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CMS Clarification of 3-Day Payment Window when Inpatient Admission is Denied

In a recent revision of its billing instructions, CMS clarified that when an inpatient stay is determined not to be covered by Part A (e.g. determined not medically necessary or otherwise denied by a Medicare audit or internal audit), there is no inpatient stay, and therefore the outpatient services provided on the date of admission or the preceding 3 calendar days are not required to be bundled. See Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 4, Section 10.12 and Chapter 1, Section 50.3.2 for the updated billing guidelines. MLN Matters article MM7672 clarifies that if the Part A stay is determined to be non-covered, the Part B services provided prior to the admission (i.e., prior to the admission order), which would otherwise be bundled into the inpatient claim, may be billed separately as if the admission did not take place.

Generally, the 3-day payment window policy requires that all diagnostic outpatient services and non-diagnostic outpatient services related to the inpatient admission provided to a Medicare beneficiary by a hospital (or an entity wholly owned or wholly operated by the hospital) on the date of the beneficiary’s inpatient admission or during the 3 calendar immediately preceding the date of admission are to be included on the bill for the inpatient stay. However, outpatient diagnostic services that are unrelated to the inpatient admission, and are covered by Part B, may be billed separately to Part B.

The limit on this positive development is that the audit denial would need to occur within one year of the date of service in order to meet the timely filing limitations. For instance, if a RAC auditor determines that the inpatient stay is not covered by Part A and that finding occurs after the one year filing limitation, the hospital would likely be unable to bill the services to Part B for reimbursement.

In order to ensure proper compliance with the 3-day payment window policy, hospitals and their entities should work to coordinate their billing practices and claims processing procedures. In addition, hospitals should take additional compliance measures to review inpatient claim denials and determine if diagnostic and non-diagnostic outpatient procedures can be billed under Part B. If you have compliance questions regarding the clarification of the 3-day payment window policy, or any other compliance questions, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.