By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
For Medicare providers, being notified of an impending audit is not welcome news. Being notified of a prepayment review is even worse. In a prepayment review, the health care provider must submit documentation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contractor before ever receiving payment. The health care provider will only receive payment (typically months later) if the contractor is satisfied with the provider's documentation. This can be financially disastrous for the health care provider, who still must pay day-to-day expenses while waiting for a decision.
If you have received notice of prepayment review, you first need to determine the contractor that has initiated the review. CMS contracts with four types of contractors:
- Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs);
- Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) contractors;
- Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs); and
- Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).
Both the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) can initiate prepayment reviews.
MAC Prepayment Reviews.
MACs will initiate prepayment reviews of health care providers suspected of improper billing for services. If the MAC detects anything resembling fraud during the process, the prepayment review can extend for up to a year or more. However, MACs will generally terminate the prepayment review when the health care provider demonstrates a pattern of correct billing. Health care providers who are notified of a MAC prepayment review should consult with an experienced health care attorney from the beginning of the process. An experienced health attorney will be able to assist the health care provider to ensure everything is in place for a speedy prepayment review.
ZPIC Prepayment Reviews.
A MAC may refer a health care provider to a ZPIC for a benefit integrity prepayment review if they suspect fraud. A ZPIC can also initiate a benefit integrity prepayment review based on data analysis. Unlike MACs, ZPICs generally are less willing to communicate with health care providers about the prepayment review.
Additionally, there are different time limitations for a benefit integrity prepayment review. The MAC prepayment review is governed by Medicare Manual provisions that stipulate a maximum length of time on a prepayment review. However, a benefit integrity prepayment review can last indefinitely, if the basis for the review is not timely and properly addressed by the health care provider.
Further, ZPICs make fraud referrals to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Thus, health care providers should view ZPIC correspondence as the start of a potentially larger investigation. An experienced health care attorney should be contacted immediately after a health care provider receives any contact from ZPIC.
How to Accomplish a Speedy Review.
In many cases, the health care provider will be on Medicare prepayment review until its billing accuracy reaches a certain percentage. However there are other steps to help speed up the Medicare prepayment audit process.
1. Read all Correspondence from the Contractor Carefully.
Pay close attention to all correspondence sent by the contractor. Make a note of the due date given and make sure your response is sent well within the time limits. Denials will usually occur if a response is not received by the given deadline. Also be sure that you send your response to the correct office.
2. Be Familiar with Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).
You should read and be familiar with any and all applicable local coverage determinations (LCDs) and national coverage determinations (NCDs) for any codes, services, supplies or equipment you are billing.
3. Contact an Experienced Health Care Attorney Immediately.
A health care attorney who is experienced in prepayment reviews will be able to help you file a proper response in a timely fashion. An attorney will also be able to help find out additional information on why you have been placed on prepayment review and exactly what documentation the auditor is looking for. Alternatively, a health care consultant who has actual experience in working on Medicare cases and who has been an expert witness in Medicare hearings may be able to assist, as well.
4. Contact the Contractor Responsible for the Review.
After you have consulted with an attorney, schedule a call with the contractor responsible for your prepayment review. During the call learn as many details about the audit as you can and find out what the reviewer wants in the documentation.
However, do not:
a. Argue with the auditor.
b. Berate or demean the auditor.
c. Challenge the auditor’s knowledge, competence or credentials.
d. Ask the auditor to prove anything to you.
e. Demand to speak to the auditor’s supervisor.
5. Do Not File Duplicate Claims.
Keep track of all requests for additional documentation and when they were received. Do not think that you need to file another claim for the same items just because you have not received a response as quickly as other claims where additional documentation was not requested. If you provide duplicate claims, the contractor's decision can be delayed.
6. Organize all Submissions and Results.
You must keep track of the date you receive the document request for a claim, the date you submitted the documentation for review, the result of the audit and the date the result was received. This will help you realize how quickly claims are reviewed. If a one claim’s review has taken longer than the others you’ve submitted, you can contact the reviewer to make sure they have received the claim and everything is in order.
7. Follow-up with the Contractor for Feedback.
Keep in contact with the contractor throughout the review. This will help to maintain the relationship you initiated after first receiving notice of the prepayment review. This will also help you keep track of any issues and resolve them. Be sure to discuss how you can improve your claim submissions to meet the standards of your particular reviewer.
Don't Wait Until It's Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health care providers in prepayment reviews. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.
For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.
Baird, Jeff. "Q&A with Jeff Baird: How to Prepare for and Survive Prepayment Reviews." Home Care. (Sept. 13, 2010). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/
Greene, Stephanie Morgan. "5 Steps to Get Off Pre-Payment Audit - Quickly!" Harrington Managment Group. (Mar. 18, 2011). From
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.
Tag Words: prepayment audit, prepayment review, Medicare audits, Medicare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, RAC, Recovery Audit Contractor, ZPIC, Zone Program Integrity Contractor, MAC, Medicare Administrative Contractor, CERT contractor, Comprehensive Error Rate Testing contractor, overpayment, prepayment reviews, First Coast Service Options, Medicare contractor, Medicare fraud, Medicare investigation, Medicare overbilling, OIG
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