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CLASSIC LIST

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24/Apr/2023

A Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) is a device intended to fund expenses in the future, but it’s a product of the here and now. MSAs are priced based on today’s costs. But inflation assures that tomorrow’s healthcare costs will outstrip today’s healthcare costs. So, it should be no surprise that MSAs are likely to run out of money earlier than projected. That usually means both Medicare and the beneficiary will be stepping in to pay when the money runs out.

Example 1: Lump Sum Funded MSA

Let’s consider a lump sum funded $87,500 MSA for an individual with a life expectancy of 10 years. That’s an average of $8,750 a year in funding to match expenses. The U.S. healthcare inflation rate in January 2023 was 3.06%. Assuming treatment matches the allocation and inflation remains constant, healthcare costs will be a little over 3% higher the next year, and each year following. The table below shows the impact that inflationary healthcare costs have on a Medicare Set-Aside arrangement that, by its standard projection methodology, assumes flat costs across a fixed period.

Lump Sum Funded MSA

YearFundingExpensesBalanceOther Payers
1$87,500(8,750)$78,750-
20(9,018)$69,732-
30(9,294)$60,439-
40(9,578)$50,860-
50(9,871)$40,989-
60(10,173)$30,816-
70(10,485)$20,332-
80(10,805)$9,526(1,279)
90(11,136)-(11,136)
100(11,477)-(11,477)
TOTAL:87,500(100,587)(23,892)

As we can see, expenses will exceed the available balance by the eighth year and the MSA fund will permanently exhaust. Another payer, preferably Medicare, will become responsible for their share of the beneficiary’s medical expenses and the beneficiary will begin paying Medicare co-pays.

Example 2: Structure-Funded MSA

Let’s take the same MSA from Example 1 and schedule the funding through a structured settlement annuity. The expected average annual expenses and the healthcare inflation rate will be the same.

Structure-Funded MSA

YearFundingExpensesBalanceOther Payers
1$17,500(8,750)$8,750-
2$7,778(9,018)$7,510-
3$7,778(9,294)$5,994-
4$7,778(9,578)$4,194-
5$7,778(9,871)$2,100-
6$7,778(10,173)-(295)
7$7,778(10,485)-(2,707)
8$7,778(10,805)-(3,028)
9$7,778(11,136)-(3,358)
10$7,778(11,477)-(3,699)
TOTAL:$87,500(100,587)-(13,087)

We observe two differences in Example 2: First, because the MSA fund is not fully funded up front, the toll of inflationary healthcare costs is felt earlier, but the impact is less severe. Instead of permanent exhaustion in year 8, we begin to see temporary exhaustion in year 6. In each year that follows, the structured annual payments are inadequate to cover the ever-higher healthcare costs. But over the life of the MSA, the total deficit is less than if the MSA was lump sum funded.

Perfect is Probably Not Good Enough

These examples demonstrate how aggressive a self-administering beneficiary will have to be to stretch their MSA funds over the course of their life. Even if their medical providers were to stick to the healthcare regimen contemplated by their MSA (uncommon) and the beneficiary only pays for Medicare allowable, injury-related expenses (thankfully, all beneficiaries are formulary experts) at the fee schedules used to price their MSA (beneficiaries know medical coding and billing, right?), healthcare inflation means they will eventually need Medicare coverage for their injury-related healthcare expenses, and that means Medicare co-pays up to 20%. Snarky parentheses aside, a beneficiary might have to dig into their own pockets for thousands of dollars in copays over their lifetime, even if the MSA administration is perfectly compliant.

Professional Administration Can Be a Hedge Against Healthcare Inflation

Many people think that professional administration is mostly a tool to ensure compliance and protect both Medicare’s interests and the beneficiary’s benefits. But a professional administrator can also obtain considerable savings on healthcare expenses over the life of the MSA. This secondary benefit enhances the first for both Medicare and the beneficiary because if the MSA stays solvent, neither the beneficiary nor Medicare will have to pony up for Medicare allowable, injury-related expenses.

As a professional administrator, Medivest applies a number of strategies to contain the rising costs of healthcare faced by beneficiaries. These include, but are not limited to, pharmacy benefit management relationships, supply and equipment vendor relationships, healthcare networks, negotiation, and system tools that look for excessive rates, inaccurate rates, and double billing. Probably one of the most underappreciated aspects of professional administration is the administrator’s ability to negotiate and obtain payment terms through good communication and establishing rapport with healthcare providers.

Professional administration is more affordable today than it has ever been. And in the face of rising healthcare costs, it may be reasonable to argue that most Medicare set-asides can’t afford to do without it. If you would like to begin the process of setting up a MSA for professional administration or have additional questions about how, in most cases, Medivest is able to stretch the lifespan of a MSA please call us at 877.725.2467 or reach out to us here.

 


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On October 13, 2022, in a surprise move, CMS withdrew its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) pertaining to the protection of Medicare’s future interests in liability and other Non Group Health Plan (“NGHP”) settlements, judgments, awards, payments, or other arrangements (“Settlements”) without any official or unofficial comment.  Many people in the Medicare Secondary Payer Compliance industry felt that this NPRM, most recently announced in 2018 and continued for several years, was finally going to add CMS’s clarifying “take” on how it would suggest settling parties reasonably consider and protect Medicare’s future interests in liability Settlements and that CMS would issue regulations or guidance specific to Liability Medicare Set-Asides (“LMSAs”).

 

The most recent 2018 iteration of the NPRM was designed to address protection of Medicare’s future interests in any NGHP Settlement, including removing what it considered obsolete regulations.  For the past several years, stakeholders in the MSP compliance community have been waiting and speculating how such regulations could be devised to account for all the convoluted factors that exist in liability claims while adding clarity to steps CMS might suggest to be taken to protect Medicare’s interests in liability settlements.

 

Earlier in 2022, there had been a stakeholder meeting as well as a letter from the MARC coalition urging CMS to not move forward with the NPRM.  It seems that the MSP compliance stakeholder community once again rallied and provided enough reason to give CMS pause.  Some have called into question whether the MSP as enacted, gives CMS authority to issue regulations regarding liability futures, and some court decisions discussing liability MSAs and the need for an exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to a court of competent jurisdiction being able to review a LMSA proposal, may have also contributed to CMS’s decision to not move forward with this NPRM at this time.

 

The argument follows if federal courts have determined it is premature to review proposed LMSAs due to the failure of a party to exhaust their administrative remedies with CMS, then how could CMS insert its own administrative review process via guidance or regulation, unless the MSP were amended to provide for that authority.  Examples of court cases discussing these issues, include Silva v. Burwell, 2017 WL 5891753 (D. N.M. 2017); Sipler v. Trans Am Trucking, Inc., 881 F.Supp. 2d 635 (D. N.J. 2012); Bruton v. Carnival Corporation, 2012 WL 1627729 (S.D. Fla. 2012); Abate v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., 2020 WL 7027481 (W.D. Pa. November 30, 2020); and Stillwell v. State Farm, et. al., 2021 WL 4427081 (M.D. Fla., September 27, 2021).

 

TAKE AWAYS:

  • The MSP still forbids Medicare from making payment when a primary plan is in place meaning if there is a Settlement from a NGHP plan including from a liability carrier or self-insured defendant, Medicare has a statutory lien right under the MSP to recover its conditional payments minus procurement costs and can charge high interest and potentially even double damages for non-compliance.
  • If a current Medicare beneficiary settles a liability case, they should be informed about the MSP and a plan for future care should be set in place.  The federal law is clear that conditional payments could arise prior to or after a settlement, so a risk tolerance cost benefit analysis should be performed between attorney and plaintiff as to the best steps to ensure Medicare is not prematurely billed.
  • Medicare has the right under the MSP to deny payment for injury related future Medicare covered medicals (items, services, and expenses, including Prescription Drug Expenses).  Will it?  We have seen times when it has flagged liability cases even while a liability claim or portion of a liability claim is pending (often because it believes the matter was settled but it was only settled with one of several defendants/carriers).  While CMS does not seem to regularly do this, the goal for an attorney representing an injured plaintiff is to provide a settling plaintiff with enough information to make an informed decision regarding what is the best course of action for them and to document what decision was made after such informed consent was provided.
  • Only two federal circuits (3rd and 11th) have held Medicare Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans (MAPs) to have identical recovery rights as traditional Medicare under the MSP.  However, those MAPs still have contractual subrogation rights, and attorneys representing Defendants, as well as attorneys representing their plaintiff clients, should evaluate whether any MAP plan or Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) have a subrogation/lien interest to be reimbursed for pre-settlement payments that were compensated by the Settlement.
  • Each attorney should provide their clients with enough information to help them assess their risks and to determine if denial of injury related future medicals or the potential for recovery of future conditional payments by Medicare is a risk they are willing to take.  There are a wide range of products being offered to address MSP exposure and to protect Medicare’s interests in liability settlements based on the varying risk tolerance levels of your client.  Count on Medivest to help you spot these intricacies so you can deliver prudent advice to your clients.

 

As background, the Medicare Secondary Payer Statute, found at 42 U.S.C. Section 1395y(b)(2), or most commonly known as the MSP, is the federal law enacted in 1980 that amended the Social Security Act and its Medicare specific amendments to make health plans other than Workers’ Compensation to be primary to Medicare.  Workers’ Compensation plans were primary to Medicare from Medicare’s enactment into law in 1965.  The MSP was Congress’ mandate to Medicare and The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), the subagency that administers Medicare, forbidding Medicare from making payments when a primary plan was in place to promptly make payment.  The primary plans are liability including self-insureds (and automobility BI), No Fault, and Worker’s Compensation and are known as the Non Group Health Plans (NGHP) to be distinguished from Group Health plans that offer health care insurance.  While No Fault claims and Workers’ Compensation claims are typically paid immediately upon a claim being filed and accepted for Ongoing Responsibility for Medicals (“ORM”), liability carriers rarely accept responsibility to make payments early on in the life of a liability case.  Liability carriers may choose to offer a settlement but almost never accepts liability.

 

Because the regulations under the MSP define prompt payment as within 120 days, the MSP also allows Medicare to make payments for medical services when a Medicare beneficiary will be compensated by a defendant in a liability case or their/its primary plan carrier under the condition that Medicare be able to recover those conditional payments it made that were claim related and compensated by a settlement, judgment, award, or other arrangement (collectively, “Settlement”).  The MSP makes the primary plan Defendant, and any person or entity who receives a part of the Settlement proceeds, jointly and severally liable for repayment of conditional payments.  The law also allows for interest and potentially double damages against liable people and entities that fail to make payment promptly.

 

The payment by any NGHP plan is what triggers the MSP’s recovery rights under the law regardless of whether liability is accepted or not.  The protection of exposure to the MSP’s recovery rights is also commonly referred to as protecting Medicare’s past and future interests in a Settlement.  Protecting Medicare’s past interests in a settlement includes providing notification of a claim and checking with CMS to determine whether it is claiming any payments it has made from the date of an injury up to the date of settlement are conditional payments to be reimbursed.  Plaintiff attorneys typically provide this type of notification or hire third parties to confirm whether there are any conditional payments and then report settlement details to obtain a discount from the conditional payment amount and obtain a demand from CMS reflecting a deduction for pro-rated fees and expenses allowed under the regulations to the MSP.

 

The regulations to the MSP include some regulations that are generally applicable to any of the NGHP plans and some that are specific to Workers’ Compensation claims and Settlements.  CMS has never promulgated regulations that are specific to liability claims or No Fault claims and Settlements.  CMS has also issued guidance regarding the protection of Medicare’s future interests in Workers’ Compensation claims and Settlements via its Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (“WCMSA”) Reference Guide, now in version 3.7 issued June 6, 2022.

 

In 2012, CMS issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the protection of Medicare’s future interests in settlements intended to extend from the already regulated area of Workers’ Compensation (“WC”) Settlements to the other NGHP areas and even solicited comments from the MSP stakeholder community.  After many entities pointed out the extreme differences between liability claims and WC claims such as issues of comparative or contributory negligence, the fact that liability claims often contain awards for Pain and Suffering, Loss of Enjoyment of Life, Loss of Consortium for married plaintiffs, etc., CMS ultimately withdrew that NPRM in 2014.

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07/Sep/2022

We’ve all heard how important it is to establish a plan for how our affairs are to be handled after we die. It also comes as no surprise that this plan is best established before we die. Though I have not died yet, all evidence seems to indicate that I will have an exceedingly difficult time addressing these details once I’m dead. Despite this evidence, it is estimated that around half of all Americans have no estate planning whatsoever. So, it should not come as a surprise that those with a Medicare Set-Aside account likewise have no clear plan established for what happens to any funds that may remain once they die. Not having a clear plan can create confusion and aggravation for those responsible to sort out or benefit from the settling of an estate. Addressing these questions at the outset can avoid a lot of trouble. So, what are the main considerations?

Reversionary Interest

Sometimes a settlement will establish a reversionary interest for any remaining Medicare-Set Aside funds. For instance, it may have been agreed that a percentage or all unused funds at the time of the claimant/applicant’s death are to be returned to the funding party. If true, this is a detail that the executor of the estate will want to know. Reversionary Interest arrangements are becoming more popular as a tool in settlements, as more and more Medicare Set-Asides are professionally administered with better cost controls and preservation.

Medicare Set-Asides held within Trusts may be Subject to Specific Rules

If the Medicare Set-Aside was placed in a Special Needs Trust (SNT) to protect access to means tested benefits like Medicaid, or was placed in some other type of trust, there may be a special arrangement already in place that governs what happens to the Medicare Set-Aside funds once the trust beneficiary passes away. If unsure, consult the trust officer as to whether they require any specific guidance, or if the final destiny of the MSA funds have been already decided by agreement or statute.

Tell the Professional Administrator Your Intentions

One advantage of professional administration is that it is more likely that some funds will survive the claimant/applicant due to the strategies a professional administrator leverages. Another advantage is that a professional administrator will disburse all funds it administers directly to the beneficiary designated by the claimant/applicant. Most professional administrators will request that the claimant/applicant designate their beneficiary in writing at the time the account is established. Still, it is not rare for a professional administrator to never receive the claimant/applicant’s written intent. This sometimes causes issues when the final MSA balance is disbursed to the claimant/applicant’s estate.
Also, sometimes life situations will change the intended beneficiary of the Medicare Set-Aside funds. If this changes, it is vitally important to record that change in writing with the professional administrator, to ensure that the claimant/applicant’s wishes are followed. Remember, the professional administrator can only follow the most recent guidance provided by the claimant/applicant.

Medicare’s Interest Must Be Considered

Family members and/or the executor of a claimant/applicant’s estate are typically motivated to settle arrangements as quickly as possible. However, it is important to remember that the Medicare Set-Aside was established to pay for Medicare allowable and injury-related expenses post settlement. Medical providers have a filing window in which to bill for medical services rendered or medications and supplies dispensed or sold. Often, allowable medical claims are received within the first 12 months following a claimant’s death, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expects the Medicare Set-Aside to pay as primary to Medicare for those claims, even if those claims are received after the claimant/applicant’s death. A best practice is to reserve the MSA funds for a period of twelve months (or until it is confirmed that final billing has taken place) to pay for allowable expenses before disbursing the MSA funds to the designated beneficiary(ies).

Conclusion

Medicare Set-Aside funds are a special type of asset that must be treated differently. They’re intended to protect a claimant/applicant’s access to Medicare benefits, as well as protect the Medicare Trust Funds from unlawfully paying when other funds are primary. But, like other assets, it’s important to declare and/or confirm where these funds are to go once the claimant/applicant passes away to avoid confusion and/or dispute over where those funds eventually go.
You can count on Medivest to help guide you through the complexities of Medicare Set-Aside arrangements. If you have questions about preparing or administering a MSA or you need consultation on any of our settlement services, call us at 877.725.2467 or reach out to us online here.

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15/Aug/2022

Consider this scenario: you are a personal injury attorney, and you get a call from a new client who is 63 years old and is interested in settling her automobile accident case.  Per the Medicare Secondary Payer statute and as part of the case workup, you need to make sure you are not shifting the burden to Medicare.

What is the Medicare Secondary Payer Statute?

The MSP statute was passed by Congress in 1980 in order to protect the financial integrity of the Medicare Trust Fund. Per this statute/law, Medicare is a secondary payer for workers’ compensation, no-fault insurance, liability insurance, self-insured plans, and employer group health plan insurance. According to the MSP regulations, these other sources of health care coverage are to be the primary payer, with Medicare being the secondary form of payment.

What is a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) Proposal?

A MSA proposal is a detailed report indicating the anticipated Medicare allowable, Injury-related expenses for the remainder of the injured individual’s life expectancy.  It is a calculation that determines a dollar amount that should be “set aside”  as part of the settlement process to satisfy the Medicare Secondary Payer Statute (MSP) and to avoid shifting the burden to Medicare.

Guidance from Medicare for Liability Cases

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published the WCMSA Reference Guide to help attorneys understand the process CMS uses for approving proposed Workers’ Compensation MSA (WCMSA) arrangements. The purpose of the WCMSA Reference Guide was to consolidate and supplant all the historical CMS memos into a single point of reference.
However, Workers’ Compensation and Liability settlements have several different nuances.  CMS has yet to release the long-awaited LMSA Reference Guide for liability settlements, despite announcing its intention to do so in 2018. Given the current lack of guidance concerning Liability MSAs from CMS, attorneys should look to the WCMSA Reference Guide for guidance when settling their liability cases.

Litmus Test –  Is a MSA Proposal Recommended?

In order to determine if a MSA allocation is recommended to cover Medicare’s interest in your settlement, there are several key items to review. Attorneys can do a quick MSA litmus test to determine whether or not a MSA is recommended.
  • Your client is currently Medicare-eligible
  • Your client is 62.5 years old and within 30 months of becoming eligible for Medicare benefits
  • Your client has either applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or has an open or pending application Will there be any money after medical liens have been resolved to fund a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) account?

Medicare Eligibility

What is Medicare’s criteria for an individual to become Medicare eligible? Medicare is available for people aged 65 or older, younger people with disabilities, and people with End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

An individual who has either applied or has reapplied for Social Security Disability Insurance can become Medicare eligible. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that helps those who have become disabled from work.  An individual can apply for SSDI when:
  • A person is unable to engage in any “substantial gainful activity” due to an illness or disability and;
  • When a person is not able to return to work for 12 months or more and;
  • When a person has accumulated enough work credits in the last 10 years to qualify.

30 Months to Become Medicare Eligible

The reason why it takes 30 months to become Medicare eligible after the individual has either applied or reapplied for SSDI is that:
  • The individual needs to wait one month after the date of injury to apply for SSDI.
  • After the SSDI applicate date, there is a waiting period of 5 months to receive SSDI entitlement.
  • From the date of SSDI entitlement, Medicare has 24 months waiting period to become Medicare eligible.

Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) – Not Required by Law

Did you know that a Medicare Set-Aside is not required by law? You should know the risks if you choose not to have a MSA prepared, by understanding CMS’ interpretation regarding MSP compliance. In the event there was a failure to address Medicare’s interest in the settlement, Medicare may refuse to pay future medical expenses that are injury-related until the entire settlement is exhausted.

Best Practices

Our highly trained Medicare Expert Case Advisors can help you figure out if Medicare may have an interest in your settlement. We assist all settling parties to navigate the MSP complexities and provide you with cost-saving strategies for your settlement.
To receive our complimentary MSA Decision Tree, “When Is a MSA Allocation Recommended?”  click here.

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On Jan 11th, 2022 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its WCMSA Reference Guide to include information related to non-submit MSA products and how it views them in terms of exposure for Medicare. Then on March 15, 2022, CMS updated its Reference Guide again.  We blogged about each updated guide here: WCMSA Reference Guide Version 3.6 Updates of Significance.
In the Workers’ Compensation arena, there are a number of MSA products that do not adhere to standard CMS methodology for preparing a Medicare Set-Aside allocation as outlined in the WCMSA Reference Guide. Since these products do not follow CMS methodology, submitting these types of products for approval will typically result in CMS countering higher to an amount aligned with CMS methodology standards. If a non-submit MSA product is used in WC settlements, CMS has indicated it will not step in and become the primary payer once the MSA funds have been exhausted unless the beneficiary can prove the MSA was properly funded and that all of the MSA funds were used in accordance with CMS guidelines. If CMS determines that the MSA was underfunded, it has indicated it will or at least may deny payment for case related, Medicare covered items, services, and expenses, up to the Medicare beneficiary’s net settlement amount.
The recent WCMSA reference guide updates demonstrate that Medicare believes some non-submit WCMSA allocation reports are potentially shifting the burden of payment for future medical items, treatment, and prescriptions to Medicare.  While non-submit WCMSAs that meet workload review thresholds are not automatically deemed to not protect Medicare’s interest, it seems that CMS has created a presumption of this unless the injured worker can show otherwise.  In comes solid allocation methodology and perhaps more importantly, the professional administrator, offering tools and assistance to show that both the amount was reasonable and that the money set aside was properly exhausted.
Why is this important for liability settlements? In the liability arena, CMS has yet to issue any new guidelines with respect on to how to handle liability settlements for a Medicare beneficiary.  The May 25, 2011, Stalcup Memo from a CMS Regional Office in Texas indicated that there should be no difference between how Medicare’s interests would be protected between liability and Workers’ Compensation.  It indicated that “The law requires that the Medicare Trust Funds be protected from payment of future services whether it is a Workers’ Compensation or liability case.  There is no distinction in the law.”  The Stalcup Memo announced that “CMS does expect the funds to be exhausted on otherwise Medicare covered and otherwise reimbursable services related to what was claimed and/or released before Medicare is ever billed.”  It further cautions that “each attorney is going to have to decide, based on the specific facts of each of their cases, whether or not there is funding for future medicals and if so, a need to protect the Trust Funds.”
The new WCMSA Reference Guide has indicated that unless a prior memo is specifically referenced in the Reference Guide, it should not be relied upon.  However, the Federal Statute, The Medicare Secondary Payer Statute, 42 U.S.C. Section 1395y(b) has itself not ever made a distinction between liability and Workers’ Compensation settlements and prohibits Medicare from making payment for any injuries compensated by a primary plan a/k/a Non Group Health Plan payment (including payments, settlements, judgments, awards, or other arrangements).  Even though CMS has not promulgated specific regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for liability settlements and has not yet issued specific guidelines for liability settlements, liability is one of the primary plans outlined in the MSP statute that are considered primary to Medicare (Liability Insurance Including Self-Insureds (with the sub-set Automobile specifically mentioned in the CFR, No Fault, and Workers’ Compensation). In the Hinsinger v. Showboat Atlantic City, 420 N.J. Super. 15, 18 A.3d 229 (2011) case, the Superior Court of New Jersey found. . .
              “. . . no reason to apply a different standard to set asides created with money obtained from third-party liability claims than it applies to set asides created with money obtained from workers’ compensation claims. The statutory and policy reasons for creating both of them are the same:  to protect the government, and the Medicare system in particular, from paying medical bills for which the beneficiary has already received money from another source.”
The court reasoned that in the absence of specific liability regulations concerning the MSP, it was appropriate to analyze the regulations geared toward WC.  This would seem like a reasonable starting point for CMS as it relates to futures.  Of course, liability cases have different types of damages that can be awarded, most notably non-economic damages that are not awardable in WC cases.  Causation issues and percentages of liability can limit the recovery for plaintiffs in liability cases with specific percentages being parsed out/negotiated in states with pure comparative negligence.  Lastly, plaintiffs in liability can often argue that they were not Made Whole when the injuries and damages are present but the at fault party’s funding is limited by low policy limits.
These factors have not yet been addressed in any regulations or current guidance by CMS.  However, when a WC settlement may not be reviewed by CMS because it is outside CMS workload review thresholds, CMS takes the position that parties must still consider Medicare’s interests in the settlement.  Currently, liability settlements are still not being reviewed by CMS even though CMS had included reviews of liability MSA’s in a prior Request for Proposal when searching for its last WCRC MSA review contractor.  Therefore, it makes sense that for liability settlements, parties should still be considering Medicare’s interests and especially so, when the settlement involves a Medicare beneficiary or one with a reasonable expectation of becoming a beneficiary within 30 months of the settlement.  The WCMSA Reference Guide could contain part of the puzzle in helping an injured party being compensated for future medicals in planning their future care.
As of May 25, 2022, CMS has neither issued regulations nor new guidelines with respect to protecting Medicare’s interests when liability settlements compensate for future medicals covered by Medicare.  CMS needs to provide such a roadmap if it is serious about protecting the Medicare Trust Funds for future generations.  Because the MSP law itself sets the standard for the protection of Medicare, and the law and its regulations enable Medicare’s ability to deny payments and/or make conditional payment recovery, does it really make sense to ignore planning the injury related future care of your client even when the regulatory agency has been slow to act?
Each attorney should provide their clients with enough information to help them assess their risks and to determine if denial of injury related future medicals or the potential for recovery of future conditional payments by Medicare is a risk they are willing to take.  There are a wide range of products being offered to address MSP exposure and to protect Medicare’s interests in liability settlements based on the varying risk tolerance levels of your client.  Count on Medivest to help you spot these intricacies so you can deliver prudent advice to your clients.

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19/Apr/2022

Economic inflation is a major topic of discussion these days. Just about everything, from gas to food, carries a higher price tag than it did a year ago. Some say this is a temporary side effect of economic recovery. Others argue that much of this may be here to stay. Regardless, most are mindful of the impact inflation is having on the average American’s buying power.
No one should be surprised to hear that the cost of medical care has an inflationary rate as well. Well before the present economic factors and policy decisions precipitated general inflation, medical costs have increased year over year by a rate that outstrips the general economic rate of inflation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical care costs have increased 100.86% since 2000. That’s a doubling of medical costs in two decades! Bottom line: medical care will be more expensive in the future.
This brings us to a serious problem most medical settlements face. Often, the final portion of the settlement award designated for medical care is determined by looking at present day costs and the life expectancy of the beneficiary. Basically, it’s an annual expense multiplied by years of expected need. This, for instance, is generally how Medicare set-aside allocations are calculated, but the calculation is frequently applied to the entire medical portion of the settlement. Rarely is the inflationary rate of those medical costs considered.
This is why I’m calling inflation the medical settlement’s “silent killer”. In the year or two following settlement, it may seem like the funding is adequate. But as time marches on, each dollar reserved for medical expenses buys a little less care, fewer drugs, and fewer supplies. Soon, a beneficiary must find other money, cheaper alternatives, or simply treat less frequently. Factor in that many settlements aren’t funded at full value and that the beneficiary is buying services in an insurance-driven ecosystem as a cash payer, and you quickly see the long-term problem.
Factoring inflation into the settlement would be one way to mitigate much of the problem. But, if we’re going to be realistic, we must acknowledge that there are many factors that create a significant headwind to the “more money” solution. There are also other considerations: What rates are reasonable? How does the beneficiary avoid being gouged? What about coordinating with another policy that may be able to pay instead? Then there’s the need to keep settlement funds intended to consider Medicare’s interest separate and properly accounted for to protect the beneficiary’s Medicare benefit. If healthcare cost inflation is a silent killer, these other considerations are death by a thousand cuts.
Anyone who’s lived by a budget understands that when more money is not an option, keeping spending under control is essential to not running out at the end of the month. One must stretch their settlement proceeds if they are going to last, or at least last longer. This is where a professional administrator can make all the difference. Professional administrators are typically thought of as the go-to option for making sure a Medicare set-aside (MSA) arrangement is used properly. As a matter of fact, CMS highly recommends professional administration of MSAs (MSA Reference Guide v3.6, 17.1). The professional administrator uses the MSA according to CMS’ expectations and meets the beneficiary’s obligation to attest annually to the MSA’s proper use, thereby protecting the beneficiary’s Medicare benefit (as CMS can suspend benefits if it determines that improper use of the MSA represents a burden shift to Medicare). The professional administrator can also stretch MSA dollars to help them last.
So, we know that professional administrators are a great option for handling the compliance obligations placed on MSA money. But what about the “silent killer” problem? What can professional administrators do to address the concern of healthcare cost inflation? It comes down to our budget reference above and all the ways a professional administrator is well-positioned to reduce the spend and keep the funds solvent.  Yes, professional administrators protect MSAs, but they also step between the beneficiary and the healthcare system in any settlement where future medicals are contemplated.
Consider the similarities between the experience of a beneficiary responsible for MSA funds and a beneficiary responsible for general future medical funds: The beneficiary is going to be a cash payer and likely pay top dollar. They are likely to receive bill after bill from their medical providers, expecting them to cut the check in a timely fashion to prevent interruption of care. They might have other insurance plans that could pay if benefits were properly coordinated. They’re probably not experienced at handling a lump sum of cash all at once and may struggle to use the medical settlement proceeds as intended. Fortunately, a professional administrator can provide better outcomes in all these situations.
A professional administrator steps between the beneficiary and the healthcare world where payment is concerned. Rates are negotiated. Incorrect bill coding, duplicate charges, and other types of billing mistakes are identified and addressed. All payment concerns, bills, coordination with other payers, etc. is taken care of on behalf of the beneficiary. And the money is used for what it is intended: medical care. The result is the preservation of settlement funds as a hedge against the fatal climb of healthcare cost inflation. In many cases, the medical proceeds will remain solvent for the life of the beneficiary, depending on the nature of their injury expenses and the cost controls available.
It’s fairly simple and affordable to set up professional administration of future medical settlement proceeds, and Medivest can help you integrate professional administration into your cases. From the simple straightforward claims to the most complex, Medivest has developed resolutions that address an array of post-settlement concerns, especially healthcare cost inflation. Contact us today for a free case consultation.


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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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17/Aug/2021

Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) arrangement beneficiaries have some very specific limitations when it comes to how their money is spent. When it comes to choosing a provider, the options are wide open. A beneficiary will often deal with who they know or a provider that is close to their home. As a cash payer with limited funds to cover all future Medicare allowable and injury related expenses, the wrong choice can put a beneficiary in a world of hurt. Here are some best practices when choosing a provider to treat an injury post settlement and using Medicare Set-Aside funds:

 

Choose a Medicare Certified Provider

While MSA funds can be used to pay any provider that supplies covered care related to the injury, not every provider is able to bill Medicare for these medical goods or services. If a beneficiary properly exhausts their MSA funds in a given year (when the MSA is funded with a structured annuity and receives deposits periodically) or the MSA funds have permanently exhausted, Medicare will assume responsibility to pay Medicare covered expenses related to the injury and coordinate with any other applicable insurance plan. If the provider is not Medicare certified, that provider will not be paid by Medicare even if the beneficiary has maintained Medicare coverage. This can leave the beneficiary as the responsible party if no other insurance benefit is available. We recommend choosing Medicare certified providers to avoid such situations.

 

Choose Providers Who Offer Discounted Cash Rates

A beneficiary with MSA funds is considered a cash payer by medical providers. There is no “in network” policy with set payment rates for cash payers. If the provider is not accustomed to dealing with patients without a primary medical insurance plan, the provider may charge its full retail rate. A beneficiary may have a difficult time negotiating a medical bill on their own or in advance of services being completed and this can add up to a significant expenditure of MSA funds. It is best to ask about cash rates and if any discounts are available when contacting a new provider.

 

Avoid Providers That Don’t Normally Bill Insurance

Billing insurance for medical services means increased access to patients because it agrees to a negotiated contract that reduces the average cost of services. Some providers opt to avoid insurance altogether. This allows these providers to charge higher rates for services because there is no set rate or maximum charge. Moreover, these providers will only take the beneficiary’s cash even if they have a group health plan or public benefit. This lack of flexibility is often costly for the beneficiary.

 

Choose Providers Experienced with Traumatic Injuries

This may seem obvious, but as a professional administrator, Medivest sees beneficiaries choosing providers that are not familiar with treating traumatic injuries post-settlement. This can be problematic from a communication standpoint (while the beneficiary and the administrator know the injury backwards and forwards, the doctor may see very few of these cases) and it can make billing and payment more difficult or present difficulties when seeking a referral to a specialists. The most efficient approach is to choose a provider that KNOWS the beneficiary’s type of injury from direct experience.

 

Choose a Flexible Provider

Here are a few common red flag phrases from providers that limit the beneficiary’s options:

We only bill Medicare.”

We don’t deal with liability injuries.”

“We never treat workers’ compensation injuries.”

“We only treat workers’ compensation injuries.”

“We don’t bill third parties.”

“We don’t take cash.”

Providers experienced with multiple scenarios provide the beneficiary with options when it comes to treatment and payment.

 

Beware of Signing Rate Agreements for Specific Services

A beneficiary that is not acquainted with the typical market rate or medical fee schedules is advised to run away from any agreement or contract that would lock them into a guaranteed payment rate. A rate agreement of this nature can put the beneficiary on the hook for significantly inflated cost. If they’re using a professional administrator (and they should be), it can negotiate with the provider directly on the beneficiary’s behalf. Don’t confuse this document with an authorization form to bill insurance or a notification that the beneficiary is responsible for any non-covered services. They’re not the same thing.

 

Avoid buying OTC Supplements or Supplies Directly from a Provider

Over-the-counter supplements or supplies that are sold directly by a provider typically come with a markup and can usually be found cheaper elsewhere. Your providers may recommend a device or a supplement that they conveniently stocks for sale. You should be aware that the providers may be looking to increase their margin per patient. Take your doctor’s advice and do your research.  If the recommended supply of supplement makes sense, shop around for a better price.

 

Do Not Be Discouraged if a Provider Rejects Payment from the MSA

Most providers within the US Healthcare system do not understand what a Medicare Set-Aside is or what it is for. They are frequently hesitant to accept it as a form of payment. They may mistake it for a Medicare Part C plan or out of network benefit. Sometimes, they are highly suspicious and cannot believe that Medicare is not the primary payer. It can be daunting for a beneficiary to be in the position of educating a provider’s billing office. A professional administrator is a great resource for coordinating benefits and having the MSA be the primary payment source, when applicable.

 

Conclusion

A MSA beneficiary with a persistent injury deserves the best care possible, but also needs to be positioned to ensure the MSA funds last. And if they don’t last, that the beneficiary has a proper safety net in place. Part of this strategy includes finding the right providers to not only address the injury with competence but also provide affordable and flexible options to ensure continuity of care and protect the beneficiary from having to dip into other settlement or personal funds.  Even when Medicare is responsible for covering injury care, the beneficiary can be billed for any deductible, copay, or coinsurance balances.

Last, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that a professional administrator addresses these challenges every day and not only talks to a beneficiary’s provider on their behalf, but will also coordinate benefits with other insurance, communicate with CMS about the MSA, and negotiate rates in ways a patient will struggle to match. If you or your client is a current or future beneficiary of a Medicare Set-Aside, don’t hesitate to contact Medivest. We help thousands of beneficiaries avoid these and many other MSA pitfalls.

 


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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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Injured Medicare beneficiaries or those with a reasonable expectation of becoming enrolled in Medicare within 30 months of settlement (claimants) have a legal responsibility under the Medicare Secondary Payer statute enacted in 1980 (MSP)[1], to not prematurely bill Medicare for injury-related otherwise Medicare allowable, medical expenses (future medicals).  Because many claimants and even their attorneys still don’t know the MSP law exists or how to comply with it, many settlements for claimants don’t properly consider and protect Medicare’s interests as a secondary payer for future medicals.  Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) compliance programs consider Medicare’s MSP interests and implement actions to protect those interests.  MSP compliance companies rely heavily on two valuable tools that work best in conjunction to achieve MSP compliance goals; a MSA allocation report (also known as a Set-Aside arrangement) estimating future medicals, and administration of MSA funds, with spending restricted to applicable future medicals.  If administration of MSA settlement funds is handled by the injured claimant, it is referred to as self-administration and when performed by a company like Medivest Benefit Advisors, Inc., it is known as professional administration.

With a federal law on the books prohibiting premature billing of future medicals to Medicare and the potential for those not complying with the MSP being denied Medicare benefits for the claimed/released injury, is it wise to allow injured parties to manage and administer post settlement future medicals?  The National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) recently published a research brief updating its 2014 study on Workers’ Compensation MSAs (WCMSAs) and WCMSA reviews and reported that between 2010 and 2015, approximately 98% of all WCMSAs from the study’s 11,000 MSA data sample were self-administered.  That seems outrageous when injured parties are notorious for quickly spending money received from lump-sum settlements.  Statistics in a personal injury practice guide by The Rutter Group indicate that somewhere between 25 and 30% of accident victims spend all settlement money within two months of receiving the funds and that up to 90% of accident victims use all settlement proceeds within five years.[3]  Spending sprees seem common with lottery winners, some professional athletes, and most likely other people that come into money quickly.   Congress considered the poor spending habits of settlement recipients when it enacted the Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982 (PPSA)[4],[5], and in subsequent related legislation.[5] Because annuity payments paid under the PPSA are paid tax-free and injured parties can often be irresponsible with their spending when they receive lump-sum settlements, structured settlements are often a wise choice to help injured parties preserve settlement funds for their needs.

Irresponsible spending of settlement funds by injured parties is sad, but when settlement funds are misspent by people other than the injured parties, it can be tragic.  A Wall Street Journal article recently highlighted this risk.[7] In 1980, Nicole Herivaux lost the use of one of her arms due to alleged medical malpractice at the time of her birth in New York.  In 1983, the minor’s family settled a malpractice lawsuit in exchange for a structured settlement that paid monthly annuity payments and a few hundred thousand dollars in lump sum money that could be used for Nicole’s education, among other things.  The company that started making settlement payments initially deposited the annuity checks in Nicole’s mother’s name, “as guardian” of Nicole directly into a bank account.  That company later transferred the responsibility for making those payments to a different insurance company in 1995, when Nicole was 15 and still a minor.  Nicole Herivaux is now an adult with student loan debt and alleged in a 2018 lawsuit that the new company sent the annuity payments directly to her mother without any payment restriction or oversight and that her mother misused and inappropriately exhausted Nicole’s settlement funds.  If the settlement had included professional administration of a custodial account, money intended for the minor could have paid off Nicole’s education expenses and provided her a better chance to live with peace of mind, dignity and security.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the regulatory body running the Medicare program and charged with the responsibility of interpreting the MSP has promulgated regulations and issued memos helpful to determining reasonable and appropriate measures to comply with the MSP.  A 2011 memo from CMS’s Regional Office in Dallas from Sally Stalcup, as MSP Regional Coordinator, announced that Medicare Set-Aside is CMS’s “method of choice and the agency feels it provides the best protection for the program and the Medicare beneficiary.”[8]  From the context of the Stalcup memo, it is clear the use of the term “Set-aside” included a MSA arrangement described above, and that Set-asides (MSAs) would apply in both workers’ compensation and liability cases.  The Stalcup Memo also announced that “each attorney is going to have to decide, based on the specific facts of each of their cases, whether or not there is funding for future medicals and if so, a need to protect the Trust Funds.”

However, it is one thing to set money aside for the intended purpose and quite another to properly administer the money.  Even when an injured claimant hires an attorney to represent them to obtain a settlement, judgment or award (“settlement”), settlement funds reserved for future medicals can be misspent.  For example, attorney misconduct was found in a South Carolina Bar disciplinary case where an attorney representing a claimant failed to properly administer funds set aside to protect Medicare’s interests (MSA funds) as a secondary payer for future medicals.[9]  In another bar disciplinary case, an Illinois licensed attorney used trust funds for improper purposes when the trust funds were to be maintained in trust until it was determined whether they belonged to the attorney’s client or Medicare.[10]

Did the attorneys in these matters know how to report settlements to CMS’ Benefits Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor, how to request Medicare conditional payment amounts, perform bill review and potentially dispute and finalize conditional payment lien amounts?  Did they consider whether their client’s injury and/or financial condition might lend itself to a conditional payment lien compromise or waiver request? Furthermore, did the attorneys know how to properly administer the MSA funds that were set aside for their clients’ future medicals?  If the attorneys had sought the advice of a competent company that performs these functions regularly, they would have been in a better position to protect their clients, protect the Medicare Trust Funds and protect their professional standing.

Allowing incompetent, injured claimants to self-administer their own MSA accounts cannot be a prudent way to protect Medicare’s interests in preserving the nation’s Medicare Trust Funds.  Even competent claimants likely experience difficulties attempting to self-administer MSA funds.  While CMS makes resources available to individuals intending to self-administer an MSA account including a WCMSA Reference Guide and a Self-Administration Tool Kit, but what percentage of injured claimants will read and follow the protocol of the 127-page WCMSA Reference Guide and the 31-page Self-Administration Tool Kit?

Self-administration is surely harder than filing a standard federal income tax return. Plenty of people find it helpful to use professional assistance or digital software to help them file their tax return. [11]  A self-administering claimant needs to evaluate bills for medical items and expenses, including prescription drug expenses, to verify that they are both injury-related, Medicare allowable and otherwise reimbursable.  Once bills are reviewed, a decision still needs to be made as to how much should be paid.  Is the provider a Medicare-approved provider? Should the amount be the Medicare allowable rate, the provider’s bill rate or the usual and customary rate?  Is there a Group Health Insurance plan involved? Does it matter if the case stems from a liability case versus a workers’ compensation claim?  Does the Code of Federal Regulations say anything about these distinctions?  Does CMS provide guidance in this area via its website, its Medicare Learning Network, or WCMSA Reference Guide?  Have there been any cases evaluating these issues and was the claimant’s injury in a jurisdiction where case law might affect the amount of money to be set aside for those future medicals?  Will a claimant be able to keep records on their own sufficient to withstand CMS scrutiny to determine whether MSA account spending is MSP compliant?  Will the claimant remember to prepare and transmit required annual attestations of MSP accounting compliance?  Because the answer to these questions is only part of the MSP compliance puzzle, it is little surprise that CMS announced professional administration as recommended for MSA fund administration.  In addition to providing a full array of Professional Administration services, Medivest also offers a Self-Administration Kit service that provides customer service and claims support as well as discounts on durable medical equipment and prescription medication to help competent claimants take on self-administration.


[1] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b).

[2] The Rutter Group, “California Practice Guide:  Personal Injury” Chapter 4.

[3] Re: Section 130 Qualified Assignments, 2003 WL 22662008, at *3 (legislative history to the PPSA detailed that additions to the law helped provide certainty that periodic payments of personal injury damages are excluded from the gross income of the recipient. S. Rep. No. 97-646, 97th Cong., 2d Sess. 4 (1982)).

[4] Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982 (PL 97–473 (HR 5470), PL 97–473, January 14, 1983, 96 Stat 2605) (through tax benefits, the PPSA encourages use of structured settlements to resolve personal physical injury and physical sickness cases).

[5] Re: Section 130 Qualified Assignments, 2003 WL 22662008, at *18 (The public policy encouraging use of structured settlements by providing a tax subsidy was affirmed in JCX-15-99,  the Joint Committee on Taxation, Tax Treatment of Structured Settlement Arrangements from March 16, 1999 (pointing out perils of lump sum settlements when “. . . the individual may, by design or poor luck, mismanage his or her funds so that future medical expenses are not met.” JCX 15-99 accompanied H.R. 263, “The Structured Settlement Protection Act,” 106th Cong., 1st Sess. Section 5891 of the Code enacted by a subsequent version of that bill, H.R. 2884, on January 23, 2002).

[6] Under Section 104(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.), personal injury settlement proceeds are tax-free, but when paid in a lump sum, any investment earnings or interest paid on those funds as they grow over time is taxable.  Pursuant to Section 104(a)(2) of the I.R.C., each structured settlement payment over the entire period of payment of the annuity stream is tax-free to the victim.  The details of taxable consequences associated with interest gained after receipt of each annuity should be evaluated with a licensed tax professional in conjunction with a structured settlement advisor.

[7] Leslie Scism, Lawsuit Alleges MetLife Mistake Helped a Woman Keep Settlement Money From Her Daughter Insurer faces lawsuit over structured-settlement annuity related to old business,  WALL STREET JOURNAL., February 21, 2018.

[8] Sally Stalcup, MSP Regional Coordinator, Region VI (May 25, 2011, Handout).

[9] In the Matter of Morris, 343 S.C. 651, 653-54, 541 S.E.2d 844, 845 (2001).

[10] In the Matter of: Charles Augustus Boyle, Attorney-Respondent, No. 268739, 2014 WL 10505032, at *2. (Attorney voluntarily relinquished his license to practice law after an investigation revealed among other misconduct, that he failed to pay his client’s medical bills from settlement proceeds in one case, failed to deposit settlement proceeds into a guardianship account established on behalf of a minor in another case, failed to notify Medicare that four other cases settled and failed to pay the Medicare conditional payment liens for those four cases).

[11] Excluding those individuals who responded “none of the above” to the question of how they file their taxes, gobankingrates.com reports from an internet poll that of just over 5,000 people, 36.8% said they use either an accountant (28.5%) or a brick and mortar tax company like H&R Block (8.3%) and  34.5% responded that they use tax filing software.


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