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We Defend Healthcare Providers Nationwide in Audits & Investigations

Medicaid Dentist Eligibility Audits are Ongoing Around the Country

Medicaid dentist eligibility(January 9, 2017):  A recent report of the New York State agency that administers the Medicaid program by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (OIG) further highlights the importance of ensuring that dentists providing services to Medicaid beneficiaries are properly licensed, enrolled as a Medicaid provider and not excluded from program participation.  As the number of Medicaid dental audits continues to rise, it is essential that your dental practice take a number of steps to better ensure that your dentists and allied dental professionals meet a number of basic eligibility requirements.

 

I. Has Your Dental Practice Implemented a Compliance Program?

As an initial step, every dental practice participating in the Medicaid program must develop and implement an effective Compliance Program. Among its many provisions, the Affordable Care Act requires that a “provider of medical or other items or services or supplier within a particular industry sector or category” shall establish a compliance program as a condition of enrollment in Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  An effective Compliance Program can greatly assist a dental practice in its efforts to ensure that each of its dentists are eligible to provide and bill for services administered to Medicaid beneficiaries.

II. Are Your Dentists Properly Licensed?

As a first step to determining eligibility, you must ensure that the individuals providing dental services in your practice are properly licensed by the state.  All states require that dentists be properly licensed in order to engage in the practice of dentistry.  For example, anyone seeking to practice a profession in the State of New York must comply with a strict requirements set out in Title VIII of the New York State Education Law.  Under this law, Article 133 – Dentistry and Dental Hygiene, defines the practice of dentistry in §6601.  As the applicable section provides:

  • 6601. Definition of practice of dentistry.

The practice of the profession of dentistry is defined as diagnosing, treating, operating, or prescribing for any disease, pain, in jury, deformity, or physical condition of the oral and maxillofacial area related to restoring and maintaining dental health. The practice of dentistry includes the prescribing and fabrication of dental prostheses and appliances. The practice of dentistry may include performing physical evaluations in conjunction with the provision of dental treatment.

While the definition of the practice of dentistry has been purposely written in broad, general terms, the law clearly reflects that only an individual properly licensed to practice dentistry can engage in the profession or use the title of “dentist.”  As set out this section:

  • 6602. Practice of dentistry and use of title “dentist”

Only a person licensed or otherwise authorized to practice under this article shall practice dentistry or use the title “dentist.”

Should an unlicensed individual engage in the practice of dentistry, they may be guilty of a Class E Felony §6612 of the New York State Education Law.  Moreover, if a licensed dentist aids of abets three or more unlicensed persons in the practice of the profession, that person may be guilty of a Class E. Felony.

As part of your ongoing compliance efforts, you should periodically verify that each of your professionals are properly licensed by the state to practice dentistry and that there are no limitations on their license.  It is also important to monitor the status of any licenses maintained by members of your staff in other states.

III. Is a Dentist Properly Enrolled as a Medicaid Provider?

All states have established strict requirements that must be met if a dentist desires to enroll as a Medicaid provider. For example, the New York Medicaid Enrollment Form expressly states that:

You will be at financial risk if you render services to Medicaid beneficiaries before successfully completing the enrollment process. Payment will not be made for any claims submitted for services, care, or supplies furnished before the enrollment date authorized by the Department of Health.

Unfortunately, when audits of paid Medicaid dental claims are conducted, this is a common risk area that has been identified around the country.  Dental practices bringing on new staff may mistakenly think that it is permissible to bill for dental services provided by a non-credentialed dentist (whose enrollment application with Medicaid is pending) under the number of a credentialed dentist.  In most states, such a practice is improper and could subject a practice to fines, penalties and other sanctions.  The enrollment process is there to help protect the integrity of the Medicaid program.  If an applicant has previously been terminated, denied enrollment, suspended or otherwise sanctioned by Medicaid, a state may determination that it is not in the interests of the program to allow the applicant to participant in the program.  Similarly, an applicant may have been convicted of a health care related crime or may have adverse licensure actions pending in another state. For these reasons (and others), the enrollment process is an essential tool used by the state to filter out applicants that may represent a significant risk to the Medicaid program or its beneficiaries.

IV. Have You Screened Your Dentists and Staff Through Available Exclusion / OIG Screening Databases?

Among its many duties, OIG has been delegated the authority to “exclude” individuals and entities from participating in federal health benefits programs. Depending on the nature of the offense, the decision to exclude an individual or entity may be either mandatory or permissive.  There are currently 38 state databases and 2 federal databases that must be checked every 30 days to ensure that the members of your staff have not been added to the one or more exclusion list. Should you fail to properly screen and inadvertently employ an excluded dentist or other staff member, you may face overpayments, civil monetary penalties and / or other sanctions. Essentially, Medicaid will not pay for any claim if an excluded individual or entity contributed to the basket of services provided to the patient — either directly or indirectly.   Exclusion screening is a fundamental component of an effective Compliance Plan.  There are a number of companies that can provide these screening services for a low monthly cost. Two of our attorneys established a company, Exclusion Screening, LLC to conduct these screening services. For information on their services, you can call:  1 (800) 294-0952.

V. Lessons Learned.

As a participating provider in the Medicaid program, you are obligated to comply with a wide variety of statutory and regulatory provisions.  Confirming the eligibility of each of your professional staff members to provide services to Medicaid beneficiaries is merely one of these requirements. The development, implementation of an effective Compliance Program can greatly reduce your overall level of regulatory risk.

Medicaid dentist eligibilityRobert W. Liles, M.B.A., M.S., J.D., serves as Managing Partner at Liles Parker, Attorneys & Counselors at Law. Liles Parker is a boutique health law firm, with offices in Washington DC, Houston TX, San Antonio TX, McAllen TX and Baton Rouge LA. Robert represents home health agencies around the country in connection with Medicare audits and compliance matters. Our firm also represents health care providers in connection with federal and state regulatory reviews and investigations. For a free consultation, call Robert at: 1 (800) 475-1900.

It’s Time for CMS and Congress to Review Outdated Medicare and Medicaid Provisions

November 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Firm News

(November 23, 2016): Michael Cook, co-chair of the Health Care Group, has an article published in the October issue of the American Health Lawyers Association Journal of Health Law & Life Sciences entitled “It’s Time for CMS and Congress to Review Outdated Medicare and Medicaid Provisions.”  The article discusses the fact that given the dramatic changes in payment and delivery system reform, there are a number of outdated, and in some instances counter-productive, rules that no longer make any sense and that should be reviewed by CMS and Congress.  The article cites three examples – the three day hospital stay requirement for Medicare SNF coverage, the limitations for coverage of care in Institutions for Mental Diseases and psychiatric hospitals under Medicaid, and for certain circumstances in alternative payment systems, the homebound requirement for Medicare home health coverage, but there likely are many more that will need examination in the coming years.  Ashley Hudson, an associate of the Firm, assisted in the research for the article.

The article can be reviewed at http://www.healthlawyersjournal.com/healthlawyers/october_2016/?pg=24&pm=2&u1=friend.

Outdated Medicare and Medicaid ProvisionsMichael has more than 40 years’ experience representing clients on health care issues in government and in private practice, serves on the Board of Medical Assistances Services that oversees Virginia’s Medicaid program, and also has advised a number of campaigns of candidates for state and national political offices.  Michael and Ashley can be reached at 202-298-8750.

Dental Practice Audits are on the Rise — Protect your Interests!

October 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Dental Audits & Compliance

Dental practice audits are increasing around the country.  Liles Parker can represent your practice!(October 11, 2016): More than 45 million children receive government-funded dental care served under Medicaid and CHIP programs. This equates to approximately 1 out every 3 children in the country.  The dental care provided includes screening services and other preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services that are medically necessary and properly documented. Under the mandatory Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit, children in Medicaid are entitled to dental care at as early an age as necessary, needed for relief of pain and infections, restoration of teeth and maintenance of dental health.”  In light of the growth of these programs it is little wonder that the number of dental practice audits is again on the rise.

 I. Dental Practice Audits are Increasing Each Year:

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted.  With the passage of HIPAA, both the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG) received significant funding to hire prosecutors, investigators, auditors and support staff whose duties are solely focused on the investigation and prosecution of civil and criminal health care fraud violations.  Although the vast majority of health care matters investigated by federal and state law enforcement agencies remain focused on Medicare-reimbursed program areas, over the last five years we have seen a notable increase in the number of Medicaid dental cases investigated by OIG and / or state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) personnel.  It is therefore essential that dentists participating in the Medicaid program take steps TODAY, not after an audit has already been initiated by the government, to conduct an assessment of your medical necessity, documentation, coding, billing and business practices to ensure that your organization is operating within the four corners of the law.

II. What are the Primary Ways that a Dental Practice is Targeted for Audit?

With rare exceptions, “random” audits don’t occur.  If you receive a letter from OIG, your state MFCU or a private dental payor seeking records in connection with an audits, more than likely this request arose due to the one of the following reasons:

  • Predictive Modeling / Data Mining. Most dental audits are the results of data mining. OIG has developed several measures, in consultation with experts at state Medicaid agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the American Dental Association (ADA) ADA, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), to identify providers with billing patterns that are noticeably different than their peers.
  • Complaints.  “Complaints” filed by Medicaid beneficiaries, other dentists, other dental practices (such as competitors), disgruntled current and former employees represent another way that dental practices are targeted..
  • Overpayment Data. This may be based on a dental practice’s “error rate,” the practice’s history of repeated overpayments or similar data.
  • Referrals.  Dental audits and investigations of Medicaid dental fraud are often based on referrals from CMS contractors, state MFCUs, and other law enforcement entities.  Notably, private dental insurance payors are also referring cases to the government.
  • Government Audits. Both the OIG and the GAO regularly issue reports addressing areas of concern.  These reports are often a harbinger of ongoing and future enforcement initiatives.
  • State Dental Licensing Boards. In a number of states, State Dental Boards, and other licensing entities are regularly making audit referrals to CMS.

When conducting a review of Medicaid dental claim utilization data to identify a potential audit target, the factors or measures considered by law enforcement vary from case-to-case.  Some of the common measures examined include:

  • High Payments. Dentists who received extremely high payments per child;
  • Daily Volume. Dentists who rendered an extremely large number of services per day;
  • Number of Individual Patient Services. Dentists who provided an extremely large number of services per child per visit;
  • Number of Patients. Dentists who provided services to an extremely large number of children;
  • High Proportion of a Specific Procedure. Dentists who provided certain selected services to an extremely high proportion of children, i.e., pulpotomies and extractions.
  • Amount of Payments Per Medicaid Patient. Distribution of payments per beneficiary for general dentists with 50 or more Medicaid beneficiaries.

An example of the last bulleted point is illustrated below.  When OIG examined payments made to general dentists with 50 or more Medicaid beneficiaries, they were able to identify dental provider whose reimbursements per Medicaid patient were significantly higher than those of their peers.  As a result, the government considers these dentists to be “outliers” is more likely to initiate an audit of investigation of this provider’s practices to ensure that they comply with applicable rules and regulations.

III.  Specific Problems Identified in Previous OIG Medicaid Dental Practice Audits:

Once an audit is initiated, the government’s medical reviewers will carefully assess your documentation to ensure that it meets all applicable requirements for coverage and payment.  Some of the problems found in previous Medicaid dental practice audits include:

  • Billing Medicaid for unnecessary dental procedures
  • Billing Medicaid for dental procedures that were never performed. When conducting an audit OIG identified billing utilization rates and other documentation irregularities that defied common sense. Several example include:

Example: One dentist and his former employer were unable to produce medical records to support 335 claims totaling $26,657 that were sampled at his practice.

Example: One dentist stated that he can complete a filling procedure in 30 seconds.

Example: Two dentists billed for four or more fillings on one tooth or for two types of fillings on the same surface of the same tooth.

Example: One dentist submitted almost identical claims for eight recipients, billing for three or more surface restorations on the same 11 teeth during one office visit for each of the eight recipients.

  • Billing Medicaid for substandard work. Submitting claims for reimbursement under another dentist’s Medicaid provider number.
  • Billing Medicaid for multiple cleanings within a six-month period.
  • Too many or too few X-rays. In some cases, the x-rays have been taken incorrectly, taken by employees not licensed to operate the x-ray machine, and/or unreadable or even blank.
  • Inappropriate Medicaid billings for dental restorations.

Example: On 37 occasions, four dentists administered 25 or more fillings to one recipient during a single office visit.

  • Inappropriate use of protective stabilization devices. For instance, using a “papoose board” to immobilize the children, regardless of whether or not restraint was necessary.
  • Unnecessary pulpotomies.
  • Altering dates or entering false information on patient charts.
  • Paying kickbacks for referrals of Medicaid patients.
  • Billing for services performed by unlicensed or uncertified employees.

IV. Private Payor Dental Fraud Enforcement Actions:

It is importance to keep in mind that the government is also aggressively investigating and prosecuting cases where dental professionals are alleged to have defrauded a non-government funded, private insurance company.  Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1347, an individual will be found liable for health care fraud if they meet the following definition of:

Whoever knowingly and willfully executes, or attempts to execute, a scheme or artifice to:

(1) Defraud any health care benefit program; or
(2) Obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any health care benefit program, in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, items, or services, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both. If the violation results in serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of this title), such person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both; and if the violation results in death, such person shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both.

In addition, criminal penalties for false claims are also available pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 287, which allows for punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine calculated under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Hence, health care enforcement authorities have many tools to utilize when seeking to punish healthcare providers. Dentists that are participating in a state Medicaid dental program must ensure that both their operational and documentation practices are reviewed so that entities processing and examining their patient treatment records can readily ascertain why certain care and treatment claims were submitted.

V. Steps Your Dental Practice MUST Take to Better Ensure Regulatory Compliance:

As a first step, we strongly recommend that you review your state Medicaid and private insurance participation agreements and / or enrollment application.  In all likelihood, you are required to have an effective Compliance Program in place.  For instance, the Texas Medicaid Provider Enrollment Application, prospective Texas Medicaid providers must attest to its Compliance Program Requirement. Under this condition, a provider must verify that in accordance with requirement TAC 352.5(b)(11), the provider has a Compliance Program containing the core elements as established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services referenced in §1866(j)(8) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. §1395cc(j)(8)), as applicable. Does this section look familiar to you? A Texas Medicaid provider must affirmatively attest that he or she has a compliance plan in place prior to submitting his or application for enrollment. However, your dentist client may have simply checked the box “yes” without even realizing what a Compliance Program is or what is required under this section. If your dental practice is audited, one of the first documents requested by OIG and / or a MFCU may be a copy of your Compliance documents.  If you cannot produce them and it is alleged that you falsified your application you may be in serious trouble.

VI. Conclusion:

Dentists participating in their respective state’s Medicaid program must routinely review their practice and documentation procedures. Furthermore, all Medicaid dentists should have an effective Compliance Plan within their practice to reduce the number of audits by Medicaid contractors and become less of a target by MFCUs.  Current dental cases our attorneys are handling include:

  • False Claims Act litigation.

  • Drafting and implementation of an effective Compliance Program.

  • Performance of a “GAP Analysis.”

  • Representation in Medicaid related audits.

  • Representation in private payor audits.

Please let me know if we can assist you or your dental practice in these or other areas of dental law.  Moreover, should you require assistance with drafting a Compliance Plan for your dental practice or have any questions, call us to discuss how we can help with your compliance efforts.

Robert W. Liles represents dentists in dental practice audits.Robert W. Liles, M.B.A., M.S., J.D., serves as Managing Partner at Liles Parker, Attorneys & Counselors at Law. Our attorneys represent dentists and dental practices around the country in connection with Medicaid / private payor audits and compliance matters. Our firm also represents dental providers in connection with federal and state regulatory reviews and investigations. For a free consultation, call Robert at: 1 (800) 475-1900.

[1] 42 C.F.R. § 441.56(c)(2).

More Texas Medicaid Dental Audits Are Coming in 2017!

iStock_000018404988Small(August 23, 2016): During 2014, the Texas Health Human Services Commission’s (THHSC), Office of Inspector General (IG) found itself at the center of a number of controversial investigations and probes associated with its review of Medicaid dental claims.  In response, Governor Greg Abbott appointed Stuart W. Bowen, the former Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction to serve as the new Inspector General for the THHSC. A graduate of the University of the South (Sewanee), Mr. Bowen set out in 2015 to set the IG’s Office back on course.  Characterizing 2015 as a year of “restructuring and reform,” the IG’s Office entered 2016 ready to reinstitute an aggressive review of problematic Medicaid claims.  As Texas Medicaid dental audits move forward, you need to ensure that your practices are compliant with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

I.  Implementation of a New Texas Medicaid “IG Pediatric Dentistry Action Team”:

After learning from its previous missteps, the IG’s Office appears to now be taking a more systematic approach in its audit and investigation of Medicaid pediatric care cases.  As discussed in the IG’s June 2016 Quarterly Report, the IG’s Office continues to be concerned about the pediatric sedation and anesthetization practices being used on some Medicaid patients.  In response, the IG’s Office has established a new “Pediatric Dentistry Action Team” (PDAT).  According to the Quarterly Report, the IG’s Office:

 “Launched the IG Pediatric Dentistry Action Team to identify root causes of recent egregious incidents involving Medicaid pediatric dental patients and recommend improvements to Medicaid policy and contracts to prevent further loss.”

In addition to working with other state and federal law enforcement agencies, the PDAT is also expected to be working closely with the Texas Dental Board.  Notably, the PDAT is slated to examine the following two critical issues:

  • Are Medicaid dental providers meeting the required medical necessity criteria for performing procedures that use anesthetization and sedation?
  • Do the anesthetization/sedation services performed on children meet Medicaid standards?

The PDAT finalized its survey work in July 2016.  It has been conducting fieldwork this month and is expected to continue to do so in September 2016.  A final report, with the PDAT’s recommendations and “lessons learned” is not expected until later this year.

II.  What Will Texas Medicaid Dental Audits Mean for My Dental Practice?

Assuming the PDAT’s Final Report is issued in November or December 2016, we anticipate that audits and investigations flowing from their review may begin as soon as Spring 2017.  It is therefore imperative that you take steps today to better ensure that your Medicaid dental practice fully complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

As a starting point, it is essential to keep in mind that as a participating provider in the Medicaid Program, you are required to have an effective Compliance Plan in place.

As set out to the Texas Medicaid Provider Enrollment Application, prospective Texas Medicaid providers must attest to its Compliance Program Requirement. Under this condition, a provider must verify that in accordance with requirement TAC 352.5(b)(11), the Provider has a Compliance Program containing the core elements as established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services referenced in §1866(j)(8) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. §1395cc(j)(8)), as applicable.

Does this section look familiar to you? A Texas Medicaid provider must affirmatively attest that he or she has a compliance plan in place prior to submitting his or application for enrollment. However, you may have simply checked the box “yes” without even realizing what a compliance program is or what is required under this section. This may be a serious mistake.  An effective Compliance Plan can better assist you in meeting your statutory, regulatory and contractual obligations as a Medicaid provider.

III.   Areas of Risk Facing Medicaid Dental Providers:

Potential risk areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to meet the medical necessity criteria for performing procedures that use anesthetization and sedation on Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Failure to meet Medicaid’s standards for the anesthetization and / or sedation services performed on children.
  • Billing Medicaid for unnecessary procedures.
  • Billing Medicaid for procedures that were never performed.
  • Billing Medicaid for substandard work. Submitting claims for reimbursement under another dentist’s Medicaid provider number.
  • Billing Medicaid for multiple cleanings within a six-month period.
  • Too many or too few X-rays. In some cases, the x-rays have been taken incorrectly, taken by employees not licensed to operate the x-ray machine, and/or unreadable or even blank.
  • Inappropriate Medicaid billings for dental restorations.
  • Inappropriate use of protective stabilization devices. For instance, using a “papoose board” to immobilize the children, regardless of whether or not restraint was necessary.
  • Unnecessary pulpotomies.
  • Altering dates or entering false information on patient charts.
  • Paying kickbacks for referrals of Medicaid patients.
  • Billing for services performed by unlicensed or uncertified employees.

IV.  Conclusion:

Our attorneys currently represent a number of Medicaid dentists in Texas (and in other areas of the country) in connection with Medicaid and private payor audits of dental claims.  We are also experienced in handling False Claims Act cases and in working with a dental practice to draft and implement an effective Compliance Plan.  Texas Medicaid dental providers can’t afford to wait for the next round of dental audits and investigations.  Now is the time to review the documentation, medical necessity, coverage and billing practices to ensure that your office is fully compliant with applicable state and federal Medicaid requirements.

robert_w_lilesRobert W. Liles, M.B.A., M.S., J.D., serves as Managing Partner at Liles Parker, Attorneys & Counselors at Law. Liles Parker is a boutique health law firm, with offices in Washington DC, Houston TX, San Antonio TX, McAllen TX and Baton Rouge LA. Robert represents dentists and dental practices around the country in connection with Medicaid and private payor audit actions. Our firm also represents health care providers in connection with federal and state regulatory reviews and investigations. For a free consultation, call Robert at: 1 (800) 475-1900.

Coverage and Payment of New Products – CPT / HCPCS Code Issues

HCPCS Code(January 12, 2016): With the advent of the Affordable Care Act and the changes in the payment incentives that are being developed by payors, including the Medicare and Medicaid programs, many emerging companies are developing new products and devices for the market. While companies will take these products through the regulatory process of obtaining FDA approval, such as 510(k) approval, companies will frequently fail to take into consideration the need to determine whether and how third-party payors will cover the device or product at a sufficiently early stage in the process. If Medicare is involved, this requires determining whether the product is medically necessary and fits into one of the benefit categories, and then, if it does, how it will be reimbursed. A key element of determining if a product is medically necessary and whether it fits into a benefit category is ascertaining which, if any, of several types of codes is applicable to the product.

Additionally, many private insurers will “piggyback” onto Medicare in some manner with respect to these decisions. Finally, while coverage and payment determinations may differ, state Medicaid programs are also likely to consider Medicare decisions in this process. Both private insurers and state Medicaid programs will make these decisions based in large part on what codes apply to the device or product.

Many of these products or devices will go through clinical trials that are extremely costly, especially with respect to FDA approval. In designing these trials, it is also incumbent to consider whether they will be sufficient for coverage and payment decisions as well.

For example, where the manufacturer will be seeking Medicare coverage and payment for a device, it is important to take this fact into account when designing the composition and size of the subjects for the trial, e.g. whether there are a sufficient number of individuals who would be covered by Medicare in the trial. Otherwise, the manufacturer may discover that, after spending considerable funds on a study that is sufficient for the FDA, it cannot satisfy the Medicare program that the device meets Medicare coverage specifications without conducting a whole new trial. While there may have been reasons to do a two stage trial, consideration of these factors up front may avoid the necessity of doing so and save a substantial amount of time and money.

This article presents a brief discussion of the process that is involved in obtaining codes for new devices. There are two different types of codes that may be applicable – a HCPCS code which usually applies to a physical product or device and a CPT code which generally applies to a procedure. As part of a larger procedure, the CPT code may address use of a device or product.

I.  Analyzing HCPCS Code Issues:

In order to obtain reimbursement from any insurer or governmental program, a Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (“HCPCS”) Level II code must be assigned to the device.[1] Determining the proper HCPCS code is critical, as that code will determine whether (a) the device is reimbursable at all and (b) what the amount of reimbursement will be.

The first decision that must be made is whether an existing HCPCS code is applicable or if the device requires a completely new HCPCS code. If the manufacturer believes that an existing code is appropriate and wishes to obtain verification of that belief, application must be made to the Pricing, Data Analysis and Coding (“PDAC”) contractor. Although obtaining a HCPCS code is voluntary for most devices, there are multiple benefits to doing so, not the least of which is avoiding retroactive denial of payments made by governmental and private healthcare programs resulting from billing under an incorrect HCPCS code and recoupment of the same following a post-payment review. Furthermore, many payers will not even consider reimbursement for a device absent a coding verification determination from the PDAC. Determination of the correct and appropriate HCPCS code initially is also important because once a HCPCS code is assigned, it is quite difficult to change the assigned code. In addition, as noted above, the assigned code will determine reimbursement.

Upon submission of an initial application, the PDAC reviews information supplied by the manufacturer, including marketing literature, usage instructions, labeling, FDA approval, any applicable Local Coverage Decisions (“LCDs”) and other relevant data. A manufacturer may suggest a HCPCS code, but the PDAC may determine that a different code is more appropriate. Once FDA approval has been received and a coding application has been submitted,[2] PDAC personnel may meet with a manufacturer, especially if the parties believe that a product demonstration is appropriate. Coding verification applications are accepted throughout the year.[3] Once the PDAC has all of the appropriate information, a decision letter can be expected 90 days after.

A recommended step prior to submitting a coding application is making informal calls to the PDAC to attempt to determine any threshold concerns or comments that the PDAC may have about a device and the coding proposed by the manufacturer and obtaining guidance as to specifically the types of documentation that should be submitted to the PDAC.

If the device is novel or contains breakthrough technology, then application must be made to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) for a new code.   The information to be submitted for a new HCPCS code is similar to that for a coding verification. However, in this situation, a manufacturer should be careful to submit data that demonstrate how its device fails to fit into an existing HCPCS code. If the HCPCS code sought is under the durable medical equipment (“DME”) benefit, the manufacturer must submit 3 months of sales data to the PDAC and must demonstrate that its device represents 3% of the market “for that type of device.”[4] The deadline for submitting an application for a new HCPCS code is the first week of January. The CMS HCPCS Workgroup accepts new code applications throughout the year, but will not issue decisions on a rolling basis. The Workgroup issues preliminary coding decisions in April or May. CMS will subsequently hold a public meeting, during which the manufacturer may make a brief presentation if it did not receive a code that it thought was appropriate. Final codes are issued in November and become effective the following January.

II.  Investigate Proper CPT for Physician Use of Devices:

CPT codes are issued and maintained by the American Medical Association (“AMA”). Existing Category I CPT codes identify procedures or services that are generally accepted medical procedures performed by many physicians throughout the country. Category III CPT codes are temporary codes for new and emerging technologies. They are often used for data collection purposes to document widespread usage and thus justification for a Category I code.

Selection of an appropriate CPT code is the responsibility of the physician, but physicians often look to manufacturers for guidance, particularly if the CPT code relates to use of a particular equipment, machine or device (e.g., laboratory tests and equipment). If AMA members have questions about the most appropriate CPT code to use, they can submit questions online. Otherwise, physicians rely upon coders (usually certified) to review the medical documentation and select the most appropriate existing code.   The results of selecting the incorrect CPT code can range from a recoupment request from a payer all the way to accusations of fraud, especially if the incorrect code is not supported by underlying documentation or has been used incorrectly for an extended period of time.

If there is not an appropriate CPT code, an application may be submitted to the AMA for development of a new CPT code. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with deadlines approximately three months before the next CPT Editorial Panel meeting, which occurs three times per year. New CPT codes are issued in the fall of each year and become effective the following January.   An application for a new CPT code will often need the involvement and support of the relevant medical specialty society. In addition, if a new code is sought, the AMA will require significant supporting data, including clinical trial results, peer-reviewed articles, and FDA approval of the device or drug to be utilized in providing the services for which the new code is sought.

If the device and treatment involve telehealth, for example the development of an app that is used by the physician with the device, an open question at this point is whether one of the telehealth CPT codes may be appropriate for use for the physician services provided in connection with the device. Also in this regard, in October 2015 the AMA established a Telehealth Workgroup, with the specific objective of evaluating and recommending changes to, and almost certainly expansion of, the CPT codes for medical services involving telehealth technologies. The work product of this Workgroup will likely result in new codes. that may be more appropriate for the device and app than existing codes, so it behooves companies in the area to monitor developments from this process.

Finally, depending upon the issue, it may be appropriate to approach the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (“CMMI”) along with a hospital or university system partner.

III.  Coverage / Reimbursement:

The above steps regarding HCPCS and CPT codes are only part of the process. If existing HCPCS and CPT codes are verified as appropriate, addressing actual coverage and reimbursement is likely to be an easier process, as there are often coverage and payment policies already in place for established codes and products. However, if a new HCPCS or CPT code is obtained, then the company will have to address the need for a (new) coverage and reimbursement policy or policies by potential payers. Simply because one obtains a new code does not necessarily mean that a payment policy is also developed and implemented.

Accordingly, if new codes are obtained, the manufacturer will likely need to approach the various payors such as the Medicare program, state Medicaid programs, or private insurers.

In order to justify coverage, the manufacturer must be prepared to submit various types of documentation, which may vary by payer. As noted, above, this may well involve clinical trial data demonstrating effectiveness, professional articles (preferably peer-reviewed) evidencing improvements in the patients’ conditions, and a cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the payors, particularly the private ones, may wish to see product demonstrations. Although the process may vary depending upon the population to be served by the product or device, if Medicare is to be involved, we generally will recommend early stage meetings with appropriate representatives of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) in order to try to ascertain whether the product fits into a covered benefit category, the types of studies that CMS will be seeking to make their determination, and other questions, to minimize the likelihood of having to go back and reinvent the wheel after having spent considerable sums of money only to prove the wrong facts for CMS’ purposes. In short, the process dictates the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Michael Cook and Heidi Kocher of our staff have considerable experience in assisting companies with new products in this process. They can be reached by contacting our office at 202-298-8750 or at mcook@lilesparker.com and hkocher@lilesparker.com.

HCPCS CodeHCPCS Code

[1] HCPCS Level I codes are Current Procedural Terminology (“CPT”) codes, which are used to classify procedures and services performed by physicians and other medical personnel. CPT codes are discussed below in more detail.

[2] Information submitted in the 510(k) application and the subsequent FDA approval may limit a manufacturer’s flexibility regarding HCPCS code assignment.

[3] For DME products covered by Medicare, during the interim period, manufacturers may well code the product as miscellaneous and seek payment from the contractor. The contractor will then review the claims on a case-by-case basis, which puts the manufacturer at risk during this interim period where the price and coverage are being determined.

[4] Precisely how to define “that type of device” is not clear.

How to Implement a Compliance Plan in Your Practice

Confused-Doctor(September 17, 2015): Despite the fact that Medicare and Medicaid requires that participating providers implement a compliance plan, most small providers have yet to complete the necessary steps to accomplish this requirement.  “My office manager went to a continuing education program, and she’s come back telling me we need a compliance program. I don’t know about that. I know I need to be in compliance with all those rules and regulations, but it seems to be complex and confusing. Do I really need one? How do I put a program into place without spending enormous sums? We’re a small practice and we don’t have a lot of extra time and money to spend on compliance activities.”

This is how my clients often approach me with questions about compliance programs. Or, they have been the recipient of an audit letter from either Medicare or a private insurer. Let’s face it, the requirements for compliance programs are here to stay. Not only are compliance programs now required by the federal government for any provider who receives Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement (see section 6401 of the Affordable Care Act), they are also required by many private insurance companies. Within the last year, I have seen increasing numbers of network provider contracts from private insurance companies include a requirement that the provider have a compliance program. So, having a functional compliance program is no longer an option but a requirement.

To that end, over the next year, we will be exploring the basic elements of an effective compliance program, as well as topics related to a solid compliance program. Let’s start with what a compliance program is and is not. A compliance program is not a document that is placed in a binder on a high shelf in your office, to be dusted off only annually or when faced with scrutiny by insurance companies or, God forbid, state or federal regulators. Instead, a compliance program should become part of the fabric of doing business in your practice. When implemented correctly, a compliance program can help identify potential trouble spots in your practice and give you a framework for addressing those trouble spots. Of course, a functioning and effective compliance program can also help minimize fines and, if things go south, could keep a civil matter from turning into a criminal matter.

A compliance program is also not a mumu – one size does NOT fit all. Just as there are differences between patients, there are differences between practices, the risks they face and the best methods of addressing those risks. An effective compliance program recognizes that while the structure of most compliance programs is similar, it takes into account the practice’s size and sophistication, the medical specialty, and the patient population. For this reason, compliance programs in a box or purchased off the Internet really are not desirable and often cost a practice more money in customization and sometimes tears down the road. A perfect example is the recent settlement by Anchorage Community Mental Health Services in relation to a HIPAA breach, where the government noted the ineffectiveness of the “sample” compliance policies and documents the provider put forward as its compliance program.

The basic elements of an effective compliance program are not complicated. They are:

  1. Designating an individual to serve as compliance officer and creating a compliance committee, particularly for larger organizations.
  2. Implementing a standard of conduct and policies and procedures relevant to the practice’s operations.
  3. Conducting effective training and education.
  4. Instituting effective methods of communication
  5. Conducting internal monitoring and auditing
  6. Enforcing the policies and standards through well-publicized disciplinary guidelines
  7. Responding promptly to violations and taking appropriate corrective action.

Each month we will explore each of these topics, discussing how to implement a compliance plan, and how to do so in a cost-effective fashion. Along the way, we will also discuss various forms of guidance available to practices when you implement a compliance plan that is tailored for the specific needs and risks of your individual practice. Let’s start with one right away – the federal government itself. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“OIG”) has published a number of “Compliance Program Guidances”, intended to help different provider types understand and implement compliance practices specific to and appropriate for their particular branch. One of the guidances is specifically written for individual and small group physician practices and published in October 2000. It’s available here: http://oig.hhs.gov/authorities/docs/physician.pdf. In fact, this document is so basic to a physician practice’s compliance program that I strongly recommend that every compliance program have this document printed off, included among the compliance program documents, and readily available for staff member review. Although this document was published in 2000 (and therefore refers to CMS as HCFA and doesn’t make reference to the Affordable Care Act), it can be considered a bit like the U.S. Constitution – a document that creates the foundation for what comes after and points to a better future.

H-Kocher-photo-2-199x300Heidi Kocher, Esq. 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.  Do you need to implement a complaince plan?  Call one of our experienced health care attorneys for assistance. For a free consultation, please call: 1 (800) 475-1906.

CMS Awards Zone 6 ZPIC Contract to SafeGuard Services

Audit(August 15, 2015): The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded the contract for Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) services for Zone 6 to SafeGuard Services, LLC. Zone 6 encompasses Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. SafeGuard is the current program safeguard contractor (PSC) in this jurisdiction, and its functions as a ZPIC will be similar to its duties as a PSC. SafeGuard is also the ZPIC for Zone 1 (California, Nevada, and Hawaii) and Zone 7 (Florida).

As the new Zone 6 ZPIC, SafeGuard will be responsible for investigating suspected waste, fraud, and abuse among Medicare providers. ZPICs have the authority to conduct unannounced, onsite inspections of providers’ facilities, perform pre-payment and post-payment reviews of claims, impose payment suspensions, recommend to CMS that a provider’s billing privileges be revoked, and refer providers to law enforcement for investigation. In our experience, SafeGuard is among the most aggressive ZPICs in the country.

If you receive correspondence from SafeGuard Services or any other ZPIC, we strongly recommend that you contact an experienced health care attorney as soon as possible. You should never assume that ZPIC audits or inspections are merely “routine.”

Liles Parker attorneys assist all types of providers across the country with responses to Zone 6 ZPIC investigations, audits, and other administrative actions. If you have questions or concerns about a ZPIC investigation, please contact our office for a free consultation.

Liles Parker has offices in Washington DC, Houston TX, McAllen TX and Baton Rouge LA.  Our attorneys represent health care professionals around the country in connection with ZPIC audits of Medicare claims, licensure matters and transactional projects.  Need assistance?  For a free consultation, please call: 1 (800) 475-1906.

 

The 2015 Mid-Year OIG Work Plan Has Been Released

Medical-Insurance-Audit(June 1, 2015):  As set out in the 2015 mid-year OIG Work Plan, the agency has once again announced its intentions to report on numerous types of potential fraud, waste, and abuse in HHS programs, as well as on the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of the programs. The OIG plans to produce 193 reports in the near future, 65% of which will pertain to Medicare and Medicaid.

The OIG will study an array of provider and supplier types, including those that most often attract OIG scrutiny, such as home health agencies (HHAs), hospitals, and durable medical equipment companies. Although the OIG likes to revisit topics and measure progress in fraud, waste, and abuse prevention, it has announced the following new topics:

  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced mode of high-precision radiotherapy that uses computer-controlled linear accelerators. The OIG will review hospital outpatient payments for IMRT.

  • Hospital preparedness. The OIG will evaluate hospitals’ preparedness for public health emergencies resulting from infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

  • Access in competitive bid areas. There are anecdotal reports that competitive bidding within the Medicare program for some durable medical equipment (DME), prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies has curtailed access by beneficiaries. The OIG will study whether this proposition is true.

  • Clinical diagnostic laboratory tests. In anticipation of new Medicare payment rates for clinical diagnostic laboratory tests in 2017, as mandated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, the OIG will analyze payments for such tests in 2014. It will look at the top 25 tests according to expenditure.

  • IRF Issues. The OIG will report whether inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs) have complied with the parameters of the IRF Prospective Payment System. In addition, the OIG will review whether documentation by IRFs has been compliant.

  • ACO use of EHR. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) promote accountability of hospitals, physicians, and other providers for patients, coordinate care, and encourage investment in infrastructure and redesigned care processes. The OIG will review the extent to which providers participating in ACOs use electronic health records (EHR) and will identify best practices and challenges to interoperability (the extent to which information systems can exchange data and interpret the shared data).

  • Overview of Part D. The OIG will summarize previous audits, legal opinions, and investigative work on the Medicare Part D program for drugs. It also will provide recommendations to improve oversight by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Plan Sponsors, and the Medicare anti-fraud contractor.

  • Opioid trends. Opioid diversion and abuse and Part D fraud are perceived to be growing problems. In its upcoming report, the OIG will describe trends in billing for opioids and other drugs from 2006 to 2014, including trends associated with pharmacies.

  • Drug rebates. The Federal Government receives a share of drug rebates under Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) increased rebates for Medicaid outpatient drugs.  The OIG will examine whether the States have been correctly reporting rebates.

  • T-MSIS. The Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS) is a repository of data about Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to assist CMS in various areas, including program integrity. The OIG will determine whether the States report properly to the T-MSIS.

In addition to the above new topics, as discussed in the 2015 mid-year OIG Work Plan, the agency plans to study numerous other ways in which providers and suppliers may provide substandard care or receive payments to which they are not entitled. For example, it will examine hospice billing for general inpatient care. With respect to a DME item of great concern to the OIG—power mobility devices (PMDs)—the OIG will determine whether CMS can save money if Medicare beneficiaries rent certain PMDs over 13 months, rather than purchase them. Also, the OIG will continue to review payment rates for ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).  One question is whether there is a disparity between ASC rates and those for hospital outpatient departments performing the same services.

Many of the studies pertain to Medicaid. For example, the 2015 mid-year OIG Work Plan notes that the OIG will be reviewing dental services under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment benefit for children.  As the Work Plan notes:  “In recent years, a number of dental providers and chains have been prosecuted for providing unnecessary dental procedures and causing harm to Medicaid children.  In addition, children’s access to dental services has been a longstanding Medicaid problem.” Also, States must terminate Medicaid providers who have been terminated by Medicare or by other State Medicaid programs. States must suspend a Medicaid provider if there are credible allegations of fraud against that provider. The OIG will review whether the States have followed these directives.

In addition to its stewardship over all HHS programs, the OIG will review key areas of ACA implementation, including emerging marketplace issues, Medicaid expansion and services, Medicare payment and delivery reform, program integrity, and public health program reform. The OIG will further look at HHS funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In particular, it will review HHS’ award of incentive payments to providers for meaningful use of EHR. Some hospitals, including critical access hospitals, will be audited to determine whether they have conducted a security risk analysis of their EHR.

Gloria Frank_051815_0016-2Gloria Frank, Esq. 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 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.

The full OIG work plan may be located at http://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/archives/workplan/2015/WP-Update-2015.pdf.

Dental Claims False Claims Act Liability

Dental Claim(March 6, 2015): As we have seen in recent years, Medicaid audits resulting in dental claims False Claims Act liability are increasing around the country.  Earlier this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Maine Attorney General’s Office announced the settlement of a civil lawsuit filed against a Maine dentist for violations of the federal False Claims Act. According to the government, the dentist paid $484,744.80 to settle allegations that he had improperly billed MaineCare (Maine’s Medicaid program) for dental services that were not medically necessary and lacked the proper documentation to support the claim. The government also alleged that the dentist billed the MaineCare program for “unsubstantiated tooth extractions” and for “narcotics prescribed without proper justification.”  This case is merely the latest case brought by federal and state prosecutors against dentists and other dental professionals for violations of the federal False Claims Act. The purpose of this article is to briefly examine the background of the federal False Claims Act and to discuss a number of risks currently facing dental practices and dental professionals participating in Medicaid and other federal health care programs.

I.  Background of the False Claims Act:

Sometimes referred to as “Lincoln’s Law,” the federal False Claims Act was first passed in 1863 in response to war profiteering. Among its provisions were measures intended to encourage the disclosure of fraud by private persons through the filing of a qui tam suit. The term qui tam is taken from a Latin phrase meaning “he who brings a case on behalf of our lord the King, as well as for himself.”[1] Under the qui tam (also commonly referred to as “whistleblower”) provisions of the statute, a private person (often referred to as a “relator”) can bring a False Claims Act lawsuit on behalf of, and in the name of, the United States, and possibly share in any recovery made by the government.

II.  Damages Under the False Claims Act:

A person found to have violated this statute is liable for civil penalties in an amount between $5,500 and not more than $11,000 per false claim, as well as up to three times the amount of damages sustained by the government.[2]

The issue of how false claims are to be counted has resulted in considerable litigation over the years. While decisions vary, most courts have held that each submission constitutes a separate claim. Prior to the emergence of electronic filing, it was not uncommon for providers to bundle a set of claims together and send them in to their state Medicaid contractor for processing and payment. This “bundle” would likely constitute a single “claim” for purposes of the False Claims Act. Today, most dentists send in individual claims as they are entered into the dental practice’s electronic billing system. As a result, each time that a dentist (in most instances, an administrative staff member working for, or on behalf of, the dentist) hits “ENTER” to transmit a single claim to the Medicaid contractor for processing and payment, this action would constitute a single claim for purposes of the statute. As one can easily imagine, even a small number of false claims could result in extensive civil penalties and damages.

III.  Recoveries Under the False Claims Act:

In Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recovered an all-time high record $5.69 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases brought under the federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §3729 et seq.). Notably, FY 2014 was the first time that False Claims Act recoveries in a single year have exceeded $5 billion. From January 2009 through the end of the FY 2014, the government has recovered more than $22.75 billion. While most False Claims Act cases brought in connection with health care have focused on hospitals and other medical providers, a growing number of dental claims False Claims Act cases have been brought against dental practices and dental professionals.

As in previous years, much of this success has been due (in large part) to the coordinated efforts of the DOJ, HHS-OIG and their state law enforcement counterparts through the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). The HEAT program was created in 2009 and was designed to “prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and to crack down on the fraud perpetrators who are abusing the system.”[3] Importantly, dentists and dental practices participating in the Medicaid program should expect both federal and state law enforcements’ efforts to increase, not decrease or remain stable. Notably, the discretionary funding for program integrity activities has continued to rise. The ongoing solvency of the Medicaid program depends on the ability of law enforcement agencies to successfully address the improper, and sometimes fraudulent, conduct committed by individuals and entities participating in this joint federal and state funded programs.

IV.  Statute of Limitations Under the False Claims Act:

The federal False Claims Act’s statute of limitation provisions have been extensively litigated. As a result, it is important that you work with your legal counsel to determine if the dental claims at issue in your case are likely to fall outside of the actionable period. Generally, the False Claims Act has a 6-year statute of limitations. However, this 6-year period can be tolled (under certain circumstances) up to a maximum of 10 years from when the government knew, or reasonably should have known, that the violation occurred. The statute of limitations provisions are found in 31 U.S.C. § 3731(b).

A civil action under section 3730 may not be brought —

(1) more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed, or

(2) more than 3 years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed, whichever occurs last.

In assessing when the period of limitations runs, a court will look at the time at which either the relator or the government became aware or knew of the violation. In light of the long statute of limitations associated with the False Claims Act, dental practices and other health care providers responding a False Claims Act case have sometimes faced the difficult prospect of locating supporting documentation, x-rays and molds in an effort to defend claims billed to the Medicaid program over a 10-year period.

V.  Final Remarks:

What steps can you take to reduce your potential liability for dental False Claims Act violations, you should ensure that Compliance Plan (tailored to address your dental practice’s specific risks and needs) has been put into place. A Compliance Plan can greatly assist your dental practice in meeting its statutory and regulatory obligations under federal and state law. Developing and implementing an effective Compliance Plan can greatly reduce the likelihood of a False Claims Act violation taking place. Using an effective Compliance Plan as a road map can assist in streamlining your dental practice’s business operations, reduce the possibility of a statutory violation and help to mitigate any damages that might result from a problem you were previously unaware of. Finally, a Compliance Plan can serve as evidence that your dental practice is doing its best to fully comply with applicable laws, rules and regulations. Ultimately, regulatory compliance should be an essential element of your dental office’s corporate culture.

Robert W. Liles represents dentists and dental practices in Medicaid audits and dental claim False Claims Act casesRobert W. Liles serves as Managing Partner at Liles Parker PLLC. Liles Parker attorneys represent dentists and other health care providers around the country in connection allegations of overpayments and violations of the False Claims Act. For a free consultation, call Robert W. Liles at: 1 (800) 475-1906.

 [1] False Claims Act Cases: Government Intervention in Qui Tam (Whistleblower) Suits, U.S. Department of Justice, available at www.justice.gov/usao/pae/Documents/fcaprocess2.pdf  (last accessed March 2015).

[2] For example, if a dentist improperly submits a false claim to Medicaid for payment in the amount of $100 and is subsequently paid $100, the dentist would be liable under the False Claims Act for both damages and penalties. Under the False Claims Act, the government may recover up to three times the amount of damages it suffers, which in this example would be $300, plus penalties of between $5,500 and $11,000 per false claim. Collectively, the dentist’s liability would range from $5,800 to $11,300 for a $100 claim.

[3] News Release, Dep’t. of Health & Human Servs., Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Efforts Result in Record-Breaking Recoveries Totaling Nearly $4.1 Billion (Feb. 14, 2012), available at http://

www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/02/20120214a.html

 

Dental Fraud Investigation Results in $5.05 Million Recovery

Dental Fraud Investigations are Increasing Around the Country.

 (November 10, 2014):  Has your dental practice been the subject of a dental fraud investigation?  Medicaid dental audits are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the United States.  An Oklahoma-based dental practice has recently agreed to pay $5.05 million in civil claims stemming from allegations that the practice committed Medicaid dental fraud, submitting false claims to Medicaid from January 2005 through September 2010. The Oklahoma practice provides dental care to Medicaid-eligible children through multiple clinics located in a number of states. Each dentist draft visit notes that outlines the services performed on each individual patient. The practice then submits claims for reimbursement to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) based on dentists’ documentation. After OHCA reimburses the practice for those claims, the dentists are then reimbursed a certain percentage.

I.  Dental Practice Submits Claims For Work Never Performed or Coded at Higher Levels:

According to a practice spokesperson, the allegations arose with respect to a dentist who last worked at a dental office in September 2010. Specifically, this dentist has been accused of submitting treatments notes for services that were never performed, which is a clear example of Medicaid dental fraud.  Notably, this individual has already been sentenced to 18 months in Federal prison for fraud in a separate matter. She was released earlier this year but must still pay more than $375,000 in restitution.

II.  Effect of the Dental Fraud Settlement Agreement:

This settlement agreement resolves allegations that the dental practice violated the Federal and State False Claims Acts by submitting false Medicaid claims for dental restorations that were never performed or were billed at a higher rate than allowed. The agreement also releases the practice and its owner from any civil liability in the underlying case. Nevertheless, the practice must still adhere to additional record-keeping, reporting, and compliance requirements.

Settlement agreements such as this have become a useful tool in False Claims Act cases. They allow the government and individual parties to avoid the expense and uncertainty involved in actually litigating a case. Moreover, as seen in this case, prosecuting authorities do not generally make any concessions about the legitimacy of the alleged Medicaid dental fraud.

III.  Conclusion:

Identifying and combating fraud in both the federal Medicare and joint State/Federal Medicaid program has been a high priority for government health care enforcement agencies. Effective enforcement measures help ensure that instance Medicare and Medicaid dental fraud are identified, ensuring that the dollars are provided to care for individuals who truly need assistance.

We continually strive to protect government programs, such as Medicaid, from fraud and abuse by ensuring they are used properly and only by those who are in need and are eligible,” U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said. “This case is a good example of the value of coordination between state and federal law enforcement, as well as the coordinated use of parallel proceedings, to achieve a successful civil and criminal resolution.”

Dental practices can help avoid allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse through the development, implementation and adherence to an effective compliance program. A compliance program can go a long way towards enabling a dental practice to identify potential improper or fraudulent practices before they occur. It is a strategic and vital tool that will assist you in following recognized best practices in the dental industry. Have you implemented a compliance program for your dental practice? If not, you may be placing your organization at significant risk. Give us a call today at and we would be more than happy to assist you in developing an effective compliance program for your dental practice.

Saltaformaggio, RobertRobert Saltaformaggio, Esq., serves as an Associate at Liles Parker, Attorneys & Counselors at Law.  Liles Parker attorneys represent health care providers around the country in connection with Medicare, Medicaid and private payor audits.  The firm also represents health care providers in connection with HIPAA Omnibus Rule risk assessments, privacy breach matters, State Licensure Board inquiries and regulatory compliance reviews.  For a free consultation, call Robert at:  1 (800) 475-1906

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