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

Cigna Loses Texas Case Against Humble Surgical Hospital, Hit with $16 Mil Judgment

anti kickbackBy: Karina Gonzalez

Cigna recently sued a Texas hospital, Humble Surgical for overpayments.  Humble Surgical is an out-of-network (OON) provider.  Cigna alleged fraudulent billing practices and that the hospital engaged  in a scheme to defraud payors by waiving members’ financial responsibility.

While the suit involved many other  allegations  our article focuses on the arguments Cigna made on failure to collect co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance and fee-forgiving practices by the hospital.   There were several other issues raised that are important to various practices that Cigna has engaged in with out-of-network providers.  Cigna has consistently audited South Florida providers alleging failure to collect patient financial responsibility or fee-forgiveness, then informing the provider that it was not entitled to any reimbursement because these practices fell within the exclusionary language of the member’s plan.

The suit brought under federal law, ERISA and also Texas common law seeking reimbursement for all overpayments. Cigna was seeking equitable relief including imposing a lien or constructive trust on  fees paid to the hospital.

Humble Surgical counter sued against Cigna for  nonpayment of patients’ claims, underpayment of certain claims and delayed payment of all claims in violation of ERISA, including other causes of action. Here’s what happened:  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

Addiction Treatment is a Story in Search of a Villain

healthcare business

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press— Alexander Solzhenitsyn

By: Jeff Cohen

I read an article in a local paper the other day.  It was about (a) a guy who owned a treatment center (who has not been charged with committing a crime), (b) a lawsuit filed by a large insurance company against a toxicology lab that the insurer owes millions, and (c) the fact that insurance companies pay a lot for toxicology lab testing.  I scratched my head, wondering how there was anything newsworthy there.  The “story” being sold by the paper, however, created a story with a villain (the providers of services to people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction) and a “victim” (people receiving care for addiction).  I can’t resist responding.

There’s a difference between something that’s interesting and worthy of comment vs. a journalistic attempt to concoct controversy and intrigue that people might buy.  There’s not much of the former, but a lot of the latter.  People in recovery being victimized by horrible, greedy people is an interesting story.  Unfortunately, it’s off the mark and really not helpful to anyone.

There are three pretty safe assumptions we can almost all agree on:  first, there are a lot of people who want to live life without active addiction.  Second, many of them think they need help to create a better life.  Third, some providers of help to people in recovery make a bunch of money providing that service. Continue reading

Managing Managed Care

managed care moneyBy: Valerie Shahriari

While your healthcare business may be compliant with billing regulations and coding, this does not mean that your payer is compliant and has paid you correctly per your contract.  Providers know that Fraud and Abuse has been one of the largest areas of focus for payers and the government over the past 20 years.  Due to this attention, many healthcare businesses engage auditors to audit their compliance of claims quarterly or annually.  However, in addition to compliance audits, a provider should be auditing their payer interaction to create a dynamic blueprint of denial management and payment recovery.   The AMA states that a 5% denial rate for an average family practice equates to about $30,000 walking of the door.  A good benchmark for payer compliance would be a denial rate of 5-10%.  Often times, practices and healthcare businesses operate with a much higher rate, and even in the 20-30% range without even knowing it.

When auditing the payer interaction, several components should be included in the review including:

  • Denial rate percentage
  • Aging of claims paid for 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, over 120 day period as an Aggregate
  • Aging of claims paid for 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, over 120 day period by each Payer
  • Claims denied categorized by denial reason as an Aggregate for previous 12 months
  • Claims denied categorized by denial reason by each Payer for previous 12 months
  • Claims that have been appealed, the date submitted, the date of the outcome, the outcome by each Payer
  • Claims not paid according to fee schedule as an Aggregate for previous 12 months
  • Claims not paid according to fee schedule by each Payer for previous 12 months

Continue reading