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New RAC Activity

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Monday, February 18, 2019

There is a book and movie about World War I from around 1930 titled “All Quiet on the Western Front.” The title means there was no enemy activity occurring on the western boundary of the homeland troops. The problem in war, and sometimes in other areas of life, is that you have to be aware of all fronts. The enemy may sneak around and come at you from the North, the South, or even from behind. This reminds me of this month’s report on Medicare medical review activity. Though Medicare is not always the enemy, their medical reviews can sometimes feel like an attack and providers definitely have monies at risk.

The year is starting off mostly quiet on the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) Targeted Probe and Educate (TPE) front. The only new activity for the first of the year comes from Novitas, the MAC for Jurisdictions H and L. You will find those issues listed in the table at the end of this article. In contrast, the Recovery Auditors (RACs) appear to be starting off the New Year with a bang, posting four new complex reviews for hospital services since the first of the year. Here is a listing of the new RAC approved issues and some details of what the RACs will be looking for in your documentation.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for Diabetic Wounds

This is a review to ensure HBOT meets Medicare medical necessity requirements. The coverage of HBO is defined in National Coverage Determination (NCD) 20.29. Medicare coverage for diabetic wounds requires the following:

  • Patient must have type I or II diabetes and wound(s) of the lower extremities due to diabetes,
  • The wound must be a Wagner Grade 3 or higher,
  • The patient must have failed an adequate course of standard wound therapy – specifically, there must be no measurable signs of healing for at least 30 –days of treatment with standard wound therapy (such as, vascular status assessment and correction if possible, optimization of nutritional status and glucose control, debridement and dressings, off-loading and infection treatment),
  • HBO must be used in addition to continuing standard wound therapy.

The medical record must contain documentation supporting all of the above requirements, including documentation the patient is diabetic, the Wagner grade of the wound, details of the standard wound therapy that was tried and failed, and evidence that there were no measurable signs of healing for at least 30 days.

In addition to the NCD, three MACs (First Coast JN, and Novitas JH and JL) have Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) for HBO.

Complex Medical Necessity Panniculectomy

The following verbiage comes from the Noridian JE LCD L35163 and is one of the resources of additional information for this issue:

“Abdominal lipectomy/panniculectomy is surgical removal of excessive fat and skin from the abdomen. When surgery is performed to alleviate such complicating factors as inability to walk normally, chronic pain, ulceration created by the abdominal skin fold, or intertrigal dermatitis, and the above symptoms have been present for at least three months and are refractory to usual standard medical therapy, such surgery may be considered reconstructive. Preoperative photographs may be required to support justification and should be supplied upon request.”

If the panniculectomy is for cosmetic reasons, it is not medically necessary and therefore not covered by Medicare. Also, a panniculectomy performed in conjunction with an open abdominal surgery or incidental to another procedure is not separately coded per Coding Guidelines. In addition to the Noridian JE LCD quoted above, Novitas (JH/JL), Palmetto (JJ/JM), WPS (J5/J8), and Noridian JF also have cosmetic surgery LCDs.

Cryosurgery of the Prostate Medical Necessity

Per NCD 230.9 and section 180 of Chapter 32 of the Medicare Claims Processing Manual (100-04), Medicare covers cryosurgery of the prostate gland for:

  1. Primary treatment of patients with clinically localized prostate cancer, Stages T1 – T3 (diagnosis code is 185 or C61– malignant neoplasm of prostate).
  2. Salvage therapy for patients:
  3. Having recurrent, localized prostate cancer;
  4. Failing a trial of radiation therapy as their primary treatment; and
  5. Meeting one of these conditions: State T2B or below; Gleason score less than 9 or; PSA less than 8 ng/ml.

The RACs will looking for records that do not meet Medicare’s medical necessity guidelines.

Medical Necessity Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty

This review will be looking at correct coding as well as medical necessity. Most MACs have an LCD for vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty.

According to the Palmetto LCD, “The decision for treatment should be multidisciplinary and consider such factors as the extent of disease, the underlying etiology, the severity of the pain, the nature of any neurologic dysfunction, the outcome of any previous non-invasive treatment attempts, and the general state of the patient’s health.”

So, while the MAC TPE front is quiet, there is a lot of review activity on the RAC front.

Article Author: Debbie Rubio, BS MT (ASCP)
Debbie Rubio, BS MT (ASCP), was the Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Debbie has over twenty-seven years of experience in healthcare including nine years as the Clinical Compliance Coordinator at a large multi-facility health system. In her current position, Debbie monitors, interprets and communicates current and upcoming regulatory and compliance issues as they relate to specific entities concerning Medicare and other payers.

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.