OIG Opines that Charities Allowed to Help with Patients’ Insurance Obligations

financial hardshipBy: Jacqueline Bain

In the healthcare business, giving a patient a break on a health insurance copay is often viewed as suspicious. The reasoning for the suspicion is that the financial incentive may give one provider a competitive advantage over another, or persuade a patient to seek services that might not be medically necessary.  Moreover, any person who interferes with a patient’s obligations under his/her health insurance contract may be viewed as tortuously interfering with that contract. However, in an advisory opinion issued on December 28, 2016, the OIG opined that, in certain instances, a non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization could provide financial assistance with an individual’s co-payment, health insurance premiums and insurance deductibles when a patient exhibits a financial need.

The party requesting the advisory opinion was a non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization that did not provide any healthcare services and served one specified disease. The non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization is governed by an independent board of directors with no direct or indirect link to any donor. Donors to the non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization may be referral sources or persons in a position to financially gain from increased usage of their services, but may not earmark funds and or have any control over where their donation is directed. Continue reading

SHOOT, READY, AIM: Palm Beach County’s Blind Shot at the Addiction Treatment Industry

addiction treatment industryBy: Jeff Cohen

We should all be afraid when there is a “war” declared on anything in our culture because it usually means the complex will be simplified, the innocent will be presumed guilty, details will be ignored and the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater.  Nowhere is that more apparent than the current War on Sober Homes in Palm Beach County.

When we read the stories published by the Palm Beach Post, we learn things like–

  • It is illegal for a sober home to receive payment from an addiction treatment facility for providing so called “case management” services;
  • Addiction treatment providers unethically bill thousands of dollars for urine tests that could be provided for pennies via a cup for sale at Walgreens; and
  • The Patient Brokering Act, a state criminal law, is being broken left and right by sober homes and addiction treatment providers.

Hooey!  It’s completely misleading.  Here’s why:

Case Management Issue.  The arrangement reported In the Post and described in charging documents describes a business arrangement where sober homes are paid by state licensed addiction treatment providers for helping addicts along their path of recovery.  Addiction treatment sees these patients maybe 20 hours a week.  Where are they the rest of the time?  What are they doing?  Addicts seeking treatment often have soft life skills from being off the grid, are often receiving assistance from supportive staff at sober homes who help them get on their feet.  They often come into treatment with no clothes, no money, no food, no job skills and a whole host of medical and psycho social needs.  And addiction treatment facilities want (and sometimes pay for) sober home staff to serve a function in the continuum of care, sometimes want to give them food cards, clothing, cigarettes and whatever they need to accept treatment.  And our sole focus is to do what, focus our regulatory attention on a business relationship that may exist in the treatment industry?  Continue reading

Big Reimbursement & Balance Billing Changes in Florida Law

VOBBy: Karina Gonzalez

Earlier this year, the Florida legislature passed prohibitions against balance billing by out-of-network providers for emergency services and where the patient goes to a contracted facility but does not have an opportunity to choose a provider such as emergency room physicians, pathologists, anesthesiologists and radiologists.

Specific reimbursement requirements went into effect on October 1, 2016 for certain out-of-network providers of emergency and non-emergency services, where a patient has no opportunity to choose the provider.

Under these circumstances, an Insurer must pay the greater amount of either:

(a)         The amount negotiated   with an in-network provider   in the same community where services were performed;

(b)        The usual and customary rate received by a provider for the same service in the community where service was provided; or

(c)         The Medicare rate for the service. Continue reading

Out of Network VOB Process Hits a Speedbump

VOBBy: Urgent Medical Billing, Guest Contributor

The verification process is an important step in the billing cycle. When done correctly the patient’s “VOB” will allow a healthcare provider to quickly determine if they can accept the patient for treatment or not. A good verification will tell a provider the general information about a patient’s insurance policy such as the deductible, the co-insurance and the out of pocket maximum. A very good verification will also include accreditation requirements, information on who would receive the payment for services, correct claims addresses for professional and facility charges and more. The quicker a verification is done, the sooner a patient can be brought into treatment. Speed and accuracy is the name of the game when it comes to insurance verification and United Healthcare, until very recently, was one of the quickest policies for an Insurance Verification Specialist to work with.  Continue reading

ASAM & Cigna to Collaborate on Performance Measures in Addiction Treatment

cigna asamBy: Karina Gonzalez

ASAM and announced a collaborative effort with  Brandeis University to test and validate three ASAM performance measures for addictions treatment. ASAM hopes that this project will provide measure testing of performance measures that will be accepted and adopted in the treatment of patients with addiction.

Three measures will be tested using two years of de-identified Cigna claims data  for  substance abuse.  The measures to be  tested in the study will be: use of pharmacotherapy for individuals with alcohol use disorders; pharmacotherapy for individuals with opioid use disorders and follow-up after withdrawal.  This is expected to be a six month project. Continue reading

Addiction Treatment Attack by Payers Grows

money viseBy: Jeff Cohen

Addiction treatment providers continue to react to an assault by payers to run them “out of town.”  The first round of attacks (in the Fall of 2014) focused on the practice of copay and deductible write offs.  The phrase cooked up by lawyers for Cigna, “fee forgiveness,” wound its way into the courts system in Texas in a case (Cigna v. Humble Surgical Hospital, Civ. Action No. 4:13-CV-3291, U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Tex., Houston Division) against a surgery center, where Cigna argued that the practice of a physician owned hospital in waiving “patient responsibility” relieved the insurer from paying ANYTHING for services needed by patients and provided to them.  Though the case did not involve addiction treatment providers, it gave addiction treatment lawyers a look into what was going to come.  The same argument made in the Texas case was the initial attack by Cigna in a broad attack of the addiction treatment industry, especially in Florida.

As addiction treatment providers fielded Cigna’s “fee forgiveness” attack in the context of “audits,” providers held firm to the belief that justice would prevail and that they would soon restore a growing need for cash flow.  “If we just show them that we’re doing the right thing,” providers thought, “surely they will loosen up the purse strings.”  After all, this was a patient population in terrific need of help, with certain [untested] protection by federal law (the Mental Health Parity Act). Continue reading

Compounding Pharmacies and Alleged Tricare Abuses Back in the Spotlight

compounding pharmacyBy: Jacqueline Bain

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, the United States Attorneys’ Office from the Middle District of Florida announced a $10 million settlement with 4 physicians and 2 pharmacies regarding alleged abuses of Tricare program.  The case against these physicians and pharmacies was prosecuted as part of the United States government’s large-scale effort to combat questionable compounding practices.  Investigations revealed that patients were often prescribed compounded drugs that they never used, and that Tricare paid a mark-up cost of nearly 90% for compounded drugs over and above the pharmacy’s actual costs of making the drug.  Roughly 40% of the claims submitted by the pharmacies in question were written by 4 physicians with an ownership or financial interest in the pharmacies.

Tricare is a federal health care program designed to insure active duty military service members, reservists, members of the National Guard, retirees, survivors and their families.  Tricare outpatient costs have almost doubled in the last 5 years, and compound drugs have accounted for a large portion of that increase.  Continue reading