On October 3, 2022, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report detailing OIG’s findings related to the efficacy of the Unified Program Integrity Contractor (UPIC) program. As many healthcare providers may know, UPICs are the primary program integrity contractors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the only program integrity contractors with authority to review both Medicare and Medicaid claims. UPICs are tasked with investigating instances of suspected fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. However, much of their work amounts to medical review and payment recovery, as their investigations rarely identify meaningful fraud, although it can cause tremendous damage to a provider when the UPIC accuses a provider of fraud
OIG conducted a qualitative study of each of the five UPICs’ 2019 activities, including surveying each UPIC to find out about the challenges they faced in performing program integrity activities. OIG also solicited input from CMS about the effects of the unification of Medicare and Medicaid program integrity activities, how CMS measures the effectiveness of UPICs, and any challenges UPICs face in conducting their work. Notably, OIG did not assess whether UPICs were appropriately targeting providers with audits and suspensions, or whether UPIC findings were upheld on review by other contractors or Administrative Law Judges in the administrative appeals process. Rather, OIG’s report seems to imply that more auditing is always better, regardless of its efficacy or its impact on healthcare providers.
As a result of the study, OIG found that UPICs conducted substantially more Medicare program integrity work compared to Medicaid work. The study revealed that UPICs conducted only minimal activities related to Medicaid managed care, even though most Medicaid enrollees receive services through managed care. OIG further noted that UPICs reported no data analysis projects completed or vulnerabilities identified related to Medicaid managed care in 2019. Overall, UPICs conducted disproportionately fewer Medicaid activities compared to the levels of funding they receive from CMS for Medicaid program integrity activities.
In response to the study’s findings, OIG specifically recommended, among others, that CMS implement a plan to increase UPIC’s Medicaid program integrity activities, particularly related to managed care. OIG’s recommendation will likely result in targeted efforts by UPICs to audit Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care claims. Providers should take note of this shift in focus and proactively assess their operations and compliance activities, including evaluate their billing and coding operations with regard to Medicaid claims.
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 UPIC audits or healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.