Original Publish Date: June 5, 2018
It is becoming more and more common for providers to receive what appear to be innocuous medical records requests from both federal and commercial payors. These requests are typically based on data analytics available to the payor that identify the provider as an outlier in some respect. Payors use the analytics to look for potential overpayment issues. Unfortunately, most providers do not understand the significance of these requests and the impact that an incomplete response can have on a future potential overpayment demand and/or possible imposition of a payment suspension by Medicare or a commercial payor.
Unified Program Integrity Contractors (UPICs), operating on behalf of Medicare, can reopen claims for good cause pursuant to 42 CFR 405.986. Commercial payors usually have similar contractual provisions that allow them to reopen claims or seek reimbursement of claims that the payor believes were improperly paid.
The following examples demonstrate how important an appropriate response is for medical record requests. The provider’s response can result in potentially drastically different outcomes with respect to a potential resulting overpayment demand.
Picture this: ABC Entity receives a medical records request from XZY UPIC, one of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’s UPICs, which states that XZY UPIC has good cause to reopen claims pursuant to 42 CFR 405.986. XZY UPIC is requesting records for 100 claims from 70 beneficiaries for a specific date of service range.
Obviously, there are no guarantees that an attorney’s assistance will make such a dramatic difference, but health law attorneys deal with medical records requests, payment suspensions and overpayment demands on a daily basis and typically have a wealth of experience in responding to each of these. Getting an attorney involved early can be critical for planning a course of action for responding to future notifications and demands. There is a lot of information online – for example, CMS’s Medicare Learning Network fact sheets regarding medical record documentation, and a provider’s attorney can help a provider navigate CMS requirements, UPIC requirements and even requirements for responding to private payors.
Additionally, it is equally important to draft a formal policy setting out the procedure for responding to medical records requests, which includes identifying personnel responsibilities and setting out who must be informed when a records request is received. Training should be implemented to ensure that the policy is adhered to each time a medical records request is received. An audit response process should also include:
Regardless of whom the records request is from – federal or commercial payor – it is important for a provider to get an attorney involved as soon as it receives a medical records request from either a UPIC or commercial payor. Failure to properly and completely comply with a records request can lead to a substantial overpayment demand or other penalties.
Mr. Cooper provides legal representation to a broad range of hospitals, other healthcare facilities and physician groups across the United States. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America for health law for twenty-three consecutive years and selected for inclusion in Ohio Super Lawyers (2005-2015).
Visit the McDonald Hopkins LLC web site at www.mcdonaldhopkins.com.