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Medicare Quarterly Provider Compliance Newsletter and a Tangled Web
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Medicare Quarterly Provider Compliance Newsletter and a Tangled Web
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…. when first we practice to protect.” Changing just one word in this quote from “deceive” to “protect” makes it become an apt description of the numerous medical review contractors that are part of the CMS Medical Review and Education Program (link).
This premise is supported by CMS’ stated purpose for this interconnected web of medical review contractors as being to “identify errors through claims analysis and/or medical review activities. Contractors use this information to help ensure they provide proper Medicare payments (and recover any improper payments if the claim was already paid.) Contractors also provide education to help ensure future compliance.”
The Medicare Quarterly Provider Compliance Newsletter is one tool used for provider education. This quarterly newsletter’s aim is to provide guidance to address billing errors identified by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and other contractors such as Recovery Auditors, the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) Review Contractor, and the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC). Other governmental organizations, such as the Office of Inspector General (OIG), also conduct reviews and identify issues. The CMS recently announced the release of the July 2021 edition of this newsletter (link).
July 2021 Newsletter Topics:
- the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) program review of glucose testing supplies,
- Recovery Auditor Issue 0181: Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplant: Medical Necessity and Documentation Requirements
- Recovery Auditor Issue 0081: Negative Pressure Wound Therapy: Medical Necessity and Documentation Requirements.
As I read through the newsletter, I noted that the CERT findings include background information, examples of improper payments and resources. Likewise, the Recovery Auditor review of negative pressure wound therapy includes a problem description, background information, recommendations to prevent denials and improper payments and resources. However, the Recovery Auditor review of bone marrow or stem cell transplant is lacking examples of improper payments and/or recommendations to prevent denials and improper payments. This lack of information led me to the CMS RAC webpage in search of additional information related to the RAC issue 0181. Much to my surprise this issue is no longer on the list of approved RAC issues and is no longer on the individual RACs list of approved issues.
Inpatient Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Procedures Medical Review Timeline
February 2016: OIG Review
The OIG noted in a February 2016 report (link) that Medicare had paid hospitals $185.9 million for inpatient claims related to bone marrow and stem cell transplant procedures. The OIG identified two hospitals that did not always comply with the Medicare billing requirements for inpatient claims for stem cell transplants that resulted in approximately $4 million in overpayments. In general, lengths of stay (LOS) for these claims ranged from 10 to 21 days. However, the LOS for claims reviewed were one to two days. Based on findings from the two hospitals, the OIG conducted a nationwide review of 143 claims and found that 133 (93%) of the claims did not comply with Medicare billing requirements. The two reasons cited by the OIG for noncompliance included:
- Hospitals incorrectly billing Medicare Part A for stays that should have been billed as outpatient, or outpatient with observation services, and
- Hospitals billing an incorrect Medicare Severity-Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG).
January 2019: New Review Project for SMRC
In response to the OIG report, the CMS tasked the SMRC (Noridian) with reviewing inpatient bone marrow and stem cell transplant procedures to determine compliance with statutory, regulatory, and sub-regulatory guidance. The SMRC reviewed claims billed on dates of service from January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017. Specific MS-DRGs requested included:
- MS-DRG 014: Allogenic bone marrow transplant,
- MS-DRG 016: Autologous bone marrow transplant with a complication or comorbidity (CC), and
- MS-DRG 017: Autologous bone marrow transplant without a CC or major CC (MCC).
For this project, Noridian included the following list of specific documentation requirements in each Additional Documentation Request (ADR) sent to providers:
- Documentation to support the beneficiary was expected to require an inpatient level of care for at least 2-Midnights
- Documentation to support an inpatient level of care was expected and provided. Documentation should include, but is not limited to: Medication Administration Records (MAR), History & Physical, Physician Progress Notes, Nursing Notes, Discharge Summary, Procedure Notes
- Inpatient admission order from attending physician
- Physician or Non-Physician Practitioner (NPP) order for the stem cell transplant for the dates of service
- Medical documentation that supports the beneficiary met criteria for one of the following covered services:
- Allogenic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT)
- Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation (AuSCT)
- Documentation to support enrollment in an approved Clinical Research Study, if applicable
- Full detailed itemization of services, including diagnosis codes
- Legible handwritten physician and/or clinician signatures
- Signature logs and Signature Attestation Statement should be submitted when physician and/or clinician signatures are illegible
- Valid electronic physician and/or clinician signatures
- Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage (ABN), if applicable
Results of this review were posted to the SMRC website in October 2019. The error rate for the SMRC Project 01-006 (link) was 86%. Common reasons for denial cited by the SMRC included:
- Documentation received did not support medical necessity of an inpatient stay,
- No response by a provider to the documentation request,
- Signature requirements not being met, and
- Incorrect coding.
March 2020: RAC Approved Issue 0181: Complex Review of Hospital Inpatient Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplants
Six months later, further proof of the interconnected web of medical review contractors concept, a review of bone marrow and stem cell transplants became a RAC approved issue. Each of the 4 RAC Regions added Issue 0181 to their list of Issues in March of 2020 (link). Even Though RAC Issue 0181 is no longer listed on the RAC websites, if your hospital performs these procedures, I encourage you to perform a review of these inpatient records for documentation supporting medical necessity of the procedure and the inpatient stay.
In July of this year, each of the RACs posted the following notice: “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is required to protect the Medicare Trust Fund against inappropriate payments which pose a risk to the Trust Fund. Therefore, we are resuming Medicare Fee-for-Service medical review activities. The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) continues to be monitored very closely.”
It is important to be aware of who your review contractors are, what issues they are focused on, and respond to ADRs in a timely manner. If you are unsure of who your review contractors are you can find out by using the CMS Review Contractor Directory – Interactive Map (link).
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.
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