Posts Tagged ‘RACs’

Good Coding: Helps Your Agency Keep Its Revenue Bad Coding: Can Mean You Lose Your Revenue

Friday, May 17th, 2013

PPS has always meant that “close enough” isn’t good enough. A digit off can be costly. Coding to the highest level of specificity can be complex and confusing. CMS has published Coding Guidelines and the Coding Clinic remains the source document for any coding questions.   Per CMS and as per the Federal Register, “The  Coding Clinic by AHA is the US Official Clearinghouse for Coding.”

Agencies have hired coders, some are credentialed, some not.  All usually do not have audits of their coding compliance.  As a result, when asked, “Are you leaving dollars on the table?” most administrators pause.  Most acknowledge they believe their coding may be costing them at least $200-$400 per episode.  Why continue to lose dollars?

Agencies have usually decided to complete their coding themselves, but that is changing.  In the past, agencies have hired coders, certified or otherwise. Some coders are routinely reviewed and audited, most are not.  Most agencies rely on their coders. They put a portion of their financial welfare in the hands of unreviewed coders.  Lessen the worry regarding dollar loss and the quality of your agency coding by instilling specific processes. At the very least, contract for routine third party coding and billing audits.

If you were to use a third party coding firm, be certain they have external audits performed on their coding.  Quality third party coding firms should have quarterly internal audits and annual external audits completed in their firms. Who has audited them? What are the firm’s names?  Yes, the audits are an increase cost, but ar $e you losing 200-$400 per episode of care delivered? Are you flagging your firm for a RAC, MAC, or Z-PIC audit?

You should take a close look at the coding completed in your agency. Look at the use of case-mix diagnoses and at comorbidities. Down coding can be as costly as upcoding, just in different regulatory ways, if it brings on an audit. Have your ADRs increased? Do you know the number of codes used routinely in your firm? Do you know the top 10 diagnoses assigned?  How many of the present 16,000 codes are your coders using? How much will preparing for ICD-10 cost you?  Is a plan in place now? How strong is your coder in anatomy, physiology, diagnostics, and pharmacology? How many of the 68,000 codes will they use?

Experts know that much training is required for ICD-10. If you do not properly prepare, how much more will it cost you? Perhaps it really is time to consider a third party coding specialty firm.

Consider a firm that has experienced, highly credentialed coding specialists. Ask if they employ a full time coding internal auditor. Ask if they have weekly training sessions paid for by the coding firm to keep their coding specialists current. Ask if they have a full time Compliance Officer, a compliance committee, and have current program policies and procedures. Ask if the firms’ employees are required to annually attend corporate compliance and HIPAA inservices. Ask if the coding specialists are reviewed quarterly. Ask about internal and external audits of the coding teams’ work. Ask about their % of documented accuracy as stated by an independent auditor.  If the coding agency is under 97% accuracy documented by independent external audit, look elsewhere. All of the above items are costly to the coding firm but a top coding firm should be investing in quality.

And lastly, identify the coding firm’s indepth ICD-10 curriculum for their coding specialists. Also, identify their overall plan for ICD-10 implementation including their plan for parallel coding of ICD-9 and ICD-10.  Do not continue to lose dollars. Make a move now.

For more information, call 714.524.2500

ICD-9-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting

Effective October 1, 2008

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), two departments within the U.S.

Federal Government’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide the following guidelines for coding and reporting using the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). These guidelines should be used as a companion document to the official version of the ICD-9-CM as published on CD-ROM by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).

These guidelines have been approved by the four organizations that make up the Cooperating Parties for the ICD-9-CM: the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), CMS, and NCHS. These guidelines are includedon the official government version of the ICD-9-CM, and also appear in “Coding Clinic for ICD-9-CM” published by the AHA.

These guidelines are a set of rules that have been developed to accompany and complement the official conventions and instructions provided within the ICD-9-CM itself.

The following are the CMS ICD-9 Site:

  1. CMS ICD-9 Site

  1. Attachment D

  1. Coding Clinic

Operational coding advice and guidelines for ICD-9-CM are published quarterly by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in Coding Clinic for ICD-9-CM (Coding Clinic). The Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) for Coding Clinic consists of representatives of AHA, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), NCHS, CMS, the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Surgeons, and other hospital coders and physicians. Four of those parties (AHA, AHIMA, NCHS, and CMS) are identified as Cooperating Parties for Coding Clinic. The Cooperating Parties must agree on the coding guidance before it can be published in the Coding Clinic. Anyone may send issues to AHA for EAB discussion.

ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM: Some Differences and Similarities

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

CMS is stating they expect 10% of all claims submitted to be denied with ICD-10 initially. Selecting and assigning accurate diagnoses in the proper sequence must be performed in compliance with Medicare rules and regulations, Coding Conventions and Coding Guidelines. That remains the same.

The accuracy of this information contained in the clinical record is directly tied to payment and to justification for homecare services, so understanding how to select and assign accurate diagnoses is very important. This is the same but the specificity of the documentation becomes very very important. Increased specificity in data means more robust design of algorithms to predict outcomes and care by MACS, RACs, and Z-PICs.

ICD-10-CM presents an even greater challenge for documentation by the clinician. The word “documentation” is stated 72 times in the ICD-10-CM guidelines document.  Querying for additional information is noted 23 times in the same document. The instructions and conventions of the classification take precedence over guidelines which requires a keen understanding of the conventions.

ICD-10 requirements have raised the documentation expectations. Have your clinicians had an overview of ICD-10-CM? Here are just some observations.

  • Coding assignment will be based on the agency’s documentation of the relationship between the condition and the care that is planned.
  • Not all conditions that occur during or following surgery will be classified as complications
  • A cause and effect relationship must be present between the care provided and the condition clearly delineated within the documentation
  • Query for Clarification re documentation that supports codes assigned is expected
  • There will be specific documentation needed for specific codes and without the documentation, the codes may not be used
  • Code only those diagnoses that are relevant, unresolved, and impact the plan of care. Diagnoses that are resolved or have no impact on the plan of care should be excluded since they do not meet the criteria for a home health diagnosis
  • Code only those diagnoses that are supported by the medical record including diagnoses supported by the plan of care and the comprehensive assessment.
  • There are placeholders in ICD-10
  • There is laterality
  • There are sixth and seventh characters
  • ICD-10 requires expertise in anatomy, physiology, diagnostics, and pharmacology

Agency clinicians are expected to understand the patient’s clinical status and overall medical condition very well before approving/assigning diagnoses, so the comprehensive assessment must be ­completed in its entirety prior to the diagnoses decision. All coders should be properly educated on ICD-10-CM including how to use coding manuals properly. 50 + hours are being identified as necessary for each coding specialist to be properly prepared for ICD-10.

Your agency’s integrity and financial health could well depend on your preparation for ICD-10. Selecting and assigning accurate diagnoses must be performed in compliance with Medicare rules and regulations, in addition to ICD-10-CM coding guidelines.

You have choices; either prepare VERY VERY well for ICD-10 or consider third party experts for coding and remove that burden and concern.

Consider joining Susan Carmichael for a general overview of ICD-10CM Coding on May 7, 2013. Check the Select Data website for more details.

Proper Coding, Homebound Status, and Awareness of Common Edits: Paid But Will You Retain Your Revenue? An Update.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

No matter which MAC or RAC reviews your agency, high risk probes are on the rise. The intermediaries are mandated by CMS to monitor areas of greater risk. The RACs are paid by contingency on aberrant findings and their algorithms are making findings easier. When MACs or RACs find trends of concern they will launch probes. Some of these high risk areas include revenue in relation to diagnoses in relation to visits, certain stand alone diagnoses or diagnoses in combination with certain numbers of episodes or number of visits.

In late 2012, RAC auditors began sending out chart requests expansively. They were and continue to target specific issues such as medical necessity, seeking to have those specific issues approved by CMS. Once approved, other RACs can investigate those same issues in their areas. One issue all RACs are looking at involves specific numbers of therapy in specific episodes with specific diagnoses.

NAHC’s Mary St Pierre, VP, Regulatory Compliance, identified in the fall of 2012, that Comprehensive Error Rate testing (CERT) contractor inquiries are also on the rise. The CERTs are the QA component of MAC billing. In addition, they also oversee Z-PIC claim payments and the denials issued. They are looking at Face to Face documentation of medical necessity and homebound status documentation.

The OIG remains focused on both home health and hospice citing “Six Measures of Questionable Billing” especially in home health.

The OIG has announced that, in 2009 and again in 2010, Medicare-Medicaid paid over $54 billion in improper payments. There have been 2500 persons/entities indicted from Federal health care programs. There have been 625 criminal actions with over 400 civil actions including actions involving the False Claims Act. There have been another 2400 investigations that yielded expected results. The GAO has reported that improper payments due to fraud and abuse are escalating.

Dollars and processes have been approved to target areas of high risk. Monitoring that the principal diagnosis code accurately portrays the patient’s focus of care is a MAC missive. Probe edits are one such process expected by CMS from the MACs to achieve that goal. Monitoring for homebound status is yet another area of review.

The Edits

Specificity requirements to support codes have always been expected but are being actively scrutinized now. Expect specificity and complexity to rise even higher with ICD-10.

Coding Specialists must also keep clients or their agency aware of edits and trend areas with insufficient documentation to substantiate proposed diagnosis.

A second recertification of Lymphoma will trigger a long used edit.

Recertifications with a primary diagnosis of Diabetes and a secondary diagnosis of CHF will be monitored if the edit continues after a MAC quarterly review. Because the FIs have found merit, this edit has continued for years.

Other Edits include:

Recertifications with a primary diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia disorders, or Long Term use of anticoagulants with no therapy ordered.

Claim Denial Potential

The above diagnoses run a great risk for denial because of probe edits and recertifications. Those records are reviewed also for homebound status. There must be “clear documentation that it is with considerable and taxing effort for the beneficiary to leave home, otherwise the episode or specific visits could be denied for lack of homebound status. (74% of ADRs reviewed for lack of homebound status were denied).”

Common documentation deficiency areas include lack of progress in:

* Repetitive clinical notes frequently seen stating the same things over and over with no patient progress identified; how is it that the clinician is unable to teach a new med successfully within a visit or two?

* Notes from different disciplines that reflect a lack of plan coordination

* Visit notes that do not substantiate orders and goals on Plan of Care/485.

* Clinical interventions without orders.

* If a chronic diagnosis is the primary reason for ongoing care, the skilled nurse should be VERY VERY clear as to why (s)he is still making visits.

* If visit notes do not EACH stand alone and justify care, the clinical visits are at risk.

The casemix co-morbidities; such as CHF, CAD, COPD, DM, Parkinson’s disease should be included in the diagnoses list. If they are standing alone, the nurse should carefully justify the skilled need because of the chronic disease.

* In justifying observation and assessment, note if:

* There is significant change in meds, treatments, or conditions

* There is teaching, reteaching, and training needed

* The condition or disease symptomology has exacerbated or changed in another way

* Teaching on new medications must include instruction or intervention on the related diagnosis.

The clinician providing injections such as insulin require specific documentation to support the need; specifically, why the patient cannot self inject the med such as tremors, impaired cognitive function, and no willing and capable caregiver.

Though we have heard this over and over, one of the most common home health reasons for denial is that the documentation does not support medical necessity.

Therapy is STILL under scrutiny

Functional ability improvement is expected or why is therapy present?

Therapy may be covered if the patient or caregiver received teaching that is reasonable and necessary.

In 2008, claims chosen with 10-11 therapy visits and discharge in episode two had a 74% rate of denial essentially due to poor or insufficient documentation displaying no or low progress and/or incongruence between care and OASIS assessment. The 2012-13 expectations are rigorous and denials are imminent if documentation is insufficient or inadequately substative.

The therapy treatment plan must:

* Relate to the exact diagnosis that has required therapy intervention.

* Identify visit frequency and duration.

* Identify the present and prior functional level.

* State specifically the procedures, treatments, and/or exercises to be performed.

* Clearly list the reasonable and measureable goals to be achieved.

* Care must be specific, safe, and effective supported by the diagnoses according to accepted practice.

* Specify the rehab potential.

* Specify the discharge plan.

Additional Ways to Decrease Risk

Adequate documentation begins with the correct diagnosis and being alert for edits. Besides agency PI projects, consider professional coding teams to decrease risk. Third party coding and auditing can provide the buffer needed to diminish risk and increase compliance. It is hard for one or two or a few in-house coders to not only keep up with the average 350 coding changes each year but to also locate the ever changing edits of each FI. The edits are usually disclosed AFTER the MAC probe results. Third party coding firms, like Select Data, monitor the FI sites, newsletters, and alerts to dig for present edits.

Agencies need to be aware the edits will increase over the next year as CMS, the RACs, the MACs, and the Z-PICs ready for ICD-10 and the move from the present 17,000 codes to over 68,000 codes or a 400% increase in codes. Will there be a 400% increase in edits also? Will there be a 400% increase in claim denials? Let us hope not.

Protecting justly due reimbursement starts with proper data gathering, coding to the highest level of specificity with sufficient documentation, and coding specialists looking out for the specific documentation needed. Do you have the coding specialists that you need in place to assist you in protecting your justifiably deserved reimbursement?

Expect CMS Unannounced Visits after Filing the Revalidation Application

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Do not be surprised if a CMS representative visits your agency after you apply for revalidation. Leaders are identifying that the visitors are taking pictures of the agency building and signage; taking pictures of the state license; as well as requesting copies of agency business documents.

Administrators and owners have cited the CMS representatives presenting CMS badges.  Some have termed themselves as revalidation inspectors, site inspectors, and Medicare representatives while others termed themselves as Medicare Fraud Inspectors. Be certain to obtain a business card and look at the CMS badge closely. But, if you have recently sent a revalidation application, do not be surprised at the visit.

In order to be compliant with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Section 6401, all new and existing providers must be reevaluated under the new screening guidelines delineated in the Act. These new procedures are expected to reduce fraud and abuse. For some providers, the new screening procedures will be more intense, involving the unannounced site visits, fingerprinting, and owner background investigation. For others, such as publicly traded providers, site visits are not designated.

Three Levels of Risk Assigned

In early March, 2011, CMS began basing the above interventions on a rated level of risk. There are three levels of risk per CMS; “limited,” “moderate,” and “high.”

Limited -risk providers, such a physician practices. Because there will be verification that the provider is in compliance with Federal and State guidelines, such as current licensure verification and periodic database checks prior to and following enrollment, the practices are rated limited-risk.. Also, included in the limited -risk category are ambulatory surgical centers, Indian Health Service Centers, mammography screening centers, and rural health clinics.

Moderate – risk providers, can anticipate unannounced visits. This level of provider includes community mental health centers, hospice organizations, and comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities (CORFS). Home health agencies had been placed in this category however,  CMS has recommended this group to be moved to the high risk category.

High – risk providers will be expected to have unannounced site visits as well as fingerprinting and thorough background reviews. Providers in this category include new DME companies and new home health agencies.

Limited and moderate risk providers can be moved to high-risk under various conditions including: allowing one provider to use another provider’s identifier within the CMS program or if a provider has had their billing privileges denied within the last 10 years.
Chapter 15, Section 19.2.1 of the “Program Integrity Manual” (PIM) CR 7350 provides the complete list of these three screening categories, and the provider types assigned to each category, as well as a description of the screening processes applicable to the three categories  and procedures to be used for each category. Have your state license posted. Make certain signage is clear.  Demonstrate your compliance with regulation.

We have all read about the stated recent fraudulent activities involving 78 Texas agencies and a physician who, allegedly bilked hundreds of millions from CMS. This new regulation is an additional attempt to minimize the risk of that type of fraud and abuse

To learn more about this new rule, visit:

The Surveillance and Utilization Review Subsystem (SURS)

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Predictive Analytics or Provider Profiling? Call it what you want, is your agency being monitored by CMS and/or state Medicaid etal? And, have you directly triggered an alert? Or, are physicians that sign orders for your agency patients being investigated?

Should you be aware that your agency could trigger a PPS RAC, MAC, or Z-PIC audit and that a related party or a referral source under review could trigger an audit of your agency? Yes, that could be a reality.

CMS and related agencies are using predictive analytics to identify aberrant care delivery and utilization patterns for PPS. At the time the claim is dropped, an assessment of multiple patient factors is conducted. These factors may include diagnoses, frequency, and disciplines involved in care. Your agency practice patterns are now being compared to peer groups and may include a comparison to validated benchmarks. Physicians who refer to your agency may be having their practice patterns monitored also, especially if the payor source is Medicaid.

The Surveillance and Utilization Review Subsystem (SURS) is responsible for monitoring claims process for Medicaid, seeking indicators of fraud.  They look for duplicate, inconsistent, or excessive visits in relation to diagnoses and visits provided in State systems.

Section 456.25 of Title 42, Code of Federal Regulations writes that “States are required to have a post-payment review process that allows State personnel to develop and review: (1) recipient utilization profiles, (2) provider service profiles, (3) exception criteria; and (4) identifies exceptions so that the agency can correct misutilization practices of recipients and providers.”

No two state Medicaid systems are the same, thus, there are a variety of post- payment review SUR systems. Some state systems are routinely using tools that can statistically use random sampling with extrapolation for provider reviews. This allows the auditor to identify a current trend and apply the findings retrospectively for a specific past time point. Recoupment dollars can add up quickly using this methodology.

The SURS are also using tools that flag inconsistencies and over-utilization of visits in relation to care delivered at those visits. At times, they may be focusing on specific discipline practices.

States have different practices.  Personnel in the New Hampshire Surveillance and Utilization Review Subsystem (SURS) monitor financial claims for the NH Medicaid plan. SURS review provider claims for fraud, waste or abuse and may refer cases under suspicion to the Medicaid Fraud Unit of the State Attorney General.

The unit also recovers overpayments by using predictive analysis algorithms that search its data warehouse for aberrant claim information. “In addition, SURS in New Hampshire also conducts reviews to determine if recipients are inappropriately using certain types of medications.” This can trigger other areas of investigative need.

Some states are querying relational databases which provide flexible and easy access to years of paid claims and the ability to query real time data along with trending patterns and profiles.

The SURS also use exception profiling as a starting point for case development. Ranked reports can quickly identify outliers. A sample profile might include the following elements:

-Average patients per agency

-Average reimbursement per agency

-Average disciplines per patient

-Average diagnoses per patient

-Average number of patients with labs

-Average number of patients with injections

-Evidence of upcoding

-Evidence of downcoding

Medicaid is monitoring payment for care and now closely monitoring physician practices. Agencies need to be certain that they strictly adhere to the regulations for care provision. A physician who is being monitored now can bring review and audits to those for whom he or she may provide referrals.

Compliance risks have always existed. But now, agencies need to expand those risk mitigation practices to their referral sources as well as their marketing departments. Be certain you and your referral source philosophies are similar.

Quality oriented physicians are also seeking agencies with like philosophies. They too want to improve the patient transition of care.  The bad press regarding 78 Texas home health agencies and the linked Texas physician has raised some physicians concerns nationally re this industry.

Showcase your agency quality programs and excellent outcomes.

  • Work to improve bi-directional communication flow.
  • Establish points of accountability for sending and receiving patient information.
  • Increase the use of case management and professional care coordination.
  • Develop performance measures that encourage better transitions of care that are well documented.
  • Let it be known that your agency supports a strong regulatory culture that offers accountability and effort toward solid patient outcomes.

That well-stated philosophy and agency culture exhibited through employee conversation, patient care, and marketing materials tells all stakeholders involved that your agency strives to be a quality-oriented care delivery provider.