Archive for the ‘Physician Issues’ Category

CMS Will Hold Lessons from the Front Line

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

CMS COVID-19 Lessons from the Front Lines, Friday, May 22nd, 12:30 – 2:00 PM Eastern

Physicians and other clinicians are invited to share their experience, ideas, strategies, and insights with one another related to their COVID-19 response. There is an opportunity to ask questions of presenters.

This week’s Lessons from the Front Lines will highlight a discussion on COVID-19 therapeutics with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD and providers in the field. Include will be providers from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
These are the login details from the CMS website.
Details:Friday, May 22nd at 12:30 – 2:00 PM EasternToll Free Attendee Dial-In: 877-251-0301; Access Code: 6086125Web Link: 

Wisconsin Emergency Order #35 –

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Tony Evers, Governor of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm have issued another emergency order, Emergency Order #35 (Order #35), directed at suspending certain administrative rules in an attempt to remove unnecessary impediments to the fight against the virus.

A major focus of Order #35 is assuring that Medicaid members retain their coverage eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. This provision was required under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as a condition of eligibility to receive federal funding. Order #35 contains provisions expanding the availability of telehealth in the mental health and substance abuse areas. The order also suspends the requirement that certain mental health and substance abuse services be provided only in a face-to-face setting. This is just one of the many ways in which telehealth received a “shot in the arm” from the pandemic.

A few additional areas touched in Order #35 include:

Temporarily permitting nurses to bill Medicaid for overtime.
Suspension of certain prior authorization requirements, number of refill limitations, and prescription duration limitations.

Waiver of the requirement for parents to make certain payments for the “Birth to 3” program which provides early intervention services for children with developmental delays and disabilities.

Permits supervision of occupational therapists by electronic means in situations where close supervision is required.

Removes the requirement for health departments to conduct a community health assessment resulting in a community health improvement plan at least every five years. The “five-year” requirement is removed but the general obligation remains.

Revises DHS 34.02 (8) relating to emergency mental health services. Reference is directed toward prioritization of services in cases where the need for services outweighs resources.

Extends the time from three months to six months for newly hired mental health training staff who have less than six months experience to complete their 40 hours of documented orientation training.

Makes it easier for volunteers to meet their 40 hour training requirement. Instead of requiring all 40 hours of training be completed before commencing direct client work, trainees must now complete eight hours before starting. Ten additional hours must be completed by the end of the first and second months of volunteer work. The 40 hours of training must be completed within three months of starting volunteer work.

Deleted the minimum staffing requirements for outpatient mental health clinics under Wis. Admin. Code DHS 35. The general requirement the clinic have “a sufficient number of qualified staff members available to provide outpatient mental health services to consumers admitted to care” remains. The two specific options for meeting the minimum staffing responsibility have been removed. Previously, clinics could meet their staffing requirement by meeting any of the three specific staffing scenarios included in the regulation.

This is unlikely to be the last set of waivers issued. Providers who feel they might be restricted by state or federal regulatory requirements during the pandemic should communicate with the regulatory bodies. Federal and state regulators have been sensitive to the needs of providers that are necessary to enable them to address the unprecedented needs created by the COVID-19 virus.

I’ve recapped the highlights, the full Order #35 can be found here.

Unnecessary Inpatient Admissions Results in Hospital DOJ Settlement

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

By Fisher, JD, CHC, CCEP

Hospital Admissions Fraud Risk Area

Unnecessary Inpatient Admissions – Hospital Fraud Settlement.

An $18 million settlement was agreed by a hospital chain after allegations that claims were submitted to Medicare for patients who were admitted to an inpatient facility when they allegedly could have been treated on a less costly outpatient basis.  The government alleged that the hospital system billed Medicare for short-stay, inpatient procedures that should have been billed on a less costly outpatient basis.  The government also accused the hospital system of inflating reports to Medicare regarding the number of hours of outpatient observation care that was provided.

This is a fairly typical case where the allegation involved billing for services that were of a higher level than required by the patient.  In effect, the excess services are deemed to be medically unnecessary.  In this case, the services involved inpatient admissions that the government alleged could have been taken care of in a less costly outpatient setting.

A former employee was the whistleblower in the case and walks away with over $3.25 million from the settlement.

Read more here: Health Law Blog


Telemedicine Services Furnished in a Hospital – Telehealth Staff Privileges and Distant Site Credentialing –

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

Telehealth Credentialing – Excerpts from the State Operations Manual A-0342

§482.22(a)(3) When telemedicine services are furnished to the hospital’s patients through an agreement with a distant-site hospital, the governing body of the hospital whose patients are receiving the telemedicine services may choose, in lieu of the requirements in paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of this section, to have its medical staff rely upon the credentialing and privileging decisions made by the distant-site hospital when making recommendations on privileges for the individual distant-site
physicians and practitioners providing such services, if the hospital’s governing body ensures, through its written agreement with the distant-site hospital, that all of the following provisions are met:
(i) The distant-site hospital providing the telemedicine services is a
Medicare-participating hospital.
(ii) The individual distant-site physician or practitioner is privileged at the distant site hospital providing the telemedicine services, which provides a current list of the distant-site physician’s or practitioner’s privileges at the distant-site hospital.
(iii) The individual distant-site physician or practitioner holds a license issued or recognized by the State in which the hospital whose patients are receiving the telemedicine services is located.
(iv) With respect to a distant-site physician or practitioner, who holds current privileges at the hospital whose patients are receiving the telemedicine services, the hospital has evidence of an internal review of the distant-site physician’s or practitioner’s performance of these privileges and sends the distant site hospital such performance information for use in the periodic appraisal of the distant-site physician or practitioner. At a minimum, this information must include all adverse events that result from the telemedicine services provided by the distant site physician or practitioner to the hospital’s patients and all complaints the hospital has received about the distant-site physician or practitioner.

Interpretive guidelines §482.22(a)(3)
The hospital’s governing body has the option, when considering granting privileges to telemedicine physicians and practitioners, to have the hospital’s medical staff rely upon the credentialing and privileging decisions of the distant-site hospital for these physicians and practitioners. This process would be in lieu of the traditional process required under
§482.22(a)(1) and §482.22(a)(2), whereby the hospital’s medical staff conducts its own review of each telemedicine physician’s or practitioner’s credentials and makes a recommendation based on that individualized review.
In order to exercise this alternative credentialing and privileging option, the hospital’s governing body must ensure through its written agreement with the distant-site hospital that all of the following requirements are met:

• The distant-site hospital participates in the Medicare program. If the distant-site hospital’s participation in Medicare is terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, at any time during the agreement, then, as of he effective date of the termination, the hospital may no longer receive telemedicine services under the agreement;
• The distant-site hospital provides to the hospital a list of all its physicians and practitioners covered by the agreement, including their privileges at he distant site hospital. The list may not include any physician or practitioner who does not hold privileges at the distant-site hospital. The list must be current, so the agreement must address how the distant-site hospital will keep the list current;
• Each physician or practitioner who provides telemedicine services to the hospital’s patients under the agreement holds a license issued or recognized by the State where the hospital (not the distant-site hospital) is located. States may have varying requirements as to whether they will recognize an out-of-state license for purposes of practicing within their State, and they may also vary as to whether they establish different standards for telemedicine services. The licensure requirements governing in the State where the hospital whose patients are receiving the telemedicine services is located must be satisfied, whatever they may be; and
• The hospital has evidence that it reviews the telemedicine services provided to its patients and provides feedback based on this review to the distant-site hospital for the latter’s use in its periodic appraisal of each physician and practitioner providing telemedicine services under the agreement. At a minimum, the hospital must review and send information to the distant-site hospital on all adverse events that result from a physician or practitioner’s provision of telemedicine services under the agreement and on all complaints it has received about a telemedicine physician or practitioner covered by the agreement.

When is a Referral Mandate for Employed Physicians Permitted under the Stark Law?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

By Fisher, JD, CHC, CCEP

Referral Requirements Employed Physicians

When Employed Physicians be Required to Make Referrals for Designated Health Services

The Stark Law Regulations include a provision that dictates the conditions under which an employer of a physician may mandate referrals for designated health services. Certain specific conditions must be met if an employer wishes to require its employed physicians to make referrals to the employer’s designated health services. Many institutions assume that an employer may always require an employed physician to make referrals to its ancillary services. That assumption is not correct.

The Stark regulations provides that a physician’s compensation from a bona fide employer or under a managed care contract or other contract for personal services may be conditioned on the physician’s referrals to a particular provider, practitioner, or supplier. There are a number of specific requirements that must be present to permit referral requirements including:

  1. The required referrals can only relate to the physician’s services covered by the scope of the employment or the contract.
  2. The referral requirement must be reasonably necessary to effectuate the legitimate business purposes of the compensation arrangement.
  3. The physician’s compensation must be set in advance for the term of the agreement requiring referrals.
  4. The physician’s compensation must beRead more here: Health Law Blog


Authentication of Verbal Orders by Other Responsible Practitioner

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

By Fisher, JD, CHC, CCEP

Authenticating Verbal Orders

Authentication of Verbal Orders

In a past blog article, I discussed the need for physicians to promptly authenticate verbal orders. The failure of a physician to timely sign a verbal order can have reimbursement implications. In some cases, in some states, another responsible provider can sign a verbal order that is originally given by another practitioner. This option is not always available and depends a lot on whether state law permits the practice. Some states require the practitioner who gave the verbal order to authenticate the order. With the use of electronic medical records, practitioners cannot expect leniency on these types of requirements.

In states that permit one practitioner to authenticate for another, the authenticating proxy practitioner should understand that he or she is accepting responsibility for the authenticated verbal order. State scope of practice rules apply to cross authentication of orders. In otherwords, the practitioner authenticating the order must have practice authority to have provided the original verbal order. Facilities can develop policies that a more restrictive then what the law permits. Policy can eliminate or restrict cross authentication practices. There is inherent risk in permitting cross authentication because the authenticating provider did not give the original verbal order. Additionally, as

Read more here: Health Law Blog


Hold On Just a Daw-Gone Minute – Physician Payment Act Dispute Process

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Disputing Inaccurate Reports Under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act

disputing sunshine act reportIn 2013, CMS issued final regulations interpreting and clarifying the requirements of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (“Sunshine Act”) .  The final regulations clarify the reporting process, identifies exceptions and exclusions from the reporting requirements, and provides further details regarding what constitutes a reportable relationship.  The final rule delineates the specific data elements that reporting organizations are required to include and the reporting format that is required.  Reporting organizations that fail to make required reports are subject to potential civil monetary penalties.

Physicians are often surprised to see the information that reporting agencies submit.  Early on, errors in reporting were frequent as reporting companies struggled to integrate reporting requirements into their compliance process.  Reports tend to be more accurate now, but there are certainly instances where reporting organizations make reports that should be questioned.  A process is included to afford physicians and teaching hospitals to review and dispute the information that a reporting organization proposes to report.  The regulations require physicians to exercise diligence to review the information that is being submitted describing items of benefit that they are alleged to have received.  The regulations include a 45-day review and correction period, but report information does not automatically come to a physician unless affirmative action is taken to sign up to receive this information.

If the physician or teaching hospital receives notification, a process can be used to dispute the proposed disclosure with the applicable manufacturer.  There is a very short time window to dispute and resolve the issue before publication is made for the applicable year so it is critical that a dispute be invoked promptly upon receipt of notice of the proposed report.  Signing up for notifications also permits access to the web based dispute system.  The review period lasts for 45 days and reporting organizations have 15 days after the end of that period to correct data to resolve disputes.

Errors in amount, the nature of items reported, and methodology of calculating or allocating expenditures among numerous recipients are frequent areas of error.  For example, situations have occurred where expenditures that benefitted numerous physicians were allocated to a single physician.  The opportunity for error in reporting are endless; particularly given the multiple parties that can be involved in the reporting chain for the reporting company.

Inaccurate reporting is not without consequence to the subject of the report.  Inaccurate reports can be indicative of conflict of interest and can impact publication or reviewer credibility.  A report can also be an indication of further potential fraudulent payments and can result in further government investigation regarding the fair market value of services provided in a consulting or other relationship.  In extreme cases, payments that are inflated over fair market value for services that are actually and legitimately provided can indicate potential Anti-Kickback Statute and other compliance violations that can carry significant penalties.  If a review is based on an inaccurate or inflated report, a positive resolution can likely be reached with investigators.  However, anyone who has ever been involved in a government compliance investigation understands the intangible damage that the process can create.

In order to avoid complication that could result from inaccurate reports, physicians and other reporting subjects should be certain to register to receive notification of proposed Physician Sunshine Act reports.  Any inaccuracies should be disputed promptly.

Clinically Integrated Networks – Fee Sharing Procedures

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

By John Fisher, JD, CHC, CCEP

Jointly Providing Health Care Fee Information to Payers 

As health care provider networks move down the path toward clinical integration, we are often asked to provide guidance on how information can be jointly provided to payors.  The antitrust laws recognize that collective sharing of some pricing information, even by otherwise competing providers, can be beneficial and does not necessarily violate antitrust laws.  However, there are significant limitations on what can be jointly provided and how the information can be shared.

At the outset, it should be clarified that collective negotiations by competing providers who are not financially or clinically integrated should never take place and constitutes a per se violation of federal antitrust laws.  Prohibited activities include any action in contemplation of or in furtherance of an agreement on fees or other aspects of reimbursement.  It is unlawful for a non-integrated group of competing providers to agree on or suggest a central fee schedule.  Any activity relating to prospective fees should be avoided.

Competing providers can jointly provide information on fees currently being charged or that have been charged in the past as long as certain safeguards are implemented and strictly followed.  The FTC and DOJ have stated that the joint provision

Read more here: Health Law Blog


Ambulatory Surgery Centers – Federal Settlement Highlights Safe Harbor Requirements

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

By John Fisher, JD, CHC, CCEP

ASC Investments Safe Harbors

A Tennessee based ambulatory surgery center company has agreed to pay damages to a former employee who filed a suit alleging that physician investments in local surgery center entities violated the Anti-kickback Statute.  The case highlights some of the unique kickback issues that are present in ambulatory surgery center structure.  Specifically, the case demonstrates how investment terms that are intended to assure compliance with the safe harbor regulations under the Medicare Anti‑Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(a)-(b)) can create evidence of non-compliance if the initial terms of the offering relate, in whole or in part, to the volume or value of expected referrals from the investor in the ASC venture.

In order to comply with safe harbor requirements, ASCs must generally require investing physicians to use the facility as an extension of their medical practices.  However, if the terms of the investment are based on the volume or value of referrals, those same requirements become evidence that referrals are being required in exchange for remuneration.  In the Tennessee case, the ASC management company purchased controlling interests in local surgery center entities at a high multiple of earnings.  Physicians who were referral sources were offered investments at less than 1/3 of the

Read more here: Health Law Blog


Primary Care Integration Strategies – The Division Model Group Practice

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

By John Fisher, JD, CHC, CCEP

 It is no secret that the role of primary care is central to the creation of systems to respond to health care reform and changing reimbursement models.  To the extent primary care providers have not already relinquished their strategic positions by becoming employed, entering provider service agreements or service line management agreements with hospital controlled systems, primary care providers maintain a strong position in the market.

Primary care groups are still faced with the need to create or participate in organizations that provide for the best means to manage patient care.  Primary care groups are seeking strength in numbers by creating larger groups.  The goal is to best maintain their competitive position, to diversify risk, to create efficiencies through shared savings opportunities, and to maintain appropriate levels of influence over care cycles, protocols and division of emerging, episodic-based payment.

In order to achieve these goals, some independent primary care groups are considering merger with other groups.  Oftentimes, merging providers will seek ways to maintain some degree of intra-office independence while still taking advantage of the benefit of a larger group.

Provider mergers and acquisitions, particularly between competing independent practices in the same specialty area, can create sensitive antitrust issues.  Generally, competing providers

Read more here: Health Law Blog