Author: David Werfel

David Werfel is a partner at Werfel & Werfel, PLLC.

OIG Report on Overpayments For Non-Emergency Transports

OIG Report – Overpayments For Non-Emergency Ambulance Transports To Non-Covered Destinations The Office of the Inspector General released its report “Medicare Improperly Paid Providers for Non Emergency Ambulance Transports to Destinations Not Covered by Medicare”. In sum, the OIG reviewed claims that Medicare paid for 2014 – 2016 non-emergency ambulance transports. The review focused on…

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Summary of September 2017 Ambulance Open Door Forum

On September 14, 2017, CMS held its latest Open Door Forum. As usual, it started with a few announcements, as follows: “Locality” Rule – On 6/16/17 CMS issued Transmittal 236, to amend the Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 10, section 10.3.5 to give Medicare Administrative Contractors discretion to determine the “locality”. This is for the issue…

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Court Decision Overpayment Determination Statistical Sampling

Maxmed is a home health agency. In 2011, Medicare reviewed a sample of 40 claims involving 22 Medicare beneficiaries and determined that all but one were not medically necessary. The sample was extrapolated to their universe of claims, resulting in an overpayment of $773,967. The Administrative Law Judge invalidated the extrapolation methodology, but the Medicare Appeals…

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Medicare “Locality” Rule & ALS Assessment

“Locality” Rule – MAC Discretion – Since the inception of the CMS Internet Only Manual (in 2003), the Benefit Policy Manual 100-02, Chapter 10, section 10.3.5 has always defined “Locality” as: The term “Locality” with respect to ambulance service means the service area surrounding the institution to which individuals normally travel or are expected to travel to…

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CMS – MLN Ambulance Transports Booklet

CMS has issued an MLN Ambulance Transports Booklet. The booklet (36 pages) can be downloaded here. One section of the Booklet that you might want to keep handy involves Free-Standing Emergency Departments. Specifically, on page 15, CMS states the following: Freestanding Emergency Department (ED) If a freestanding ED is provider based (a department of the hospital), the ambulance…

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OIG Releases Final Rule Revising Safe Harbor

Office of the Inspector General – Final Rule – Revisions to the Safe Harbors for Waiving Coinsurance, et.al On December 7, 2016, the Office of the Inspector General published a Final Rule (81 Federal Register 88368) and will be effective January 6, 2017. The Final Rule includes technical corrections to the existing Safe Harbor for…

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CMS Announces 2017 Inflation Factor

The Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) issued Transmittal 3625 officially announcing that the inflation factor for payments under the Medicare ambulance fee schedule for 2017 will be 0.7%. The calculation for determining the Medicare ambulance inflation factor is as follows: Consumer Price Index – Urban (which is the change in the CPI-U from…

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Prior Authorization Expansion Delay

Prior Authorization – Repetitive Non-Emergencies – Expansion Delay

CMS has notified the American Ambulance Association that the expansion of Prior Authorization for repetitive non-emergencies, to the states not already on Prior Authorization, will not be implemented January 1, 2017.

The reason for the delay is that, pursuant to Section 515(b) of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), CMS must make determinations as to whether: (1) Prior Authorization for repetitive non-emergencies saves money, (2) it adversely affects quality of care and (3) it adversely impacts access to care.

These studies are being conducted and are expected to show the program saves money without adversely affecting quality or access to care.

For those of you in states currently not under Prior Authorization, it is highly recommended that you still prepare for it to be implemented, even though it will not be implemented January 1, 2017.  You should still ensure that these patients meet the requirements for medical necessity by reviewing your documents, obtaining documents from facilities, conducting assessments of repetitive patients, implementing internal procedures and processes, etc.

For those of you in states already under Prior Authorization for repetitive non-emergencies, there is no impact.  Your program continues.

Novitas – Denials

This advisory is for members who have Novitas as their Medicare Administrative Contractor. On August 17, 2016, Novitas called me to let me know that they are seeing many ambulance claims denied due solely to the diagnosis codes that are listed on claims. Novitas requires a minimum of two ICD-10 codes, as follows: A primary diagnosis…

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Prior Authorization Pilot Program – Status Update

CMS released preliminary data on the impact of the prior authorization demonstration program on Medicare payments for ambulance services.  This data is limited to the three states (NJ, PA, and SC) that were included in the demonstration program’s first year. CMS noted that it has observed a dramatic decrease in expenditures for repetitive non-emergency ambulance…

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Medicaid Waivers to End Coverage of Non-Emergency Transportation

By David M. Werfel, Esq | AAA Medicare Consultant
Updated February 16, 2016

Federal law requires that state Medicaid programs cover necessary transportation to and from health care providers in order to ensure access to care. However, as a result of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and cost increases, recently, a few states have asked CMS to waive the requirement for non-emergency transportation so they can end coverage of non-emergency transportation.

CMS granted waivers to Iowa and Indiana. Pennsylvania received permission, but the subsequent change in the governor’s office altered the state’s expansion plans and state officials ultimately chose not to use it. Arizona has a pending request to provide prior authorization.

When Iowa was granted the waiver, a beneficiary survey was conducted to determine the impact on access to care. The survey found some beneficiaries with incomes under the poverty level did not have transportation to or from a healthcare visit. Other beneficiaries said a lack of transportation could prevent them from getting a physical exam in the coming year. However, CMS stated the cases of negative impact were not statistically significant enough to discontinue the waiver.

As a result of the complaints, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Frank Pallone, (D-NJ) asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the impact of these waivers. The report is not expected in the near future. However, when issued, it could embolden other states to seek a waiver.

CMS Announces 2016 Inflation Factor

The Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) has officially announced that the inflation factor for payments under the Medicare ambulance fee schedule for 2016 will be negative .4% (-0.4%). As part of the Affordable Care Act, a productivity adjustment has been part of the calculation for the last several years which for 2016 has…

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Summary of CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum of November 5, 2015

By David M. Werfel, Esq. | Updated November 6, 2015 On November 5, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted its latest Ambulance Open Door Forum.  As usual, CMS started with announcements, which were as follows: As required under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (HR 2), the pilot program for…

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Redeterminations/Reconsiderations: Scope of Review Limited

CMS published MLN Matters article number SE1521, which states: “For redeterminations and reconsiderations of claims denied following a post-payment review or audit, CMS has instructed MACs and QICs to limit their review to the reason(s) the claim or line item at issue was initially denied.” What this means is that if you have an audit…

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Ambulance Open Door Forum, April 22, H.R. 2

CMS held its latest Ambulance Open Door Forum on April 22. It started with the following two announcements:

– H.R. 2 was signed into law extending the temporary ambulance adjustments through December 31, 2017. The adjustments are 2% (urban pick-ups), 3% (rural) and 22.6% (super rural).

– For free standing facilities, use the “P” modifier if the facility is not part of the hospital and use “H” if it is hospital-based.
Following these announcements, there was a Question and Answer period. Most of the questions were not answered on the call and the caller was asked to submit their questions to CMS, or was told to ask their Medicare Administrative Contractor or was told to appeal the denied claim referenced in their question. A few were answered, as follows:

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Prior Authorization Issues – South Carolina

Based on implementation issues involving the Prior Authorization program for repetitive patients inSouth Carolina, Brian and I had a conference call with representatives of CMS and Palmetto on Friday January 9, 2015. Three main issues were discussed, as follows:

1. Legal Representative Payee – There was confusion concerning repetitive patients that had a Legal Representative Payee. These are patients who can not conduct their own affairs and have a form on file at the Social Security Administration for someone else to be their legal representative. When ambulance companies submitted for Prior Authorization for these patients, they were told thePrior Authorization did not apply for the patient. Palmetto posted their policy for these patients on their web site.

Unfortunately, you will not know right away which patients have a legal representative payee. Most likely you will not know until you receive a rejection of the Prior Authorization request. Therefore, until you have been told a repetitive patient has a legal representative payee, file with Palmetto for the priorauthorization.

Once you are told the patient has a legal representative payee, then submit claims, just as you would for non-repetitive patients, i.e. do not continue to try to obtain prior approval or a Unique Transaction Number (UTN).

We have asked Palmetto if there is a database that you can access before going through the priorauthorization process. So far, there is not, but they are checking on this issue.

FYI, this was a policy instituted by CMS for the Prior Authorization process based on other programs (not ambulance) they have in place.

2. Incorrect Edit for Non-Repetitive Patients – On Wednesday, January 7th, we advised Palmetto that claims for non-repetitive patients were either being denied or that they needed further development as there is a systems edit that is pulling patients who had multiple transports over a period of time, but are not supposed to be in this Prior Authorization program. For example, a patient who has had four hospital discharges following illnesses for a fracture, a CVA, pneumonia and surgery, is not “repetitive”, for Prior Authorization purposes. On the conference call on Friday, Palmetto and CMS agreed with our assessment of the situation. They indicated that not only has the cause of the problem been identified, but they believe that it will be fixed in approximately one week. They are testing it now. They are looking at January 19 as the date for the “fix” to be implemented.

They have located 485 claims in this status that are currently “suspended”. When the “fix” is implemented, they will release these claims for processing, i.e. those providers should not resubmit the claims as Palmetto will do it automatically. Claims for these non-repetitive patients that have already been rejected should be resubmitted.

NOTE: Novitas is having the same problem. They sent out a notice to providers in their jurisdiction advising them they are aware of the problem. We assume that the same “fix” will be tried by Novitas.

3. Common Errors – We asked Palmetto if they could come up with a list of the common errors being made by ambulance companies. Following the conference call, they provided us with the list below. Providers in South Carolina (as well as in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, even though NJ and PA submit to Novitas) should review the list to ensure you are not making these mistakes:

– The PCS submitted does not have a valid signature date.

– The date of the signature is post- dated, perhaps to match a future date the patient will be starting.

– The signature on the PCS is not identifiable. The name of the physician must be identifiable. This does not mean the signature itself must be legible, it means that Palmetto has to be able to read the name of the physician that signed the PCS.

– The PCS has been amended (e.g. to print or type the name of the physician) without any notation by the amending individual. Any amendments/additional information should be clearly signed or initialed and dated by the person making the change or note.

– Submission of contradictory documentation. For instance, the PCS may support the transport, but the supporting documentation from the certifying physician does not.

– If the Prior Authorization is approved, the UTN is not entered into the appropriate field or submitted at all.

– For claims that are non-emergent, non-repetitive, providers are listing something (e.g. “N/A” or “not a PA” or “non-repetitive”) in the UTN field. For these non-repetitive patients, do not put anything the UTN field. The edit for the prior authorization is hard coded. Therefore, if their computer finds anything in this field, for patients who do not have prior authorization, the claim will reject.

Palmetto indicated that they will have a conference call with ambulance providers to discuss “hot issues”, including those above. At this time, they are looking to have that conference call on January 19th, although that is subject to change. For those affected, check the Palmetto web site and otherwise look for the notice for this conference call.

Finally, implementing a program of this nature is always going to have some start-up problems. Now that the two issues noted in #1 and #2 above have been identified and are about to be resolved, the remaining problems, such as those noted in #3 above, are mostly left up to the providers to understand what is needed, where the information is to be listed, etc. Once that is understood, the process will work smoothly as it did for many years in Ohio, when Palmetto and its predecessor used a prior authorization process for ambulance transports of non-emergency dialysis patients.

Of course, there will always be those situations where you believe medical necessity is met, but Palmetto does not agree. In those situations you will have to decide if more information is needed, whether you agree with Palmetto and the patient can be transported via wheelchair van, whether you need to advise the patient/facility accordingly, whether to accept the denial or whether to appeal.