By: Bradley M. Seldin, C0-counsel Guest Contributor
Prohibitions against balance billing Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) patients have been around for more than a decade, but many non-contracted providers to HMO patients still don’t fully understand their rights to payment when it comes to collecting monies from patients and HMO’s.
HMO’s often have predetermined rates they pay to non-contracted healthcare providers; sometimes they are artificially low, do not reflect what is written in the member’s contract, or do not abide by what is required by applicable law. As a result, these providers may end up being underpaid if they don’t have a written contract with the payor and they do not understand the payment methodology being applied to them. This is of particular significance to emergency care providers. ER doctors and hospitals must, by law, provide emergency care without regard to whether the patient has an ability to pay for the treatment received.
Following their provision of emergency care, medical providers often question the payment obligations under the patient’s Health Maintenance Organization contract. If the emergency medical provider has a direct written contract, the reimbursement is governed by that participating provider contract’s reimbursement terms. Continue reading →
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 →
One of the most commonly overlooked components of a managed care contract is the definitions section despite the fact that what is contained here will affect the contracted provider on a daily basis. Contract terms that are too generic so that they are not clearly defined and understood as they relate to a particular area of practice can have a direct influence on clinical decision making. A patient may need a higher level of care but be approved for a lower level only. The provider knows that a patient may suffer if the level approved will not treat the illness or that the patient’s condition could deteriorate without a higher level of care.
Let’s take, for example, the definition of medical necessity in a contract. Who decides medical necessity? Is it the provider or is it the managed care organization (MCO)? Many contracts state that the term “medical necessity” relates only to the issue of reimbursement. Further, that the approval or denial of a claim is “for reimbursement purposes only” and should not affect the provider’s judgment on whether treatment is appropriate to treat the illness, symptoms or complaints of the patient. Continue reading →
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 →
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
There is nothing readily understood about the term medical necessity. In healthcare it is the “overarching criterion for payment”. There is no payment for services or supplies if there is no medical necessity to support it. Today, every provider at some time is faced with a denial because of lack of medical necessity. Physician providers will usually hear that payors do not get in the way of the physician-patient relationship. Payors typically state that they never tell a physician how to practice medicine and a denial based on lack of medical necessity is for purposes of payment only. However, what provider, on a routine basis, will continue to order care and services which medically unacceptable and not supported for payment purposes?
The definition of medical necessity varies from one commercial plan to another. Federal law such as Medicare has its definition and so does state law under programs such as Medicaid. Various medical associations such as the AMA also define medical necessity.
Generally, medical necessity refers to services or supplies which are required for the treatment of an illness, injury, diseased condition or impairment and which is consistent with a patient’s diagnosis or symptoms and are in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice. Services or supplies must not be ordered only as a convenience to the patient or provider. Of course care and services which are investigational or unproven are not considered medically necessary. Continue reading →
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 →