Published on:

OIG to Scrutinize Peripheral Vascular Procedures

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently announced that it intends to increase scrutiny of fee-for-service peripheral vascular procedures billed to the Medicare program. Although OIG did not describe the specific actions in intends to take, it appears likely that OIG will conduct data analysis of Medicare claims for vascular services, especially atherectomies and angioplasties; conduct audits of specific providers, likely those with high utilization of vascular services or those with prior audit denials or accusations of improper billing; and also review the program integrity measures that CMS and its contractors have taken to address fraud, waste, and abuse in these procedures.

In explaining the motivation for its review, OIG noted that the use of peripheral vascular procedures in the Medicare population has increased over the past decade. In 2022, Medicare paid more than $600 million for atherectomies and angioplasties with and without a stent in peripheral arteries. These minimally invasive surgeries aim to improve blood flow when arteries narrow or become blocked because of peripheral arterial disease but are recommended only after patients have tried medical and exercise therapy, and have lifestyle-limiting symptoms. OIG also asserted that CMS and whistleblower fraud investigations have identified these surgeries as vulnerable to improper payments.

Our firm has significant experience in representing physician groups and other providers in the defense of Medicare audits of vascular procedures. We have seen many instances in which Medicare contractors have misunderstood clinical terminology or other documentation elements relating to vascular procedures and have inappropriately denied claims or even alleged that the provider has committed fraud based only on the contractor’s own mistaken interpretation of the provider’s medical records. Providers who are audited by the Unified Program Integrity Contractors (UPICs), such as CoventBridge Group, should be particularly vigilant in reviewing any findings or claim denials issued by the UPICs. Such denials are generally appealable through the Medicare claims appeal process and may be partially or fully overturned on appeal. Even where a provider prevails on appeal, a contractor’s spurious fraud allegations can have significant detrimental impacts, including delays in payment, Medicare payment suspensions, and further audits from both Medicare and other payors.

Vascular providers have seen increased audit activity from CMS and its contractors in recent years, and should continue to focus on both compliance in the claims submitted to Medicare and in vigorously pursuing appeals of claims that have been inappropriately denied before such denials become binding and may otherwise be used against the provider.

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 audits of vascular services or healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or

Contact Information