But Our Survey was Perfect!
The state has come through and scrutinized every piece of paper in your office, gone on multiple home visits and even complimented you on your Infection Control Program. There’s absolutely no reason to be concerned when some ADRs are received from Medicare. How could an agency as perfect as yours be denied payment?
It happens every day. Trust me. I hear about perfect surveys and denials in the same sentence almost every day.
State regulations often follow the Medicare Conditions of Participation. If your survey was perfect or even just good, you have likely met the CoP’s. However, off to the side, in another area of the manual are the Medicare Conditions for Payment. They are separate and apart from the CoP’s because not all payor sources have these requirements for payment.
- The patient is confined to the home
- The patient is under the care of a physician (or as we say in the south, under the doctor)
- The patient has a need for recurring, intermittent skilled care.
- A Face-to-Face Encounter must occur within a designated time frame
- The patient is an eligible beneficiary
- OASIS data has been collected and submitted.
- The agency is certified by Medicare.
Most patients meet the homebound criteria but many patients do not have homebound criteria documented well enough to warrant payment. In case you missed it, here is a post about how to document homebound status.
The patient is under the care of a physician should be obvious, right? Not so fast, grasshoppers. Not just any physician counts. It has to be one that is licensed in your state or your state must allow physicians from nearby counties in another state to write orders. Each state is different so read your physician practice acts and call the board of medicine if you still aren’t clear.
The way that Medicare determines that a patient is under the care of a physician is by looking at signatures. For years, we were told that if the physician failed to date his or her signature, we could simply enter the date the signed plan of care was received by the agency. They changed their minds on that one a few years ago but not everyone got the memo, apparently. Everyone in the agency who sees plans of care on a regular basis should be taught to look for dated signatures. The earlier you find an undated signature, the more likely the physician will be able to sign an attestation statement with confidence.
Recurring, intermittent services sounds like someone is trying to confuse you. In short, you may not see a patient indefinitely and you may not arrange to see a patient only once.
Daily nursing visits must have a written ‘end in sight’ to daily skilled nursing care included in the documentation. The single exception to this rule is daily visits for insulin injections. You can document this anywhere but I like to see it under the frequency or in the goals section. Similarly, you may not plan to visit a patient once. Physicians may call and ask for you to go to the house to remove sutures or administer a flu vaccine. These visits would not be covered under the Medicare home care benefit although you can give a flu shot. If a patient dies, moves out of town or refuses services after the admission visit, you may bill for it because you fully expected to see the patient again.
I think we have covered, recovered and stripped bare the Face-to-Face documentation requirements in prior posts. If you continue to have questions, read here.
Skilled care is defined in the Medicare Benefits Manual, chapter 7. I always have a copy on my iPad and my desktop but whenever I can, I go to the online version because changes are fairly frequent. You can identify the changes by the red font.
Everyone checks eligibility right? I seldom see a problem with that but when one occurs, it occurs in a very big way. Usually, an unfortunate soul without Medicare or insurance will borrow someone else’s card. Although you are completely clueless, it is still non-billable. That means you have to give the money back. If you find out about it before Medicare does, you have 60 days before the money is considered fraudulent (that applies to all overpayments). Whenever possible, check identification on admission.
It seems that until recently, agencies sent OASIS data in one direction and claims in another and the two never met up and the penalty for not submitting OASIS data was very scarcely enforced. At some point, the OIG got wind of this and jumped all over Medicare in a long and boring report last year. Now now you will be denied on an ADR if the OASIS data has not been submitted.
I think you will know if ever your agency becomes decertified so let’s just skip that one. (Hint: one big clue is the lack of payment.)
Your state surveyors do not know much at all about billing. The Face-to-Face requirement is not a requirement for licensure. In all likelihood, you probably know more about OASIS and coding than a surveyor does because they do not do it every day. The state really doesn’t survey your length of stay. The state wants to know if you meet the basic requirements to provide care for patients. If you are still confused, consider that the state employees are paid by state taxes to protect the citizens of the state. Medicare pays contractors to protect the trust funds (large piles of money) used to pay for the care.
If you have a perfect survey, it means that you are doing many things right. In fact, if you get in trouble with your state agency, there will come a point in time where they will communicate with Medicare and your provider number will be at risk. I’ve only seen that happen a few times by people who do not read stuff like this.
Now think about all the reasons agencies have claims denied. They are not included in your state survey. And that is how you can have a perfect survey and still get denials or worse.
Now you know.
Questions and comments are always welcome.
Remember also that not all survey’s are created equal. Back when I worked for Olsten/Gentiva, we in California were penalized for our less than perfect surveys when people in other states always got perfect ones.
I know things are somewhat more even today, but it’s still state interpretation. When I hear about perfect surveys, and we know no agency is really perfect, I want to know either where they buried the bodies or how far the other way the surveyor looked or whether they were really the one in a million who was really that lucky.
Not all surveyors are created equally. Our state surveyors in Louisiana tend to be very fair. I have been in other states and other types of surveys where the surveyor made you feel guilty before she even asked for the census. There’s always dirt.
I am so over a perfect survey. I am perfectly fine with a couple of deficiencies because it shows the surveyors did their job. I had one perfect survey in the last three years. The client is that good and deserved it. All my other clients get a couple of standard deficiencies. The only time it annoys me is when the client is surprised as in, ‘You didn’t know you had 32 missed visits???”