personnel is the only party that can bill the service of the auxiliary personnel as “incident to” his or her service.  CMS considers this to be a clarification of its longstanding policy, but many providers will see this as a new restriction on the application of the “incident to” rules.

To understand the significance of this “clarification,” it is useful to note that more than one physician is often involved in the care of a patient.  It is not uncommon for one physician to visit the patient and order a test or procedure that is supervised by another physician.  Prior to this “clarification,” the physician that originally ordered the service might have billed the service as “incident to” even though another physician actually supervised the performance of the service.  The revised regulatory language clarified that this is not permitted and that only the physician that is actually present in the office suite and supervises the service can bill for the service as “incident to” their service.  When making a claim for services billed “incident to” a physician’s services, the billing number of the physician that actually supervises the performance of the service must be used rather than that of the ordering physician.

CMS clarifies the reasoning behind this rule as follows: “[B]illing practitioners should have a personal role in, and responsibility for, furnishing services for which they are billing and receiving payment as an incident to their own professional service.”

In view of this regulatory clarification, providers may wish to reexamine their billing process and procedures to clarify the correct billing for “incident to” services.  Staff should also be trained on the proper supervision of services that are billed under the “incident to” rules.

Incident To Billing Rules Changed In New CMS Regulations

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

New regulations issued by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services on November 16, 2015 change the way that services that are furnished “incident to” the service of a physician must billed. The new regulations provide clarification that the billing provider must be the provider that actually supervises the incident to service.

Previously, regulations stated that the physician supervising the auxiliary personnel need not be the same physician upon whose professional service the “incident to”services base. The provisions in previous regulations that permitted another physician to supervise the incident to service have been removed. Now, the physician who is actually available and actually supervises must be the party whose billing number is connected with the incident to service.

The service that is performed “incident to” the services of a physician can generally be billed at 100% of the physician’s rate under the Medicare fee schedule.  However, supervision and billing standards must be complied with to avoid creating a compliance issue and potential overpayment.

All providers must look at their billing policies and procedures to be certain that they integrate the new “incident to” billing standards into their compliance policies and procedures and appropriately implement the new standard through proper training of their billing staff, physicians and support staff.  This is also a good time to refresh provider training on the extent of supervision that is required in various care settings.

60 Day Repayment Rule Affordable Care Act

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Overpayments and the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act mandates providers to return overpayments within 60 days after identification.  Failure to return known overpayments within 60 days of identification subjects the provider to possible claims under the False Claims Act.  Proposed regulations implementing the 60 day repayment rule was released in February of 2012 but have not yet been finalized.  Delays in finalizing regulation does not delay the effective date of the statute.

It is suggested that providers adopt policies to operationalize compliance with the repayment rules.  Providers who act in reckless disregard of overpayments can be subject to the draconian penalties imposed by the False Claims Act.  Reasonable compliance processes that are consistently followed provide the best defense if overpayments fall through the cracks.

Comments to the proposed repayment regulations strongly suggest that providers should take reasonable steps to self examine for potential overpayments.  In order to meet its obligations to take reasonable steps to identify overpayments, providers should adopt self audit and risk identification policies.  Those policies should be systematically followed.  Even though it may not be possible to identify every potential overpayment, the systematic adherence to policies and procedures that are reasonably calculated to identify potential problems in systematically identified areas where risk may occur.

For more information on the steps that you should follow to reduce your risk under the False Claims Act and overpayment statute, feel free to contact health care compliance attorney John Fisher.

Hospital Supervision Rules – Billing “Incident To” Physician Services

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Hospital Supervision Rules for “Incident To” Services

hospital supervisions incident to reimbursementPhysician supervision rules in hospital outpatient departments have continually changed over the past five years.  Those who have followed these rules cannot help but wonder whether CMS is somewhat schizophrenic on this issue.  Hospital supervision rules have been like a moving target, making compliance difficult to track and to communicate to front line physicians and staff who must comply with these changing rules.

Services of a therapeutic nature are often performed by physician extenders in a hospital department and are billed “incident to” the physician’s services.  Historically, direct supervision was required to enable the service to be billed as “incident to” the physician’s services.  The direct supervision rule generally requires the physician to be “immediately available” to assist with and direct the service.  This does not necessarily require presence in the same room where the service is being delivered.  The precise requirements that must be complied with in order to meet the “direct supervision” requirement is where CMS has given us a moving target for compliance purposes.

In the 2009 OPPS Rule, CMS provided what it considered to be “clarification” of its rules.  To most providers, the CMS guidance actually amounted to a change of position that required changes in their supervision policies.  Before the 2009 “explanation,” many providers structured their compliance efforts under the assumption that they were not required to have a physician physically present in an outpatient department to meet the direct supervision requirement.  The 2009 “clarification” indicated that physical presence of a supervision provider was required.

The 2009 comments lead to much criticism from the provider community.  This resulted in further changes in the 2010 OPPS Rule that made it sufficient for the supervising physician to be present on the same campus and immediately available rather than requiring physical presence in the department.  Off campus clinics and departments were still required to meet the more restrictive physical presence requirement.  Physical presence of off campus departments required actual physical presence in the space that is designated as the department.  The supervising physician would not meet this standard even if they were located in the same building but not in the departmental office suite.

Although the 2010 rules answered some of the open questions, the rules had a huge negative impact primarily on smaller hospitals and particularly those located in rural areas.  Small hospitals were required to meet the physician “physical presence” requirements even when there was no other activity requiring physician presence.  This necessitated small hospitals to incur costs to meet the “incident to” supervision requirement even when physician presence was not otherwise required.

At least partly to address the “small hospital” issues, the 2011 OPPS Rule made significant changes to the physician supervision requirement.  The “on the same campus” rule was abandoned in favor of a rule that focused more on the general “availability” of the physician.  The 2011 rule eliminated many of the specific physical location requirement but still maintained the more general requirement that the physician be “immediately available to furnish assistance or direction throughout the performance of the procedure.”  The standard requires the physician to be immediately available and interruptible.  The rule also opened the door for the physician to be available by telemedicine to meet “general” supervision requirements.

The 2011 rule also identified certain services for which direct supervision is always required for the initiation of the services.  Services covered by special supervision requirements includes a limited listing of non-surgical and extended duration therapeutic services.  These services include certain injections, infusion and observation services.  Chemotherapy is not included in this listing.  These services are services that can have a longer overall duration and have a low risk of requiring physician involvement after the service is initiated.

The 2011 rule set up a panel to evaluate specific therapeutic services to determine the appropriate level of supervision.  The 2012 OPPS Rule formally designated the panel as the body that reviews and recommends changes in supervision requirements relative to various therapeutic services.  The 2012 rule also took steps to assure that critical access and rural hospitals were represented on the panel.  The panel is authorized to recommend levels of supervision that are lower than “direct supervision” for specific services.  The panel does not have the ability to directly enact regulations or make policy changes.  Its role is limited to that of advising CMS on these issues.

At the present time, the hospital outpatient supervision requirements currently must meet the “general” supervision requirements.  The service must be performed under the overall direction and control of the physician.  The physical presence of the physician is not required during the performance of the “incident to” activity.  In cases where personal (as opposed to general) supervision is required, the actual presence of the physician is required in the room.  Some services only require physical presence at the inception of the service and have been found to not create a risk during the ongoing stages of the procedure.

All hospital outpatient therapeutic services are deemed to be provided “incident to” the services of the physician.  The level of supervision required in the case of these types of services (personal or general) is based upon CMS determinations following review by the panel as indicated above.

So, now that we are all clear on the rules, (insert sarcasm emotion here), can we expect them to change again the future?  Certainly the panel process will be reflected by different rules for specific therapeutic items.  Additionally, given the history of this requirement, no one would be surprised if further changes are in our future.

Two Midnight Rule Exceptions CMS Inpatient Only

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Exceptions to Two Midnight Rule 

exceptions cms two midnight ruleCMS recently updated its frequently asked questions regarding the two midnight rule.  The two midnight rule requires a patient to require hospitalization, including two midnights, in order to qualify for inpatient hospital Medicare reimbursement.  Numerous questions have been raised about details of how the rule is applied.

CMS has recently stated two exceptions to the two midnight rule:

1.         One exception relates to patients who require mechanical ventilation that is initialed during a visit may be admitted even if the inpatient stay is not expected to remain or two midnights.  This exception does not apply as a result of anticipated intubations during minor surgery or other treatments.

2.         Procedures that are listed on the “inpatient only” list may be reimbursed even though the stay is not anticipated to meet the two midnight rule.

Providers should review the transcripts from the January 21, 2014, open door call for more details regarding the application of the two midnight rule.  The call clarified several issues of how to apply the rule.  For example:

  • Providers can assume that a patient will survive, even in cases where it is reasonably likely that the patient may not survive following admission.
  • CMS is still working on details of how to apply the role where patient transfer takes place.  Transfer cases will not be reviewed at least for the initial audits (through March 31, 2014).

CMS is requiring a 0.2% reduction to IPPS payments as part of the Final Fiscal Year 2014 IPPS rules.  Hospitals who wish to challenge the reduction amount should preserve their appeal rights by indentifying the reduced amount as being protested on their cost report.  The protest should be indicated commencing October 1, 2013, the effective date of the two midnight rules.

Stark Law Self Disclosures Through 2013

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Self Disclosure Under Stark Law – Disclosures Made and Settled Through 2013

self disclosure protocols 2013 update oigCMS issued its Stark Law self-disclosure protocols in 2010.  Through the end of 2013, there have been a total of 37 self-disclosure settlement with CMS using this process.  Some of the areas covered by self disclosures have included the following:

  • Failure to comply with the personal service exception in connection with electrocardiogram interpretations;
  • Emergency department “on-call” arrangements that did not comply with an exception;
  • Arrangement with physicians to provide utilization review services;
  • Medical director services, medical coding and consulting services, and office space lease;
  • Psychiatric services;
  • Office space rental and support services;
  • Failure to comply with the in-office ancillary services exception;
  • Case management physician advisor services;
  • EKG interpretation, medical director services, and hospital services;
  • Medical director services;
  • Supervision of cardiac stress tests;
  • Emergency call services at an adjacent walk-in clinic;
  • Space rental agreement;
  • Residency program services, electronic health records expert services, medical director services, leadership services;
  • Emergency cardiology call services;
  • Office space rental agreement;
  • Ownership interests in a rehabilitation hospital;
  • Physician recruitment exception;
  • Professional service agreements;
  • Fair market value compensation issue;
  • On-call payment arrangement;
  • Physician recruitment exception;
  • Dental services;
  • Equipment rental;
  • Non-monetary compensation violation;
  • Personal service agreement;
  • DME supply arrangement;
  • On-site overnight coverage violations.

Voluntary Self Disclosure Decisions Can Be Complicated

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Provider Self Disclosure Decisions – Voluntary Disclosure Process

OIG Self Disclosure DecisionsThe decision whether or not to voluntarily disclose to the government can be very difficult.  Not every case is clear.

Clearly not every situation where there has been a billing error amounts to fraud or wrongdoing requiring use of the self-disclosure protocol.  Many over-payments that are identified through audit can be dealt with at the intermediary level.  Where investigation raises questions about whether incorrect bills are “knowingly” submitted, the self disclosure process may provide some mitigation of potential loss.  Situations where the provider perhaps “should have known” raise more difficult issues of analysis.

The situation is also complicated because a potential whistle-blower may view a situation much differently than a provider who finds what it believes to be an innocent mistake through the audit process.  A provider may sincerely believe that there was no “wrongdoing” and that a simple mistake has been identified.  Finding such a mistake may actually be evidence that the provider’s compliance efforts are working.  On the other hand, there is a whole legal profession out there now that is advertising for people to come forward with these types of mistakes.  With potential recover under the False Claims Act of 3 times the over-payment plus $11,000 per claim, these lawyers have strong incentive to attempt to turn what the provider believes to be an innocent mistake into a false claim.  This presents risk, even in the more innocent cases involving billing errors.

Generally speaking, when errors are discovered, the providers best bet is to be forthright and deal with the matter “head on.”  A complete internal investigation should be conducted to determine the precise nature of the issues and to identify the extent of wrongdoing.  Based on the outcome of the investigation, the provider can determine whether a simple repayment can be used or whether there may be reason to go through the formal self disclosure process.

Anyone who has worked with reimbursement rules will realize that payment policies, rules and regulations are not always clear.  At times it is difficult to determine whether there is even a violation of applicable rules.  Legal ambiguities further complicate the self disclosure decision.  The precise nature of any legal ambiguities involved in the specific case need to be completely documented.  If a decision is made that there has been no wrongdoing, the legal analysis should be laid out in writing and in detail and a reasonable judgment should be made regarding the interpretation of applicable legal standards.  If self disclosure is made in situations involving legal ambiguities, those ambiguities should be explained in detail as part of the self disclosure.

In the end, a provider facing potential self disclosure must follow a reasonable process to make a reasoned decision.  All elements forming the basis for the reasonable determination must be documented.  In cases of apparent wrongdoing, the provider can expect that its decision will be questioned at some point in the future.  Every step should be taken under that assumption.

Specialty Compliance Risk – Data Mining Used to Identify Practice Outliers

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

A Note From the OIG Presentation at the HCCA Compliance Institute

The federal governmoig excluded party screening compliance programsent is actively using data to identify providers who perform outlier billing.  If your billing patterns reflect a pattern that is greatly outside of norms, you should be prepared to defend the deviation from the norm.  Certainly not every practice pattern that falls outside of norm indicate nefarious wrongdoing.  What is important is that your practice maintain awareness of and understand the reasons why billings may be picked up as falling outside of industry norms.  You must be prepared to educate government officials as to the reasons for having outlier claims data.

Primary care and pediatric practices will have very little opportunity to deviate from norms in most cases.  Highly trained specialists such as neurological surgeons can easily have unusual practice patterns that translate into outlier data that could trigger further government inquiry into billings.  Proactive audits performed as part of active compliance program will help the provider identify potential issues.  If abnormal data is identified through this process, the provider can address the situation in a proactive manner before the government becomes involved.

If there is an explanation for the anomalies, the provider can establish it in advance.  This type of practice approach strengthens the case if the government later raises the issue.  The provider should be fully prepared to explain the reasons for the apparent anomalies.  In a small and highly specialized practice, data anomalies can easily result from numerous possible non-nefarious reasons.  Because the government is actively using data analysis to identify fraud, the provider should assume that data that falls outside of norms will eventually be questioned.  Preparation, readiness, and proactivity are the keys to resolving issues with government investigators. 

One message was loud and clear when OIG and DOJ lawyers spoke at the HCCA compliance institute.  The government is increasingly looking at data to identify inherent billing patterns, referral patterns and other information that could be reflective of improper billings, kickbacks, or other violations. 

This information spotlights the need for providers to take a proactive approach in identify their own errors before the government brings these errors forward in a much less friendly manner.  If errors or overpayments are identified, repayment should be made promptly.  Repayments that are not made promptly are deemed to become false claims and expose the provider to much more severe penalties.

If the circumstances warrant, it may also be necessary to consider using the OIG or CMS self disclosure process to investigate potential penalties.

John H. Fisher

Health Care Counsel
Ruder Ware, L.L.S.C.
500 First Street, Suite 8000
P.O. Box 8050
Wausau, WI 54402-8050

Tel 715.845.4336
Fax 715.845.2718

Ruder Ware is a member of Meritas Law Firms Worldwide

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