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CLASSIC LIST

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08/Jan/2024

It is getting close to that time of year when mailboxes begin to receive W-2 statements and 1099-INT statements.  If an injured individual has either a Self-Administered Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) account or a Professionally-Administered MSA account, the individual will be sent a 1099-INT by January 31st and a copy will be filed with the IRS. The 1099-INT shows interest earned in the account during the previous tax year.
Liability and Workers Compensations cases should follow the Workers Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA)Reference Guide, until CMS publishes a Liability Medicare Set-Aside (LMSA) Reference Guide.  Until then, the WCMSA Reference Guide should be considered a single point of reference for Liability and Workers Compensation cases. To download the WCMSA Reference Guide Version 3.8, Dated November 14, 2022, click here.

 

What the WCMSA Reference Guide states:

  • MSA funds must be placed in an interest-bearing account that is separate from the individual’s personal savings and checking accounts.
  • The interest must be deposited into the MSA account to be used for MSA-covered expenses.
  • You can use the MSA account to pay for the income tax on the interest income.
For further clarification regarding how the individual can pay for the taxes from the interest incomed earned in their account, refer to the CMS Memo Dated July 11, 2005, Subject:  Medicare Secondary Payer (MPS) – Workers’ Compensation (WC) Additional Frequency Asked Questions.
“Q6. Treatment of Taxable Interest Income Earned on a WCMSA – If I receive a Form 1099-INT for the interest income earned on my WCMSA account, may I charge the income tax on that amount against the WCMSA?
A6. Assuming that there is adequate documentation for the amount of incremental tax that the claimant must pay for the interest earned on this set-aside account, the claimant or his/her administrator may withdraw an amount equal to the additional tax as a “cost that is directly related to the account” to cover the additional tax liability. Such documentation should be submitted along with the annual accounting.”

 

How Medivest Handles the 1099-INT:

Medivest will advise the Member to prepare his/her tax return two ways to determine the increased income tax burden, if any:
  1. Include the MSA interest income in the income tax return
  2. Exclude the MSA interest income in the income tax return
In other words, if the Member must pay the IRS an increased income tax amount as a result of the interest earned from their MSA account, the additional income tax burden can be paid from the MSA account.  This is considered a cost associated with having the MSA account and CMS allows this expense to be paid from the MSA account.  Once a year, Medivest will send CMS an attestation for every applicable professionally-administered MSA account.  Any MSA reimbursement of the additional income tax burden will be included in this attestation.

 

Answers to Common Questions

Question 1.  If I am taxed on the earned interest, why can’t I have it?
Answer 1.  CMS’ guidelines state that Medicare Set-Aside funds place must be placed into an interest-bearing account and are to be used for covered medical expenses.
Question 2.  Why do I have to report the earned interest to the IRS?
Answer 2.   Per IRS guidelines, all interest income is taxable, unless specifically excluded.
Question 3.  Isn’t my injury settlement tax-exempt?
Answer 3.  Any compensation you receive from a settlement because of physical injuries or sickness is not taxable.   However, the interest earned after the settlement occurs is taxable.

 

Best Practices

Medivest’s highly trained representatives 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. For questions about your account or setting up a new professional administration account please contact us here.

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06/Feb/2023

When an individual has a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) account, they have the option to either self-administer the funds or have them professionally administered.  If self-administration is chosen, it can be a difficult and trying task to comply with the CMS’ rules; opening a MSA checking account, learning what type of expenses can be paid and cannot be paid out, coordinating health insurance benefits, keeping accurate records, and when to send reporting to CMS.  This blog will discuss what you need to know if you choose Self-Administration, and if self-administering your MSA is the right choice for you.

What is Self-Administration?

Self-administration is the process of managing the medical portion of your settlement, compromise and release, judgment, award or other payment/arrangement (“Settlement”) arising from an incident on the job and/or due to the negligence of another party. After a settlement, the individual is responsible for paying the medical claims following the process and guidelines set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services until the funds have been permanently depleted.

What is Professional Administration? 

Professional administration is the practice of using a qualified third party to oversee and manage funds for future medical expenses following a liability or Workers’ Compensation settlement. Though not required, Medicare strongly suggests the professional administration of a MSA. However, for those who choose self-administration, the individual is still responsible for using their MSA account to pay for injury-related and Medicare covered expenses in accordance with the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Statute. The MSP provisions protect Medicare Trust Funds by ensuring that Medicare does not pay for items and services that certain health insurance or coverage, such as a MSA account, is primarily responsible for paying.

Two Ways to Fund Your MSA Account

Before the settlement has occurred, the settling parties will discuss the ways a MSA account can be funded. Typically, there are two options:
  1. Lump-Sum – a single lump sum payment to fund your MSA account.
  2. Structured Settlement Annuity Funding – an initial deposit to fund your account and smaller annual deposits in the following years. The initial deposit covers the first two years of annual funding for treatments plus any cost for proposed first surgeries. If the MSA funds are not spent down in a given year, the funds must remain in the account and carry forward into the next year.

Establishing a Self-Administration Bank Account

Below is a list of CMS’ requirements regarding opening up a separate bank account for the MSA funds.
  • Deposit MSA funds into its own account, separate from any other accounts you may have
  • The account must earn interest and the interest must stay in the account
  • The account should be insured by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Choose a bank or an account that does not charge fees if you have a low balance
  • Select an account that allows you to write checks

 

Know What Is Covered

It is important to recognize that not every medical bill or service can be paid out of the MSA account. For individuals self-administering their account, it is highly important to be aware of qualified expenses. Below is a partial list of the expenses that can and cannot be paid out of the account:

Expenses That Can Be Paid

  • Funds can only be used to pay for future care that is Medicare covered and related to your injury.
  • Cost of copying documents
  • Mailing fees/postage
  • Any banking fees related to the account
  • Paying income tax on the interest income earned in the account*
*Note – The MSA funds are not considered taxable income, but the interest earned is taxable. Each year your bank will issue an IRS 1099-INT form for the interest earned in the account.

Expenses That Cannot Be Paid

  • Fees for trustees, custodians, or other professionals hired to help administer the account
  • Expenses for administration of the MSA other than those listed above
  • Attorney costs for establishing the MSA
  • Cannot use to purchase a Medicare supplemental insurance policy or a Medigap policy
  • Medicare premiums, co-payments, and deductibles
  • Acupuncture
  • Routine dental care
  • Eyeglasses
  • Hearing aides
For a more extensive list of what Medicare will pay, click here to obtain a copy of the free handbook “Medicare & You”.

Keep Accurate Records of All Transactions

Bank statements, receipts, and tax records should all be kept and recorded.  Self-administering parties will not need to submit these records annually, but Medicare may request them as proof that the account is being used correctly. It is also recommended that settlement documents showing the date the case was settled, diagnosed injury, and date of injury are also kept. Consider keeping accurate records for each transaction such as:
  • Transaction date
  • Check number
  • “Payable to” or provider’s name
  • Date of service
  • Description – procedure, service or item received, deposit, interest, other allowable expenses
  • Amount paid
  • Deposit amount
  • Account balance
  • Interest earned

What is Coordination of Benefits for a MSA?

The MSP program is in place to ensure that Medicare is aware of situations where it should not be the primary payer of claims.  Sometimes a Medicare beneficiary with a MSA account, public benefits, and other health insurance; the Coordination of Benefits (COB) rule decides which entity should pay first on a claim. In certain situations, if Medicare has paid a claim by mistake, CMS will take action to receive the mistaken Medicare payment.

What is the MSA Attestation?

If the MSA proposal was approved, CMS requires the attestation form to be signed, attesting that the injured party has used the account correctly and to report the amounts spent. If Medicare is satisfied that the right amount of money has been spent appropriately, Medicare will pay for future treatments for this work injury. Below is the information found on the attestation form.
  • Total spent for medical services
  • Total spent for prescription drugs
  • Grand total of expenditures
  • Total of interest income the account earned if any
  • Balance of MSA account at the end of the calendar year

Annual Attestation or Expenditure Letters Reporting

CMS’ Benefit Coordination & Records Center (BCRC) is responsible for monitoring and receiving the submitted attestations forms. The attestation informs Medicare that they are now primary payer when your funds have exhausted.  Note, once the account funds are exhausted you must continue to pay your Medicare monthly premiums, co-pays, and deductibles in order for Medicare to pay your claims. CMS has the right to demand and receive a complete accounting of payments made from the account at its discretion. The following only applies if the MSA proposal has been approved by CMS.
  • Annual Attestations must be submitted every year, no later than 30 days after the end of each reporting period (beginning one year from the date of establishment of the MSA account). Annual attestations should continue through final exhaustion of the account.
  • Temporary Exhaustion occurs when the MSA account funds have exhausted before the next annuity has been deposited into the account.
  • Final Depletion or Permanent Exhaustion is where the MSA account has no money left and no future deposits of funds are expected.
  • Death Occurs / Inheritance before the MSA account is permanently exhausted you will need to notify the BCRC of death. This may require the MSA account to stay open for some time to pay outstanding claims.
  • Completely Exhausted within 60 days of the date the MSA account is depleted, send the BCRC a final attestation that the account is ‘Completely Exhausted”.
  • Loses Medicare Entitlement
  • Re-Establishes Medicare Entitlement

How to Submit Your Attestation to CMS’ BCRC

  1. Electronical Attestation is a Medicare web portal that allows submission of either yearly or final attestations electronically. For more information about how to submit an attestation electronically, please see the MSAP User Guide.
  2. Mail-in Submission / Paper Copy

MSA Proposal/Final Settlement
PO Box 138899
Oklahoma City, OK 73113-8899

  1. Call BCRC

855-798-2627 or TTY/TDD
855-787-2627 for the hearing and speech impaired
Opened: Monday – Friday, from 8am – 8pm | Eastern Time

Medivest’s Solutions

If handling a Self-Administrated account becomes too difficult of a task, Medivest can help. We provide the following options that may reduce the burden of keeping track of the details:
1. Switch to Medivest’s Professional Administration Service
For over 25 years, Medivest has been helping clients navigate the complexities of the MSP and protecting their Medicare benefits. Our services guarantee the most comprehensive and cost-effective professional administration program available and provides:
  • Streamlined reporting and compliance
  • Savings on treatment, equipment, and pharmaceuticals
  • Expert support and service
2. Purchase Medivest’s Self-Administration Kit
Medivest offers a Self-Administration Kit that equips individuals who opt to manage their own Worker’ Compensation or Liability settlement with many of the tools and services available to Professionally Administers settlements. The Medivest Self-Administration Kit has been designed to give the individual the flexibility in determining just how “hands-on” they wish to be in managing their medical funds, while providing to the settling parties the piece of mind that comes from knowing due diligence has been considered.   Below are the services that are included Medivest’s Self-Administration Kit Services:
  • Detailed Booklet
  • Unlimited Phone
  • Medical Bill Review
  • Pharmacy and Durable Medical & Equipment (DME) Discounts

 

For additional information regarding Medivest’s Professional Administration Services or Self-Administration Kits or to get started with one of these options today call us at 877.725.2467 or contact us here.

 


28/Oct/2022

Medivest will be joining the Ohio Association for Justice from November 2 - 4 for its annual Winter Convention. This year's Winter Convention kicks off the OAJ Advocate's Academy, a four-event sequence specifically designed as a training ground to accelerate the performance of newer plaintiffs' attorneys. 


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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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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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18/Jan/2022

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a revised Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide (“Reference Guide”) Version 3.5 on January 10, 2022. This Reference Guide replaces Version 3.4 which was released on October 4, 2021.  When comparing the two Reference Guidesnew section 4.3 and new language has been added. Below indicates the new section and language added in the (WCMSA) Reference Guide Version 3.5.

To download the new WCMSA Reference Guide v3.5Click Here. 

CMS’s Version 3.5 Reference Guide, Section 1.1 includes the following changes:

Clarification has been provided regarding the use of non-CMS-approved products to address future medical care (Section 4.3).   

 

Section 4.3   The Use of Non-CMS-Approved Products to Address Future Medical Care

A number of industry products exist with the intent of indemnifying insurance carriers and CMS beneficiaries against future recovery for conditional payments made by CMS for settled injuries. Although not inclusive of all products covered under this section, these products are most commonly termed “evidence-based” or “non-submit.” 42 C.F.R. 411.46 specifically allows CMS to deny payment for treatment of work-related conditions if a settlement does not adequately protect the Medicare program’s interest.  Unless a proposed amount is submitted, reviewed, and approved using the process described in this reference guide prior to settlement, CMS cannot be certain that the Medicare program’s interests are adequately protected. As such, CMS treats the use of non-CMS-approved products as a potential attempt to shift financial burden by improperly giving reasonable recognition to both medical expenses and income replacement.   

 

As a matter of policy and practice, CMS will deny payment for medical services related to the WC injuries or illness requiring attestation of appropriate exhaustion equal to the total settlement less procurement costs before CMS will resume primary payment obligation for settled injuries or illnesses. This will result in the claimant needing to demonstrate complete exhaustion of the net settlement amount, rather than a CMS-approved WCMSA amount.   

   

Keep in mind the WCMSA Reference Guide states:   

There are no statutory or regulatory provisions requiring that you submit a WCMSA amount proposal to CMS for review. If you choose to use CMS’ WCMSA review process, the Agency requests that you comply with CMS’ established policies and procedures. 

 

Take Aways

  • While CMS added Section 4.3, this language is not entirely new or at least not entirely unexpected.  Similar currently existing Reference Guide language has for years included warnings about what could happen if parties failed to adequately consider Medicare’s future interests in WC settlements.  For example, language from previous Reference Guide versions indicated in Section 8.0 that even for examples where a settlement did not meet CMS workload review thresholds “The settling parties must consider CMS’ future interests even though the case would not be eligible for review.  Failure to do so could leave settling parties subject to future recoveries for payments related to the injury up to the total value of the settlement” (Example 1) and “Not establishing some plan for future care places the settling parties at risk for recovery from care related to the WC injury up to the full value of the settlement”  (Example 2).

 

  • Also in prior versions of the Reference Guide in Section 4.1.4, CMS has warned of its ability and intention to deny injury-related medical services when it said that “If Medicare’s interests were not reasonably considered, Medicare will refuse to pay for services related to the WC injury (and otherwise reimbursable by Medicare) until such expenses have exhausted the entire dollar amount of the entire WC settlement.  Medicare may also assert a recovery claim, if appropriate.”

 

  • On a positive note, CMS has now clarified in the new language in Section 4.3 that it will allow for a procurement cost reduction when there is a denial of service when there was no approved WCMSA submission.  The new language clearly explains that the denial of service amount will not exceed the gross settlement minus procurement costs.  This is more reasonable than denying services up to the entire amount of the settlement as it had previously listed or perhaps denying services up to double the amount of services.  The double damages concept has been sometimes misstated in industry circles.  (In court cases, even double damages claims have first determined the recovery damages by determining the conditional payment amount after applying a procurement cost reduction and then doubling that amount).   The new language actually helps with this issue.

 

  • However, perhaps even more troubling is whether funds earmarked to help protect Medicare’s future interests as WCMSA funds are actually used for the intended purpose.  According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) 2018 research brief updating its 2014 survey on WCMSAs, approximately ninety-eight percent (98%) of the Workers’ Compensation cases settled with the injured worker choosing to self-administer their MSA funds.  This 2018 NCCI update published research brief included a sample of over 11,500 WC settlements between 2010 and 2015.

 

  • Perhaps to address this gap between what is said will be done (i.e. WCMSA allocation reports) and what actually is done (the administration of settlement dollars to pay for injury-related medical items, services, and expenses including prescription drug expenses, CMS already has the following language recommending professional administration in its Reference Guide in Section 17:

 “CMS highly recommends professional administration where a claimant is taking controlled substances that CMS determines are “frequently abused drugs” according to CMS’ Part D Drug Utilization Review (DUR) policy. That policy and supporting information are available on the web at https://cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug- Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovContra/RxUtilization.html.

Claimants may also administer their own WCMSAs, if State law allows. Claimants should submit annual self-attestations, just as a professional administrator would. This arrangement is subject to the same rules and reporting requirements as any other WCMSA. See Section 17.5 for more on this annual attestation. Although beneficiaries may act as their own administrators, it is highly recommended that settlement recipients consider the use of a professional administrator for their funds.”

 

  • Perhaps CMS felt that its existing high recommendation language for professional administration was sufficient to encourage settling parties to avoid pitfalls of incompetent administration of WCMSAs.  But has CMS or any other entity ever done research to see what percentage of self-administered MSA funds were properly and fully exhausted before any injury-related medical bills were submitted to Medicare? If a non-submit WCMSA comes in at 80% of the CMS methodology submitted and approved WCMSA (80% because it follows an evidence-based drug tapering program guideline often seen in a state-based Workers’ Compensation medical protocol like the MTUS in California for example) but the WCMSA funds are professionally administered, wouldn’t that seem to protect Medicare’s real-world interests rather than a CMS submitted and approved WCMSA allocation report but self-administered by an injured claimant?

 

Stay Up To Date

Count on Medivest to help you navigate your risk tolerance in light of the new CMS WCMSA Reference Guide language and see if we can’t find the right balance to reasonably protect Medicare’s interests in your settlement. Medivest will continue to monitor changes occurring at CMS and will keep its readers up to date when such changes are announced. For questions regarding these updates, please reach out to a Medivest representative in your area byclicking here or call us direct at 877.725.2467. 

 


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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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