Medicare’s Pre-Claim Review Demonstration Project


Imagine if every one of your Face-to-Face documents and plans of care were scrutinized prior to payment.  Would 90 percent of them be found compliant with existent rules?  If a non-clinical person determined that your documentation did not meet Medicare coverage guidelines, would you take their word over your nurses’?  How would you feel about submitting a perfectly valid claim for eligible services and being paid 25% less than your peers?

Agencies in Illinois do not have to use their imagination.  It is already happening through the Pre-Claim Review process.  This process involves submitting plans of care, face to face documents, physician and hospital notes and sometimes more to Palmetto prior to dropping a claim for ‘affirmation’.  Once affirmed, a secret code is given to the agency which is placed on the claim. Without the code, final claims are reduced by 25 percent.

And while Medicare is reporting a 90 percent ‘affirmation’ rate, it does not report that there were over 80,000 RAPs submitted compared to 23,000 final claims.  Agencies are apparently reluctant to submit their pre-claim review documentation.

Because a RaP will be taken back after 120 days if not answered by a final claim, I expect that many agencies are going to drop an enormous number of claims in the coming weeks which means the number of pre-claim reviews will far exceed that ever imagined by Palmetto, GBA.  Maybe Palmetto really can process an additional 60k reviews without any interruption in services to the rest of us.  Maybe; but I doubt it.

In April, Florida will come on board.  Texas, Michigan and Massachusetts will follow at undetermined dates.

Agencies in states other than Illinois might not be impressed with all this stuff and nothing.  They are busy with the changes to the OASIS data set, the impending Conditions of Participation and perhaps their own audits or surveys.  Hopefully they will take pause and consider the magnitude of this demonstration project to understand the egregious nature of this intrusive and burdensome little project taken on by Medicare.

The new conditions of participation expected in July of this year explain that the prior Conditions focused on identifying agencies with poor performance.  The updated Conditions of Participation take a much-needed step away from this punitive approach.  As written in the new regulations:

Ensuring quality through the enforcement of prescriptive health and safety standards, rather than improving the quality of care for all patients, has resulted in expending much of our resources on dealing with marginal providers, rather than on stimulating broad-based improvements in the quality of care delivered to all patients.  

There is nothing about the Pre-Claim Review process that stimulates broad-based improvements in healthcare.   How could the Pre-Claim Review Project be so far removed from the intent of the home health Conditions of Participation?

Consider that the demonstration project is resulting in difficulty meeting the educational demands in Illinois and that resources have already been relocated from Florida to Illinois.  Do agencies in other states have the same access to education as the agencies under pre-pay review?

According to the Medicare Pre-Claim Review Q & A:

The demonstration establishes a pre-claim review process for home health services to assist in developing improved procedures for the investigation and prosecution of Medicare fraud occurring among Home Health Agencies providing services to Medicare beneficiaries.

Nobody can deny that a small number of agencies operate without any regard to Medicare rules and only a passing acquaintance with ethics.  This inconvenient acknowledgment of fraud amongst the ranks does not justify excessive scrutiny on 100 percent of providers.  Somehow it does not seem fair to involve home care agencies in a demonstration project designed to enhance their prosecution.

And yet, agencies who fail to submit documentation for a Pre-Claim Review are put on a 100 percent review – a level of scrutiny previously reserved for agencies operating far outside of Medicare rules for an extended period.

The documentation required for a pre-claim review is reviewed for clerical errors and dare I say, elements that cannot be established with limited documentation by reviewers who are not nurses.  The reason for denial given most often per Palmetto GBA is lack of medical necessity.  We see care plans daily that are very poorly crafted supported by excellent nursing and therapy notes.  Conversely, we see plans of care worthy of a Pulitzer prize supported by 9 visit notes at weekly intervals documenting that a skilled nurse taught meds – presumably meds ordered for the patient but who knows?  Nobody asked us if it was possible to determine Medical Necessity without a complete review of the chart.

In the same vein, we see homebound status documented on visit notes that is contradictory to plans of care.  In one recent chart, we found that a patient was shopping weekly.  On another, a therapist documented the patient was driving.  Sufficient documentation on a plan of care that a patient meets the homebound criteria does not make it so.

But, the reviewers are also quick to note when a signature is not dated or the date of encounter is omitted from the Face-to-Face encounter document.  I agree that dates are an important step towards compliance but lack of a date is often nothing more than an oversight; not a tell-tale sign of fraud on behalf of the agency, especially since it is the physician who responsible for the dates.  If this keeps up, the federal prisons will be filled with healthcare providers who forgot to date a couple of documents.

The burden to the agency is extensive.  On a recent CMS conference call, many agencies reported that the PCR process was costing them $25,000.00 per month.  Another agency stated it was taking them about an hour per claim.  Even if these estimates are overstated, they are still far above Medicare’s estimation that it would take minimal time and expense to get the pre-claim reviews submitted.

If Tom Price is confirmed as the new secretary of HHS, there may be some relief but the Georgia representative will oversee 13 different agencies including CMS, the CDC, the FDA, National Institutes of Health and more.  While he has been outspoken against the Pre-Claim Review Process as a senator it is hard to imagine that the Pre-Claim Review process will find its way to the top of his priority list upon confirmation.

So, who benefits from this circus?  Is Palmetto being honest when they say the project is going well?  Are our patients happier and healthier because of frantic efforts to assemble and transmit paperwork?  Could the resources being consumed by The Pre-Claim Review project be put to better use?  What can you do?

I can only provide an answer for the last question.  The first thing you should do is to contact your elected officials in Washington.  After that, get your care plans and Face-to-Face documents in order because there is now an abundance of reviewers at Palmetto who are fluent at reviewing (and finding cause to deny) them.  If you are in Illinois and have claims that you believe are non-affirmed due to incompetent reviewers at Palmetto, contact NAHC.  Under no circumstances do we recommend ignoring the Pre-Claim Review Process because your state is not in the demonstration project.

Many Thanks to Tim Rowan, founder of the Home Care Technology Report. who has extensively and  investigated the Pre-Claim Review process and its effect on providers.  His articles are linked within the content of this post and you can find additional information on his website.

And of course we want your comments and questions.  You can leave a comment here or email us with questions.  We particularly want to hear from Illinois agencies (after you contact your elected officials).

Advertisements

Home Health Conditions for Payment


We have looked and have been unable to find specific guidance on the new CoPs.  There was a phone conference scheduled with NGS that was cancelled and nothing so far from Palmetto GBA.  Help us out if you know anything.

Meanwhile, some people who are very knowledgeable and well respected in the industry differ from us in how we interpret what ‘estimating how much longer the patient will be on service at the time of recertification’ means.  Look for it below in larger bold text.

§424.22   Requirements for home health services.

Medicare Part A or Part B pays for home health services only if a physician certifies and recertifies the content specified in paragraphs (a)(1) and (b)(2) of this section, as appropriate.

(a) Certification—(1) Content of certification. As a condition for payment of home health services under Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, a physician must certify the patient’s eligibility for the home health benefit, as outlined in sections 1814(a)(2)(C) and 1835(a)(2)(A) of the Act, as follows in paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (v) of this section. The patient’s medical record, as specified in paragraph (c) of this section, must support the certification of eligibility as outlined in paragraph (a)(1)(i) through (v) of this section.

(i) The individual needs or needed intermittent skilled nursing care, or physical therapy or speech-language pathology services as defined in §409.42(c) of this chapter. If a patient’s underlying condition or complication requires a registered nurse to ensure that essential non-skilled care is achieving its purpose, and necessitates a registered nurse be involved in the development, management, and evaluation of a patient’s care plan, the physician will include a brief narrative describing the clinical justification of this need. If the narrative is part of the certification form, then the narrative must be located immediately prior to the physician’s signature. If the narrative exists as an addendum to the certification form, in addition to the physician’s signature on the certification form, the physician must sign immediately following the narrative in the addendum.

(ii) Home health services are or were required because the individual is or was confined to the home, as defined in sections 1835(a) and 1814(a) of the Act, except when receiving outpatient services.

(iii) A plan for furnishing the services has been established and will be or was periodically reviewed by a physician who is a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, or podiatric medicine, and who is not precluded from performing this function under paragraph (d) of this section. (A doctor of podiatric medicine may perform only plan of treatment functions that are consistent with the functions he or she is authorized to perform under State law.)

(iv) The services will be or were furnished while the individual was under the care of a physician who is a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, or podiatric medicine.

(v) A face-to-face patient encounter, which is related to the primary reason the patient requires home health services, occurred no more than 90 days prior to the home health start of care date or within 30 days of the start of the home health care and was performed by a physician or allowed non-physician practitioner as defined in paragraph (a)(1)(v)(A) of this section. The certifying physician must also document the date of the encounter as part of the certification.

(A) The face-to-face encounter must be performed by one of the following:

(1) The certifying physician himself or herself.

(2) A physician, with privileges, who cared for the patient in an acute or post-acute care facility from which the patient was directly admitted to home health.

(3) A nurse practitioner or a clinical nurse specialist (as those terms are defined in section 1861(aa)(5) of the Act) who is working in accordance with State law and in collaboration with the certifying physician or in collaboration with an acute or post-acute care physician with privileges who cared for the patient in the acute or post-acute care facility from which the patient was directly admitted to home health.

(4) A certified nurse midwife (as defined in section 1861(gg) of the Act) as authorized by State law, under the supervision of the certifying physician or under the supervision of an acute or post-acute care physician with privileges who cared for the patient in the acute or post-acute care facility from which the patient was directly admitted to home health.

(5) A physician assistant (as defined in section 1861(aa)(5) of the Act) under the supervision of the certifying physician or under the supervision of an acute or post-acute care physician with privileges who cared for the patient in the acute or post-acute care facility from which the patient was directly admitted to home health.

(B) The face-to-face patient encounter may occur through telehealth, in compliance with section 1834(m) of the Act and subject to the list of payable Medicare telehealth services established by the applicable physician fee schedule regulation.

(1) Timing and signature. The certification of need for home health services must be obtained at the time the plan of care is established or as soon thereafter as possible and must be signed and dated by the physician who establishes the plan.

(2) [Reserved]

(2) [Reserved]

(b) Recertification—(1) Timing and signature of recertification. Recertification is required at least every 60 days when there is a need for continuous home health care after an initial 60-day episode. Recertification should occur at the time the plan of care is reviewed, and must be signed and dated by the physician who reviews the plan of care. Recertification is required at least every 60 days unless there is a—

(i) Beneficiary elected transfer; or

(ii) Discharge with goals met and/or no expectation of a return to home health care.

(2) Content and basis of recertification. The recertification statement must indicate the continuing need for services and estimate how much longer the services will be required. Need for occupational therapy may be the basis for continuing services that were initiated because the individual needed skilled nursing care or physical therapy or speech therapy. If a patient’s underlying condition or complication requires a registered nurse to ensure that essential non-skilled care is achieving its purpose, and necessitates a registered nurse be involved in the development, management, and evaluation of a patient’s care plan, the physician will include a brief narrative describing the clinical justification of this need. If the narrative is part of the recertification form, then the narrative must be located immediately prior to the physician’s signature. If the narrative exists as an addendum to the recertification form, in addition to the physician’s signature on the recertification form, the physician must sign immediately following the narrative in the addendum.

(c) Determining patient eligibility for Medicare home health services. 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) shall be used as the basis for certification of home health eligibility. This documentation shall be provided upon request to the home health agency, review entities, and/or CMS. Criteria for patient eligibility are described in paragraphs (a)(1) and (b) of this section. If the documentation used as the basis for the certification of eligibility is not sufficient to demonstrate that the patient is or was eligible to receive services under the Medicare home health benefit, payment will not be rendered for home health services provided.

(d) Limitation of the performance of physician certification and plan of care functions. The need for home health services to be provided by an HHA may not be certified or recertified, and a plan of care may not be established and reviewed, by any physician who has a financial relationship as defined in §411.354 of this chapter, with that HHA, unless the physician’s relationship meets one of the exceptions in section 1877 of the Act, which sets forth general exceptions to the referral prohibition related to both ownership/investment and compensation; exceptions to the referral prohibition related to ownership or investment interests; and exceptions to the referral prohibition related to compensation arrangements.

(1) If a physician has a financial relationship as defined in §411.354 of this chapter, with an HHA, the physician may not certify or recertify need for home health services provided by that HHA, establish or review a plan of treatment for such services, or conduct the face-to-face encounter required under sections 1814(a)(2)(C) and 1835(a)(2)(A) of the Act unless the financial relationship meets one of the exceptions set forth in §411.355 through §411.357 of this chapter.

(2) A Nonphysician practitioner may not perform the face-to-face encounter required under sections 1814(a)(2)(C) and 1835(a)(2)(A) of the Act if such encounter would be prohibited under paragraph (d)(1) if the nonphysician practitioner were a physician.

[53 FR 6638, Mar. 2, 1988; 53 FR 12945, Apr. 20, 1988; 56 FR 8845, Mar. 1, 1991, as amended at 65 FR 41211, July 3, 2000; 66 FR 962, Jan. 4, 2001; 70 FR 70334, Nov. 21, 2005; 72 FR 51098, Sept. 5, 2007; 74 FR 58133, Nov. 10, 2009; 75 FR 70463, Nov. 17, 2010; 76 FR 9503, Feb. 18, 2011; 76 FR 68606, Nov. 4, 2011; 77 FR 67163, Nov. 8, 2012; 79 FR 66116, Nov. 6, 2014]

Face to Face Answers


If you have not already taken the quiz on Face to Face encounter for home health, please do so by clicking here before continuing.  The answers are as follows.

When should the face to face encounter occur?

The face to face encounter should always occur within the 90 days prior to admission for home health services or within 30 days following the admission.  However, if a physician visit in the prior 90 days was not for reasons related to home health services, an additional visit is required related to home health services.

Who may sign the face to face encounter? 

The physician who orders home health services must always sign the face to face encounter. 

How can you  best assist the physician in the face to face process?

The best way to assist the physician is with education.  Not only do physicians resent the additional paperwork but if your agency is following the guidelines, there is a really good chance that you are competing against other agencies that complete the face to face documentation for the physician.  By educating your referral sources, you are also protecting them from inadvertently participating in fraudulent activity. 

A physician documents that a patient is confined to the home because they do not drive.  What should you do?

The correct answer is to visit with the physician and ask him to document why the patient does not drive. Assuming the reason that the patient does not drive is related to their health and not lost keys, the physician will hopefully understand homebound status a little better after your discussion.

Which of the following is not true about Face to Face Documentation?

Although it seems redundant as it is repeated so many times, a common reason for face to face denials is that the physician who certified the plan of care did not sign the face to face document. 

Which of the following is not true about Face to Face Documentation?

Yes, there are two questions that read the same.  This refers to question 8 and the only untrue answer is that the face to face should not be sent by the hospitalist while the referring physician sends the certification.  The face to face document is considered a part of the initial certification.

Everything else is true.  The physician may use drop down boxes in his or her software if they adequately describe the patient.  The entire face to face document may be computer generated and recent denials because the date of the encounter was not handwritten are erroneous on the part of the MAC. That is not a requirement.

Which is true regarding the physician narrative?

The correct answer is that it should contain the patient’s condition at the time of the encounter.  When the face to face documentation differs from the agency documentation, a denial may result.  For instance, a physician states the patient needs therapy and upon admission, the patient refuses therapy.  Because the patient is new anticoagulation therapy, the patient is admitted from services.  This type of discrepancy has resulted in numerous denials.

When is it acceptable to bill without a face to face encounter?

The only time it would be considered acceptable to bill without a face to face encounter would be if the patient dies prior to the 30th day and the agency can show that efforts were in progress for the patient to see the physician.  Please note we are not suggesting that you introduce your patient to the great hereafter if the patient does not go to the physician as planned.

When the referring physician is unavailable, the Medical Director may sign the Certification and Face to Face documentation.  (T/F)

False.  The only time the Medical Director may sign the face to face documentation is on those occasions when the patient was seen and referred by the Medical Director.  These referrals must fall under the confines of Stark and Anti-kickback laws that prohibit the sale of patients.

The face to face documentation is required on all patients admitted to a Medicare certified agency regardless of payor source.  (T/F)

This is actually a trick question because Medicare clearly states that only Medicare patients require a face to face document.  Try telling Humana that.  They are denying claims based on the language in their contracts with agencies that all Medicare rules apply to Humana patients as well.  Get one on everyone just to be safe.

The physician who signs the plan of care must also sign the face to face encounter. (T/F)

If you started this Face to Face adventure believing anything else and you now know better, you have not wasted your time. 

What is true about face to face documents prepared by a hospital physician who then handed off the patient to a community physician?

A final, often overlooked reason for denial is that any document that is used as the face to face document must be clearly labeled as the face to face document.  If the physician merely staples a discharge summary with all the pertinent parts on it to the plan of care, it will not suffice.  ALF’s often have a form that contains al of this information but if it is not labeled as a face to face, it will not count.  Finally, some hospitals have software that generate a document that looks like a face to face without being labeled.  This is an easy fix and I trust you will never be denied for an unlabeled face to face in the future.

How did you do?  Did you learn anything?  Feedback is always welcome and criticism is swallowed whole when offered with our best interests in mind.

The Coders want  you to get paid.  Together with our affiliated companies, HCMB billing and Haydel Consulting Services LLC, we are prepared to offer billing, coding and clinical consulting services tailored specifically to your needs.  Contact us today by email or click here to get your questions answered.  And be sure to subscribe to our blog so you won’t a single post.