CMS Releases Final Rule That Increases Difficulty of Medicare Enrollment

Posted by Health Law Informer Author on December 16, 2014
CMP, HHS, Medicaid, Medicare / No Comments

In early December, CMS released a final rule that implements certain provider (i.e., Hospitals, SNFs, physicians, etc.) and supplier (i.e., DME companies, etc.) enrollment requirements  (“Rule”). The goal of CMS’ implementation of the Rule is two-fold: to (i) “[s]trengthen program integrity;” and (ii) “help ensure that fraudulent entities and individuals do not enroll in or maintain their enrollment in the Medicare program.” The new requirements make obtaining and maintaining Medicare billing privileges for providers and suppliers more cumbersome.

For providers or suppliers treating Medicare patients, enrollment in the Medicare program is required in order to obtain Medicare billing privileges. A provider or supplier may enroll electronically using the Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System, known as PECOS, or by submitting a paper CMS enrollment form. CMS provides specific enrollment forms for institutional providers (CMS Form-855A: i.e., hospitals, SNFs); other providers (CMS Form 855-B: i.e., clinics/group practices); and physicians and other practitioners (CMS Form 855-I). Further, under Section 6401(a) of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare providers and suppliers that enrolled prior to March 25, 2011 are required to undergo a revalidation process in order to maintain their Medicare billing privileges, wherein the providers or suppliers essentially complete the applicable Medicare enrollment application as if they are a “new” provider or supplier enrollee. However, new enrollee providers and suppliers that submitted their enrollment applications on or after March 25, 2011 are exempt from this revalidation process. MACs are continuing to send out revalidation “requests” on a regular basis to enrollees until March 23, 2015.

The following selected updates to the provider and supplier enrollment requirements in the Rule parallel the recent trend of the federal government expanding its existing authority (i.e., the proposed rule to expand the OIG of the HHS’ exclusion authority) and cracking down on impermissible practices:

  •  “[a]llowing revocation of Medicare billing privileges if the provider or supplier has a pattern or practice of submitting claims that fail to meet Medicare requirements”;
  •  “expanding the instances in which a felony conviction can serve as a basis for denial or revocation of a provider[’s] or supplier’s enrollment”;
  • “if certain criteria are met, enabling [Medicare] to deny enrollment if the enrolling provider, supplier, or owner thereof had an ownership relationship with a previously enrolled provider or supplier that had a Medicare debt”;  and
  • “enabling [Medicare] to revoke Medicare billing privileges if [Medicare] determine[s] that the provider or supplier has a pattern or practice of submitting claims that fail to meet Medicare requirements.”

In addition, CMS clarified in the Rule that any final decision regarding the revocation of a provider’s or supplier’s Medicare billing privileges would come from the “CMS central office” rather than the provider’s or supplier’s MAC. CMS further explained that the re-enrollment bar does not apply to a provider’s or supplier’s failure to timely respond to a revalidation request or request for other information.

The regulations implementing this Rule will be effective February 3, 2015. For additional information regarding the new provider and supplier enrollment requirements under the Rule, contact Cozen O’Connor’s health law team.

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OIG Releases Proposed Gainsharing Regulation

Posted by Chris Raphaely on December 15, 2014
CMP, HHS, Medicaid, Medicare, OIG / No Comments

In early October, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed rule that included, among other provisions, a proposed gainsharing regulation (“Proposed Rule”), and a specific request for comments on a definition of what it means to “reduce or limit services” under the statutory prohibition against certain “gainsharing” arrangements among hospitals and physicians. The OIG’s goal with this Proposed Rule and subsequent final rule is to “interpret the statutory [gainsharing] prohibition broadly enough to protect beneficiaries and the Federal health care programs, but narrowly enough to allow low risk programs that further the goal of delivering high quality health care at a lower cost.” More specifically, the OIG seeks to implement a “narrower interpretation of the phrase “reduce or limit services.” Industry analysts are touting the final regulation as a potential game changer in the battle to deliver “high quality health care at a lower cost.”

The existing gainsharing civil monetary penalty statute (“Gainsharing CMP”) is a law that broadly “prohibits hospitals and critical access hospitals from knowingly paying a physician to induce the physician to reduce or limit services provided to Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries who are under the physician’s direct care.” Violation of the Gainsharing CMP by a hospital that makes such payment, and a physician that in turn knowingly accepts the payment, results in CMPs that are no greater than $2,000 per each beneficiary for whom such payment is made.

Determining what does and what does not constitute a payment designed to reduce or limit services can be difficult, particularly because, as HHS has taken pains to point out, the statute technically prohibits payments from hospitals to physicians to limit any services, not just medically necessary services. However, as far back as 2005 the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Chief Counsel to the OIG have supported gainsharing when safeguards are in place to evaluate risks posed by such programs, including “measures that promote accountability, adequate quality controls, and controls on payments that may change referral patterns,” and to date, the OIG has approved 16 gainsharing arrangements through the advisory opinion process.

More recently, under Section 3022 of the Affordable Care Act, the secretary of HHS established  waivers under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) with respect to the Gainsharing CMP under certain conditions. These waivers have limited applicability as they apply only to accountable care organizations that participate in the MSSP. The final gainsharing regulations presumably will cover all hospitals and could potentially have a much broader impact upon hospital physician compensation arrangements. Overall, the Proposed Rule and the OIG’s request for comments on what should and should not constitute prohibited payments from hospitals to physicians to reduce or limit services is yet another example of how the regulatory  landscape is changing to adapt to a reimbursement model that is evolving from a fee-for-service dominated model to one in which pay-for-performance will play a much larger role.

The comment period closed under the Proposed Rule in early December, and the final rule is expected in 2015.


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