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June 2022 PAR Pro Tips

Published on 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

MMP’s Protection Assessment Report (P.A.R.) combines current Medicare Fee-for-Service review targets (i.e., MAC, RAC, OIG) with hospital specific paid claims data made possible through a collaboration with RealTime Medicare Data (RTMD). In general, this article spotlights current review activities. This month’s focus is on medical review activity accomplishments touted in recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports, a new OIG Work Plan Item and a new Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC) project.

GAO Report: Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Health and Human Services


(GAO-22-105646) published May 26, 2022, and publicly released June 2, 2022.

In May 2022, the GAO added five new priority recommendations for HHS bringing the total to fifty-six open priority recommendations. According to the GAO, priority open recommendations warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because implementation could save substantial amounts of money; improve congressional or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and that funds are legally spent. The fifty-six recommendations fall into one of eight areas:

  • COVID-19 response and other public health emergency preparedness,
  • Public health and human services program oversight,
  • FDA oversight,
  • Improper payments in Medicare and Medicaid,
  • Medicaid program,
  • Medicare programs,
  • Health information technology and cybersecurity, and
  • Health insurance premium tax credit payment integrity.

Specific to improper payments, the GAO notes estimates of improper payments in the Medicare and Medicaid programs continue to be unacceptably high totaling about $148 billion in fiscal year 2021. They identified the following six priority recommendations that they believe if implemented could reduce improper payments by assessing documentation requirements, minimizing program risks, and conducting prepayment claim reviews, among other things:

  1. Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should institute a process to routinely assess, and take steps to ensure, as appropriate, that Medicare and Medicaid documentation requirements are necessary and effective at demonstrating compliance with coverage policies while appropriately addressing program risks.
  2. Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should complete a comprehensive, national risk assessment and take steps, as needed, to assure that resources to oversee expenditures reported by states are adequate and allocated based on areas of highest risk.
  3. Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should eliminate impediments to collaborative audits in managed care conducted by audit contractors and states, by ensuring that managed care audits are conducted regardless of which entity—the state or the managed care organization (MCO)—recoups any identified overpayments.
  4. Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should consider and take steps to mitigate the program risks that are not measured in the Payment Error Rate Measurement (PERM), such as overpayments and unallowable costs; such an effort could include actions such as revising the PERM methodology or focusing additional audit resources on managed care.
  5. Recommendation: To better ensure proper Medicare payments and protect Medicare funds, CMS should seek legislative authority to allow the recovery auditors (RA) to conduct prepayment claim reviews.
  6. Recommendation: As CMS continues to implement and refine the contract-level risk adjustment data validation (RADV) audit process to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of reducing and recovering improper payments, the Administrator should enhance the timeliness of CMS’s contract-level RADV process.

I encourage you to read the report to see HHS’ response to these recommendations.

OIG Spring 2022 Semiannual Report to Congress (SAR):

This OIG’s Semiannual Report to Congress (link) details work performed to identify significant risks, problems, abuses, deficient, remedies, and investigative outcomes related to the administration of HHS programs during the reporting period October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022. Following are examples of three completed audits:

  • An estimate that during 2016 and 2017, providers received $636 million in unallowable Medicare payments associated with neurostimulator implantation surgeries, and beneficiaries paid $54 million in related unnecessary copays and deductibles.
  • The OIG found that Medicare could have saved approximately $993 million in 2017 and 2018 if the transfer payment policy to early discharges to home health care was expanded to inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs).
  • The OIG published four reports where they identified Medicare Advantage plans submitting diagnosis codes for use in CMS’s risk adjustment program that did not comply with Federal requirements. Collectively, the OIG estimated that the four Medicare Advantage plans audited received just over $15.8 million net overpayments for high-risk diagnosis codes.

May 2022 OIG Work Plan Item: Follow-up Review of Inpatient Claims Under the Post-Acute Care Transfer Policy (PACT)

For certain MS-DRGs under the PACT policy, Medicare pays hospitals a per diem rate when an inpatient is transferred to specific post-acute care settings. You can read more about this policy in a related MMP article (link). The OIG notes that in a prior review they identified overpayments to hospitals that did not comply with the policy. This follow-up audit is to determine whether CMS’s Common Working File (CWF) edits are working properly in detecting inpatient claims under the PACT policy and are automatically recovering overpayments, and whether MACs are receiving the automatic notifications and acting to recover overpayments.

New SMRC Reviews: SNF 3 Day Stay Waiver PHE Notification of Medical Review

On June 7, 2022, the SMRC added Project 01-056 (link) to their list of Current Projects (link). In response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), CMS enacted 1135 blanket waivers, one of which waived the long-standing requirement for a beneficiary to have a medically necessary 3-day hospital stay prior to admission to Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF).

Data analysis done by the SMRC, and CMS has identified this to be an area of potential vulnerability. The SMRC has been tasked with performing medical review on SNF claims with zero hospital days prior to admission for SNF claims from March 1, 2020, through December 31, 2021. As a reminder, in general, COVID-19 blanket waivers are in effect until the end of the PHE.

Article Author: Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS
Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Protection Assessment Tool.

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.