CMS Sanctions Cigna over Substantial Failures in Medicare Plans

CMS log blueBy: Karina Gonzalez 

Centers for Medicare and Medical Services (CMS) has  banned Cigna from enrolling and selling new Medicare products because of issues with Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) and Part D (Prescription Drug Program )that increased enrollees out-of-pocket expenses which led to delays or denials  in receiving medical services and prescription drugs.  These sanctions were imposed effective 1/21/2016 because CMS  determined that “Cigna’s conduct posed a serious threat to the health and safety of Medicare beneficiaries.”  Continue reading

Audit Decisions Leading to Absurd Outcomes

healthcare businessBy: Karina Gonzalez

Commercial plans continue their audit activity in 2016 demanding many changes and adjustments yet giving little in return. The 2015 audits have not been completed for the majority of substance abuse providers in South Florida, yet the commercial plans have arbitrarily stopped paying new claims even though it takes them at least 6 months to complete a post payment audit.  If and when a provider finally gets an audit result, payors are imposing requirements that just are impossible to meet.

Payors do not appear to be paying attention to the public health crisis of substance abuse addiction and the ever growing need for treatment.   The assumption is being made by the payors that all providers in this space are over utilizing services and engaged in fraudulent practices, despite the reality that  many providers are doing just the contrary.    Continue reading

Recovery Residence Law Set to Take Effect in 2016

florida health care attorneyBy: Jacqueline Bain

Several clients have inquired in the past few weeks about the new Florida law regarding recovery residences, or sober living facilities. Implementation of the new law has been slow, leaving a lot of questions unanswered and room for opinions to be taken as facts.

Many have asked us if recovery residences are required by law to obtain certification. It is not mandatory for all sober homes to become certified prior to July 1, 2016. However, as of that date, a DCF-licensed substance abuse treatment facility may not refer a current or discharged patient to a recovery residence unless any of the following applies:

  • the recovery residence holds a valid certificate of compliance or
  • the recovery residence is owned and operated by a licensed service provider or
  • the recovery residence is a licensed service provider’s wholly owned subsidiary.

The term “refer” means to inform a patient by any means about the name, address, or other details of the recovery residence. The effect of the law is to squeeze sober homes into obtaining certification if they are not owned and operated by a DCF-licensed treatment provider. Continue reading

Physicians: Start Preparing for 2016 Changes in Healthcare

By: Jeff Cohen

Stepping into 2016, physicians and medical practices must continue to be vigilant about the changing landscape in healthcare.  Those who adapt quickly and smartly will thrive, while those who don’t will lose.  What can they do?

Stabilize

Stability for medical practices requires two things:  clear analytics and fixes.  Smart medical practices will examine threats outside the practice and within it.  As far as external threats go, the key area to focus on is competition.  Do you know what competitors are doing and how they’re different than you?

Internal threats are general revealed in the form of (a) employees that need better training and communication, (b) employees that just need to go, and (c) creating a succession plan for the practice.  If the practice is top heavy with older physicians, what plan is in place to ensure that “new blood” is brought in?  What recruitment strategies are in place?  Can the practice go it alone or does it need a recruitment arrangement with a hospital that can demonstrate a community need?  How will the older physicians phase out?  Is there a plan in the corporate documents to make sure phase out is slow and planned?  What do departing physicians get?  What about billing and collection?  When was the last time that was analyzed?  And finally, coding analysis.  Is money being left on the table?  Far too many practices actually undercode visits and services out of fear of payer audit.  Apart from constituting a False Claims Act violation (though regulators are not fast to indict providers who are underpaid), the differential can mean the difference between a good year and a bad one.

Finally, in light of the fact that regulatory and recoupment activity has never been higher, practices would do well to ensure compliance via a self-audit and compliance plan.  This is a different animal than a coding audit.  This one looks at all contractual relationships to ensure compliance and augments coding compliance.   Continue reading

Act or React? Rehab Industry Transformation

florida healthcare lawyerBy: Jeff Cohen

By now, it’s not news in Florida that drug and alcohol recovery providers are staring devastation in the face as payers continue to mount non-payment offensives.  As payers one by one march on the industry and starve providers of cash flow for operations, many providers can be expected to shut down.  To make matters worse, as the popular media continues to act as a conduit for gross misrepresentations of industry providers, the public’s affection for the industry can’t be expected to improve.  This makes the future look especially bleak for the industry, and yet the silence and stillness of providers is baffling.

Given the breadth of the payer problem (many simply aren’t paying providers), why are we not seeing a slew of lawsuits filed by providers?  In nearly 30 years as a Florida healthcare lawyer, I’ve never seen a healthcare sector so hammered by insurance companies.  And I’ve never seen it unanswered in court. Continue reading

Cigna Points to Tox Costs and Fraud in Quitting Florida Obamacare

gavelBy: Jeff Cohen 

Cigna just announced it is withdrawing from Florida’s Health Insurance Marketplace.  As reported by Carol Gentry in Health News Florida, Cigna blamed its decision to withdraw on fraud and abuse and on “out of network substance abuse clinics and labs.”  Interestingly, Cigna spokesman, Joseph Mondy, pointed to a recent article in the Palm Beach Post (“Addiction Treatment Bonanza:  How urine tests rake in millions”) in support of Cigna’s announcement.

Media reports regarding the treatment industry and Cigna’s announcement go unquestioned by reporters.  For instance, the Palm Beach Post article claims “the sky-high charges have exploited addicts and alcoholics seeking help, gouged insurers and spurred law enforcement interest….”  It pictures a young, tattooed man as a recovery business owner, but does not mention any wrongdoing or charges against him.  It restates claims in a lawsuit against a toxicology lab without any counterbalancing input from the lab that is the subject of the lawsuit.  It expresses certainty that insurers are being gouged, but does not mention that the rates actually paid by insurers for out of network services are determined entirely by the insurers, not the treatment providers.  It’s an article full of allegations and innuendos, but no meaningful coverage of any of the issues.      Continue reading

The First False Claims Act Involving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 60 Day Repayment Rule

By: Valerie Shahriari

While the False Claims Act (FCA) has been in existence for years, many providers do not know that the rule was extended in 2010.  As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congress created the “60 Day Rule” and extended the False Claims Act liability to health care providers who fail to report and return overpayments within 60 days of identification if that overpayment came from a federal program (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid).  United States ex rel. Kane et al. v. Healthfirst, Inc., et al (Case No. 1:11-cv-02325) (S.D.N.Y. August 3, 2015) is the first case in which the federal government intervened on an alleged violation of the 60 Day Rule.  Continue reading

Big Changes to Federal DHS Supervision Rules

By: Jeff Cohen

Proposed changes to the “incident to services” rule in the 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule are set to seriously impact how medical practices provide certain services, bill for them and share income from those services.

Incident to services are services or items that are furnished as an integral part of the professional services of a physicians or other practitioner in the course of diagnosis or treatment.  80 Fed. Reg. at 41785.  They are billed to CMS as though the physician actually provided the service.  One of the rule’s key requirements is that a physician directly supervise the performance of the services, which has meant that a physician who is part of the practice has to be physically present in the office when the services are provided.  If, for instance, a physician in the practice was present when physical therapy or diagnostic imaging was provided to a patient, the services could be billed to CMS as though the physician actually provided the services, even though the service was provided by, for instance, a licensed physical therapist or imaging technician.       Continue reading

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Full of Surprises

Bill Tracking SpyglassBy: Jeff Cohen

When new healthcare regs come out, we all get excited.  “What sort of nuggets will I find that could be useful?”  Sometimes the regs have useful things and sometimes, they’re just disappointing and frustrating.  The proposed changes to the 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule are a mixed bag.  Allow me to illustrate:

The incident to rules may be changed to require only the ordering physician to supervise the performance of the service.  Currently, any physician in a group practice could supervise the performance of an incident to service (which allows the practice to bill for the service as though it had been performed by the ordering physician);

Qualified telemedicine services that are furnished via an interactive telecom system can be furnished by a physician or authorized practitioner for an additional list of services, including CRNAs.  This is a big change that expands the list of authorized providers;

The feds propose to characterize certain Stark Law violations as “technical,” which means they pose no financial risk to the Medicare program.  Examples include unsigned or expired agreements; Continue reading

2015 Healthcare M&A Turnaround Study

2015-ma-turnaround-coverThe Healthcare Transaction Advisors 2015 M&A Turnaround Study analyzes trends in patient volumes, payor mix, staffing, and costs before and after business ownership changes for over 2,500 healthcare transactions. The study subjects include 539 hospitals, 1,644 skilled nursing facilities, and 350 home health agencies that were unprofitable during the year before they filed for a change of ownership with Medicare.

Healthcare Transaction Advisors solicited a expert panel of seven healthcare transaction professionals to review the findings, including the Founder and President of Florida Healthcare Law Firm, Jeffrey L. Cohen. Click here to download a free copy of the study!