Posts Tagged Medicare

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Advance Beneficiary Notice FAQs

The advance beneficiary notice (ABN) is a powerful tool for practices to educate patients about their benefits and responsibilities for Medicare non-covered services. Many of our readers still write us to ask questions about the form and the correct way to use it in the office, so we developed this Frequently Asked Questions list for the ABN to clear up some of the confusion.

We always tell the physicians we work with: “If you are going to accept insurance, you need to be the expert on insurance.” In practice this means knowing your patient’s benefits and working with them to communicate with them about what, if anything, they will owe before or after payer adjudication. No one enjoys being surprised about money!

The ABN is also a tremendous opportunity to talk about financial responsibilities with a patient. If you don’t have a credit card on file program in your practice, it’s important to be proactive about patient financial responsibilities and how they will be handled. Having a patient sign that they understand they will be financially responsible for payment for a non-covered service is a natural way to start that process.

Here are some of your most frequently asked ABN questions.

What is the ABN? What does it do?

The ABN was originally developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make sure Medicare patients were aware that if they received services that were not covered by Medicare, payment for these services would be their responsibility. By signing the ABN, the patient agrees that if Medicare (or other payer) does not pay the physician then the patient will have to pay for it. The document affirms that the patient knows they could be required to pay out of pocket. Once the ABN is signed, if you are sure Medicare won’t pay you can (and probably should) collect the patient portion listed on the form immediately. You can charge in full for the services if the ABN is signed, however the service is self-pay at that point, so I always suggest you charge your self-pay rate.

What won’t Medicare pay for?

The classic example is an annual physical, which many people assume is part of their Medicare coverage. Medicare will pay for an initial “Welcome to Medicare” visit, as well as an “Annual Wellness” visit, but the key word to hear is “visit”. These are not physical examinations. If a patient wants a physical, they will need to sign an ABN before the service saying they understand that Medicare will not pay for it. Other things that Medicare will not pay for include services without specific medical need, like labs or imaging diagnostics without diagnoses that are accepted as medically necessary. Medicare will also only pay for certain services at regular intervals, for example women who are considered “low risk” for cervical cancer can only receive a pap smear every 24 months. Note that you are not required by Medicare to get an ABN signed for services that are never covered, such as the annual physical, however, it pays to be absolutely clear when discussing payments, so I suggest you get an ABN signed by the patient regardless.

Should we just have everybody sign an ABN?

No. The ABN is to be used in specific instances for a specific service. You cannot require a patient to sign a “blanket” ABN for the year, just in case. If Mr. Smith wants a service that Medicare is unlikely to, or definitely will not pay for and the physician is comfortable ordering or performing the service, a staff member should present an ABN to Mr. Smith for that specific day’s procedure, before it is performed. If the patient is a having a series of recurring services that will not be covered, you can have one ABN signed for up to twelve months of the specific service. An example of this might be a series of physical therapy sessions.  The ABN is not a catch- all to protect from denial, however, and persistent misuse will not only be denied, but could open the door to an audit.

We are a small, busy practice; that sounds like a lot of work!

It is a lot of work for a practice! Many practices choose to not use the ABN rather then work out a protocol to implement it. The practice has to have a system in place so that the physician or staff member can explain the situation, fill out the form, answer the patient’s questions and file the ABN for posterity (they have to be kept seven years, like other records). It can be the physician in a micropractice, or a dedicated billing or customer service employee in a larger setting. Also, a note has to be made of the ABN signing in the patient’s chart so that modifiers can be added to the CPT codes for billing.

Are ABNs for Medicare only?

No. You can also have a patient sign an ABN for a private payer. This helps the patient to understand that if their insurance doesn’t cover the service specified, the patient will have to pay for it.  Medicare requires an ABN be signed in order to bill the patient, but for patients with private insurance it’s still a great opportunity to talk about non-covered services, deductibles, copays, coinsurance or any past balances if you haven’t already. A few private payers actually require a waiver/ABN to bill patients for non-covered services – check your contract to be sure.

 

Mary Pat has created a generic non-Medicare ABN; if you’d like a copy, just email Mary Pat and she can send you one.

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement

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The CMS ICD-10 Announcement: What It Means to Your Practice

The Lion and the Lamb - CMS and the AMA Collaborate on ICD-10 Concessions

First, the game-changing announcement below means that a sigh of relief is in order. Some of the anxiety surrounding potential financial disaster should be abated. CMS announced:

“Medicare review contractors [MACs and RACs] will not deny physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Part B physician fee schedule through either automated medical review or complex medical record review based solely on the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code as long as the physician/practitioner used a valid code from the right family.” (see FAQ2 below)

Second, we think it means that the sword rattling coming from the AMA and other individuals should subside. The fact that the CMS changes are based on recommendations from the AMA, which has been adamantly opposed to the ICD-10 mandate for years, is no less unexpected than the lion laying down with the lamb.

Regardless of the changes, the AMA’s previous assertion that ICD-10 “will create significant burdens on the practice of medicine with no direct benefit to individual patients’ care” still stands. The transition is inevitable, in my mind, but the changes will lessen the burden on physicians.

In the announcement from CMS, the clarification was made that

“In accordance with the coming transition, the Medicare claims processing systems will not have the capability to accept ICD-9 codes for dates of services after September 30, 2015, nor will they be able to accept claims for both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes.”

Third, CMS will name a CMS ICD-10 Ombudsman to triage and answer questions about the submission of claims. The ICD-10 Ombudsman will be located at CMS’s ICD-10 Coordination Center.

Also, mark your calendars! CMS will have a provider call on August 27th to discuss these changes.

See the answers below provided by CMS in their new FAQs published this week.

Q1. What if I run into a problem with the transition to ICD-10 on or after October 1st 2015?

A1. CMS understands that moving to ICD-10 is bringing significant changes to the provider community. CMS will set up a communication and collaboration center for monitoring the implementation of ICD-10. This center will quickly identify and initiate resolution of issues that arise as a result of the transition to ICD-10. As part of the center, CMS will have an ICD-10 Ombudsman to help receive and triage physician and provider issues. The Ombudsman will work closely with representatives in CMS’s regional offices to address physicians’ concerns. As we get closer to the October 1, 2015, compliance date, CMS will issue guidance about how to submit issues to the Ombudsman.

Q2. What happens if I use the wrong ICD-10 code, will my claim be denied?

A1. While diagnosis coding to the correct level of specificity is the goal for all claims, for 12 months after ICD-10 implementation, Medicare review contractors will not deny physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Part B physician fee schedule through either automated medical review or complex medical record review based solely on the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code as long as the physician/practitioner used a valid code from the right family. However, a valid ICD-10 code will be required on all claims starting on October 1, 2015. It is possible a claim could be chosen for review for reasons other than the specificity of the ICD-10 code and the claim would continue to be reviewed for these reasons. This policy will be adopted by the Medicare Administrative Contractors, the Recovery Audit Contractors, the Zone Program Integrity Contractors, and the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor.

Q3. What happens if I use the wrong ICD-10 code for quality reporting? Will Medicare deny an informal review request?

A3. For all quality reporting completed for program year 2015 Medicare clinical quality data review contractors will not subject physicians or other Eligible Professionals (EP) to the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), Value Based Modifier (VBM), or Meaningful Use 2 (MU) penalty during primary source verification or auditing related to the additional specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code, as long as the physician/EP used a code from the correct family of codes. Furthermore, an EP will not be subjected to a penalty if CMS experiences difficulty calculating the quality scores for PQRS, VBM, or MU due to the transition to ICD-10 codes. CMS will not deny any informal review request based on 2015 quality measures if it is found that the EP submitted the requisite number/type of measures and appropriate domains on the specified number/percentage of patients, and the EP’s only error(s) is/are related to the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code (as long as the physician/EP used a code from the correct family of codes). CMS will continue to monitor the implementation and adjust the timeframe if needed.

Q4. What is advanced payment and how can I access this if needed?

A4. When the Part B Medicare Contractors are unable to process claims within established time limits because of administrative problems, such as contractor system malfunction or implementation problems, an advance payment may be available. An advance payment is a conditional partial payment, which requires repayment, and may be issued when the conditions described in CMS regulations at 42 CFR Section 421.214 are met. To apply for an advance payment, the Medicare physician/supplier is required to submit the request to their appropriate Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC). Should there be Medicare systems issues that interfere with claims processing, CMS and the MACs will post information on how to access advance payments. CMS does not have the authority to make advance payments in the case where a physician is unable to submit a valid claim for services rendered.

NOTE: Watch for upcoming posts on ICD-10 websites and apps that I am rating for their usefulness. We will also be producing free webinars on translating the diagnoses on your superbills, picklists and cheat sheets for ICD-10 – stay tuned!

Photo Credit: Tojosan via Compfight cc

Posted in: Headlines, ICD-10

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Before and After: How the Sequester’s Cut will Change Your Medicare Reimbursement

Medicare Sequester Cut Provider ReactionThis is no April Fool’s Joke for medical practices and providers: starting Monday, April 1st, we will face a 2% cut in reimbursement for services due to the “sequester.” The sequester is the other half of the “fiscal cliff” that we reported on back in January. Although not too long ago, all the conventional wisdom was dead set against the government “going over the cliff,” and here we are with both automatic tax hikes and spending cuts now a reality.

Managers might  find themselves giving the same explanations about gridlock to the doctors that you gave your employees when their first paycheck of 2013 was lower than usual.

Although the cut is only 2%, it comes entirely from the 80% of the allowable that the government reimburses, as opposed to the 20% patient responsibility. The cut does not affect the Medicare patient’s co-insurance, not does it affect the 2013 Medicare Part B deductible.

To give medical practice managers an idea of what that cut will look like, here are some sample numbers.

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Headlines, Medicare & Reimbursement

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RAC Alert: How to Bill Medicare for Hospice Patients When You Are Not the Hospice Provider

Hospice Care

What is Hospice?

Hospice care focuses on improving the quality of life for persons and their families faced with a life-limiting illness. The primary goals of hospice care are to provide comfort, relieve physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering, and promote the dignity of terminally ill persons. Hospice care neither prolongs nor hastens the dying process. As such, it is palliative not curative. Hospice care is a philosophy or approach to care rather than a place. Care may be provided in a person’s home, nursing home, hospital, or independent facility devoted to end-of-life care.

How is Medicare Hospice Care Paid?

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Day-to-Day Operations, Medicare & Reimbursement

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The Big Idea for 2013: Show Me Your Fees

Transparency in HealthcarePrivate practices, hospital-owned practices and affiliated group practices are facing big changes from healthcare reform, demographic shifts, and economic and reimbursement pressure. The industry is re-evaluating itself from top to bottom and looking for new business models, ideas and opportunities to make medical practice feasible. Health insurance is changing as employers and payers are reducing benefits and shifting costs to patients. High deductible health plans (HDHPs) are becoming more popular, and with that patients are thinking more like customers, and making their healthcare decisions based on out-of-pocket costs.

Patients want access to pricing info, and are not satisfied with “it’s complicated” as an answer. The industry as a whole is moving towards rewarding performance over volume, and patients will also be armed with more publicly available performance and safety data.

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement

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Your Health Insurance Deal in 2014: Calculate Your Cost

CalculatorMost people think they know the basics about health insurance reform in 2014: If they do not have access to medical insurance, they will be required to purchase insurance (costly) or they will be taxed (also costly.)

What many people don’t know is that based on their income, age and family size, they may be eligible for a subsidy to help defray the cost of health insurance.

Here’s a handy calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation that will help you see your healthcare insurance deal if you are without insurance now, or might be without insurance in 2014. The calculator site says:

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Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Headlines

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Medicare News This Week: The 27.5% Cut, Meaningful Use Stage 2 Specifications, and Upcoming Webinars

This Week’s Medicare News for Medical Practice Managers

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Electronic Medical Records, Finance, Headlines, Medicare & Reimbursement, Medicare This Week

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Medicare Pricing Released for Most Flu Vaccine Codes

Flu Shot ReimbursementMedicare pricing for flu vaccines were released September 28th and appear below for all HCPCS codes which were published with fees. For more information on billing for these vaccines, see our post here.

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Posted in: Medicare & Reimbursement, Medicare This Week

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Medicare Place of Service Audits Show “Most” Part B Claims Have Incorrect POS

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You wouldn’t think that a simple thing like the place of service would have the potential to cause a $9.5M overpayment by Medicare. But that is the figure the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) says it estimates that Medicare contractors overpaid physicians for place of service errors in 2009.

The OIG conducted the 2009 audit to determine whether physicians correctly coded non-facility place- of-service on selected part B claims submitted to and paid by Medicare contractors. The audit report, titled “Review of Place-of-Service Coding for Physician Services Processed by Medicare Part B Contractors During Calendar Year 2009” is available at http://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region10/11000516.pdf on the OIG website.

Physicians correctly coded the claims for 17 of the 100 services that the OIG sampled. However, physicians incorrectly coded the claims for 83 sampled services by using non-facility place-of-service codes for services that were actually performed in hospital outpatient departments or ASCs. Based on the sample results, OIG estimated that nationally, Medicare contractors overpaid physicians $9.5 million for incorrectly coded services provided during calendar year 2009. – (MLN Matters®Number: SE1226)

It’s not surprising that physicians might use the wrong place of service. Because of the verbiage used to identify when the physician is providing the space, equipment and overhead versus when he is not, many of us in the field have been confused.

Here’s how CMS describes it:

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Medicare & Reimbursement

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Healthcare Reform: Talking to Patients and Staff

At Manage My Practice we like to keep our posts informative and actionable – and not political. I’ve tried to provide the facts about the reforms, and how they could affect your patients and staff in an unbiased and professional manner – exactly how you would present them as an administrator. I hope you find it useful. – Abe

President Barack Obama Signs PPACA Into Law on March 23rd, 2010

The process of passing and implementing a law is a long and winding road, but President Obama’s Healthcare Reforms cleared a significant hurdle on Thursday when the Supreme Court upheld most of the law as constitutional against challenges from many of the states as well as business organizations. You have probably been getting a lot of questions from employees, patients, friends and relatives, and even your providers and colleagues, and they all basically boil down to this: How does the law affect me?

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Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Day-to-Day Operations

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