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Posts from the ‘Therapy’ Category

Breaking Bad with Mama

The hidden damage of patient falls.

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Physical Therapy Goals


The following is from a denial a client sent last week.  The clinical record was originally requested as a routine ADR and payment was denied related to the Face-to-Face document.  That denial was overturned in favor of my client but the claim was denied again for a new reason.  You have to see this in order to believe it:

Documentation submitted by the provider included a valid face to face encounter form that supported the beneficiary’s skilled need and homebound status. The submitted documentation further suppo1ted skilled nursing services to be reasonable and necessary as evidenced by documentation supported an acute functional and mental decline, recent hospitalization and the need for assessment and observation of condition. However, in review of the physical therapy and occupational therapy evaluations it has been determined the evaluations failed to include short term and long term goals stated in measurable terms with expected dates of accomplishment. Therefore, the six physical therapy visits and the six occupational therapy visits rendered as billed from March 25 to April 12, 2013 will be denied due to invalid/incomplete evaluations.

So, what we end up with a patient that everyone agrees needed services, met Medicare’s eligibility requirements and the agency received no payment because of failure to state long and short term goals. 

Did you happen to notice that the entire course of therapy was three weeks? 

Have you figured out yet that there were no long/short term goals differentiated on the original chart submitted?  That really gets under my skin.

In essence, the denial related to a Face-to-Face document should have never occurred but it did in spite of a perfectly fine document.  They agency lost a full round of appeals before the reviewers found something else wrong with the chart.  Now the agency is going to the QIC with what amounts to a first round appeal for the PT goals that were never mentioned in the first denial.This example stood out because the reviewer actually wrote that all other requirements were met.  I don’t know why she felt compelled to point out how very much the patient’s need for services was supported and payment would have been made save for lack of a long or short term goal.  In actuality, there were five of these I worked last week.

You have two choices.  First, you can write a short term goal or you can write a very long term goal.   The problem with a long term goal is the ability to assess progress towards goals after the patient is discharged.   I supposed you could set a goal of swimming the English Channel because I think there is a published list of all who have successfully crossed.  Outside of publically available information, how would you verify completion of the goal without violating HIPAA rules?

An alternative solution would be to write a goal or two for the first visit or first week of therapy.  Some examples that come to mind from who knows where because I am not a therapist are:

  • The patient will agree to participate in their course of therapy by the end of the first visit.  (Chances are this is pretty accurate if the patient allows you in for a second visit).
  • The patient will have all prescriptions for pain filled prior to next visit.  (I do not like the way it sounds when therapists work with un-medicated patients.)
  • The patient will have DME delivered by end of day 4 of episode.  (If nothing else, this will serve as a reminder to follow up and ensure that DME was delivered.

I have shared this information with several clients who think I have loaned my brain out to someone who needed a laugh.  I assure you that is not the case.  All of you who receive a denial such as the one described above should include in your argument for payment that whatever new deficiency was identified after the initial denial was overturned was also present in the original submission of documentation.  Be bold about it.  Include page numbers.

I would be interested to hear what is happening in your offices.  Has anyone else seen denials like these?  If so, what contractor?  (Palmetto, NGS, CGS, etc.)  Email me if you don’t want your denials plastered all over the internet or better yet, be loud about them and post them below. 

Your Rights as a Provider


It is not my desire to create drama but then again, I am not the one who took away your rights as a provider.

Your contract with Medicare is simple.  It states that you are qualified to perform services for home health and hospice patients and Medicare will pay you according to an agreed schedule.  Occasionally, they review clinical records and refuse to pay based on their assessment of your chart.  If you agree with their decision as is sometimes appropriate, so be it.  If you feel as though you disagree with their decision, you can appeal.

Sort of…..

Last week, I heard a rumor started by the National Association of Home Care and Hospice that the ALJ’s weren’t going to be docketing any more cases from home health and hospice providers.  I knew this could not be the case so I emailed Mr. Dombi at NAHC and he responded by sending a scanned copy of a letter from the Chief Administrative Law Judge, Nancy Griswold confirming this complete and utter lunacy.

For those of you who do not work in the world of appeals and do more important things like take care of sick people in their homes, let me explain this to you.

Imagine you did something else for a living.  Humour me and pretend that you are a roofer.  My insurance company who supplies 95 percent of your business  agreed to pay you to put a roof on my house and you did a fine job.   You shingled my home with materials that will withstand a category 5 hurricane and then you sent a bill and my insurance company politely declined to pay it.   Since the services were covered under your contract, the advance Roof Recipient Notice won’t protect you and I am held harmless while enjoying the sound of the rain on my new Cat 5 roof.

You take your complaint to the board of insurance and they tell you that you are right!  You did install at Cat 5 roof on my house but it doesn’t matter.  No payment is forthcoming.  Their reasoning is that in order to begin work, they had you sign a 30 page contract and on page 27, halfway down, it said that in order to be paid, you must initial the bottom of every page of the contract.  You only initialed 15 pages.

You decide the whole world of roofers and contractors has gone crazy and decide to take the insurance company to court.  The problem is there is no judge to hear your case.

So, I get the roof.  You get nothing and you have no rights.  The insurance company who signed a contract agreeing to pay you is sitting pretty with another satisfied customer under a Cat 5 roof and all you can do is work harder and faster to make up for the lost dollars.

That is exactly what is happening with Medicare appeals right now.  Payment is being refused for up to half of all claims at some MACs (e.g. Palmetto GBA, NGS, CGS) and you do not have any right to appeal denials past a certain point.  There is no person that you can talk to and you are completely unsure if anyone is actually looking at your records before rubber stamping  ‘denied’ on your claim. In short, they don’t give a flying flip that you had to pay your nurses or cover supplies.

When I work appeals, most of my work is done with the ALJ in mind.  If it’s good enough for them, it should satisfy the lower levels of appeals but often it does not.  The ALJ is the first human being that you can plead with to be reasonable. Except in desperate and extreme cases, the appeals process ends there.

Ms. Griswold confidently speaks to the increase in the number of denials being appealed but she does not speak at all to the increase in denials that are fully appealable or the rate of denials being overturned by Administrative Law Judges for the first two levels of appeal.   If the first two levels of appeals were performed competently, the workload at the ALJ would naturally fall as a byproduct of efficient, ethical and fair clinical reviews.

She makes a very valid point that the number of cases has increased overwhelming the ALJ’s but instead of addressing the huge percentage of denials that should have never been, she asks for ‘indulgence’.  It’s like pouring salt into a wound.

How dare Ms. Griswold ask for indulgence when almost half of the claims for home health have been denied by some MACs for grammatical errors relating to the F2F encounter documentation?   She wants to thank us in advance even though she has the responsibility to be well aware that her staff is ultimately overwhelmed due to the enormous increase in unfair denials.

I beg for your indulgence when I say that someone in Washington, starting with Ms. Griswold needs to have the courage to stand up for the good providers and quit playing political games with the healthcare needs of our elderly.

According to the HHS website, Ms. Griswold can be reached at:

OMHA Headquarters
1700 N. Moore St., Suite 1800
Arlington, VA 22209

Phone: 703-235-0635;   Fax: 703-235-0700

E-mail: Medicare.Appeals@hhs.gov

Make use of this information.  If you don’t speak up now, you may not be able to later.

Thanks to NAHC for sharing this information freely without regard to membership status. The content and sentiment in this post are mine alone and should not be attributed to NAHC or any other entity or person. 

Therapy Costs


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