Houston Court Brings the Heat in Payer Provider Case

bcbs lawsuitBy: Jeff Cohen 

A recent Texas District Court case took the usually frustrating ERISA dynamics applicable in payer provider disputes and upended them in a way that helped the provider.  There (Cigna v. Humble Surgical Hospital, Civ. Action No. 4:13-CV-3291, U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Tex., Houston Division), the court was faced with an out of network hospital sued by CIGNA to recover payments made.  In particular, the case involved—

  • An out of network hospital (HSH);
  • HSH set its prices higher than neighboring in network hospitals;
  • HSH billed Cigna members for deductibles and coinsurance at in network rates, but billed Cigna on an out of network basis;
  • Cigna alleged that the billing practices of HSH caused Cigna to pay more than its required share under applicable plans, even though plan members paid little or nothing at all;
  • Cigna also alleged HSH paid owner physicians referral fees to induce patient referrals; and
  • Cigna sought to recover payments made to HSH.

The case is a departure from the usual scenario, which involves (a) providers suing payers for payment and relying on state laws to do so, and (b) provides side stepping those state laws by successfully arguing that the federal ERISA law applies (which usually offers provides less favorable remedies). Continue reading

Tough Trend for Payers = Fairness for Providers

payer fairness for providersBy: Jeff Cohen

The past year has shown a trend towards empowering providers (and even patients) in their claims against payers.  And these developments should serve to bolster the position of many patients and providers, especially behavioral health providers as they raise claims against payers.

Spinedex Case

This 2014 Arizona case addressed the issue of whether a provider had the legal ability (“standing”) to sue United to receive payment for services provided to insureds.  United’s role was to process claims for certain plans.  Spinedex was a physical therapy provider whose patients signed a patient responsibility form and also assigned to Spindex the right to receive payment.  There were different levels of benefits based on whether the patient was insured by United.  Spinedex treated patients, then submitted claims to United.  When claims for payment were denied, Spindex sued.

At the heart of the case was the long-standing issue of whether a provider has standing to sue for services provided to insureds of so called ERISA plans.  “We are aware,” the court wrote, “of no circuit court that has accepted defendant’s argument” [that because Spinedex didn’t seek payment from a patient, the patients don’t have an “injury,” which is required for the providers to sue the payer].    Nevertheless, the court said “yes,” which opened the door to potentially a slew of such lawsuits.

Continue reading

Medical Director Supervision Restrictions

so 2014By: Karina Gonzalez

Medical Directors are used in an administrative capacity to oversee all medical services and care, specifically referring to substance abuse programs and services.  Increasingly, commercial healthcare plans are targeting their role in addictions treatment facilities and denying payment of claims based on audit findings that Medical Directors in Florida may be responsible for far too many treatment facilities and too many patients.

Does Florida have any specific requirements or published guidance on the number of treatment facilities or number of patients for which responsibility falls to the Medical Directors in addictions treatment?

Florida’s Administrative Code directed to substance abuse programs and services does not have any directive which talks about a restriction on the number of facilities or patients recommended for oversight by a Medical Director.  It specifies that addictions receiving facilities, detoxification, intensive inpatient treatment, residential treatment, day or night treatment with host homes and medication and methadone maintenance treatment must designate a Medical Director who oversees all medical services. This Medical Director must hold a current license in the state of Florida.  Continue reading

No Medicare = No Feds… Not!

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By: Jeff Cohen

In the “good old days” (in healthcare, that means more than a week ago), it was understood that if a client didn’t accept any state or federal healthcare program dollars (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, CHAMPUS, TriCare, Supp Plans), they would not expect to get a “knock on the door” from any federal regulatory authority.  No federal or state healthcare program dollars used to mean the client would only tend to hear from state regulators or commercial payors.  Those days are done!

Federal law enforcement is increasingly pursuing alleged criminal wrongdoing in the “non-government” healthcare space.  One of their favorite weapons is 18 U.S.C. 1347, the Federal Healthcare Fraud Statute, which gives federal law enforcement broad enforcement authority with respect to suspected wrongdoing involving interactions between healthcare providers and commercial insurers. Continue reading

Episodes of Care Increasingly Used in Healthcare Payments

graphic-chart-people.jpgBy: Karina Gonzalez

Presently, payment for healthcare services is governed by the use of thousands of codes which describe a specific medical activity.  Payment is made on a fee for service basis based on the medical activity or service rendered. Capitation payments are also used in managed care in which providers are paid a lump sum per patient regardless of how many services the patient received.  Increasingly, payment is being shifted to an episode of care concept and used interchangeably with bundled payments or case rate payments.  These are generally defined on the basis of expected costs for clinically defined episodes of care.   An episode of care can range from a few days to a year and the patient will receive care from multiple providers who treat a particular condition over the length of time it takes to address the specific ailment. An episode of care payment is a single price paid for all the services needed by a patient.  Continue reading

Recovery Business Industry Forced to Grow Up Fast

bcbs lawsuitBy: Jeff Cohen

When Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey blasted Avee Laboratories in connection with a variety of business practices, some of which included kickback violations (in connection with the provision of POCT cups), businesses in the drug and alcohol recovery space took notice.  With the recent FBI raid on a Palm Beach County sober house and the amped up attention of managed care payers to clinical lab testing, the industry is reeling!  The good news, however, is that these recent developments, along with increased payor scrutiny (and payment denial!), is a call to compliance that has long seemed inapplicable to an industry that has been able for many years to operate with simplicity not found in other segments of the healthcare business community.  Where facilities once viewed DCF as the only regulatory parent they had to please, they are now learning there is a far greater degree of regulatory complexity to be considered; and they are rushing towards compliance. Continue reading

Standing Orders in Drug Treatment Programs: How to Avoid Waving a Red Flag

so 2014By: Karina P. Gonzalez

Medical necessity is the driving force for the payment of any service, but is especially worth noting when discussing laboratory testing. Standing Orders for urine drug testing in residential treatment settings are not prohibited, per se, but this practice must be built upon detailed policies and procedures that are precisely followed and are directed to individual patient needs.

The following conditions may help to determine whether Standing Orders are appropriate in a residential treatment setting: Continue reading

Florida Recovery Residences Caught in a Perfect Storm

sober home keyBy: David Hirshfeld

A confluence of forces brought about by lawmakers, insurance companies and regulators have caught recovery residences in the eye of a perfect storm here in Florida. Senate Bill 582 proposes to mandate that Florida sober homes and their owners be registered, inspected and licensed; but really, that bill may not be necessary due to other factors.  Florida’s Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) has been using Section 65D-30.007 of its Administrative Code to require that sober homes be licensed for Residential Treatment if any resident at that sober home is also a patient at a licensed treatment program owned by the same person or entity that owns the sober home.

Continue reading

Integrating Clinical Labs Into Substance Abuse Treatment Programs: A Whole Lot of Fuss Over Pee in a Cup

pee in a cupBy: David Hirshfeld

The recent and drastic cut in reimbursement for point-of-care urinalysis has caused just about all of our substance use treatment program clients to consider integrating clinical laboratories into their enterprise models.  These programs long for a way to restore the revenue stream that urinalysis had generated.  For sober living programs, the lost revenue often means the difference between profitability and breaking even.  For more comprehensive programs, the lost revenue can hinder their ability to expand or provide scholarships to those who could not otherwise afford treatment.  Regardless of their specific goals, our clients are amazed and dismayed at the regulatory minefield that awaits them; especially since their lab consultant (read “reagent salesperson”) makes the process sound so simple. Continue reading

Rehab Centers at Risk for Routine Copay/Deductible Waiver

pillDrug and alcohol treatment centers are often faced with the business decision of whether to waive copay and deductible obligations.  For many patients in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, copay and deductible waiver can mean the difference between getting needed treatment or not!  The well intentioned desire of the treatment center to lower this barrier to entry may, however, expose the center to serious legal liability.

Though many treatment centers do not accept governmental payment (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, CHAMPUS and TriCare), some do and all need to understand the thinking of governmental regulators and private insurers on the issue.  In 1994 the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (the “OIG”) issued a Special Fraud Alert stating, in essence, copayment waiver for any reason other than the patient’s demonstrated inability to pay is fraudulent!    Continue reading