Follow Our Helpful Tips for Responding to a Medicare Audit, Part 1

Thursday, June 11, 2020
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At some point in your career you may hear someone speak of a "routine" Medicare audit, there is really no such thing. This is like saying you have a "routine IRS audit."  The fact is that there is some item you have claimed as a Medicare provider or the amount of claims Medicare has paid in a certain category that has caused you or your practice to be audited.

Having too many claims for level five CPT codes might, for example, cause you to be audited.  Having multiple claims submitted for the same date of service, may cause you to be audited.  Submitting claims for CPT codes outside of your medical specialty area, might cause you to be audited.  Having a higher dollar amount for claims than the average similar health practitioner in the same geographical area of the country, may cause you to get audited.  Having a greater number of claims submitted than the average for a similar health practitioner in the same geographical area of the country, may cause you to get audited.  Filing claims for services that are on the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) annual work list may cause you to be audited.

"Routine" audits, those that do not involve some suspicion of false billings or fraudulent activities, should, nevertheless, be treated extremely seriously and the physician being audited should give the matter personal attention.

However, if the audit letter or audit notice is from a Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), such as SafeGuard Services, LLC, or AdvanceMed, the matter is very serious and should not be treated as a routine audit.  If the "audit" comes in the form of a subpoena, then it is extremely serious.  If any FBI agent or OIG special agent is involved in it, then it is extremely serious.  In any of these three cases, an experienced health attorney should be retained immediately.

Even on a "routine" audit, given the possible consequences, we recommend you immediately retain the services of an experienced health attorney to guide you through the audit process, to communicate with the auditors, and to be prepared if it is necessary to challenge the audit findings.


Tips to Help You Prepare for a Medicare Audit:


1.    All correspondence from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, should be taken seriously.  Avoid the temptation to consider the request from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, just another medical records request.  Avoid the temptation to delegate this as a routine matter to an administrative employee.

2.    Read the audit letter carefully and provide all the information requested in the letter.  In addition to medical records, auditors often ask for invoices and purchase orders for the drugs and medical supplies dispensed to patients for which Medicare reimbursed you.

3.    Include a copy of the complete record and not just those from the dates of service requested in the audit letter.  Include any diagnostic tests and other documents from the chart that support the services provided.  Many practices document the medications and immunizations given to the patient in a separate part of the chart and not in the progress notes; all documents, the complete record, should be provided to the auditor.  Remember that even other physicians records obtained as history, including reports, consultants and records from other physicians or hospitals, should also be included.  Consent forms, medical history questionnaires, histories, physicals, other physicians' orders, all may be a crucial part of the record and should be included.  If hospital or nursing home discharge orders or other orders referred the patient to you, obtain these to provide to the auditors.
4.    Make sure all the medical records are legible and legibly copied.  If the record is not legible, have the illegible record transcribed and include the transcription along with the hand-written or illegible records.  Make sure than any such transcriptions are clearly marked as a transcription with the current date it is actually transcribed.  Label it accurately.  Do not allow any room for there to be any confusion that the newly transcribed part was part of the original record.

5.    If your practice involves taking x-rays or using other diagnostic studies, these studies are part of the patient's record.  If the x-rays are digital, they can be submitted on a compact disc. 

6.    Never alter the medical records after a notice of an audit.  However, if there are consults, orders, test reports, prescriptions, etc., that have not been filed into the chart, yet, have these filed into it, as you normally would, so that the record is complete.  Altering a medical record can be the basis for a fraud claim including criminal penalties. 
7.    Make sure each page of the record is copied correctly and completely.  If the copy of the record has missing information because it was cut off, the original needs to be recopied to ensure it includes all the information.  Don't submit copies that have edges cut off, have bottom margins cut off, are copied slanted on the page, or for which the reverse side is not copied.  Reduce the copied image to 96% if necessary to prevent edges and margins from being cut off.

8.    Make color copies of medical records when the original record includes different colored ink of significance.  Colors other than blue and black rarely copy well and may be illegible on standard photocopiers.

The above check list is by no means comprehensive.  Nor do we mean to suggest that you should respond on your own.  The above list is meant to illustrate the many actions that should be taken to help protect your interests when you are subjected to a Medicare audit.


Responding to Medicare Audits Can Be An Arduous & Very Serious Task to Take On.

Even on a routine audit, given the consequences, we recommend you immediately retain the services of an experienced health attorney to guide you through the audit process, communicate with auditors and to be prepared if it is necessary to challenge the audit.

To read more on Medicare audits, click here.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.


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6/11/2020

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