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Archive for September, 2010

All Eyes on Compliance with New Whistleblower Laws

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

With the new laws and incentives reported in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we are seeing more whistleblowers come forth alleging healthcare fraud. Currently, 90% of health care fraud cases are whistleblower cases — often in which the behavior of the “ethically challenged” directly poses risks to public health.

Regardless of whether whistleblowers are concerned citizens, disgruntled employees or senior executives with a “lottery mentality”, hospitals and other healthcare companies must have strong compliance programs in place to stop fraudulent activity — such as improperly billing Medicare and Medicaid and kickbacks to doctors. A list of healthcare companies that have signed corporate integrity agreements with the OIG can be found here.

With the new incentives, hospitals and other healthcare companies are even more susceptible to whistleblowers. Now is the time to review your current compliance program and develop the necessary internal controls to protect your organization from committing fraud. Below are 4 simple but important considerations to keep in mind when evaluating compliance programs:

1. Periodic comprehensive fraud risk assessments are conducted.
2. Standards of conduct for employees are written and distributed.
3. Educational and training programs are offered to all employees.
4. Audits are conducted to monitor compliance and identify problem areas.

The effectiveness of whistleblowers is also an integral part of the effort to combat healthcare fraud. The first thing people need to do when encountering fraudulent activity in their workplace is to make sure that they understand the reporting framework and seek appropriate legal counsel. As an expert witness, I have seen first-hand the enormous complexity of whistleblower suits.

Top 10 Hospital Stories of 2010

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Becker’s Hospital Review recently posted their collection of the top 10 hospital stories of 2010. Many of the topics reflect the major hospital stories of 2010 – a few really delve into the growing problems and concerns for hospitals that are not necessarily on the forefront of discussion.

Here are the top 10 terms/stories for 2010:

1. Healthcare reform
The term “Healthcare reform” was everywhere this year. People are still scratching their heads wondering exactly what that means. 2011 will be a big year along with the next 4 years to see whether healthcare reform will hold up to its hype.

2. Integrating healthcare delivery

3. RACS get rolling

With RACs in full swing, hospitals are developing ways to ensure they meet standards. In the first quarter of 2010, RACs denied a total of $2.47 million in Medicare claims, according to the AHA’s RACTrac Survey of 653 hospitals. In 2011, it will be increasingly important for hospitals to be aware of these audits.

4. For-profits buy up hospitals

5. Ban on physician-owned hospitals

6. Physician fee cuts
With Medicare fees cut by over 20%, some physicians are losing faith in the system. What will this mean for the future of Medicare and physicians and hospitals accepting Medicare? The next 2 years will be key for this.

7. Hospital quality reporting

8. The war against healthcare fraud
One of our favorite topics, the war on healthcare fraud, waste and abuse is continually growing and ever-present. While Congress realizes that there is a need to combat this abuse, we haven’t successfully implemented initiatives to thwart it substantially. The healthcare reform law provides $300 million in funding for fraud investigation and enforcement by over the next 10 years. It will be up to Congress to ensure this money is spent wisely, efficiently and effectively.

9. Big boost for healthcare IT
EHRs, EMRs, Personal Health Records – what does all this mean for Health-IT and e-health? Lots – especially with government investing, beginning in 2011 and lasting for the next six years, $34 billion in incentives for healthcare IT to hospitals and practices.

10. Don Berwick arrives at CMS

High-Tech Healthcare: Hospitals of Tomorrow

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

ABC’s Good Morning America recently spotlighted a new type of hospital care:  high-tech.  “The Hospital of Silicon Valley,” El Camino Hospital employs robots as surgeons, secretaries, and more.  Watch Juju Chang as she explores this new take on hospital healthcare.

El Camino Hospital and High Tech Hospital Care

To learn more about El Camino Hospital, visit their website here. Or watch their own video (below) on incorporating technology into hospital care.

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Healthcare 101: Explanation of Benefits (EOB)

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

An Explanation of Benefits (EOB) is a document sent by an insurance provider to an enrollee and the enrollee’s healthcare provider.  An EOB is produced in response to a claim for healthcare service.  It contains important information regarding the payment responsibilities of both the insurance company and the patient.  Unless they cover the entire cost, an insurance company is required to send an EOB to both the patient and the provider.

An EOB usually includes:

  1. Identification of service rendered*
  2. Date of service (DOS)
  3. Name and address of subscriber
  4. Name of patient
  5. Name of healthcare provider who rendered service
  6. Provider’s tax identification number
  7. Provider’s charge/ total billed services
  8. Allowed amount
  9. Total patient responsibility amount
  10. Total payment made and to whom
  11. The amount payable (in dollars or percentage of total) after deductibles, co-payment, and any other reduction have been made
  12. An explanation of for any reason for not providing full reimbursement for the amount claimed
  13. Point of contact (telephone number or address) by which an enrollee may inquire regarding payment
  14. Information on the appeal process of a denial of benefits and timeline of the process

The first item, identification of service provided (marked with *) is the most important item on an EOB.  It is the reason for receiving healthcare and should be communicated via ICD (diagnosis) or CPT (procedure) codes. If you receive an EOB that is missing this, call your insurance company and ask for this information.  Keep track of the code – it represents what you received and why you received it.  Imagine that your EOB is a receipt from a store and that the ICD and CPT codes are the items you purchased.  Wouldn’t you want to know what you bought?

Unfortunately, EOBs are not standardized and can be difficult to read, especially after switching insurance providers.  In addition, an EOB is sent to both the provider and the patient, and it attempts to convey different information to each recipient.  This often produces a very confusing document.

When reading an EOB, don’t be hesitant to look for guidance.  Your insurance company may have an example EOB and accompanying information on their website.  And, of course, be sure to look at our Healthcare How To: Read an Explanation of Benefits (EOB).

Other Resources:
http://www.healthlink.com/tech_tip_eob.asp
http://www.ins.state.ny.us/website1/inshelp/c_eob.htm
http://www.cigna.com/customer_care/member/forms/explanationofbenefits.html