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OIG Report on “Questionable” Billing for Polysomnography Services May Lead to Closer Scrutiny of Sleep Laboratories

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a report addressing increased Medicare spending on polysomnography services. The OIG initiated this study in response to growing concerns of Medicare prescriber fraud.

A polysomnography is a type of sleep study that diagnoses sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. The claims submitted by sleep centers that conduct these studies have been under serious scrutiny by fraud investigators in recent years. In January 2013, American Sleep Medicine LLC, a sleep testing center operator based in Florida, agreed to pay $15.3 million to resolve allegations of false polysomnography claims submitted to Medicare, TRICARE, and the Railroad Retirement Medicare Program in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA).

According to the OIG’s report, Medicare spending for polysomnography services rose 39 percent between the years 2005 and 2011. The OIG analyzed Medicare claims from hospital outpatient departments, as well as non-hospital providers such as independent diagnostic testing facilities and physician-owned sleep laboratories, starting in 2011. The OIG found that almost $17 million in Medicare claims for polysomnography services were inappropriate, meaning the claims did not meet one or more of three requirements for Medicare reimbursement, including claims that had inappropriate diagnosis codes, were same-day duplicate claims or were submitted with an invalid NPI. In addition, the report stated that out of 6,339 providers of polysomnography services, 180 providers exhibited patterns of questionable billing. “Questionable billing” patterns included providers that billed an unusually high percentage of: (1) same-day duplicate claims, beneficiaries who had polysomnography claims from one or more other providers in 2011, (3) diagnostic polysomnography claims with a titration claim for the same beneficiary on the following day, or (4) claims in which there was no visit note from the ordering provider in the preceding year.

The OIG made four recommendations to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS):

  1. Implement claims processing edits or improve existing edits to prevent inappropriate payments;
  2. Recover payments for claims that did not meet Medicare requirements;
  3. Consider using measures of questionable billing from this study to identify providers for further investigations; and
  4. Take appropriate action regarding providers that exhibit patterns of questionable billing.

According to the report, CMS concurred with each of the four recommendations. As a result of CMS’ concurrence, sleep study providers should expect greater scrutiny of polysomnography service claims in near future (e.g., increased CMS audit activity). As such, sleep study providers should review their current billing practices and compliance policies to ensure such practices and policies are in accordance with Medicare requirements. If you need assistance in implementing an effective compliance plan, or defending against an Medicare, Medicaid or third party payor audit, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or wapc@wachler.com.