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

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

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

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

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