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CLASSIC LIST

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23/Jan/2024

On January 22, 2024 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released their data for the Top 10 Section 111 Non-Group Health Plan Reporting Errors July – December 2023. The chart with the list of errors and their rank can be viewed below. A downloadable PDF of this chart along with an explanation of the error codes can be viewed here at the CMS website.

Medivest will continue to monitor news and updates from CMS, and will keep its readers up to date when important announcements are made. For questions about this chart or any other recent updates, feel free to reach out to the Medivest representative in your area by clicking here or call us direct at 877.725.2467.


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22/Jan/2024

On January 10, 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule, revising its guidance to employers and workers to help determine if a worker qualifies as an employee or an independent contractor (IC) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The final ruling explains that the economic reality test is comprised of six-factors that are a guide to conduct the totality-of-the circumstances analysis to determine economic dependence. The new ruling takes effect March 11, 2024. To view the final ruling, click here.  

Misclassification Issues 

Employers need to distinguish between employees and independent contractors when considering eligibility for workers’ compensation. Correctly distinguishing between employees and independent contractors is crucial for legal compliance, cost management, liability avoidance, and ensuring workers receive the appropriate benefits and protections. Misclassification can have significant financial and legal consequences for employers. 

What is the Economic Realities Test?  

The US Department of Labor uses an economic realities test to help employers comply with the law, reduce the risk of employee misclassification, and to help determine if a worker is classified as an independent contractor or as an employee. This test consists of six-factors that are all weighed against each other. All factors should be considered.  No single factor determines a worker’s status.  No one factor or combination of factors is more important than the other factors.  This test considers the totality of the circumstances of the working relationship. Below are the six (6) factors. 

  1. Opportunity for profit or loss depending on managerial skill, 
  2. Investments by the worker and the employer, 
  3. Permanence of the work relationship, 
  4. Nature and degree of control, 
  5. Whether the work performed is integral to the employer’s business  
  6. Skill and initiative 

About Medivest 

Since 1996 Medivest has been helping our clients navigate the complexities of MSP compliance.  We offer settlement solutions for workers’ compensation and liability settlements. Count on Medivest to help keep you up to date with the constant updates regarding Federal Register rulings, Medicare Secondary Payer legislation and changes related to CMS’s enforcement of the Medicare Secondary Payer.  For questions, feel free to reach out to a Medivest representative in your area by clicking here or call us direct at 877.725.2467. 


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14/Sep/2023

On September 13th 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an upcoming increase to the maximum settlement amount for the Fixed Percentage Demand Calculation Option.

When settling a liability or workers’ compensation case, a beneficiary, or their attorney (or other representative) may request that Medicare’s demand amount be calculated using the Fixed Percentage Option. Currently the total settlement amount for the Fixed Percentage Option cannot exceed $5,000. Effective October 2, 2023, the maximum settlement amount will be raised to $10,000.

What is the Fixed Percentage Option?

The Fixed Percentage Option offers a simple, straightforward process to obtain the amount due to Medicare. It eliminates time and resources typically associated with the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) recovery process since you will not have to wait for Medicare to determine the conditional payment amount prior to settlement. The Fixed Percentage Option may be elected, if the following eligibility criteria are met:

      • The liability insurance (including self-insurance) settlement, judgment, award or other payment is related to an alleged physical trauma- based incident and;
      • The total settlement is for $5,000 (Note this amount will be raised to $10,000, effective October 2, 2023) or less.
      • You elect the option within the required timeframe and Medicare has not issued a demand letter or other request for reimbursement related to the incident.
      • You have not received and do not expect to receive any other settlements, judgments, awards, or other payments related to the incident.

For More Information

For additional information on the Fixed Percentage Option, please see the Fixed Percentage Option Presentation and the Fixed Percentage Model Language at CMS.Gov and consult the Downloads Section. To learn more about protecting the medical portion of your clients’ workers’ compensation and liability settlements, contact Medivest about Medicare Set-Aside Professional Administration.


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16/Dec/2021

On December 15, 2021, CMS issued an alert regarding the Computation of Annual Recovery Thresholds for Certain Liability Insurance, No-Fault Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation Settlements, Judgments, Awards or Other Payments for 2022.  CMS also issued the methodology for Computation of Annual Recovery Thresholds for Certain Liability Insurance, No-Fault Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation Settlements, Judgements Awards or Other Payments.

 

The CMS alert states, “Beginning January 1, 2022, the threshold for physical trauma-based liability insurance settlements will remain at $750. CMS will maintain the $750 threshold for no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation settlements, where the no-fault insurer or workers’ compensation entity does not otherwise have ongoing responsibility for medicals.

This means that entities are not required to report, and CMS will not seek recovery on settlements, as outlined above. Please note that the liability insurance (including self-insurance) threshold does not apply to settlements for alleged ingestion, implantation, or exposure cases.”

 

To view CMS’ Alert for 2022 Recovery Thresholds for Certain Liability Insurance, No-Fault Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation Settlements, Judgements, Awards or Other payments Click This Link.

 

For the full announcement regarding CMS’ Methodology for Computation of Annual Recovery Thresholds for Certain Liability Insurance, No-Fault Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation Settlements, Judgements, Awards or Other Payment for 2022  Click This Link.

 

Count on Medivest to help guide you through some of the complexities associated with MSP compliance.

 


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12/Oct/2021

 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a revised Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSAReference Guide (“Reference Guide”) Version 3.4 on October 4, 2021. This Reference Guide replaces Version 3.3 which was released on April 19, 2021. There are a few notable changes when comparing the two Reference Guides.  The yellow highlights below indicate the updated changes provided in Reference Guide Version 3.4.

 

CMS’s Version 3.4 Reference Guide, Section 1.1 includes the following changes:

To help ensure that funding information is provided for the WCMSA amount as part of a settlement agreement, clarification language has been added to several conditional letters (see Section 10.5 and the Approval and Development sample letters in Appendix 5).

To download the new WCMSA Reference Guide v3.4 Click Here.

 

☑ Section 10.5 wording change is as follows in yellow highlight:

“The parties can proceed with the settlement of the medical expenses portion of a WC claim before CMS actually reviews the proposed WCMSA and determines an amount that adequately protects Medicare’s interests. However, approval of the WCMSA is not effective until a copy of the final executed WC settlement agreement, which must include the funding information for the WCMSA amount, is received by CMS.”

 

☑ A similar word change was included in the Approval and Development sample letters in Appendix 5 of the Reference Guide to remind submitters that the method of funding is now required to be listed in the WCMSA submission.

 

☑ The approval letter to be included with the WCMSA submission to CMS should now include the language listed in the version appearing in Appendix 5 with the following statement in bold below:

Approval of this WCMSA amount is not effective until the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) receive a copy of the final executed workers’ compensation settlement agreement, which must include the funding information for this WCMSA amount.”

 

☑  Lastly, in Section 17.7 the WCMSA Reference guide updated references from MyMedicare.gov to Medicare.gov.

 

Medivest will continue to monitor changes occurring at CMS and will keep its readers up to date when such changes are announced. For questions, feel free to reach out to the Medivest representative in your area by clicking here or call us direct at 877.725.2467. For any specific questions regarding MSAs of any type, click here.


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01/Jul/2021

On June 28th, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made two announcements. The first is notice of the updated MMSEA Section 111 Group Health Plan (GHP) User Guide, while the second concerns a new technical alert regarding the inclusion of Part D information in Section 111.

Updated MMSEA Section 111 Group Health Plan (GHP) User Guide and GHP 270/271 Health Care Eligibility Benefit Inquiry and Response Companion Guides

A summary of the updates that have been made in Version 6.2 of the MMSEA Section 111 GHP User Guide are listed here:

The CMS electronic file transfer (EFT) file-naming conventions for inbound and outbound files have been updated (Section 8.1.1).

To provide more accurate direction to submitters, instead of receiving the RX 07 error code (Beneficiary does not have Part D enrollment), Disposition Code 51 will be returned for those records where the submitted individual is not entitled to Medicare Part D (Appendix D).

A new Modifier Type Code (PVR) and Name (From a provider) have been added for unsolicited MSP response files, and the DTM code (Name of employer submitting the Data Match Questionnaire Response) has been removed (Section 7.2.10.6).

The following will become effective December 11, 2021:

Under the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT Act) for Patients and Communities, Section 111 Responsible Reporting Entities (RREs) who provide primary prescription drug coverage must submit this information through the Section 111 process. To support their efforts, the Query-Only Response File layout will be updated to provide the most recent Part D enrollment information for beneficiaries. Additionally, process steps for installing and configuring the HIPAA Eligibility Wrapper (HEW) software will also be provided (HEW Query-Only Response File Record – Version 4.0.0, Appendix I).

The full guide can be downloaded here at CMS.gov.

Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Mandatory Reporting Provisions Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act (MMSEA) of 2007

The purpose of the latest alert is to notify Group Health Plan (GHP) RREs of changes being made to the Query Only Response File. Effective December 13, 2021, RREs will need to provide current Part D enrollment information for a beneficiary if the profile indicates that it provides network primary prescription drug coverage via Section 111 reporting. Additionally, three new fields will be added to the Query Only Response File layout.

The full alert can be downloaded here at CMS.gov.

For questions regarding these updates and how they may affect you and/or your clients workers’ compensation or liability settlements, please contact Medivest here or call us at 877.725.2467.


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02/Jun/2021

How Attorneys in Washington and Other States Should Prepare Their Clients and Themselves for Lump-Sum Settlements

Last month, Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that will allow injured workers to receive Workers’ Compensation (WC) settlements as lump-sum settlements for the first time.  Included in the bill, S.B. 5046 was an emergency clause that made it take effect immediately once it was signed.  Previously, injured workers in Washington state were required to receive WC settlements via structured settlement (annuitized) payments over time.  The COVID-19 Pandemic may have influenced this change and only time will tell if the decision will be good for the State of Washington.  Funding of WC settlements by structured settlements have always provided a sort of safety net so that if a WC claimant failed to preserve settlement funds in any one year, there would be another round of funding to help cover the medical needs of the claimant going forward.

 

Are There Risks with Lump-sum Settlements?

Lump-sum settlements offer the advantage of receiving money immediately, which can be helpful when large bills are looming overhead. However, injured workers who receive lump-sum settlements are naturally prone to misuse the medical portion of their settlement funds for several reasons. Disregarding any malicious intent, its not uncommon for misuse to occur due to:

  • Lack of Expertise – Inability to seek or negotiate for the best price on products and services due to a lack of knowledge about fee schedules, rates, coordination of benefits, medical billing department practices and policies, and negotiation.
  • Dependence on Willpower – Decisions are at the mercy of the beneficiary’s self-control.
  • Outside Influences – Life circumstances, including needs and wants, or even manipulation by family members or friends creates pressure to spend imprudently.

 

Workers’ Compensation claimants may face sanctions from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency charged with administering the Medicare program, which include denial of future medical care under Medicare for the WC related injury that was compensated, and obligation of repayment to Medicare for conditional payments made by Medicare, which can potentially be up to double the amount owed or otherwise carry high interest on unpaid Medicare Secondary Payer statute (MSP) debt. However, consequences of misuse of funds are not limited to just the claimants. Their attorneys may also share responsibility.

 

What Does This Mean for Attorneys in Washington State?

Attorneys in Washington, and any other state that allows lump-sum payments for Workers’ Compensation settlements, must make every effort to ensure that their clients are considering Medicare’s future interest in their settlement and have a plan for future care that will protect Medicare from being prematurely billed for any injury related and Medicare allowable future medical component of the WC settlement. CMS identifies the legal support providing why an attorney could be in its cross-hairs as a target of a MSP recovery penalty for a claimant’s misuse of funds in its April 22, 2003 memorandum.

  1. CMS may sue for repayment from all parties involved in the settlement, including the claimant’s attorneys. Double damages may also be sought against the “primary payer” under the authority of 42 CFR 411.24(c)(2), and if the government is unable to recover against the “primary payer,” against the “beneficiary.” 42 CFR 411.24(l)(1).
  2. CMS outlines the “ethical and legal obligations” of attorneys representing Workers’ Compensation claimants when their clients chose to “ignore Medicare’s interests in a Workers’ Compensation case,” citing to the CFR section that gives CMS a claim against the attorneys.

 

How to Protect Future Medicals and Your Own Future

For the protection of all parties involved, CMS highly recommends Professional Administration for a Medicare Set-Aside account.  It effectively eliminates or significantly reduces the likelihood of misuse of MSA funds, assuring the settling parties remain in compliance with the letter and spirit of the MSP thereby protecting both the claimant and attorney. Additionally, Medivest’s Professional Administration services can often stretch the medical portion of the settlement funds, helping to ensure that medical funds are available for a longer period of time than if self-administered.

Medivest can help you navigate through Medicare Secondary Payer compliance complexities while you work toward a desired settlement outcome. Call us to today to speak to one of our highly trained settlement consultants for a free lien and MSP futures case consultation. For more information about Medivest or to refer a case, please call 877.725.2467 | Monday – Friday 8 am to 5 pm EST.

 


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29/Apr/2021

 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a revised Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSAReference Guide (“Reference Guide”) Version 3.3 on April 19, 2021. This Reference Guide replaces Version 3.2 which was released on October 5, 2020. There are a few notable changes when comparing the two Reference Guides.  The blue highlights below indicate the updated changes provided in Reference Guide Version 3.3.

CMS’s Version 3.3 Reference Guide includes the following changes:

  • The CDC Life Table link was updated (Section 3).
  • Language around surgeries to be covered by seed money in a structured settlement was clarified, and a disclaimer was added to the proposal review reference tools list in Appendix 4, along with the Conduent Strataware® tool (Sections 5.2 and 9.4.4, Appendix 4).
  • Miscellaneous clarifications were added as follows (Sections 9.4.5, 10.2, 16.2, and 4):
    • On pricing: include refills when pricing intrathecal
    • On documentation: clarification was added on Consent to Release
    • On WCMSA Portal case access: clarification was added on case access for Professional Administrators who are not the original
  • The Major Medical Centers table was updated for a Missouri entry (Appendix 7).

To download the new WCMSA Reference Guide v3.3 Click Here.

 

Change 1 – CDC Life Table Updated Link

Section 10.3

Please see the WCMSA site (http://go.cms.gov/wcmsa) for additional information.”

 

Change 2 – Seed Calculations Include Cost of First Surgery/Procedure for Each Injured Body Part

 Section 5.2

Language around surgeries to be covered by seed money in a structured settlement was clarified.

  • Medivest’s Takeaway: Of these announced changes, the change of most significance is the clarification that CMS expects seed calculations to be evaluated for each affect body part of an injured worker. Text has been inserted in multiple locations for this purpose. We have placed references to the applicable Reference Guide section where the updated language appears and have quoted various portions of the existing language along with the revised/inserted language for context below, with the revised language appearing in blue highlight.
  • CMS’ Update: “A WCMSA can also be established as a structured arrangement, where payments are made to the account on a defined schedule to cover expenses projected for future years. In a structured WCMSA, an initial deposit is required to cover the first surgery or procedure for each body part, and/or replacement and the first two years of annual payments. The initial deposit (“seed money”) is followed by subsequent annual deposits (or a shorter time period if CMS agrees to such), based on the anniversary of the first deposit. If in any given coverage year, the deposited funds are not exhausted (i.e., used up, spent), they are carried forward to the next period and added to the next annual deposit. The whole fund, including carry-forwards, must be exhausted before Medicare will pay primary for any WC injury-related medical expenses. If the fund is exhausted appropriately in a given annual period, Medicare will pay primary for further WC injury-related medical expenses during that period. In the next annual period, the replenished WCMSA funds again must be used, until the WCMSA amount is appropriately exhausted.”

 

Section 9.4.4

  • Medivest’s Takeaway: Slight changes were also made under 9.4.4 Medical Review, Step Six, to clarify that seed calculations are to be performed for each affected body part/injured area as follows:
  • CMS’ Update – Section 9.4.4: “When annuity is selected, the submitter provides a proposed “seed” or initial deposit amount. This amount should include the cost of the first surgery/procedure for each body part, if any. The seed includes the first two years of the annual amount. See Section 05 – Cover Letter in this guide for instructions on how to calculate the seed amount, with an example.54r3efd

The seed includes the cost of the first surgery/procedure for each body part, including all costs such as prescription drugs, physician fees, anesthesia fees, and facility fees. If the surgery is preceded by an associated trial, i.e., trial SCS or trial intrathecal (IT) pump, the cost of the trial is also included since it is considered part of the same procedure. If there are no surgeries, the first procedure (if any, such as injections) is included. Series of spinal injections are not included, but series of knee visco supplementation are included if three are anticipated to be accomplished as a series of three weekly injections.

The first replacement of Durable Medical Equipment (DME), prosthesis, or orthotics is included in the seed funds if the cost of such items exceeds $500.

The seed includes the cost of surgeries, procedures, drugs, or replacement items as noted above. It does not include the cost of diagnostic studies, complications, and hospitalizations for non-surgical treatment.”

Other locations where the per body part is referenced include in 10.1 Section 05-Cover Letter:

on page 39:

. . .

“Note: Where the WCMSA is to be funded by a structured settlement, the cover letter

must disclose whether any portion of the projected prescription drug expenses has been included in the lump sum required to cover the first surgery/procedure for each body part,

and/or replacement and the first two years of annual payments.”

. . .

As well as in two places on page 40 under the same section:

Example:

Total WCMSA = $301,826.90

Cost of first surgery for each body part, and/or the first procedure/replacement =

$10,191.40”

. . .

“Step 2. Identify the cost of the first surgery for each body part and the first

procedure/replacement ($10,191.40)”

 

Appendix 4-1 | WCRC Proposal Review Reference Tools

  • CMS’ Update: “Strataware® is a tool, for repricing medical bills to state mandated fee schedules, as well as usual, customary and recommended (UCR) rates.”

 

Change 3 – Pricing Updates Includes refills when pricing intrathecal pumps

Section 9.4.5 | Medical Review Guidelines Intrathecal (IT) Pumps

Pricing clarification was updated for Intrathecal pumps to stress that pump refills should be projected for the claimant’s life expectancy.

  • CMS Update:The WCRC follows the most recent guidance from CMS on intrathecal (IT) pump pricing and frequencies. Permanent placement of IT pump devices are included every 7 years: the claimant’s life expectancy is divided by 7, decimals are dropped, and the whole number is used for determining replacement over the life expectancy. Pricing includes necessary pump refills over the claimant’s life expectancy.”

Pricing for Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Surgery

. . .

Consider the number of leads to be used.

Analysis Services: CMS LCDs (L34705 and L35648) can be billed every 30 days and more frequently in the first month. It should be priced four times in the first 30 days, monthly for the first year, and twice a year after the first year.

5. LCD L34705 – SCS (Dorsal Column Stimulation) – “Generally, electronic analysis services (CPT codes 95970, 95971, 95972, and 95973) aren’t considered medically necessary when provided more often than once every 30 days. More frequent analysis may be necessary in the first month after implantation.

6.  LCD L35648 – SCS for Chronic Pain – Under Utilization Guidelines: “Generally, electronic analysis services (CPT codes 95970, 95971, 95972 and 95973) aren’t considered medically necessary when provided more often than once every 30 days. More frequent analysis may be necessary in the first month after implantation.

 

Section 10.2 | Consent to Release Note

  • CMS’ Update: “Consent to Release documents must be signed (by hand or electronically) with the full name of either the claimant, matching the claimant’s legal name, or by the claimant’s authorized representative, if documentation establishing the relationship is also provided. It must be a full signature, not initials.”

 

Section 16.2 | Amended Review

On WCMSA Portal case access: clarification was added on case access for Professional Administrators who are not the original submitter.

  • CMS’ Update:
    • In the event that treatment has changed due to a state-specific requirement, a life-care plan showing replacement treatment for denied treatments will be required if medical records do not indicate a change. Requests for changes to treatment plans will not be accepted without supporting medical documentation.
    • The approval of a new generic version of a medication by the Food and Drug Administration does not constitute a reason to request an amended review for supposed changes in projected pricing. CMS will deny the request for re-review if submitters fail to provide the above-referenced justifications with the request for re-review. Submitters will not be permitted to supplement the request for re-review, nor will they be developed.
    • Re-review and amended review requests may be made electronically or by mail.

See the WCMSAP User Guide at https://www.cob.cms.hhs.gov/WCMSA/assets/wcmsa/userManual/WCMSAUserManual.pdf for details on electronic submission. Professional Administrators who are not the original submitter, see Section 19.4.

 

Section 19.4 | Change of Submitter

Provides Helpful Information to Professional Administrators that did not submit the WCMSA on How to Gain Access on the WCMSA Portal case access: clarification was added on case access for Professional Administrators who are not the original submitter.

 

  • CMS’ Update: Professional Administrators whose EIN does not match the EIN of the original submitter, contact BCRC to gain access to the case via the WCMSA Portal; otherwise you must submit by mail. Submitter changes will not be accepted after settlement, and does not constitute a reason for a re-review (See Section 16.0 for re-review requirements). CMS will not provide copies of existing documentation to the new submitter. Any documentation must be obtained from the incumbent submitter or insurer.”

 

Change 4 – The Major Medical Centers table was updated for a Missouri entry (Appendix 7)

Click Here for the updated list of Major Medical Centers by State, NPI, and ZIP Code with the new Missouri entry.

 

Medivest will continue to monitor changes occurring at CMS and will keep its readers up to date when such changes are announced. For questions, feel free to reach out to the Medivest representative in your area by clicking here or call us direct at 877.725.2467. For any specific questions regarding MSAs of any type click here.


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05/Apr/2021

NPRM: Miscellaneous Medicare Secondary Payer Clarifications and Updates (CMS-6047)

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Office of Management and Budget (OIRA/OMB) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) dated 03/00/2021 found here.

Essentially the proposed rule would clarify existing Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) obligations associated with payment for future injury related and Medicare allowable medical items, services, and expenses, including prescription drug expenses (Future Medicare Allowable Medicals) related to settlements, judgments, awards, payments, or other arrangements (Settlements) paid by primary plans such as liability insurance plans (including self-insureds), No Fault plans, or Workers’ Compensation plans.  Specifically, this rule would clarify that an individual Medicare beneficiary is responsible to satisfy Medicare’s interests with respect to Future Medicare Allowable Medicals related to such Settlements, in addition to the already well known and regulated obligation for Medicare beneficiaries and their attorneys to satisfy Medicare’s past interest in such Settlements by verifying the existence of and resolving any conditional payments (i.e. “Medicare liens”) stemming from Settlements.

This proposed rule would also remove obsolete regulations.  While it is projected to focus on the protection of Medicare’s interests in the previously unregulated liability and No Fault Settlement market, the new NPRM could provide additional clarification regarding protecting Medicare’s future interests in Workers’ Compensation Settlements as well

Is this NPRM update laying the groundwork to issue the long awaited LMSA Regulations/Guidance?  Only time will tell.  Medivest will continue to monitor the OIRA/OMB website for any NPRM updates to keep you informed.  You can be assured that Medivest is here to help guide you through some of the complexities associated with MSP compliance.

 

OIRA/OMB has issued similar proposed release date Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for CMS regarding this RIN 0938-AT85 as follows:

 

 

To stay up to date regarding any changes with LMSA Regulations/Guidance, please visit Medivest’s blogs:

 

Take Aways

  • Considering and protecting Medicare’s past interests has become the industry standard and a “no brainer” for all NGHP settlement types – liability, self-insurance, No Fault, and Workers’ Compensation.
  • Whether the announced guidance comes this August or not, it makes sense to help ensure that Medicare’s future interests are protected in accordance with existing federal law, i.e. the MSP.
  • Helping to ensure that Medicare is not prematurely billed for injury related futures for any settlement type is the right thing to do and helps protect the Medicare Trust Funds.

 


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01/Sep/2020

Click here for a downloadable copy of this blog

On Friday August 21, 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced a $53,295 settlement of Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2) (“MSP”) debt.  The settlement described in the press release demonstrates the U.S. Government’s continued interest and intent in enforcing the recovery provisions of the MSP.

Headlines on MSP recovery often focus on plaintiff attorneys who fail to adequately address Medicare conditional payment reimbursement claims, often called Medicare liens by attorneys and Medicare beneficiaries.  However, at fault parties and their insurance carriers need to pay close attention to these MSP recovery actions.  That is because the MSP provides for joint and several liability of primary plans such as liability carriers and self-insureds, including the potential for double damages, even after settlement proceeds have been paid and a release has been signed.

While the plaintiff attorney is the focus of the headline “Harrisburg Law Firm Pays $53,295 To Reimburse Medicare Program” the press release indicates that one of the defendants in the underlying improper drug dispensing case, paid $33,750 of the $53,295 to the U.S. for settlement of the MSP debt.  Insurance carriers or self-insureds sometimes insist on forwarding the lien payment to Medicare because they don’t want to pay a settlement to the plaintiff, only to later be asked to pay the Medicare portion (or more) again, if the plaintiff’s attorney has not timely paid the lien.

There is no information about why the plaintiff’s firm did not pay the amount demanded, but ultimately paid $19,545.15 toward the debt in this settlement with the U.S. Government.  The conditional payments were described in the press release as being $84,353 with the ultimate settlement amount being $53,295.  This seems to indicate that a 36.82% procurement cost reduction was allowed.  The settlement did not include a double damages request or even include any additional interest.

It is not clear from the press release whether there were any appeals over the amount of Medicare’s demand “determination” that led to the delayed payment of the lien and whether the release agreement contemplated the defendant/primary plan agreeing to pay the Medicare debt from withheld settlement funds.   Did the parties do their due diligence in investigating the debt?  Did they coordinate with each other over whether any Conditional Payment Letters contained amounts not related to the claimed/released injuries?  Did they coordinate their respective settlement notification/reporting to make sure that the ICD codes reported from the plaintiff and defense were aligned, and to help prevent an overreach in the future by Medicare in potentially flagging more than just injury related claims.

Could it have been similar to the recent Osterbye case in which the parties seemed to rely on Conditional Payment Letters as opposed to the official Medicare demand at the time of settlement? See JOSEPH C. OSTERBYE, as Administrator of the ESTATE OF…, Slip Copy (2020) 2020 WL 3546869, June 30, 2020.  In Osterbye, the Administrator of an estate of a deceased Medicare beneficiary sued the U.S. Government and the primary plan defendant alleging that there was a mistake of fact as to the amount owed to Medicare when the plaintiff failed to recognize that two files had been opened for the same case.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had “initiated” a separate conditional payment claim with Medicare without disclosing to plaintiff the amount of the separate conditional payment amount and arguing that plaintiff would not have settled the case if he had known that Medicare had a lien for over $100,000.00.  At the time of settlement, the Conditional Payment Letter that the plaintiff was in possession of only indicated about $13,000.00 in conditional payments.  In Osterbye, the NJ U.S. District Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss on the basis that the settlement may have been entered into based on mistake of fact indicating that the facts of the settlement will have to be investigated.   A similar issue was also addressed in the Langone state court case referenced in a prior blog article where parties mistakenly relied on Conditional Payment Letters instead of a demand letter.

Take Aways:

While some insist MSP recovery obligations are solely a plaintiff’s concern, defendants should pay close attention to make sure the debt is satisfied or otherwise resolved – Medicare will issue a case closed letter once the debt is satisfied even when a compromise is reached for an amount lower than the demand

Not all courts will be as accommodating to the plaintiff’s attorney as in the Osterbye Court.  Instead of a second bite at the settlement apple, the plaintiff’s attorney in Osterbye could have just as easily been accused of legal malpractice by the injured party, if there was a lack of disclosure or lack of competence by the attorney in verifying the proper amount of Medicare’s demand

Plaintiff and defense should cooperate with each other over what steps are being taken to confirm conditional payment resolution, including whether either party has hired a third party to investigate, audit, and/or negotiate the demand balance

Both parties should know that it is imperative to obtain a demand letter as opposed to a Conditional Payment Letter prior to settling a case unless the correct procedures have been taken via the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal to provide the 120 day anticipation of settlement notification and to request the Final Conditional Payment Calculation within 3 days of a settlement the details of which need to be timely reported

Plaintiff attorneys should be proactive in addressing Medicare’s past interests in a settlement by auditing payment summary forms to dispute non-injury related items, should timely notify Medicare of the settlement details to obtain procurement cost reductions, and should also consider whether lien resolution via waiver or compromise of the procurement cost reduced demand may be a suitable option to help the injured party retain more of the settlement proceeds.

 


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