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CMS’ Q4 Audit Program Activity: $353.7 Million in Improper Payments, Increased Focus on Medical Necessity Claims

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes quarterly reports identifying improper payment figures and the top audit issues by region. The most recent “Q4” report, covering July 1, 2011 to September 30, 2011, demonstrates a 22% increase in the total correction amount from the previous quarter.

During this period, CMS identified $277.1 million in overpayments and $76.6 million in underpayments, for a total correction amount of $353.7 million. This figure represents a dramatic increase from the two previous quarterly improper payment totals of $208.9 million (Q2) and $289.3 million (Q3). The boost, which is consistent across all regions, indicates that individual recovery auditors nationwide are increasing their efforts to identify incorrect payments, and further supports the industry-wide belief that audits are expanding.

The Q4 recovery audit program update also demonstrates that auditors are increasingly targeting “medical necessity” claims, with a focus on supporting documentation and the setting in which these services are provided. The Q4 update highlighted the following “top issues per region” of the recovery audit program:

Region A Renal and Urinary Tract Disorders: (Medical Necessity) Medicare pays for inpatient hospital services that are medically necessary for the setting billed. Medical documentation for patients with renal and urinary tract disorders needs to be complete and support all services provided.

Region B – Surgical Cardiovascular Procedures: (Medical Necessity) Medicare pays for inpatient hospital services that are medically necessary for the setting billed. Medical documentation for patients with surgical cardiovascular procedures needs to be complete and support all services provided.

Region C – Acute Inpatient Admission Neurological Disorders: (Medical Necessity) Medicare pays for inpatient hospital services that are medically necessary for the setting billed. Medical documentation for patients admitted with neurological disorders needs to be complete and support all services provided.

Region D – Minor Surgery and other treatment billed as Inpatient: (Medical Necessity) When beneficiaries with known diagnoses enter a hospital for a specific minor surgical procedure or other treatment that is expected to keep them in the hospital for less than 24 hours, they are considered outpatient for coverage purposes regardless of the hour they presented to the hospital, whether a bed was used, and whether they remained in the hospital after midnight.

Wachler & Associates has served healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide for over 25 years. We currently represent healthcare entities in all stages of the audit appeals process, and specialize in defending the medical necessity of inpatient admissions.