(December 4, 2015): The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has directed its contractors to initiate a home health probe and educate program review process with home health agencies around the country. The focus of this program will be to assess agencies’ compliance with the new face-to-face (F2F) documentation requirements that became effective 01/01/15.
CMS has directed its Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to request records for 5 claims from each home health agency within their jurisdiction to review on a pre-payment basis. This review will apply to claims with dates of service beginning on or after 08/01/15. If the MAC denies one out of the five claims under review, it will send an education letter to the agency summarizing its findings and the process will be complete. However, if more than one of the five claims is denied or if the agency fails to submit documentation in response to the request, then the MAC will send a “detailed” findings letter and repeat the review process with another 5 claims with dates of service on or after the date of the findings letter. The purpose of this second review will presumably be to assess the agency’s compliance with the MAC’s previous education efforts.
As part of the post-review education process, CMS has directed the MACs to offer agency-specific education (to include a one-on-one telephone call with contractor medical review staff) regarding the face-to-face requirements.
Although CMS has not explicitly outlined further consequences for agencies with high error rates determined through this “Probe and Educate” program, it is likely that MACs would continue the review process for delinquent agencies, implement more extensive medical review audits on either a pre-payment or post-payment basis, or refer non-compliant agencies to a Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for investigation. In light of this new ongoing review program, home health agencies should:
Continue to obtain supporting F2F documentation on a rolling basis from referring physicians prior to submitting your EOE for the initial certification period. Agencies should not wait until Medicare requests records to obtain F2F documentation from referring physicians.
Promptly comply with the MAC’s request for documentation and ensure that all records submitted are complete and accurate. Records should be submitted via the MAC’s online portal or by some trackable method of delivery with signature confirmation.
Take advantage of the MAC’s offer to conduct one-on-one education with your agency, even if the review findings are largely positive. As all agencies know, the F2F requirement is extraordinarily vague, and agencies should always take advantage of educational opportunities offered by CMS and the contractors.
Contest any and all improper claim denials in the administrative appeals process.
Although the home health probe and educate reviews are, by definition, intended to be educational in nature, they could potentially result in serious consequences for non-compliant agencies. If a MAC has attempted to educate an agency regarding the F2F requirements and a subsequent audit by a MAC or another CMS review contractor determines that the agency has failed to adhere to the previous educational intervention, this could set the stage for an extrapolated overpayment assessment or a payment suspension.
Liles Parker attorneys can assist you with your home health probe and educate obligations. We also represent home health agencies across the country with all matters related to reimbursement, enrollment, compliance, and corporate formation / transactions. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Adam Bird for a free consultation.
Adam Bird is a health law attorney with the firm, Liles Parker, Attorneys & Counselors at Law. Liles Parker has offices in Washington DC, Houston TX, McAllen TX and Baton Rouge LA. Our attorneys represent home health agencies, hospices and other health care professionals around the country in connection with government audits of Medicaid and Medicare claims, licensure matters and transactional projects. Need assistance? For a free consultation, please call: 1 (800) 475-1906.