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CMS Announces Interim Final Rule Creating New Standards for EFTs

Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an interim final rule with comment period which creates new standards for electronic funds transfers (EFT) and remittance advice transaction (RA) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the new standards will save physician practices and hospitals between $3 and $4.5 billion over the next ten years, as well as result in an estimated savings of 800,000 pounds of paper due to the elimination of paper checks.

HHS will require health plans to comply with two standards when transmitting EFT payments to providers: (1) a standard format for when a health plan orders, authorizes, or initiates an EFT with its financial institution, and (2) specification of the data content to be contained within the EFT. Currently, when a provider submits a claim for payment electronically, the RA is often sent separately from the EFT payment, making it difficult for the provider to match the bill with the corresponding payment. The new rule seeks to eliminate these errors by requiring the use of a trace number that automatically connects the RA to the EFT.

Today’s regulation is the second in the series of regulations that CMS is required to design by Section 1104 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The first regulation was announced last July. It implemented operating rules for two electronic health care transactions that give providers a simpler method to determine whether a patient is eligible for coverage and the status of a health claim submitted.

The effective date of the announced regulation was January 1, 2012, and entities covered under HIPAA must be in compliance with the newly created standards by January 1, 2014.

If you have any questions regarding electronic funds transfers, or any other compliance issues, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.