Some healthcare providers probably missed an important change buried within the 2009 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule: New rules for physician enrollment have drastically reduced the period for retroactive billing. Effective April 1, physicians enrolling or re-enrolling with Medicare can only submit a bill for services provided up to 30 days prior to the effective date, rather than for the prior 27 months.
Those who miss this deadline will be denied reimbursement for services to Medicare patients seen before the deadline. And those who move to a new job (“change of location,” in Medicare parlance) and fail to update their address within 30 days risk a two-year suspension from receiving Medicare payments.
What It Means
Essentially, HM group leaders must make sure they are ready to credential a new hire long before they start working. Before now, groups had months to get new hires enrolled in the Medicare system; now, with just 30 days to enroll, you need to start your credentialing and enrollment process early—before the physician’s start date, if possible.
“In a nutshell, groups are going to have to be more proactive than ever before in getting paperwork submitted for new providers,” says Derise Woods, operations project manager for Knoxville, Tenn.-based TeamHealth. “The situation we often face is that the provider is found and placed, and sometimes the paperwork does not get submitted right away. The natural focus is to get them on board and then get them up and running.”
If that is the case in your group, you should create a checklist for enrollment in Medicare and for other payors. Then, as soon as your new hire signs the contract, require them to submit all available information (e.g., DEA number and proof of board certification).
Woods says the rule states that “retroactive billing can start from the provider’s start date or from the date the enrollment is received at [Medicare], whichever is later.”
Even if you don’t capture all the necessary information, enroll the new physician as soon as possible. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), incomplete applications will be denied, but the date of the original filing will be preserved. So if a hospitalist begins working for your group Sept. 1, and you submit the enrollment application Sept. 7, the hospitalist can bill retroactively starting Sept. 7, even if that application is kicked back to you for more information and doesn’t get resolved for several weeks.
—Derise Woods, TeamHealth, Knoxville, Tenn.
Large and Small Groups
Missing the new enrollment deadline means reimbursement losses. Hospitalists provide services to a significant number of Medicare patients, so cutting back on retroactive billing could hurt the bottom line. “In most [HM] instances where Medicare is a large portion of income, this has potential to disrupt a practice,” Woods says, noting TeamHealth has yet to see the impact of the new enrollment rules.