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.
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.
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 →
Though it can be tempting to offer help to patients in this era of sky high healthcare costs, out-of-network physicians must remember that they should not only be collecting copayments and deductibles from their patients at the time of service and before they leave the office, but also that collecting these payments is their obligation. For physicians and other providers who engage in the practice of failing to collect payments there is a significant legal exposure under federal and state laws including civil litigation brought by commercial health plans, managed care organizations and medical benefit managers regarding routine waiver of these payments. Continue reading →
Drug 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 →