The many ways in which a provider might be removed from the Medicare program are often a source of confusion and consternation for Medicare-enrolled healthcare providers and suppliers. Sometimes a Medicare revocation or suspension may occur unexpectedly and devastate a provider’s business. Sometimes a provider will voluntarily leave the Medicare program in an attempt to avoid inevitable sanctions. Each of these is a distinct mechanism and should be considered separately.
A revocation of Medicare billing privileges, commonly called a “Medicare revocation,” is a forced removal of a provider’s participation in and ability to bill the Medicare program. There are approximately two dozen grounds on which a provider’s billing privileges may be revoked, from noncompliance with Medicare program requirements (as simple as a missed signature on an insurance policy) up to abuse of billing privileges and patient harm. A revocation may be retroactive and take effect sometime in the past, before the provider is notified, or it may take effect sometime in the future, such as 30 days after the provider is notified. A Medicare revocation will be accompanied by a reenrollment bar of one to twenty years and often placement on the CMS Preclusion List. A Medicare revocation is subject to an appeals process, but most of the process is stacked heavily against the provider and it is important for the provider to be active in their response as early in the process as possible.
A suspension of Medicare billing privileges, commonly called a “Medicare suspension,” is a temporary suspension of a provider’s ability to bill the Medicare program. They are often imposed pursuant to a review or an audit where a Medicare contractor has alleged that the provider has committed some form of fraud. Suspensions are often imposed with immediate effect and sometimes without prior notice to the provider. Although suspensions are meant to be temporary, they are of undefined duration and often last for months without a specific end date, suffocating a provider’s business as effectively as a revocation. Medicare suspensions are technically subject to a truncated appeals process, but, although the suspension appeal process should still be pursued, the process is effectively meaningless and suspensions are generally best addressed through contesting the audit that supposedly identified fraudulent claims. However, it is worth noting that Medicare will often suspend a provider long before giving the provider the results of the underlying audit or the opportunity to appeal those results.
Providers may also voluntarily disenroll or withdraw themselves from the Medicare program. Generally, this is done when a practitioner no longer wants to bill Medicare or retires, or a business closes. Providers who voluntarily disenroll should take steps to ensure that they do so completely, as they may have multiple enrollments on file with multiple Medicare contractors in multiple states. Some providers may also disenroll in an attempt to avoid an impending suspension or revocation, such as when an entity loses an essential certification and expects to be revoked from the Medicare program. Providers should carefully consider these circumstances, as CMS has the authority to issue a revocation where it determines that a provider has voluntarily disenrolled in an attempt to avoid future sanctions.
For over 35 years, Wachler & Associates has represented healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide in a variety of health law matters, and our attorneys can assist providers and suppliers in understanding new developments in healthcare law and regulation. If you or your healthcare entity has any questions pertaining to Medicare enrollment or healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.