Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) were created by CMS primarily to investigate suspected fraud, waste, and abuse. ZPICs perform similar audit activities as other Medicare contractors, but with a reactive and proactive focus on the identification of possible Medicare fraud. ZPICs employ “innovative” strategies to engage in the early detection of fraud. The strategies include data analysis, pursuing proactive leads from other Medicare contractors or other sources such as the Fraud Investigation Database (FID), law enforcement, news media or the Internet.
Once a ZPIC initiates an audit, it has the authority to conduct prepayment and postpayment medical review, perform announced and/or unannounced onsite audits, interview staff and beneficiaries, and suspend provider payments pursuant to approval from CMS. While any type of Medicare contractor audit can be disruptive to a provider’s business, it is extremely important for a health care professional to recognize when his or her practice is the focus of a ZPIC audit or investigation. This is because ZPICs also have the authority to refer providers and beneficiaries to law enforcement, refer providers for exclusion from the Medicare program, and utilize statistical sampling and extrapolation to determine overpayment amounts. For this reason, it is imperative that Medicare providers aggressively defend against a ZPIC investigation.
There are seven zones in which ZPICs are assigned, and providers should be aware of the ZPIC assigned to their zone. More information on ZPICs and be found on our website.
If you have any questions relating to ZPIC audits, or need assistance in implementing an effective compliance program to protect against future ZPIC audits, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.