(March 2, 2012): Likely recognizing the enormous disparity in Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing workloads for its various Field Offices, the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) recently switched to a Central Docketing System for all pending and new appeals. Under this new system, all ALJ hearing requests will be sent to OMHA’s Central Office in Cleveland, OH. Each ALJ appeal will subsequently be assigned to one of the Field Offices – Irvine, CA, Miami, FL or Arlington, VA – or to ALJs in the Central Office. Despite assigning appeals to different offices, OMHA is not breaking these appeals into their component parts – individual claims – so “big box” cases will still be handled during one ALJ hearing.
While each appeal will likely be assigned to an office randomly, OMHA will likely base these assignments on current workloads at each of its offices. Therefore, a provider in Texas, Oklahoma or Louisiana, who would previously have always gone before an ALJ in the Miami Field Office, may end up at an ALJ hearing in any of OMHA’s four offices. While this may be disconcerting at first, the typical ALJ hearing is conducted by phone or video-teleconference nowadays, meaning that the ALJ’s location doesn’t substantially affect how a case is handled. While it may be more difficult to ascertain the procedural habits of a single ALJ (such as in what order to present information or how formal each ALJ hearing session is), an experienced health lawyer will still be able to ably represent your interests since appeals and hearings are generally handled in the same fashion,
In any event, regardless of whether the assigned ALJ is in Cleveland, OH, Arlington, VA, or in one of the other Field Offices, you should seriously consider retaining qualified legal counsel. In recent years, representatives of the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) and / or the Qualified Independent Contractor (QIC) are frequently choosing to participate in ALJ hearings, arguing why the claims at issue should not be paid (and effectively supporting the results of their earlier ZPIC audit). Although the proceeding is technically “non-adversarial,” ALJ hearings can become quite contentious. An experienced lawyer can assist you in understanding the process so that you may more effectively present your arguments in support of payment. As new rules and administrative guidance comes out regarding the Medicare post-payment audit appeals process, check back with us for more information.
Liles Parker is a full service health law firm with several offices around the country. Representing providers in all stages of Medicare post-payment appeals, including ALJ hearings, our attorneys are well-versed in the administrative appeals process and capable of aggressively handling your case. In addition, we conduct compliance program advising and implementation, as well as mock audits, staff training and health care business transactions. Please call Robert W. Liles at 1 (800) 475-1906 for a complimentary consultation today.