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Liles Parker Partner, Michael Cook, Named as an American Health Lawyers Association Fellow (AHLA)

April 19, 2019 by  
Filed under Firm News

WASHINGTON, DC (APRIL 18, 2019) — Liles Parker is pleased to announce that firm Partner and Health Care Group co-chair, Michael Cook, has been named a AHLA fellow with the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA). The AHLA is the largest and most prominent national association of attorneys who specialize in health care. The Fellows program was established to recognize lifelong leaders of the Association. The AHLA website describes the program as follows:

“Only a small percentage of AHLA’s nearly 14,000 members are selected for Fellowship. This honor recognizes their career-long achievements, their contributions and tenure with AHLA, and their continuing leadership in the legal profession…AHLA Fellows share certain key characteristics that defies them as leaders: their continued participation in AHLA initiatives and their respected leadership in the larger health law community.” https://www.healthlawyers.org/About/Leadership/Fellows/Pages/default.aspx#AccordionPane1

About Michael Cook:

AHLA FellowMichael has more than 38 years’ experience representing health clients of all kinds in regulatory, reimbursement, fraud and abuse, compliance, and public policy matters, with a strong emphasis on post-acute providers. At the beginning of his career, Michael also was an attorney with the Office of General Counsel at the United States Department of Health and Human Services where he represented the federal regulators of the Medicare and Medicaid programs on matters of the highest level. In addition to his health care practice, Michael serves as a strategic health care advisor to a start-up company that has developed a health care related product to protect seniors from fractured hips. He was appointed by Governor McAuliffe to serve on the Board of the Department of Medical Assistance Services that advises Virginia’s Medicaid program, has served as a health care advisor to a number of candidates for state and national office, and recently received the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who. He frequently lectures on topics of interest to health care providers and earlier this year presented on the topic of “Internal Investigations” for health care companies at the 2018 American Health Lawyers Association conference on Medicare and Medicaid Payment Issues. Michael adds this honor as fellow to his many other accolades. You can read Michael’s complete bio here

About Liles Parker, PLLC:

Liles Parker is a DC-based Law Firm Primarily Representing Health Care Providers and Suppliers Nationwide in Medicare, Medicaid and Private Payor Audits, Investigations & Revocation Actions. Our team includes Attorneys who are Former Federal Prosecutors, Certified Billers as well as Coders, and Compliance Officers. For additional information about Liles Parker, please see www.lilesparker.com

About AHLA Fellowship:

AHLA Fellows are ambassadors for the association and serve as role models and mentors to current AHLA members.

Fellows include past AHLA presidents, former members of the Board of Directors, former members of practice group and program planning committees, and others who have been very active within the Association. While representing a wide range of professional backgrounds, experience, and expertise, AHLA Fellows share certain key characteristics that defines them as leaders: their continued participation in AHLA initiatives and their respected leadership in the larger health law legal community.

Home Health Agency Alert: The Review Choice Demonstration Project is Moving Forward in Illinois Effective June 1, 2019

April 9, 2019 by  
Filed under Home Health & Hospice

Review Choice Demonstration Project in Illinois(April 9, 2019): This article updates our article of February 19 on the lifting by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) of the moratorium on the enrollment of new home health agencies in Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Texas, and the announcement by CMS of the implementation of a new five year “Review Choice Demonstration Project” in three of those four states (Florida, Illinois, and Texas) as well as Ohio and North Carolina (with a possible extension to other states within the Palmetto/JM jurisdiction).

At the time of that article, CMS had announced that the project would begin in Illinois, with implementation in the other four states in the near future thereafter.  However, CMS had not specified a “start date” for Illinois because it was awaiting approval by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) at that time.  CMS has now received that approval and has announced implementation in Illinois to begin on June 1, 2019.  All episodes of care beginning on or after that date during the period of the demonstration will be subject to the requirements of the project.

I.  Background of the Review Choice Demonstration Project:

As background, under the Review Choice Demonstration Project, home health agencies in the affected states will initially select from three options to have their claims reviewed:

  • Pre-claim review
  • Post-payment review, or
  • Minimal post-payment review with a 25% reduction.

After each six-month period, agencies with a 90% affirmation or approval rate under one of the first two options, above, will also be able to choose between two additional options.  Each of these options is described in our February 19 article.

II.  Illinois Home Health Agencies are Under the Microscope:

Home health agencies located in Illinois must choose and register for one of the three options, above, between the dates of April 17 and May 16 on a portal established by Palmetto GBA.  Any agency that fails to make a choice during that period will be assigned to the third option and will not be able to change that option during the entire five-year period, and thus will receive a 25% payment reduction during this entire time.

As discussed in our February 19 article, the Review Choice Demonstration is an outgrowth of the Pre-claim Review Demonstration for Home Health Services that had been initially implemented in Illinois and then “paused” and never “restarted.”  However, Illinois agencies that had met the 90% full provisional affirmation rate under that project (based on a minimal 10 request submission between August 2016 and March 2017) will be permitted to begin the Review Choice Demonstration by selecting from any of the options including the additional ones available to agencies with a 90% affirmation or approval rate during a 6-month period.

CMS has established links to both the Palmetto GBA portal described, above, and to an operational guide and Special Open Door Forum Presentation that describes the program at https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/Medicare-FFS-Compliance-Programs/Review-Choice-Demonstration/Review-Choice-Demonstration-for-Home-Health-Services.html.

III.  Is Your Home Health Agency Ready for an Audit?

Our earlier article goes into greater depth in describing the various options.  That article also emphasizes the critical nature of the choice that each agency makes in selecting an option.

Each of the options presents a separate set of risks and benefits as opposed to the others – the one exception being that the third option of a 25% payment denial does not appear to be a viable one for any agency.  Our earlier article also sets out several examples of these risks.  We thus recommend that every agency take the necessary time to consult with knowledgeable individuals, both internal and external, in making this selection during each 6-month period.

Additionally, as stated in that article, we cannot recommend strongly enough that agencies in the affected states have procedures in place to properly document coverage for all the cases that they handle, and also a process to prepare and move documentation through the system quickly and comprehensively.  They also should be updating their compliance and quality assurance programs to respond to these changes.

Liles Parker attorneys have substantial experience working with home health agencies in preparing them for the audit process which is similar to the processes that they will need to follow in responding to the Review Choice Demonstration Project, and in identifying the risks of choosing one option in relation to the others.  A number of our attorneys are also certified coders who have substantial experience in developing a format to justify coverage.  Finally, we have substantial experience working with agencies in developing and updating their compliance plans.

Healthcare LawyerAny person wishing a free consultation in the area should contact Michael Cook, the author and Co-chair of our Health Care Group. Michael can be reached at (202) 298-8750 or mcook@lilesparker.com

Michael Cook Speaking at the American Health Lawyers Association Institute

March 18, 2019 by  
Filed under Firm News

Michael Cook will be speaking at the American Health Lawyers Association Institute on Medicare and Medicaid Payment Issues in Baltimore, Maryland on Thursday, March 20 – March 22.

Michael will be speaking on Thursday, March 21 on the topic of “Internal Investigations and Multiple Party Representation.” 

CMS has Ended its Moratorium on New Home Health Agencies in Texas, Illinois, Michigan and Florida. Unfortunately, the Lifting of the Moratorium Isn’t Necessarily a Good Thing for Existing Home Health Agencies.

February 19, 2019 by  
Filed under Home Health & Hospice

Review Choice Demonstration Project(February 19, 2019):  CMS has now ended, at least for the current time, the moratorium that it placed on the approval of new home health agencies.  At the same time, home health providers that operate in Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Texas, and potentially other states within the Palmetto/JM jurisdiction (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee) face the likelihood that a revised pre-payment demonstration model will be implemented in the near future.

I.  Lifting of the Moratorium:

Effective January 30, 2019, CMS has officially ended the “temporary” moratorium on new home health agencies, sub-units and branch locations (collectively referred to as “HHAs,” “home health agencies,” or “agencies”) in Illinois, Michigan, Texas and Florida.[1]  This means that there is no longer in effect a federal prohibition on enrolling new home health agencies in the Medicare program in these or any other states, and that agencies in these states that wish to enroll in Medicare can now begin the process of doing so.

II.  Background of the Home Health Agency Moratorium:

CMS initially imposed a temporary moratorium to prevent the enrollment of new home health agencies in Miami-Dade County, Florida and Cook County, Illinois and surrounding counties in 2013.  CMS then extended the existing moratoria and expanded them to cover Broward County, Florida, Dallas and Harris Counties, Texas, Wayne County, Michigan and surrounding counties.  Finally, in August 2016, CMS extended and expanded the moratoria on new HHA’s to Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Texas, and further extended those moratoria through January 2019.  CMS has justified the imposition of the moratoria and selection of the geographic areas based on its view that those areas were especially at high risk for fraud, waste, and abuse.  Finally, CMS lifted the moratorium on home health agencies in these states effective January 30.

III.  What is the Anticipated Impact of Lifting the Moratorium?

As noted, above, this means that providers that wish to enroll new home health agencies in Medicare in these states may now begin that process.  However, experience has demonstrated that CMS is not reticent to take these, and other, actions when the agency believes that there is a high risk of fraud and abuse in particular localities.  Additionally, federal law and regulations require states to impose temporary moratoria on enrollment in the Medicaid and CHIP programs except in certain circumstances in areas and over time periods where Medicare takes these actions.  Finally, this relief affects only CMS approval.  It does not eliminate the need to check and comply with any restrictions that state or local governments may place on the establishment of new agencies.  Thus, as always, we continue to recommend to all home health agency providers that they establish and maintain strong compliance programs to alleviate the perceived need of moratoria in the future, and also to minimize the likelihood that their agencies will be the subject of investigation or sanctions.

IV.  CMS’s Review Choice Demonstration Project:

CMS’s Review Choice Demonstration Project is an outgrowth of the what was called the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration Project.  In August 2016, CMS initiated the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration Project for Illinois home health agencies under which these agencies were required to submit all of their Medicare claims and documentation for a pre-claim review prior to submitting them for payment.  It was only after the claim was “affirmed” that the agency could submit it for payment.

Initially, according to CMS, there was a wide variation of affirmation rates among agencies.  However, according to CMS, by the end of the first six-month period, agencies had on the average much higher affirmation rates.  The demonstration project was paused in April 2017 and has not been re-instituted or expanded past Illinois.

In light of the various problems encountered when implementing the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration Project, CMS has chosen not to re-initiate the program.  Instead, CMS revised its approach and announced that a new initiative, the Review Choice Demonstration Project was being implemented.  Once it goes “live” in a state, the Review Choice Demonstration Project will be in effect for five years.  As noted above, the Review Choice Demonstration Project is scheduled to cover services provided in Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas, with the option to expand it to other states under Palmetto’s jurisdiction.

The Review Choice Demonstration Project was initially scheduled to be implemented in December in Illinois, with a rollout in other states to follow with a 60-day advance notice. However, the Illinois rollout has been delayed awaiting approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act, after which the agency will announce the start date for the demonstration in Illinois.

Under the Review Choice Demonstration Project, agencies will have their choice of three options for the first six-month period: (1) 100% Pre-Claim Review; (2) 100% Post-Payment Review; or (3) Minimal review with an automatic 25% payment reduction.

V.  Initial Options Under the Review Choice Demonstration Project:

Under the Review Choice Demonstration Project, a home health agency will have the option of choosing among three alternatives with respect to how its claims will be handled.  These three alternatives include the following:

  • Option #1: 100% Pre-claim Review

Under the first option, a home health agency will submit the pre-claim with all relevant documentation.  If the pre-claim receives an affirmation notice, the agency can submit the claim and will receive full payment, and absent evidence of possible fraud or gaming, the claim will not be subject to post-payment review by the MAC, RAC or Supplemental Medical Review Contractor.  If a pre-claim receives a non-affirmative decision, it can be submitted again for pre-claim review with additional documentation or explanation. If a claim is submitted with a non-affirmative pre-claim decision, it will be denied with full appeal rights.   Claims submitted without receiving a pre-claim determination will be subject to prepayment review and even if determined to be payable, will be subject to a 25% reduction in payment rate.

After six months, the agency will have its affirmation rate calculated.  If it has submitted at least 10 claims and if it obtains at least a 90 % affirmation rate, the agency will be allowed to continue in this option or to choose between two other options, described, below.  If the agency’s affirmation rate for the six-month period was lower than 90% or it did not submit 10 claims during that period, it must choose between one of the three initial options.

  • Option #2: 100% Post-Payment Review

Under this option, the agency will be paid in the normal course, but will have all of its claims during a six-month period undergo complex medical review.  Subsequent to the review, the MAC will recover for any claims that it has paid during this period that it finds not to meet Medicare requirements, and the agency may appeal the decision through the normal appeals process.  If the agency has obtained at least a 90% approval rate during the six-month period, it will be able to choose either option one or one of the additional two options discussed, below.  Otherwise, it will have the option of choosing one of the initial three options for the next six-month period.

  • Option #3: Minimal Review with 25% Payment Reduction

An agency that chooses this option will have its claims reviewed under the normal process, but the payment amount will have an automatic 25% reduction.  Claims will not be subject to post-payment MAC reviews but will be subject to RAC and UPIC review under the normal review process, and any denied claims will be subject to the normal appeal process.  The 25% reduction in payment amount, however, is neither transferable to the beneficiary nor subject to appeal.  Any agency that chooses this option will not be able to change options for later periods and will remain under this option for the entire five-year “demonstration.”

VI.  Subsequent Options Under the Review Choice Demonstration Project:

An agency that has selected either Option 1 or 2, above and that has an affirmation rate of at least 90% in the prior six-month period may choose either Option 1, above – 100% Prepayment Review, or one of the two options, below – Options 4 (selective post-payment review) or 5 (spot check review).

  • Option #4: Selective Post-Payment Review

Under Option #4, the agency will be paid under normal claim processing procedures.  However, the MAC will select “a statistically valid random sample” every six months for complex review.  An agency selecting this option at any time will not be able to change options at a later point in time.

  • Option #5: Spot-Check Review

Under Option #5, the MAC will select 5% of claims to be subject to pre-payment review every six months.  The agency is able to remain in this option for the remainder of the demonstration provided that “the spot check shows that the agency is compliant with Medicare coverage rules and policy.”  If the agency fails to meet that standard, it will then be required to choose between the first three options for the next six-month period.

VII.   Recommendations:

For those agencies in one of the states selected for the demonstration, the selection of an option – whether initial or subsequent – will require some thought and analysis.  For example, Option 1 could well affect agency’s cash flow depending upon its ability to submit quickly the necessary documentation in a manner that clearly demonstrates coverage.  While CMS has suggested that the MAC will make every effort to review and make pre-claim determinations within 10 days of the first submission and within 20 days of subsequent submissions for the same claims, the continued ability of the MAC to meet these time frames will also have an impact upon cash flow.

In contrast, Option #2 will subject the agency to complex review of every claim that it submits and as those agencies that have been through the appeals process understand, the backlog of appeals has caused a substantial delay in resolution no matter how worthy the appeal on its merits.  Thus, unlike the pre-claim review process, the agency may not have the opportunity to correct its documentation and correct errors for a substantial period.

Option #3 guarantees a 25% payment reduction for all claims, while Option #4 will result in the selection of what the government may argue is a statistically valid random sample for purposes of any subsequent denials.

Under these circumstances, several things are clear.  Now more than ever, agencies in these states must have procedures in place to properly document coverage for all cases that they handle, and also a form and process to be able to support coverage and simplify the process for the MAC to come to that determination quickly and without the need for appeal or multiple submissions, depending upon the option chosen.

Liles Parker attorneys have substantial experience in working with agencies in the enrollment process for Medicare certification.  Additionally, a number of our attorneys are also certified coders and have substantial experience in developing a format to justify coverage of claims.

Michael Cook Healthcare AttorneyAny person wishing a free consultation in either area should contact the author and Co-chair of our Health Care Group, Michael Cook.  Michael can be reached at (202) 298-8750 or mcook@lilesparker.com.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/MedicareProviderSupEnroll/ProviderEnrollmentMoratorium.html

Michael Cook on “The Future of the Medicaid Program in Long Term Care”

February 11, 2019 by  
Filed under Firm News

Healthcare LawyerOn February 28, Michael Cook will moderating and participating on a panel comprised of the Medicaid Directors of Washington State and Arizona and the Deputy Director for Medicaid Policy in Virginia on “The Future of the Medicaid Program in Long Term Care” as part of a three day conference by the American Health Lawyers Association on Long Term Care and the Law at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona from February 27 – March 1. The panel of senior Medicaid officials will discuss how various states are implementing post-acute care today and also some of the innovations and changes that we expect in the future of Medicaid for assisted living, home health, community based services, and nursing facilities, as well as supportive housing, managed care, and the impact of social determinants on the program.

Michael Cook Moderating a panel of State Medicaid Directors and Deputies

December 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Firm News

Michael Cook will be moderating a panel of State Medicaid Directors and Deputies on “The Future of the Medicaid Program in Long Term Care – A Panel of State Government Experts” at the American Health Lawyers Symposium on Long Term Care.  The Symposium will be held in Phoenix, Arizona from February 27 – March 1, 2019, and in addition to Michael, the panel will include the Directors of the Medicaid program from Virginia, Washington state and Arizona.

My Weekend Volunteering at the Wise County Free Clinic

August 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Firm News

On the weekend of July 20 – 22, I joined a number of people from the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (“DMAS”) in traveling to Wise County Virginia to volunteer for the annual free clinic that is offered in that County.  Our group was led by the Director of DMAS, Jennifer Lee, MD, who is trained as and ER physician.  As background, DMAS is the State agency that administers the Medicaid program in Virginia, and I was appointed several years ago by Governor McAuliffe to the Board that advises DMAS.

The Wise County free clinic offers a once a year opportunity for people in Wise and surrounding counties and states to obtain free medical, dental, vision care, PT and radiology, as well as to receive free food and clothing.  The clinic is held outside in a Fair Ground, although certain dental services, such as dentures, were provided at another proximate offsite location, and resembles what I would imagine a MASH unit, to look like.

A significant number of dentists and dental students and medical and medical students were perhaps the most important volunteers.  In the past, Ralph Northam, Virginia’s current Governor and a pediatric neurologist, has also volunteered and this year visited clinic.  The remainder of us volunteered in such capacities as “runners” – individuals who make sure that patients are appropriately moved through the process and also to assist in delivering the free food to patients who are awaiting services and do not wish to lose their place in the cue, staff to make corrective lenses and fit them into optical frames that are offered on that date, preparation and delivery of snack and meals to people at the clinic and volunteers, and frankly, anything else that the clinic needs.

As a volunteer, I had the opportunity, not only to assist, but also to meet a number of people who were having multiple dental and medical needs attended.  These people by and large had many needs but also a stoicism and gratitude for the assistance that they were receiving that was both heart-warming and tragic.  I cannot tell you the number of people who I escorted to the dental tent who were facing the need to extract all of their remaining teeth.  It is a tragedy that a country such as ours should never allow to occur.

There is also silver lining here.  The Virginia legislature recently voted to expand the Medicaid program effective January 1, 2019.  Virginia’s Medicaid program does not cover adult dental care, and many medical needs are related to the lack of adequate dental care.  However, there is hope that the expansion will enable a number of folks who have needed to rely on the Wise County free clinic, and thus avoid waiting at least a year (and sometimes many years since the clinic cannot serve everyone who presents), to receive medical care on a regular basis throughout the year.

The importance of the expansion to these folks is best demonstrated by the fact that as part of service that weekend, the DMAS contingent also offered outreach to alert the attendees of the advent of the expansion on January 1.  The receptiveness of the patients can only be described as overwhelming.

I was privileged to join a group of committed individuals from DMAS who gave up their weekend and traveled at their own expense to assist.  I was even more privileged to be able participate and assist in the delivery of care to so many needy folks.  I can only hope that at some point in my life time, this becomes obsolete and that routine medical and dental care becomes accessible for everyone.

Healthcare AttorneyMichael Cook is a Partner and Co-chair of the Health Care Group at Liles Parker PLLC.  Mr. Cook has extensive experience in representing providers and suppliers of all types, including home and personal, and home health, agencies in regulatory, compliance, policy, and business matters throughout the country.  Mr. Cook also serves on the Board of the agency that advises Virginia’s Medicaid program. Anyone interested in discussing the material presented in this article should contact Michael Cook at 202-298-8750 or mcook@lilesparker.com

CMS has Confirmed the Coverage of Personal Care Services by Medicare Advantage Plans Starting 2019

Personal Care / Home Care Services will be Covered by Medicare Advantage in 2019.(June 26, 2018):  The coverage of personal care services by Medicare has been advocated by advocacy groups for many years.  As we reported last April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in its Final Call Letter for bids from plans that participate in the Medicare Advantage program (MA) for 2019.  In that Bid Letter, CMS announced that MA plans would be permitted to cover as supplemental benefits, certain types of health-related services even if the primary purpose of those services is daily maintenance.  Previously, CMS had considered an item or service to be primarily health related “…if the primary purpose of the service is to prevent, cure or diminish an illness or injury,” but not if the primary purpose is simply daily maintenance. As I noted in that article, that will change beginning in 2019.

 

I.  CMS Has Confirmed the Coverage of Personal Care Services by Medicare Advantage Plans in 2019:

At the time that I wrote that article, we posited that it was likely, but not made clear, that plans would be able to cover personal care services under the revised standards for supplemental benefits.  However, that appears to have now been confirmed that the new definition covers these services. In a speech that she made in May of this year at a conference presented at CMS Headquarters, Seema Verma, the Administrator of CMS stated:

For the first time ever, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can access significant new flexibility for additional benefits that can help them live healthier, more independent lives. [MA] plans can offer benefits [beginning in 2019] that compensate for physical impairments, diminish the impact of injuries or health conditions, or reduced avoidable emergency room utilization.  This means Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will be provided adult day care services, respite care for caregivers, and in-home assistance with activities like bathing and managing medications.  Additionally, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will have access to safety devices to better prevent injury in the home ….”[1]

Also at the conference, two CMS employees made a presentation the slide deck for which listed as examples of supplemental benefits that plans will now be able to cover in 2019, “Adult Day Care Services, Home-Based Palliative Care, In-Home Support Services, Transportation for Non-Emergent Medical Services, and Home & Bathroom Safety Devices and Modifications.”  That same slide deck describes the type of In-Home Support Services that MA plans will be able to cover as:

In-home support services performed by a personal care attendant or by another individual that is providing these services consistent with state requirements in order to assist individuals with disabilities and/or medical conditions with performing ADLs and IADLs as necessary to compensate for physical impairments, ameliorate the functional/psychological impact of or health conditions, or reduce avoidable emergency and healthcare utilization.  Services must be performed by individuals licensed by the state to provide personal care services, or in a manner that is otherwise consistent with state requirements.[2]

Thus, it is clear that MA plans will now be authorized to cover personal care services in the home beginning in January 2019, if they so choose.  The slide show presentation also specifies as requirements that the services: (a) must be medically appropriate; (b) must focus directly on an enrollee’s health care needs; (c) must be recommended by a physician or licensed medical professional as part of a care plan if not directly provided by one; must not be used primarily for comfort, general use, or other non-medical reasons; and (d) must not include items or services used to induce enrollment.[3]

II. NEXT STEPS FOR YOUR AGENCY:

Agencies and other providers that wish to provide these services to plan beneficiaries in 2019 should already have been speaking with the appropriate people at the MA plans that provide coverage in their service areas about covering these services in 2019, and should be speaking with the plans regarding their interest and requirements for becoming participating providers of these services.  If the plans are not covering these services in 2019, these agencies should be developing and presenting data that demonstrate cost-effectiveness of these programs, e.g.in preventing or reducing ER and hospital utilization, in order to convince the plans to cover these services in 2020 and thereafter.

Additionally, as I pointed out in our April article on the topic, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expands even further the supplemental benefits that MA plans may provide in 2020 and thereafter, to cover services that address certain social determinants that we now are discovering to be related to health.  Agencies should be tracking the progress of implementation of this provision as CMS begins to provide additional guidance on implementation, and also should begin speaking with their MA plans and developing data that support coverage of certain of these services that they wish to provide.

Finally, MA plans will expect providers of home and personal care that wish to be participating providers to have developed and implemented an effective compliance plan.  This will be especially critical given some of the compliance issues that have arisen in the past, of which they almost certainly will be aware.  In this regard, MA plans will almost certainly require that providers have a system for tracking their aides, which will also be required under state Medicaid programs in the future.

III. CONCLUSION:

This article should be read in conjunction with the April article which goes into a bit more depth on the issues in the prior section.  CMS has now confirmed that MA plans will be afforded the opportunity to cover home and personal care services beginning in 2019.  Michael Cook and other Liles Parker attorneys have extensive experience in assisting clients throughout the health care industry, including home and personal care and home health agencies, in responding to new government and payor initiatives, and in establishing and maintaining an effective compliance program.  Anyone seeking a copy of either the speech by Seema Verma or the slide deck should contact Michael at the contact information provided, below.

Michael Cook is a Partner and Co-chair of the Health Care Group at Liles Parker PLLC.  Mr. Cook has extensive experience in representing providers and suppliers of all types, including home and personal, and home health, agencies in regulatory, compliance, policy, and business matters throughout the country.  Mr. Cook also serves on the Board of the agency that advises Virginia’s Medicaid program. Anyone interested in discussing the material presented in this article should contact Michael Cook at 202-298-8750 or mcook@lilesparker.com.  

[1] Speech: Remarks by Administrator Seema Verma at the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Spring Conference (As prepared for delivery – May 9, 2018).

[2] Slide deck, Medicare Advantage Benefit Flexibility (Supplemental Benefits and Uniformity) presented by Heather Kilbourne, Division of Policy, Analysis, and Planning, Medicare Drug and Health Plan Contract Administration Group, Center for Medicare, CMS and Brandy Alston, Division of Policy, Analysis, and Planning, Medicare Drug and Health Plan Contract Administration Group, Center for Medicare, CMS.

[3] Id.  These requirements should not present a burden to home care agencies that participate in Medicaid given that many, if not all, states place similar requirements on personal or home care providers under that program.

Medicare Advantage Plans May Soon Offer Personal Care Services

Personal Care

(April 10, 2018):  On April 2, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an expansion of the benefits that private health plans may offer Medicare beneficiaries under the Medicare Advantage (MA) program in 2019.  In its Final Call Letter for bids from plans that participate in the MA program (“MA plans”) for 2019, CMS expanded the services that plans would be permitted to offer in 2019 as supplemental health related benefits, even if the primary purpose of those benefits includes daily maintenance.  While these benefits are not required to be included in MA plans, plans are provided the latitude to include them if they choose and may very well change the reimbursement landscape for personal care agencies around the country.

I.  Background:

As background, MA Plans are permitted to offer certain benefits that are not included as part of the Medicare fee for service, or Original Medicare, benefits, if those benefits are, among other things, primarily health related.  As discussed in the Final Call Letter, CMS considers an item or service to be primarily health related “…if the primary purpose of the item or service is to prevent, cure, or diminish an illness or injury.”  However, CMS previously has not considered a service to fit within this category if the primary purpose is daily maintenance.

II.  Expansion of Coverage for Personal Care Services:

In the Final Call Letter, CMS recognizes that there is value in certain services that “diminish the impact of injuries or health related conditions and reduce avoidable emergency and health care utilization.”  The Letter does not specify the benefits that would fall under this rubric, but includes as an example, fall prevention devices for individuals at risk high risk for falling and similar products that protect against injury resulting from falls.  The Letter further states that services that diminish the impact of injuries and health conditions and reduce avoidable utilization can be included as supplemental benefits under certain circumstances, even if a significant purpose of the item is daily maintenance.”

As further described in the Letter, “[u]nder the new interpretation, in order … to be ‘primarily health related’ … [an item] must diagnose, prevent, or treat an illness or injury, compensate for physical impairments, act to ameliorate the functional/psychosocial impact of injuries or health conditions, or reduce avoidable emergency and healthcare utilization.”  The intent is to provide plans with the flexibility to offer supplemental benefits that can enhance quality of life and improve health outcomes.

The service must, however, be medically appropriate, recommended by a licensed provider as part of a plan of care, and cannot include items or services that are solely to induce enrollment.  The Letter also indicates that CMS will be issuing more detailed guidance in the future.

As noted, above, while not entirely clear, it is quite possible that MA plans will be permitted to cover personal care services under the revised standards for supplemental benefits.  Indeed, in a press release issued by CMS announcing a draft of the Bid Letter for comment in early February, CMS described the proposal as allowing supplemental benefits to “include services that increase health and improve quality of life, including coverage of non-skilled in-home supports, portable wheel chair ramps and other assistive devices and modifications when patients need them.” (Emphasis supplied.)  While neither the press release accompanying the Final Bid Letter nor the Letter, itself, includes any language specifically referencing these items, the broader language of the Final Letter can certainly be read to permit plans to offer personal care services under certain circumstances.

III.  What Steps Should Your Personal Care Agency Take?

So what can a provider that wishes to offer these services, including personal care services, as part of an MA plan for 2019, do at this point?  First, providers can be watchful for additional guidance from CMS that should be forthcoming.  Second, they can begin to approach the MA plans that cover a significant number of MA subscribers in their service area to discuss both including these items or services as supplemental benefits in the plans’ upcoming bids to CMS for the 2019 year, and to discuss pricing.   In doing so, providers should be prepared with data or other information demonstrating that offering the service will reduce costs without harming patients.  For example, a provider that wished to offer personal home care services would attempt to prepare a cost benefit analysis showing that home visits reduce the incidence for hospital admissions or admissions to skilled nursing facilities. Additionally, if the MA plan is also a provider of Medicaid managed care services, the provider may also include in the analysis the cost/benefit of lowering admissions to the nursing facility long stay side of the equation.  There are other permutations to the analysis, but the key is to begin discussions with the various plans, and to accumulate data that demonstrate both the short term and long-term cost and health benefits of the particular service.

Providers that wish to take advantage of this opportunity should also note that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expands supplemental benefits for chronically ill enrollees to also encompass benefits that are not primarily health related in certain circumstances beginning in 2020.  This change recognizes the importance of certain social determinants to health status – something that some state Medicaid programs are beginning to recognize as well.  However, this change only affects “chronically ill” beneficiaries and does not begin until 2020, whereas the expanded definition of supplemental benefits in the Bid Letter affects services provided to all MA beneficiaries and begins in 2019.  Additionally, the Final Bid Letter notes that the expanded definition of supplemental benefits in that Letter requires that the benefit address specific illnesses and/or injuries, and reiterates that it will be issuing further guidance on both expansion options in the future.

We would also note that all MA plans are required to have compliance programs in place that meet the seven elements of an effective program.  Under this program, they are also responsible for providing certain training for providers under their programs, as well as for the compliance of those providers.  While Liles Parker attorneys, and in fact, virtually all knowledgeable health care attorneys, have long counseled their clients on the importance of establishing and maintaining effective compliance programs, and while some segments of the industry are required to maintain such programs by law, any entity that wishes to contract with MA plans to provide health care related services almost certainly will be required by the plan to maintain a compliance program.  Thus, any entity that wishes to take advantage of the expanded coverage of services under the Final Bid Letter should be prepared to demonstrate that it has an effective compliance program.

With respect to providers of personal care services, there are a number of areas of vulnerability.  One major such area is ensuring that aides actually perform the services for which a program is billed.  Several years ago, there were a number of investigations and prosecutions where aides were alleged to have colluded with clients to defraud the Medicaid program by failing to provide the service for which the aides were paid, and paying the client a portion of the payments.  There are mechanisms to monitor this type of activity; however, it is a major risk area for home care agencies and should be addressed in any compliance program.

IV.  Conclusion:

In short, the Final Bid Letter for 2019 presents the possibility of expanding the services that certain MA plans will cover, including the possibility of covering personal care services.  However, providers that wish to contract with MA plans for these services should be taking the actions described, above. Liles Parker attorneys have extensive experience in assisting clients throughout the health care industry, including home care and home health, in responding to new government and payor initiatives, including establishing and maintaining an effective compliance program.

Personal CareMichael Cook, J.D., is a Partner at the firm Liles Parker, Attorneys & Counselors at Law.  Mr. Cook represents nursing home, assisted living, home health and personal care clients in regulatory matters.  Anyone interested in discussing the material discussed in this article should feel free to contact Michael Cook at 202-298-8750 or mcook@lilesparker.com.       

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liles Parker Partner, Michael Cook, Receives Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award

February 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Firm News

Healthcare AttorneyLiles Parker is  pleased to announce that our Partner an Co-chair of our Health Care Group, Michael Cook, has been awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who. 

The press release announcing the Award describes Michael as:  “An accomplished listee, [celebrating] many years’ experience in his professional network, and has been noted for his achievements, leadership qualities and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field.”  The full press release announcing the Award can be accessed at:

http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/michael-cook-presented-with-the-albert-nelson-marquis-lifetime-achievement-award-by-marquis-whos-who-449930.php

We congratulate Michael on his receipt of this Award. Michael can be reached at mcook@lilesparker.com or 202-298-8750.

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