I. Federal and State Agencies Conducting Audits
As many health care providers and suppliers have painfully learned over the last year, federal and state law enforcement agencies, along with many of the contractors with whom they work, are actively conducting audits of Medicare and Medicaid claims submitted to the government for coverage and payment.
One of the least understood mandatory obligations applicable to virtually every health care provider and supplier who accepts Medicare or Medicaid is the requirement that all participating providers are REQUIRED to screen more than just their staff. Instead, they must also screen contractors, vendors, and agents to ensure that they and their employees have not been excluded from participation in federal and state health care programs. The fact that these individuals and entities must be screened through literally dozens of federal and state exclusion databases further complicates this mandate.
II. Broad Scope of OIG Exclusion Action
Importantly, the scope of an exclusion action is extremely broad. The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) has taken the position that if a vendor, contractor or supplier of administrative, management or support services has been excluded from participating in the Medicare or Medicaid programs, they are effectively barred from working with most health care provider and supplier entities. As HHS-OIG writes:
“Excluded persons are prohibited from furnishing administrative and management services that are payable by the Federal health care programs. This prohibition applies even if the administrative and management services are not separately billable. For example, an excluded individual may not serve in an executive or leadership role (e.g., chief executive officer, chief financial officer, general counsel, director of health information management, director of human resources, physician practice office manager, etc.) at a provider that furnishes items or services payable by Federal health care programs. Also, an excluded individual may not provide other types of administrative and management services, such as health information technology services and support, strategic planning, billing and accounting, staff training, and human resources, unless wholly unrelated to Federal health care programs.”1
At Exclusion ScreeningSM, we realize that compiling a list of all employees, vendors and contractors can be a daunting task. That’s why we help our customers evaluate and determine exactly who needs to be included during their monthly Exclusion Screening.
III. Creating Your OIG Exclusion List
A partial listing of the parties you are required by law to screen include:
All employees and Staff: To properly screen you should be sure to examine (or submit this information to us so we can conduct the screens for you):
2. Maiden names.
3. Any former names.
Vendors, Contractors and Agents: You MUST screen vendors that provide items or services directly OR indirectly that are payable in whole or in part by the Federal health care programs2
Some potential vendors that must be included on your list:
1. Ambulance and other Transportation Service Providers.
3. IT Solution Providers.
4. Security Technicians.
5. Medical Equipment Managers.
6. Food Service Workers.
7. Lab Technicians.
9. Nurses and other Individuals Provided by Staffing Agencies.
10. Physician Groups that Provide Emergency Room Coverage.
11. Billing or Coding Contractors.
IV. Contractors and Vendors
When it comes to contractors and vendors, HHS-OIG offers some interesting guidance in its 2013 Special Advisory. The OIG gives providers two options: (1) providers themselves may screen their contractors’ or vendors’ employees;3 or (2) a provider may rely on a contractor’s or vendor’s certification that the contractor or vendor is conducting screening of its own employees and contractors. Note that HHS-OIG recommends that the provider validate that the contractor is conducting such screening on behalf of the provider. One way providers can validate this information is by requesting and maintaining screening documentation from the contractor.4
V. Screen for Exclusions: Avoid CMPs!
Screening this list can seem like a daunting task, but not doing so can create a world of hurt. The phrase “leave no stone unturned” couldn’t be more appropriate in this case. An effective compliance policy demands that providers employ comprehensive screening practices. Although the process may seem arduous, the risks providers face, if they do not screen, are dire. The Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) for any item or service provided by an excluded individual or entity is up to $10,000. On top of CMPs, the providers may be required to pay up to three times the total amount of claims submitted to Medicare.
Considering the hefty liabilities tacked on for merely employing even one excluded individual, it’s easy to see that making the effort to properly screen for exclusions pays for itself. If you’re worried that your organization isn’t screening the right individuals and entities, the exclusion experts at Exclusion ScreeningSM are happy to help you create your employee and vendor list. Feel free to contact us at 1-800-294-0952 or fill out our online service form.
Ashley Hudson, Associate Attorney at Liles Parker, LLP and former Chief Operating Officer for Exclusion Screening, LLC, is the author of this article. Feel free to contact us at 1-800-294-0952 or online for a free consultation.