Posts Tagged Medicare


Your Guide to the 2012 OIG Work Plan: Does Anything on This List Worry You?

Here are some highlights from the new OIG Work Plan for FY 2012. There are more items that apply to practices, as well as items for hospitals, nursing facilities, home health, and medical equipment and supplies. The link to the complete plan is at the end of the article.

Compliance With Assignment Rules

If you accept assignment with Medicare (i.e. you accept what Medicare allows as payment for a service), the OIG wants to know if you are adhering to the allowable and not collecting more than the patient’s deductible and co-insurance.

Physicians-Owned Distributors of Spinal Implants (New)

Do physician-owned distributors (PODs) of spinal implants have a conflict of interest when they sell implants to hospitals? The OIG will investigate.

Place-of-Service Errors

Because there is a payment differential between a service provided in a hospital outpatient department or ASC and the same service provided in the physician’s office, the OIG wants to know if you provided the service where you claimed you did.

Physicians: Incident-To-Services (New)

Incident-to services are reported on the honor system – the claim does not reflect that a mid-level provider performed the service under the supervision of a physician. The OIG will dig under the claims to see if practices really understand and follow the incident-to rules.


Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Electronic Medical Records, Medicare & Reimbursement

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Have You Been Ignoring the January 1, 2012 Deadline for 5010? Wake Up – It’s Time to Get Serious!

Just in case you haven’t had a chance (what have you been doing?) to focus on the January 1, 2012 deadline for the transition to 5010, take 5 minutes to read this post and make sure your healthcare group is on track. It is critical to have NO interruption in cash flow in January – a time when cash flow is already lower due to the new deductibles in play for many plans including Medicare.

The American Medical Association (AMA), in its “5010 Implementation Steps: Getting the Work Done in Time for the Deadline” recommends the following to protect your cash in January:

  • Submit as many transactions as possible before Jan. 1, 2012.
  • Decrease expenses before Jan. 1, 2012, to increase cash reserves.
  • Consider establishing a line of credit with a financial institution.
  • Research payers’ advance payment policies.
  • Consider using manual or paper processes to complete transactions until the electronic transactions are fixed.

Note that HIPAA standards, including the ASC X12 Version 5010 and Version D.0 standards are national standards and apply to your transactions with all payers, not just with FFS Medicare. Therefore, you must be prepared to implement these transactions for your non-FFS Medicare business.

Beginning January 1, 2012 all electronic claims, eligibility and claim status inquiries must use Version 5010 or D.O.


Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Finance, Learn This: Technology Answers, Medicare & Reimbursement

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The Right Way to Do Write-offs

A write-off is an amount that a practice deducts from a charge and does not expect to collect, thereby “writing it off” the accounts receivable or list of monies owed them by payers or patients.

There are lots of reasons why write-offs are taken, and it is common practice to divide write-offs into two major categories.

Necessary or Approved Write-offs

These are write-offs that you have agreed to, either in the context of a contract, or in terms of your practice philosophy.

Contractual write-offs are the difference between the practice fee schedule and the allowable fee schedule you’ve agreed to accept.

Charity write-offs are the difference between the practice fee schedule and anything collected. Charity write-offs may be in accordance with a community indigent care effort, a policy adhered to in a faith-led healthcare system, or a financial assistance program.

Small balance write-offs are amounts left on the patient’s account that may not warrant the cost of sending a bill, which has been estimated to cost about $12.00 each, taking into account the statement process, as well as the cost to receive the check, post it, and deposit it. Many practices write off the small balance (usually $15 or less) and collect it when the patient returns. Others run a special small balance statement run once a quarter.


Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance

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CMS Releases Pricing and Codes for 2011 – 2012 Flu Vaccine Given After September 1, 2011

NOTE: The 2012 – 2013 flu shot codes can be found here.


Today the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the new pricing for flu shots for Medicare patients for the 2011-2012 flu season. The Medicare Part B payment allowance limits for seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are 95% of the Average Wholesale Price (AWP) as reflected in the published compendia except where the vaccine is furnished in a hospital outpatient department.  When the vaccine is furnished in the hospital outpatient department, payment for the vaccine is based on reasonable cost.

What do Medicare patients have to pay for the flu shot?

Annual Part B deductible and coinsurance amounts do not apply for the influenza virus and the pneumococcal vaccinations.  All physicians, non-physician practitioners, and suppliers who administer these vaccinations must take assignment on the claim for the vaccine. Do not collect from Medicare patients for the vaccine or the administration of a flu shot.

What will Medicare pay for the flu shot?

The payment allowances below reflect the annually updated payment allowance for the listed CPT codes and Q-codes when the vaccines are furnished outside the hospital outpatient department.


Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Medicare & Reimbursement

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How to Apply Online for the CMS Hardship Exemption from the 2012 eRx Medicare Payment Reduction

UPDATE: CMS has announced a second window for applying for the 2013 hardship exemption from 11/1/2012 through 1/31/2013. Click Here for more info.

UPDATE: CMS has released information for applying for the 2013 hardship exemption. Check out our “Medicare This Week” post from 6/8/2012 for more info.

UPDATE: The submission period for applying for a 2012 hardship exemption for failing to e-prescribe in 2011 is over. 

CMS has just announced the process for applying for a hardship exemption from the 2012 1% Medicare payment adjustment (i.e. reduction.)

If you are participating as an individual Eligible Professional…

…use the new CMS provider webpage, called the Quality Reporting Communication Support Page, to enter the request and supporting rationale. Your request must be submitted by November 1, 2011.  A Quality Communications Support Page User Manualis available to answer questions eligible professionals may have.

If you are participating using the Group Practice Reporting Option (GPRO)…

Group practices selected for and participating in the 2011 GPRO I or II reporting option wishing to submit a 2012 exemption request should submit a letter to: Significant Hardship Exemptions, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, Quality Measurement and Health Assessment Group, 7500 Security Boulevard, Mail Stop S3-02-01, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850. This letter must be postmarked no later than November 1, 2011.

To help eligible professionals and group practices understand the key provisions and impact of the 2011 Medicare Electronic Prescribing (eRx) Incentive Program Final Rule, A Quick Reference Guide has been posted to the eRx Incentive Program website on the “Educational Resources” page.  Frequently asked questions (FAQs) addressing the 2011 eRx Final Rule, as well as other information and resources about the eRx Incentive Program can be found at the eRx Incentive Program website here.

Posted in: Electronic Medical Records, Headlines, Medicare & Reimbursement

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The CMS Bundled Payment Initiative: Providers Can Apply to Participate in a Mini-ACO Initiative

Last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new initiative to help improve care for patients while they are in the hospital and after they are discharged. Doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers can now apply to participate in a new program known as the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative (Bundled Payments initiative). Made possible by the Affordable Care Act, it will align payments for services delivered across an episode of care, such as heart bypass or hip replacement, rather than paying for services separately.  Bundled payments will give doctors and hospitals new incentives to coordinate care, improve the quality of care and save money for Medicare.

“Patients don’t get care from just one person  – it takes a team, and this initiative will help ensure the team is working together,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “The Bundled Payments initiative will encourage doctors, nurses and specialists to coordinate care. It is a key part of our efforts to give patients better health, better care, and lower costs.

Payment bundling is the future

In Medicare currently, hospitals, physicians and other clinicians who provide care for beneficiaries bill and are paid separately for their services.  This Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) initiative will bundle care for a package of services patients receive to treat a specific medical condition during a single hospital stay and/or recovery from that stay – this is known as an episode of care. By bundling payment across providers for multiple services, providers will have a greater incentive to coordinate and ensure continuity of care across settings, resulting in better care for patients.  Better coordinated care can reduce unnecessary duplication of services, reduce preventable medical errors, help patients heal without harm, and lower costs.

The Bundled Payments initiative is being launched by the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center), which was created by the Affordable Care Act to carry out the critical task of finding new and better ways to provide and pay for health care to a growing population of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

Four bundled payment models

Released today, the Innovation Center’s Request for Applications (RFA) outlines four broad approaches to bundled payments.  Providers will have flexibility to determine which episodes of care and which services will be bundled together.  By giving providers the flexibility to determine which model of bundled payments works best for them, it will be easier for providers of different sizes and readiness to participate in this initiative.


Posted in: Medicare & Reimbursement

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Collections Basics – Part 1: Know Your Payers

In a traditional healthcare setting, the revenue cycle begins with the insurance companies who pay the majority of the bill. There are multitudes of payers and each payer can have many plans.  How can a healthcare organization catalog this information, keep this information updated and make this information easily accessible to staff so they can discuss payments with patients in an informed and confident way?

Start by breaking your payers into five main categories as a logical way to organize the data.

  1. Payers with whom you have a contract
  2. Payers with whom you do not have a contract
  3. State and Federal government payers (Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare)
  4. Medicare Advantage payers
  5. Patients

Payers with whom you have a contract

Your organization has signed a contract with a payer and you have agreed to accept a discounted fee called an allowable, and to abide by their rules.  What is the information you need to collect?

  • A copy of the contract
  • A detailed fee schedule, or a basis for the fees, such as “150% of the 2008 Medicare fee schedule.”
  • Any information about the fees being increased periodically based on economic indicators, or rules (notification, timeline, appeals) on how the payer can change the fee schedule.
  • The process and a contact name for appealing incorrect payments.
  • Information on what can be collected at time of service.  Hopefully your contract does not have any language that prohibits collections at time of service, but you must know what the contract states.
  • Process for checking on patients’ eligibility and benefits: representative by phone, interactive voice response (IVR), website or third-party access.


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

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CMS Announces Medicare Providers Must Begin to Revalidate Enrollment By March 2013

Announcement from CMS:

All providers and suppliers who enrolled in the Medicare program prior to Friday, March 25, 2011, will be required to revalidate their enrollment under new risk screening criteria required by the Affordable Care Act (section 6401a).  Providers/suppliers who enrolled on or after Friday, March 25, 2011 have already been subject to this screening, and need not revalidate at this time.

New Screening Criteria

In the continued effort to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse, CMS implemented new screening criteria to the Medicare provider/supplier enrollment process beginning in March 2011.  Newly-enrolling and revalidating providers and suppliers are placed in one of three screening categories – limited, moderate, or high – each representing the level of risk to the Medicare program for the particular category of provider/supplier, and determining the degree of screening to be performed by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) processing the enrollment application. More information on the screening categories is here.

Notices Will Be Sent to Providers/Suppliers

Between now and March 2013, MACs will be sending notices to individual providers/suppliers; please begin the revalidation process as soon as you hear from your MAC.  Upon receipt of the revalidation request, providers and suppliers have 60 days from the date of the letter to submit complete enrollment forms.  Failure to submit the enrollment forms as requested may result in the deactivation of your Medicare billing privileges.  The easiest and quickest way to revalidate your enrollment information is by using Internet-based PECOS (Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System), at

Fees Levied

Section 6401a of the Affordable Care Act requires institutional providers and suppliers to pay an application fee when enrolling or revalidating (“institutional provider” includes any provider or supplier that submits a paper Medicare enrollment application using the CMS-855A; CMS-855B, not including physician and non-physician practitioner organizations; CMS-855S; or associated Internet-based PECOS enrollment applications); these fees may be paid via

In order to reduce the burden on the provider, CMS is working to develop innovative technologies and streamlined enrollment processes – including Internet-based PECOS.  Updates will continue to be shared with the provider community as these efforts progress.

For more information about provider revalidation, review the Medicare Learning Network’s Special Edition Article #SE1126, titled “Further Details on the Revalidation of Provider Enrollment Information.”

Posted in: Medicare & Reimbursement, PECOS

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Step by Step Directions for Getting the EHR Incentive Money: My Notes From Last Week’s CMS Call

First the facts on what has taken place so far in the 2011 EHR Incentive Programs.

  • As of June 30th, the total of Medicare EHR Incentive Program payments is over $94 million.
  • As of June 30th, over $166 million has been paid in Medicaid EHR incentives since the program began in January.  In May and June, four states launched Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs – Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington, bringing the total states with Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs to 21.  More states will launch in July.
  • There are 68,001 active registrations of eligible professionals and eligible hospitals for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

If your group hasn’t received a check and hasn’t registered for the Medicare or Medicaid Incentive Program, then this blog post is for you! For anyone who is really just beginning their EHR journey, today’s presentation clarified previous information given by CMS, as well as giving listeners new information about the programs.


Posted in: Electronic Medical Records, Medicare & Reimbursement, PECOS

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CMS Roundup of 17 Announcements: More Information Than You Can Shake a Stick At!

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Hospital Wage Index Reform Call

Special Open Door Forum: Presentation and Listening Session on Hospital Wage Index Reform

Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM ET.

Section 3137(b) of the Affordable Care Act requires CMS to submit to Congress, by December 31, 2011, a report that includes a plan to reform the wage index under the Medicare hospital inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS). CMS acquired the services of Acumen, LLC to assist in its study of the wage index. During the first part of this special open door forum, Acumen will present its concept of an alternative methodology for the wage index. The second part will be a listening session, during which CMS would like to hear from you regarding your opinions about Acumen’s concept, as well as any suggestions on alternative methods for computing the wage index. If you wish to participate via conference call, dial 1-800-837-1935 Conference ID 50101623. Please see the full participation announcement in the Downloads section here.

Electronic Health Record Incentive Program Attestation Begins This Week

Attestation for the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program begins on Monday, April 18, 2011.  In order to receive your Medicare EHR incentive payment, you must attest through CMS’s web-based Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs Registration and Attestation System.

You can preview selected screenshots of the Attestation System to help you understand what the attestation process will involve.  Please note that these screenshots are only examples – the final appearance and language may incorporate additional changes.  CMS will release additional information about the Medicare attestation process soon, including User Guides that provide step-by-step instructions for completing attestation and educational webinars that describe the attestation process in depth.

You need to understand the required meaningful use criteria to successfully attest. Meaningful use requirements for eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program are different:

  • EP Meaningful Use Criteria – Must report on 15 core measures, 5 of 10 menu measures, and 6 clinical quality measures, consisting of 3 required core measures and 3 additional measures.
  • Eligible Hospital and CAH Meaningful Use Criteria – Must report on 14 core measures, 5 of 10 menu measures, and 15 clinical quality measures.

You should also make sure that you begin your 90-day reporting period in time to attest and receive a Medicare payment in 2011.  The last days to begin 90-day reporting periods for 2011 incentive payments are:

  • Sunday, July 3, 2011, for eligible hospitals and CAHs; and
  • Saturday, October 1, 2011, for EPs.

Under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, the date when participants can begin attestation for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or demonstrating meaningful use of certified EHR technology varies by state.  Visit the Medicaid State EHR Incentive Program web-tool for more information about your state’s participation in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

Want more information about the EHR Incentive Programs? Make sure to visit the CMS EHR Incentive Programs website for the latest news and updates on the EHR Incentive Programs; also read the new EHR Incentive Program FAQs from CMS.

Preventive Services, Preventive Physical Examinations and Annual Wellness Visits Quick Reference Charts

The ABCs of Providing the Initial Preventive Physical Examination Quick Reference Chart provides Medicare Fee-For-Service providers a list of the elements of the IPPE, as well as coverage and coding information. View the chart here.

The ABCs of Providing the Annual Wellness Visit Quick Reference Chart provides Medicare Fee-For-Service providers a list of the elements of the AWV, as well as coverage and coding information.  View the chart here.

The Medicare Preventive Services Quick Reference Chart provides Medicare Fee-For-Service providers coverage, coding, and payment information on the variety of preventive services covered by Medicare. View the chart here.

A hardcopy booklet containing all three charts, as well as the Quick Reference Information: Medicare Immunization Billing chart, will be available at a later date.


Latest HCPCS Code Set Changes

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is pleased to announce the scheduled release of modifications to the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code set.  These changes have been posted to the HCPCS web page here.  Changes are effective on the date indicated on the update.

Revisions to ASP Pricing Files

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has posted revised October 2010 and January 2011 ASP (average sales price) files, which are available for download here (see left menu for year-specific links).


Physician or NPP Signatures on Lab Requisitions

In the Monday, November 29, 2010, Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized its proposed policy to require a physician’s or qualified non-physician practitioner’s (NPP) signature on requisitions for clinical diagnostic laboratory tests paid under the clinical laboratory fee schedule effective Saturday, January 1, 2011.  (A requisition is the actual paperwork, such as a form, which is provided to a clinical diagnostic laboratory that identifies the test or tests to be performed for a patient.)

On Monday, December 20, 2010, CMS informed its contractors of concerns that some physicians, NPPs, and clinical diagnostic laboratories are not aware of or do not understand this policy.  As such, CMS indicated that it will focus in the first quarter of 2011 on developing educational and outreach materials to educate those affected by this policy.  CMS indicated that once the first quarter educational campaign is fully underway, it will expect requisitions to be signed.

After further input from community, CMS has decided to focus for the remainder of 2011 on changing the regulation that requires signatures on laboratory requisitions because of concerns that physicians, NPPs, and clinical diagnostic laboratories are having difficulty complying with this policy.

Face-to-Face Encounter Requirements for Home Health and Hospice

Effective April 1, 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expects home health agencies and hospices have fully established internal processes to comply with the face-to-face encounter requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for purposes of certification of a patient’s eligibility for Medicare home health services and of recertification for Medicare hospice services.

Section 6407 of the ACA established a face-to-face encounter requirement for certification of eligibility for Medicare home health services, by requiring the certifying physician to document that he or she, or a non-physician practitioner  working with the physician, has seen the patient.  The encounter must occur within the 90 days prior to the start of care, or within the 30 days after the start of care. Documentation of such an encounter must be present on certifications for patients with starts of care on or after January 1, 2011.

Similarly, section 3131(b) of the ACA requires a hospice physician or nurse practitioner to have a face-to-face encounter with a hospice patient prior to the patient’s 180th-day recertification, and each subsequent recertification.  The encounter must occur no more than 30 calendar days prior to the start of the hospice patient’s third benefit period.  The provision applies to recertifications on and after January 1, 2011.

On December 23, 2010, due to concerns that some providers needed additional time to establish operational protocols necessary to comply with face-to-face encounter requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for purposes of certification of a patient’s eligibility for Medicare home health services and of recertification for Medicare hospice services, CMS announced that it will expect full compliance with the requirements, beginning with the second quarter of CY2011.

Throughout the first quarter of 2011, CMS has continued outreach efforts to educate providers, physicians, and other stakeholders affected by these new requirements.  CMS has posted guidance materials including a MLN Matters article, questions and answers documents,  training slides, and  manual instructions which are available via  CMS’ Home Health  Agency Center and Hospice webpages.  CMS’ Office of External Affairs and Regional Offices contacted state and local associations for physicians and home health agencies and advocacy groups to ensure awareness about the face-to-face encounter laws, and to distribute the educational materials.

CMS will continue to address industry questions concerning the new requirements, and will update information on the Web site here for home health and here for hospice.

Federally Qualified Health Center Fact Sheet Revised

The revised publication titled Federally Qualified Health Center (revised March 2011) is now available in downloadable format from the Medicare Learning Network® here.  This fact sheet is designed to provide education about Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), including background; FQHC designation; covered FQHC services; FQHC preventive primary services that are not covered; FQHC Prospective Payment System; FQHC payments; and Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 provisions that impact FQHCs.


Avoiding the Adjustment 2012 Medicare Payment Adjustment for Not ePrescribing in 2011

In November 2010, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that, beginning in calendar year 2012, eligible professionals who are not successful electronic prescribers based on claims submitted between Sat Jan 1 and Thu June 30, 2011, may be subject to a payment adjustment on their Medicare Part-B Physician Fee Schedule-covered professional services.  Section 132 of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) authorizes CMS to apply this payment adjustment whether or not the eligible professional is planning to participate in the eRx Incentive Program.

From 2012 through 2014, the payment adjustment will increase each calendar year.  In 2012, the payment adjustment for not being a successful electronic prescriber will result in an eligible professional or group practice receiving 99% of their Medicare Part-B PFS amount that would otherwise apply to such services.  In 2013, an eligible professional or group practice will receive 98.5% of their Medicare Part-B PFS-covered professional services for not being a successful electronic prescriber in 2011 or as defined in a future regulation.  In 2014, the payment adjustment for not being a successful electronic prescriber is 2%, resulting in an eligible professional or group practice receiving 98% of their Medicare Part-B PFS-covered professional services.  (The payment adjustment does not apply if less than 10% of an eligible professional’s or group practice’s allowed charges for the Sat Jan 1, 2011 through Thu June 30, 2011, reporting period are comprised of codes in the denominator of the 2011 eRx measure.)  Also note that earning an eRx incentive for 2011 will NOT necessarily exempt an eligible professional or group practice from the payment adjustment in 2012.

How to Avoid the 2012 eRx Payment Adjustment:

  • Eligible professionals – An eligible professional can avoid the 2012 eRx Payment adjustment if (s)he:
    • Is not a physician (MD, DO, or podiatrist), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant as of Thu June 30, 2011, based on primary taxonomy code in NPPES;
    • Does not have prescribing privileges.  Note that (s)he must report G8644 at least one time on an eligible claim prior to Thu June 30, 2011;
    • Does not have at least 100 cases containing an encounter code in the measure denominator;
    • Becomes a successful e-prescriber; and reports the eRx measure for at least 10 unique eRx events for patients in the denominator of the measure.

NOTE: Group Practices – For group practices that are participating in eRx GPRO-I or GPRO-II during 2011, the group practice MUST become a successful e-prescriber. Depending on the group’s size, the group practice must report the eRx measure for 75-2500 unique eRx events for patients in the denominator of the measure.  For additional information, please visit the “Getting Started” webpage here or download the “Medicare’s Practical Guide to the Electronic Prescribing (eRx) Incentive Program” under “Educational Resources” on the same website.

Implementation of Errata for Version 5010 of HIPAA Transactions

BTW, errata is a list or lists of errors and their corrections. Errata is plural and the singular is erratum.

CMS does not have a version 4010A1 direct data entry and a separate version 5010 direct data entry.  The Priority (Type) of Admission or Visit code is now required on all version 4010A1 institutional claims submitted or corrected via direct data entry, as well as on version 5010 institutional claims, regardless of how they are submitted.  Providers that are unsure which code to use are to use code 9 (Information not Available).  Additional Priority (Type) of Admission or Visit code values and descriptions are available from the National Uniform Billing Committee or from your servicing MAC.  The Priority (Type) of Admission or Visit code is not required on 4010A1 institutional claims submitted or corrected via an 837.  More information on Version 5010 here.


REMINDER  – 5010/D.0 Errata requirements and testing schedule can be found here

REMINDER  – Contact your MAC for their testing schedule

READINESS ASSESSMENT  – Have you done the following to be ready for 5010/D.0?

READINESS ASSESSMENT  – What do you need to have in place to test with your MAC?

READINESS ASSESSMENT  – Do you know the implications of not being ready?

New Mental Health Services Booklet

A new publication titled “Mental Health Services is now available in downloadable format from the Medicare Learning Network® here.  This booklet is designed to provide education on mental health services, including covered mental health services, mental health services that are not covered, mental health professionals, outpatient psychiatric hospital services, and inpatient psychiatric hospital services.


Ambulance Fee Schedule Fact Sheet Revised

The revised publication titled “Ambulance Fee Schedule” (revised March 2011) is now available in downloadable format from the Medicare Learning Network® here.  This fact sheet is designed to provide education about the Ambulance Fee Schedule including background, ambulance providers and suppliers, ambulance services payments, and how payment rates are set.



Health Professional Shortage Area Fact Sheet Revised

The revised publication titled “Health Professional Shortage Area” (revised March 2011) is now available in downloadable format from the Medicare Learning Network® here.  This fact sheet is designed to provide education on the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) payment system and includes an overview of the program and general requirements.


Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital Fact Sheet Revised

The revised publication titled “Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital” (revised March 2011) is now available in downloadable format here. This fact sheet is designed to provide education on Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) including background; methods to qualify for the Medicare DSH adjustment; Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 and Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 provisions that impact Medicare DSHs; number of beds in hospital determination; and Medicare DSH hospital payment adjustment formulas.


G0431QW is Deleted and G0434QW is Added to CLIA Waived Test Schedule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is updating the status of two codes on the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLFS).

  • Effective April 1, 2011, code G0431QW is deleted from the CLFS. Code G0431 describes a high complexity test, and should not be reported with a QW modifier; the QW modifier indicates a CLIA waived test.
  • Effective April 1, 2011, code G0434QW is added to the CLFS. Code G0434 can describe a CLIA waived test. The use of the QW modifier to indicate a CLIA waived test is necessary for accurate claims processing.

Codes G0431 and G0434 will remain on the CLFS.


CMS Launches a Dedicated Web Page for the Medicare Shared Savings Program/Requirements for ACOs

On March 31, 2011, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published in the Federal Register proposed rule CMS-1345-P, Medicare Program; Medicare Shared Savings Program: Accountable Care Organizations that implements the Medicare Shared Savings Program (Shared Savings Program) and establishes the requirements for Accountable Care Organizations. CMS has launched a dedicated web page here for Medicare FFS providers and other providers of services and suppliers. Bookmark the web page and check back often, as CMS continues to add information on the program.

Program for Evaluating Payment Patterns Electronic Report (PEPPER) for CAHs

Beginning in April 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make available free hospital-specific comparative data reports for critical access hospitals (CAHs) nationwide. The Program for Evaluating Payment Patterns Electronic Report (PEPPER) provides hospital-specific data statistics for Medicare discharges at risk for improper payments. Hospitals can use the data to support internal auditing and monitoring activities. PEPPER is the only free report comparing a CAH’s Medicare billing practices with other CAHs by state, Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) or Fiscal Intermediary (FI) jurisdiction and the nation. CMS has contracted with TMF Health Quality Institute to develop and distribute the reports.

PEPPER will be distributed electronically to CAH QualityNet Administrators and those who have basic user accounts with the PEPPER Recipient role on or about Monday, April 25, via a My QualityNet secure file exchange. In preparation for receiving and downloading PEPPER from My QualityNet, these individuals should verify that their computer systems are equipped with the software and configuration required to use My QualityNet by following the steps at (see “Getting Started With QualityNet” and “Test Your System.”) Additional information about downloading PEPPER from My QualityNet can be found here (includes System Setup and Test Guide, Troubleshooting Tips and a guide for Configuration Changes for Compatibility with QualityNet).

CAHs may work with their Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) to obtain a QualityNet administrator account by visiting and clicking on the Hospitals – Inpatient link. Obtaining a My QualityNet account may take several weeks; CAHs should plan accordingly.

TMF will conduct a web-based training session for CAH staff providing information on PEPPER and how to use it on Thursday, April 28, at 1 p.m. central time. To register for the training, CAH staff should visit The training will be recorded and posted on

For more information, including the PEPPER distribution schedule, a sample PEPPER for CAHs and information about QualityNet accounts, visit the PEPPER website. CAH staff are encouraged to join the e-mail list on this website to receive important notifications about upcoming PEPPER distribution and training opportunities.

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