Every quarter, Palmetto GBA publishes the top reasons for denial and ways to prevent denials on their website. This is their advice about Face-to-Face Encounter documentation which is the second most frequent reason for denial after non-submission of records.
The face-to-face encounter must occur no more than 90 days prior to the home health start of care date or within 30 days after the start of care.
Specific documentation related to face to face encounter requirements must be submitted for review. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- The certifying physician must document that he/she or an allowed non-physician practitioner (NPP) had a face-to-face encounter with the patient, including the date of the encounter
- The documentation of the encounter must include a brief narrative, composed by the certifying physician, describing how the patient’s clinical condition as observed during that encounter supports the patient’s homebound status and need for skilled services
- The certifying physician must document the encounter either on the certification, which the physician signs and dates, or on a signed addendum to the certification
- The certifying physician may dictate the face-to-face encounter documentation content to one of the physician’s support personnel to type. The documentation may also be generated from a physician’s electronic health record.
On November 1, I contacted Palmetto GBA through their website. I prefer written responses I can refer to in the future. As a consultant, I find it useful to give clients accurate advice that I can back up with references. That kind of attention to detail gets me paid. Specifically, I wrote:
Please review the information provided under the list of April – June HH Medical Review Top Denial Codes. Your advice states that a narrative is still warranted and says nothing about supplemental documentation. When clicking on the link to ‘General Medical Review’, it provides pre-2015 instructions. And the third link is blog post by Dr. Feliciano with a 2013 date. The first link does go to the current manual but it conflicts with the information you are providing. Since providers are being denied at an alarming rate for F2F, it is abundantly clear that correct information be Provided.
Yesterday marked 47 days after my initial email. I received the following email from Palmetto:
Thank you for your e-mail received on November 01, 2018. You wrote to us regarding F2F information. You indicated there was some conflicting information in the April – June 2018 Home Health Medical Review Top Denial Reason Codes article.
Thank you for your information. We have submitted the information you provided to the Provider Outreach and Education Department for them to review the information provided.
By way of reference, e-mails are answered within 45 business days. Anytime you need immediate assistance, please call us at the telephone number listed below so that a representative can assist you with your questions quickly. You may also use our secure eChat feature that is available on our website at www.PalmettoGBA.com/hhh.
As a Medicare contractor, it is Palmetto GBA’s goal to continuously improve Medicare customer satisfaction through the delivery of high quality and cost-effective customer service. For claim status and eligibility or to speak to a Customer Service Advocate (CSA) about more complex issues, please call 1-855-696-0705. You may also visit the Palmetto GBA eServices to view claim status and eligibility at htps://www.onlineproviderservices.com/ecx_improvev2/. For up to date Medicare news and policy information, please visit our website at http://www.palmettogba.com/Medicare. Medicare beneficiaries should contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for assistance.
I have so many problems with this email that if they were lined up they would reach the moon. Nevermind that. Let’s get you paid.
Know that if you follow the information on Palmetto GBA’s webpage about denials, your claim will be denied because four years ago, the Face-to-Face encounter documentation guidelines changed. The Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, chapter seven, section 126.96.36.199 instructs providers:
As of January 1, 2015, documentation in the certifying physician’s medical records and/or the acute /post-acute care facility’s medical records (if the patient was directly admitted to home health) will be used as the basis upon which patient eligibility for the Medicare home health benefit will be determined.
This does not mean that you may not use a traditional F2F form or attestation statement and the physician can write as much as he or she wants as a narrative, but even if it is perfect, your claim will not payable unless you also submit the physician or hospital documentation. Furthermore, the dates must match. If the physician inadvertently dates the form on the day he signs it instead of the date of the encounter, the documentation will be invalid. The physician names must match, too. If a qualified practitioner other than the certifying physician performs the encounter and prepares the documentation, the certifying physician should sign or initial the documentation to demonstrate that the information was communicated to him or her. (A link to the manual follows this post with complete instructions.)
I see nothing in Palmetto GBA’s instructions about hospital documentation. I see nothing in the coverage manual about a narrative.
I do not feel good about pointing out Palmetto GBA’s lack of response to what I believe to be a legitimate concern on the internet. Then again, I absolutely hate to see claims for excellent care provided by eligible beneficiaries denied because of stupid stuff. When agencies are taught stupid stuff by the contractors responsible for paying their claims, I get angry. Worse is when contractors are contacted and they take 47 days to say they are passing on my question to a different department. It took 47 days to forward an email? All of that kind of negates the claim that Palmetto GBA’s goal is to continuously improve Medicare customer satisfaction through the delivery of high quality and cost-effective customer service. Have Mercy!
For complete instructions regarding the Medicare requirements for documentation of the face-to-face encounter, go to section 30.1 in the coverage manual found at https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Guidance/Manuals/downloads/bp102c07.pdf. If you are new to home health, take a minute and familiarize yourself with sections 20, 30, and 40.