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Battle Scarred


war against fraud

Normally, I try not to be so very outwardly hostile towards CMS but lately, it seems as though the feds don’t really need to justify intruding on my privacy or the bank accounts of legitimate health care providers, so, whatever. The fact is that the face to face document has become the equivalent of a Weapon of Mass Destruction by CMS and their contractors.

You, as a provider, have a lot to lose if you do not honor the provider agreement signed with Medicare.  What everyone forgets is that Medicare signed the very same agreement which guaranteed you payment for rendering skilled care to eligible beneficiaries.

Rightly and wrongly, Palmetto GBA has been denying claims for months with no consideration of the care provided to patients.   This week, CGS announced it planned to follow in the footsteps of PGBA which will radically increase denials for those providers.

The abuse of the Face to Face requirement by CMS contractors has gotten so out of hand that it has become abundantly clear that they are looking for any reason to deny providers regardless of the care that eligible beneficiaries received.

To be clear, there have been agencies who paid a medical director to sign orders blindly for the sake of convenience.  There are other physicians, like Dr. Jacques Roy who sold his signature and his soul for money.  The intent of the document was to ensure that patients were seen by their physicians who were then willing to sign their name to a document stating the patient needed care and was homebound.

So the rationale was sound and initially, it was not much more than an inconvenience for agencies to get an additional document signed upon admission.  Beginning last year, the face to face requirement has been bastardized as a weak excuse to hold onto money that good providers earned providing skilled care to eligible beneficiaries.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from someone about a denial related to face to face document and more importantly, it is rare that a day goes by that I am not made aware of very real fraud.

I have no idea why Palmetto and CGS have decided to wage a campaign of hostility towards providers.   In the ‘good old days’ when FMR was about the worst thing that could happen to an agency, the solution was simple.  Document well and follow the guidelines.  Lately it doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad your chart is.

One physician wrote in the reason homebound section, the ICD-9 codes for Parkinson’s Disease and scribbled ORIF.  I get that the document did not meet all the requirements for a narrative.  Also included on the document was the patient’s age (85), the fact that he had PEG orders.  Perhaps I am reading too much into the information.  Maybe it is reasonable to believe that an 85 year old patient with Parkinson’s Disease, and a hip replacement could leave the house unattended to play bingo.   Or softball.

Another physician wrote the reason for home health was paralysis.  Skilled nursing was ordered for catheter care and so the claim was denied.  The MD did not realize the nuances of home health coding apparently and the claim was denied because we can’t fix paralysis.

We can’t fix lazy and stupid, either.   It certainly relieves Medicare contractors of the burden of reviewing records if a face to face is not completely accurate or grammatically correct and it has become abundantly clear that many of the records sent are not even read.

The sophistication of the Medicare IT has grown exponentially in recent years.  They are able to tell if the physician who signed the 485 is not listed as the patient’s physician in the database but they cannot see a Part B claim from a physician and determine that the patient was seen timely.  Do they really believe that all those patients admitted from the hospital were not seen by a physician?

Not one single Medicare beneficiary has received better care because of this insane demand on agencies.  In fact, time and resources that could be used to teach nurses about the new Diabetic protocols (bet you didn’t know they were published) or otherwise enhance the clinical skills of nurses are being devoted to getting the physician to document one encounter multiple times to ensure the agency gets paid.  In some cases, the agencies are simply completing the form for the physician’s signature.  They get paid.

I strongly encourage you to play by the rules but also to fight every single denial for a face to face to the level of an ALJ.  The days when the cost of appeal was taken into consideration when determining whether or not to fight it are now part of our rich home health history.  Fight everything until an ALJ or two sees how very abusive these practices are.

Don’t call or email me for a couple of weeks if you have something confidential to say.  I figure after about two weeks, the feds will see how very boring my life is and remove the wire taps. And try to find some time in between ADRs and running down face to face documents to, you know, take care of a patient or two.  Remember them?  Patients?  Elderly, lots of DME and a ton of pill bottles; none of which contain the pill she thinks she takes for sugar.

Please tell us about any face to face horror stories below or email them to me privately.  If you are a client and anyone asks who your consultant is, tell them Jnon Griffin or Lisa Selman Holman.  Just sayin….

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mandy #

    This is right on target. Medicare is trying to deter fraud activity when in reality the f2f requirement is just making it worse. Physicians are choosing agencies that make it easy on them and complete the f2f for them. We get asked why we won’t do complete it for them. We inform them we like our lives, families, jobs and really don’t see federal prison as a place we want to be. They act so surpised when we tell them that process is illegal. Medicare record reviewers should interview the physician’s staff and see what they would “discover.”

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • Mandy, you have a really good point here. I, too, have heard of physicians refusing to sign blank documents because other agency’s complete the form for them. My suggestion is to write a letter to all referral sources telling them that if they sign a face to face document that home health agency staff has prepared they may be unwittingly participating in fraud.

      You owe it to you referral sources to cover their back and I think it’s a little bit fun to advise physicians that an agency is involving them in fraud and abuse; thus destroying all trust the MD had in the agency. It’s best not to name names, though.

      Like

      June 14, 2013
  2. Gail #

    When we first started this whole mess, I saw a F2F which stated, “Because I said so” as the answer to the question as to why the patient needed home health. I wonder if CMS was amused. I do sort of see a point, however. Doc’s don’t like their orders being challenged. Moms say it, “Because I said so.”

    Like

    July 1, 2013
    • I seriously doubt they were amused – more like gleeful for an easy denial. What bothers me is that the intent was to prevent people from paying docs to sign orders for patients they had never seen. Now, it’s about proper use of verbs an whatnot.

      Like

      July 1, 2013

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