A Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) is a tool that allows injury victims to preserve Medicare benefits by setting aside a portion of the settlement money in a segregated account to pay for future Medicare covered services. The funds in the set aside can only be used for Medicare covered expenses for injury related care. Once the set aside account is exhausted, an injury victim gets full Medicare coverage without Medicare ever looking to the remaining settlement dollars to provide for any Medicare covered future health care. Medicare may approve the amount to be set aside in writing and agree to be responsible for all future expenses once the set aside funds are depleted if the parties choose to submit the allocation to CMS for review and it a reviewable MSA. Advising injury victims about Medicare compliance and set asides are an integral part of the responsibilities of a trial lawyer at settlement.
Below are our Synergy InSights on all things related to MSAs, written by our industry leading Medicare compliance experts.
April 20, 2023
MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC, and MSPA Claims 1, LLC have filed several cases on behalf of Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) against insurers for failing to reimburse the MAOs for injury-related medical payments made on behalf of their enrollees. These cases often originate from a glitch in the coordination of benefits process during initial treatment. This article provides an overview of the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) billing policies and recent cases, including the consolidated MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. United Automobile Insurance Company and MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Covington Specialty Insurance Company cases (Nos. 21-12439, 21-12428) in the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
The Medicare Secondary Payer Act and regulations provide a framework for Medicare to recover conditional payments from settlements involving Medicare beneficiaries and to avoid making improper payments. The Act prohibits Medicare from making payments for services “to the extent that payment has been made or can reasonably be expected to be made under any of the following: (i) workers’ compensation; (ii) liability insurance; (iii) no-fault insurance” (42 C.F.R. § 411.20; 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(A)). A primary payer’s obligation to reimburse Medicare for conditional payments may be shown by a judgment, payment conditioned upon release of liability, or other means. If Medicare makes a conditional payment, it has the right to recover payments from providers, suppliers, physicians, attorneys, state agencies, or private insurers that have received a primary payment (42 CFR Sections 411.24). Medicare Advantage Plans have the same recovery rights as traditional Medicare.
Chapter 3 of the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Internet Only Manual (IOM) provides detailed instructions to providers to enable them to bill a primary plan before Medicare is billed. Providers are instructed to alert the MSP contractor, the entity responsible for coordination of benefits, whenever they receive a request from an attorney or insurance company for a copy of the billing or medical records of a Medicare beneficiary. Providers are also instructed to obtain information regarding possible MSP situations. This may be done by asking the Medicare patients if the requested services are for treatment of an injury resulting from an automobile accident or other incident for which liability or no-fault insurance may pay, or for which another party may be responsible. Section 20.2.1 provides model admission questions to ask Medicare beneficiaries to enable proper coordination of benefits.
In addition to the guidance in the Manual, the Medicare Learning Network (MLN) periodically releases memos for physicians and other providers about billing procedures in situations where Medicare is a Secondary Payer. The February 19, 2020 memo discusses the use of a Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (MSA) to pay for injury-related services. The February 23, 2021 memo advises providers about the appeal process to follow when Medicare denies treatment due to an open or closed Liability, No-Fault, or Workers’ Compensation MSP record on the beneficiary’s Medicare file.
Despite the IOM and MLN guidance provided by CMS, providers may, at times, submit bills to Medicare or the MAO plans instead of the primary payer. This can result in cases settling without the primary payer reimbursing the MAO plan for their payments. As noted above, this fact pattern has been the subject of numerous cases brought by MSP Recovery on behalf of MAOs against various insurance companies.
The most recent consolidated cases, MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. United Automobile Insurance Company and MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Covington Specialty Insurance Company, Nos. 21-12439, 21-12428 before the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit (February 22, 2023 These cases involve situations where United Automobile Insurance Company and Covington Specialty Insurance Company settled cases without reimbursing the MAO plans for their payments. Rather than seeking reimbursement from the injury victims and their attorneys, MSP Recovery Claims and MSPA Claims pursued the insurance plans for double damages.
MSPA Claims 1 LLC, as the assignee of the Florida Healthcare Plus Inc, a Medicare Advantage Organization, brought an exemplar claim against Covington in a putative class action. It involved a Medicare beneficiary, known as “P.M.” who injured her ankle and foot in February of 2014 when she fell down stairs at a property owned by 3550 Palm Beach Holdings, LLC. Although Covington insured the property under general liability and no-fault policies, P.M.’s medical providers billed the Florida Healthcare Plus plan and received payment for her medical expenses. Florida Healthcare Plus’s right to reimbursement as a secondary payer was assigned to MSPA.
MSPA advised Covington of its reimbursement rights in July of 2015. Covington declined to reimburse the Florida Healthcare Plus plan, arguing that the medical expenses were not reported to Covington within the policy’s one-year provision from the date of the accident. Covington settled the claim directly with P.M in 2016. MSPA argued that the claims filing deadline in the Covington Insurance policy was preempted by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Covington. MSPA Claims 1, LLC brought this appeal.
The US Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, was not persuaded by MSPA’s argument that there is no time limit for an MAO seeking reimbursement from a primary plan. Although the Medicare Secondary Payer Act applied a three-year claim filing period to employer group health plans, there was no basis for the Court to infer that the provision preempts a claims-filing deadline in a no-fault or general liability policy. MSPA’s attempt to argue that Covington’s primary payer status could be established based on its settlement with P.M. was also barred since it was not pled in the complaint. Since MSPA’s initial argument focused on Covington’s status as a primary payer based on the terms of its insurance policy, Covington’s defense that was based on the one-year claims-filing deadline was valid. The Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that granted summary judgment.
The MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. United Auto cases involved two exemplar Medicare beneficiaries, “W.T.” and “W.M.,” who sustained injuries in accidents covered under United Auto’s no-fault policies. United Auto sought summary judgment based on MSP Recovery’s failure to send United Auto a “pre-suit demand letter” as required by the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. Although MSP Recovery argued that the Medicare Secondary Payer Act preempted Florida’s pre-suit demand requirements, the district court granted summary judgment to United Auto.
The US Court of Appeals agreed with the district court’s ruling. Although MSP Recovery argued that the Court’s prior decisions compelled the conclusion that the Medicare Secondary Payer Act preempted this provision of the Florida Motor Vehicle Act, the Court disagreed with MSP Recovery’s interpretation of their decisions. The Court also declined to hold as a matter of first impression that the Medicare Secondary Payer Act preempts the Florida Motor Vehicle Act’s requirement of a pre-suit demand letter. In reaching this decision, it considered the three classes of preemption. Preemption exists when a congressional legislative scheme is so pervasive that Congress left no room for the states to supplement it; when the text of a federal statute explicitly manifests Congress’ intent to displace state law, and when it is physically impossible to comply with both federal and state law. The Court found that the provisions of the Florida Motor Vehicle Code do not create an unconstitutional obstacle to the operation of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act.
Although MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC, and MSPA Claims 1 did not prevail in these cases against the insureds, it would appear that they may have prevailed in their collection efforts against the injured party and/or their counsel. This path, however, is inconsistent with MSP Recovery’s business model that targets insurers. Considering the potential exposure that an injured party and their counsel may face, best practices dictate the need to proactively address payments made by any MAOs in connection with a settlement. Whenever insurance information is available, it should also be shared with the providers so that the correct plans may be billed before Medicare.
In conclusion, these cases highlight the importance of proper coordination of benefits in the Medicare Secondary Payer system. Providers must follow the guidance provided by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act and regulations, as well as the Medicare Learning Network, to ensure that they bill the primary payer before billing Medicare or an MAO. Insurers must also be aware of their obligations to reimburse MAOs for conditional payments made on behalf of their enrollees. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in costly litigation and potentially double damages for insurers.
February 9, 2023
Settlements involving Medicare beneficiaries require additional scrutiny to ensure compliance with the MSP Act. While the Act generally prohibits Medicare from making payment when payment is expected from a primary payer (workers’ compensation plan, liability insurance plan or no-fault insurance), an exception is made when payment is not expected to be made promptly or within 120 days of receipt of the claim. In such cases, Medicare will make payment, but it is conditioned upon the reimbursement of the payment to the Medicare Trust Fund. Compliance with the MSP Act is essential to ensure that Medicare is not making payments for which it is not responsible for.
Primary payers have an obligation to reimburse the Medicare Trust Fund for any payments made on behalf of a Medicare beneficiary. This obligation is demonstrated by a judgment, payment conditioned upon release of liability, or other means, as enumerated in 42 C.F.R. §411.22. Failure to reimburse may result in Medicare filing suit directly for double damages according to 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii) and 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(3). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Memo from December 5, 2011, further notes that Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) and Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) have the same rights of recovery as Medicare under the MSP Act. This article will discuss the interplay between annual reporting and recovery thresholds, Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting, and conditional payment recovery. A subsequent article will address Medicare’s interest when it comes to post-settlement injury-related treatment.
Annual Reporting and Recovery Thresholds
Prior to 2014, CMS often spent more money pursuing a conditional payment recovery claim than the claim was worth. To address this issue, the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2012 (“SMART Act”) was signed into law in January of 2013. The SMART Act requires CMS to publish annual “settlement threshold” figures as of November of 2014. If a settlement falls below the annual threshold, the settling parties are exempt from MSP compliance obligations. This amendment has helped to streamline the conditional payment recovery process and save CMS resources.
On December of 2022, CMS published the 2023 recovery thresholds for liability, no-fault insurance, and workers’ compensation settlements, judgments, award, or other payments. Effective January 1, 2023, CMS’s threshold for physical trauma-based liability insurance settlements is $750.00, meaning settlements of $750 or less do not need to be reported and Medicare’s conditional payments related to the cases do not need to be repaid. The same threshold applies to no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation settlements, provided the insurers do not have an ongoing responsibility for medicals.
Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting
To effectively implement the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) framework, Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA) was enacted, establishing the Mandatory Insurer Reporting requirement. This enforcement mechanism notifies Medicare of settlements involving Medicare beneficiaries and began in January of 2011. According to CMS, the Section 111 MSP reporting process is designed to ensure Medicare is properly reimbursed for items and services provided to beneficiaries.
Section 111 reporting is the responsibility of a Responsible Reporting Entity (RRE) to Medicare for liability, no-fault, and workers’ compensation plans and insurers. The RRE must report to Medicare if the plan has an Ongoing Responsibility for Medical (ORM) or if the Total Payment Obligation to the Claimant (TPOC) is greater than the threshold of $750.00. Additionally, the RRE must query the Medicare system regularly to identify when a claimant becomes eligible for benefits while the claim is still open.
Under the Section 111 reporting requirements, the RRE must provide the injury victim’s first name, last name, date of birth, gender, Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), and Social Security Number (or the last five digits). Additionally, the RRE must report International Classification of Diseases (“ICD”)-10 diagnosis codes for the illnesses/injuries alleged, claimed or released in the Total Payment Obligation to Claimant (TPOC) settlement, judgment, award, or other payment. CMS encourages RREs to supply as many valid ICD-9/ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes as possible for the most accurate coordination of benefits. However, in CMS’s recent webinar on Section 111 reporting, it was cautioned against submitting diagnosis codes for pre-existing or unrelated conditions, even if included in the initial medical records. The TPOC report must also include the date and amount of the settlement.
If the RRE fails to comply with Section 111 reporting obligations, they may face a penalty of up to $1,000 per day per claim. As of January 2023, this penalty has yet to be enforced although the imminent arrival of final regulations on Civil Monetary Penalties for Section 111 violations will likely change this. A scenario where CMS may impose penalties is when the RRE submits information that conflicts with their later position when CMS attempts to recover conditional payments.
The Role of ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes in Conditional Payment Recovery
ICD codes are maintained by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) and are designed as an international health care classification system used to collect morbidity and mortality statistics, develop claim reimbursement systems, and conduct disease-related surveillance. To ensure greater accuracy, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adopted ICD-10 codes for Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting for all claim reports with an accident date on or after April 1, 2015. This switch offered five times more diagnosis codes than those found in the ICD-9 system.
The conditional payment recovery process may begin either with the Medicare beneficiary self-reporting the accident or the RRE fulfilling its Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting obligation. When reporting the accident to Medicare, the beneficiary or their representative must provide diagnosis codes for the injured body part. If the beneficiary or representative self-reports through the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery portal, they can select a specific code, a range of codes, a list of codes, or enter a text description of the diagnosis. The RRE’s Section 111 Mandatory Insurer report will also include ICD-10 diagnosis codes claimed or released in the Total Payment Obligation to Claimant (TPOC) settlement, judgment, award, or other payment. Medicare will use these codes to determine the amount of conditional payment recovery.
Medicare uses the ICD-10 code information to search their database and identify related payments. However, at times, their conditional payment letters will seek reimbursement for services unrelated to the injuries suffered by the beneficiary. This could be due to an algorithmic error or improper bundling of treatments for both unrelated and related conditions. Therefore, it is essential to review the payment summary form carefully to identify and dispute any erroneous payments. When enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C or Part D), the plan must be contacted directly to resolve any reimbursement claims, and the itemized Explanation of Benefits should be carefully examined to dispute any inappropriate recovery attempts.
The MSP Act provides a comprehensive framework for Medicare to protect itself from overpayments and ensure that applicable settlements are reported. With the help of Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting and ICD-10 codes, Medicare has the tools to identify and recover funds when a primary payer is available. Considering the significant role that ICD-10 codes play in the conditional recovery process, parties should be aligned in their selection of codes as well as the accident dates.
The Synergy Settlement Services team of MSP compliance attorneys and lien resolution specialists have the expertise to advise you on these matters, so that you are compliant with the intricacies of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. Contact us for more information.
July 21, 2022
Netflix’s new baking competition show “Is it Cake” challenges judges to identify which of two identical objects is edible and which is not. Attorneys settling cases involving work-related injuries may find themselves similarly perplexed when it comes to whether a work-related injury will be treated as a workers’ compensation or liability case for purposes of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”). Depending on who the employer is at the time of a work-related injury, some injured employees may be covered by programs that are required under federal law. Depending on the nature of the program, the MSP compliance obligations will either be handled as a workers’ compensation or liability settlement. For example, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) that provides benefits for work-related injuries sustained by certain maritime and dock workers is viewed as workers’ compensation insurance when it comes to MSP compliance issues. On the other hand, the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”) which provides benefits for railroad employees, who sustain injuries due to the negligence of a railroad carrier, is viewed as liability insurance when it comes to MSP compliance issues. (See MSP Manual, Chapter 1, Section 10.4)
Both liability and workers’ compensation settlements are impacted by the MSP Act. The MSP is comprised of a series of statutory provisions intended to reduce federal health care costs. The MSP provides that if a primary payer exists, Medicare only pays for medical treatment relating to an injury to the extent that the primary payer does not pay. The MSP Act and supporting regulations specifically state that Medicare is precluded from making payments for services “to the extent that payment has been made or can reasonably be expected to be made promptly under any of the following (i) workers’ compensation; (ii)liability insurance; (iii) no-fault insurance. (42 U.S.C.§1395y(b)(2)(A)(ii), 42 C.F.R.§411.20 (a)(2)). A primary payer’s responsibility for payment may be demonstrated by “a judgment, payment conditioned upon the beneficiary’s compromise, waiver, or release (whether or not there is a determination or admission of liability) of payment for items or services included in a claim against the primary payer or the primary payer’s insured or by other means…” (42 C.F. R§411.22(b)). The parties first and foremost should ensure that pre-settlement injury-related payments (conditional payments) made by Medicare are reimbursed to the appropriate Medicare Trust Fund. In addition, and in light of the MSP, settlements that close out future injury-related medical benefits should avoid cost shifting the post-settlement injury-related care onto Medicare.
The MSP compliance distinction between a liability settlement and a workers compensation settlement is an important one since it may impact the way parties address post settlement injury related care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has issued a great deal of guidance when it comes to workers’ compensation settlements that close out future injury related medical. The Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (“WCMSA”) Reference Guide (“Guide”), Version 3.7, 6/6/2022, explains that parties should take Medicare’s interest, with respect to future medicals, into account by including a WCMSA into the settlement terms. The WCMSA should contain sufficient funds from the settlement to cover the total cost that will be incurred for future injury related Medicare covered treatment. CMS encourages parties to seek CMS approval of the proposed WCMSA when the settlement meets CMS’ internal workload review thresholds. The benefit to CMS’ review and approval of the proposed amount is the certainty in knowing that Medicare will become the primary payer for any injury-related services that exceed the properly exhausted CMS determined WCMSA. Although the Guide also states that CMS approval of a proposed WCMSA amount is not required, Section 4.3 notes that CMS may treat 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.” Non-CMS approved products are MSA reports that are not submitted to CMS for review.
If CMS concludes that there was an improper cost shift, it may deny payment for injury-related services until it is provided with attestation of appropriate exhaustion equal to the total settlement, less procurement costs and paid conditional payments. The parties may overcome this denial by showing CMS, at the time of the WCMSA exhaustion, that both the initial funding of the MSA was appropriate and the funds were used properly.
To understand the importance of the differences between whether a work injury is treated as workers’ compensation versus liability case in the context of the MSP, consider a FELA settlement. FELA is treated as a liability settlement for purposes of the MSP due to its differences from the typical workers’ compensation case. Although a FELA settlement involves a work-related injury, the railroad employee must show that his/her injuries were, due in whole or in part, to the negligence of the railroad. This burden of proof is different than the burden of proof in a typical workers’ compensation case. In most jurisdictions, for a workers’ compensation case, a worker must only show that he suffered an accidental injury, which arose out of and in the course of his employment. There is no need to show negligence.
Once a settlement agreement is reached in a FELA case, the parties should consider the potential impact of the MSP Act on the settlement. If the railroad employee is a Medicare beneficiary at time of settlement, Medicare will be given notice of the settlement under Section 111’s Mandatory Insurer Reporting obligation. The notice of settlement may result in the potential risk of Medicare denying post-settlement injury-related care. If the railroad employee has completed his injury-related treatment and no further treatment is indicated, the beneficiary may wish to obtain a written certification from the treating physician to that effect. Pursuant to CMS’ 9/30/2011 Memo, there is no need for a liability MSA when the treating physician makes this certification.
If, however, the beneficiary continues to treat for his injuries, or will need future injury-related care, an MSA might be considered to avoid any potential issues with Medicare denying post-settlement injury-related care. While a workers’ compensation settlement will usually fully fund the WCMSA, the liability MSA may at times consider the relative value of each of the elements of damage being compensated in the settlement (pro-rata apportionment). This apportionment approach considers the ratio between the total potential case value and the net settlement. Parties may also choose to fully fund the liability MSA. The decision of how much, or how little, risk to assume when it comes to post-settlement injury-related care is one that should be made by the beneficiary and documented in the attorney’s file.
Conditional payments, payments made by Medicare for injury-related care provided prior to settlement, must also be addressed in connection with a settlement. In a workers’ compensation case, conditional payment recovery is handled by the Commercial Repayment Center (“CRC”). The CRC seeks to pursue recovery directly from the workers’ compensation insurer carrier while the case is open. Once the case settles, the conditional payment recovery will move from the CRC to the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (“BCRC”) since the beneficiary is now the identified debtor. Since a FELA settlement is viewed as a liability settlement, the BCRC will handle the conditional payment recovery and seek recovery from the beneficiary debtor. Payments made by a Medicare Advantage Plan (“MAP”) must also be addressed. Information regarding the MAP payments is provided by the relevant insurance carrier themselves and not the BCRC/CRC.
While one work injury case may look just like any other, your MSP compliance approach may depend on whether CMS views the case as liability or workers’ compensation. A thorough understanding of the differences and risks of various approaches is necessary in order to avoid any unexpected consequences of inaction.
Contact Synergy Settlement Services to discuss the way our MSP compliance team may assist you.
October 14, 2021
Settlement – What to Consider for a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA)
When settling a case involving a current Medicare beneficiary and before finalizing, it is important to understand what actions need to be taken to consider Medicare’s interest. What does this all mean and what are the three most important things to consider?
Medicare Set-Aside Decision
The threshold question is whether an MSA needs to be considered or not. That turns on Medicare eligibility. If they are eligible, then the next question is whether future medicals are funded. If the answer to both questions is yes, then a set-aside allocation should be considered. After determining that the injury victim is a current Medicare beneficiary (or even has a reasonable expectation of becoming Medicare eligible within 30 months) and that future medical treatment is needed for their injuries, the question is what is the cost of future injury-related Medicare-covered care. To determine the amount, either the defense or plaintiff need to request preparation of a Medicare Set-Aside allocation report identifying all future injury-related care and expected costs.
Once the decision is made on the amount necessary to cover future injury-related care, the final things to consider are what, if anything will be set aside in a formal MSA; how will the MSA account be funded and how will the MSA be managed?
How is the MSA Account Funded?
Once the MSA allocation is complete and a decision is made to set money aside for future Medicare-covered services, the injury victim has two options to fund the MSA account. The first is a lump sum. From the settlement proceeds, the full specified sum according to the allocation report or the CMS approval is placed into the Medicare Set-Aside account by the injury victim. The full amount of the allocation is placed into the account and available to pay for injury-related care. The benefit of this funding option is all the funds are placed into the MSA account at once. The downside is that the settlement proceeds directly to the injury victim are reduced by the full amount of the allocation, and the funds may sit in the MSA account untouched for years or until appropriate injury-related care is needed. If and when the account is fully exhausted (the balance is taken to zero), Medicare resumes paying for the injury-related care. The biggest downside is that there is fully exhaustion of the entire set-aside amount before Medicare will pay for any future injury-related care instead of annual temporary exhaustion using a structured settlement.
The second option is to fund the MSA with a structured settlement. The allocation report or the CMS approval generally will provide specific structured settlement annuity parameters. The parameters include an initial cash deposit made to establish the account (seed) followed by a series of annual payments over time. Periodic payments from a structured settlement annuity replenish the account annually. The duration of the periodic payments is specified in the allocation report or CMS approval and is based on the life expectancy of the injury victim. The benefit of using a structured settlement to fund a Medicare Set-Aside is the cost savings for the injury victim. The savings can result in additional cash from the settlement in the pocket of the injury victim that is available for other uses. There really is no downside to using a structured settlement annuity to fund an MSA. It is all upside since a structured settlement with a rated age means less has to go into the set aside for a shorter duration. Additionally, temporary exhaustion on an annual basis is possible which means Medicare will resume paying for the injury-related care each year after the annual amount is exhausted until the account is replenished with the next structured settlement payment.
How is the MSA Account Managed?
Once the decision is made about how the MSA will be funded, the last critical item to be decided during settlement is how the set-aside will be administered. There are very specific requirements for administration of a Medicare Set-Aside as outlined by the two options available are self-administration and professional administration. With self-administration, the injury victim maintains control of the MSA account but is also responsible for paying all bills, at the correct rate, from their providers for injury-related care, tracking all payments from the MSA account, annual attestations (as required), and reporting depletion or exhaustion of the account. While CMS provides a helpful resource in the form of a Self-Administration Toolkit, the administration of the MSA may be a daunting task for many injury victims. For injury victims who want to maintain control over their MSA account but are uncertain about meeting the requirements for self-administration, there are neutral, third-party companies who can offer some relief in the form of self-administration assistance.
For those injury victims concerned about the many requirements of administration and prefer help, there are numerous companies offering professional administration services. The professional administrator vendor employs a team of professionals to manage the custodial account created on behalf of the injury victim. The vendor has a clear understanding of the requirements for administration of the MSA account including the need to maintain records of every transaction, adequately reporting depletion or exhaustion, and other requirements. Additional benefits provided by the professional administration vendors may include helping injury victims find care, knowing the appropriate Medicare-approved rates for care, and receiving potential discounts on treatment and prescriptions. In certain cases, professional administration using a Medicare Set-Aside trust might be a preferred solution due to the longevity of a trust arrangement and additional legal protections of having a fiduciary. For those injury victims who may be dual-eligible (Medicare and Medicaid eligible), it is necessary to have professional administration through a Special Needs Trust since the MSA needs to be wrapped in an SNT in this situation. The benefit of a trust arrangement for someone on Medicaid and Medicare is keeping both benefits and having the fiduciary duty of the Trustee along with an MSA administrator.
Piecing it All Together
When settling cases involving someone who is a Medicare beneficiary or someone who might be in the near future, it is important to determine whether there is a need to consider Medicare’s interest. If you determine there is a need, then doing an analysis of the future Medicare-covered injury-related care (an allocation) is a recognized method of doing. Once you do an allocation, the next question is whether to fund a formal MSA. If you do, then consideration should be given as to whether it is done with a lump sum versus a structured settlement annuity. Most times, the benefit of funding via a structured settlement will make it the overwhelmingly logical choice. Once funding decisions have been made, then the last question is how the set-aside will be administered. Typically, these are really good reasons to professionally administer an MSA due to the complexities of doing self-administration.
That probably sounds complicated but having an expert on your side makes it a whole lot easier. Synergy’s team of experts can provide guidance on these difficult issues making it a simple decision for your client to make. Synergy can consult with the client about these issues, prepare a Medicare set-aside allocation report, provide funding options and assist with professional administration options. It is part of our MSP 360 suite of services and a way for law firms to have an end-to-end solution for MSP compliance.
 Helpful information regarding self-administration and a link to the Self-Administration Toolkit can be found here: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Workers-Compensation-Medicare-Set-Aside-Arrangements/WCMSA-Self-Administration
In Penelope Stillwell v State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., et al. case (2021 WL 4427081), a plaintiff attempts to impose primary payer status on a liability insurer post-settlement via a qui tam action in federal district court. The U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division addressed in this recent decision Stillwell’s complaint under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the MSP Act, the basis of the qui tam action. The essence of the claim against the insurer, State Farm, was that “by failing either to settle for an amount exceeding the expected medical expenses or to provide in the settlement some other mechanism to pay future medical expenses, the insurers failed to discharge their primary-payer responsibility and remain primary payers for post-settlement medical expenses.” US District Judge Steven D. Merryday dismissed the Stillwell’s complaint with prejudice for a failure to state a claim under the FCA and MSP.
The underlying case involved an Indiana state court negligence action for injuries sustained by William Stillwell, a Medicare beneficiary, during a fall. Although the homeowners’ association, property management and landscaping company insurers reached a settlement agreement with the Stillwells for the lump sum of $200,000, the Stillwells refused to execute the settlement documents since the settlement didn’t include a Medicare Set-Aside to cover William’s expected future medical expenses that were estimated to be $700,000. The Indiana trial court’s determination that the settlement was enforceable, was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The terms of the settlement agreement reflected the insurers agreement to pay Medicare’s conditional payments directly from the settlement agreement. After the settlement, CMS demanded reimbursement of $29,509.33 in conditional payments after procurement costs were deducted.
After the losses in the Indiana state courts, the Stillwells sued the insurers under the FCA arguing that the insurers failed to discharge their primary payer responsibility since the settlement was less than the estimated future medical expenses. They also argued that the insurers should remain primary payers for post-settlement medical expenses and that their failure to report this responsibility to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) caused William’s physicians to falsely bill Medicare. The defendants argued that the Stillwells became the primary payers for post-settlement care after enforcement of the settlement agreement. Challenges to the pleadings were also raised.
In considering these arguments, the District Court noted the lack of CMS rules for post-settlement futures in liability settlements when compared to the rules for workers’ compensation settlements. The District Court’s opinion went out of its way to explicitly point out that “CMS has decidedly avoided regulating private liability settlements that include a Medicare beneficiary.” It declined to impose any such obligations since establishment of such rules belongs to the legislature or executive branches.
Stillwell also argued that the insurers hid their status as primary payers from CMS since they failed to report the Total Payment Obligation to Claimant (TPOC) settlement under their Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting obligation. The Court found no support for this assertion since CMS had notice of the settlement based on the resolution of the conditional payments. Similarly, Stillwell’s claim that the insurers failed to complete Section 111 reporting of an Ongoing Responsibility for Medical (ORM) post-settlement was unfounded since there is no such reporting obligation for liability insurers for post-settlement medical expenses.
The Court also considered Stillwell’s claim that a settling party must consider Medicare’s interests by selecting one of the following mechanisms: the creation of a Medicare Set-Aside, an apportionment of part of the settlement for future medical expenses, a payment of a portion of the settlement into the Medicare Trust Fund or the proposal of an alternative plan to CMS. In examining these options, the District Court noted that there was no law that required the creation of a Medicare Set-Aside to cover future medical expenses in a liability case. Since a party may use the entire settlement to pay for post-settlement Medicare covered treatment, there was also no obligation to apportion funds from the settlement. Regarding Stillwell’s claim that the settlement should have included an amount that covers expected future medical expenses, the Court noted no substantive duty to include this in a personal injury claim settlement. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Stillwells became primarily liable for any future injury-related medical expenses. Since the Stillwells were responsible for post-settlement medical care, the insurers had no ORM to report.
The remaining arguments in the case focused on whether Stillwell’s FCA claims sufficiently alleged causation and a conspiracy between the insurers to violate the FCA and submit false claims or statements to Medicare. The Court found the claims were insufficient and warranted dismissal. Although Stillwell prevailed on her argument that her complaint was not a shotgun pleading, her action was dismissed with prejudice for failing to state a claim.
Since William Stillwell died before the second amended complaint under the False Claims Act (FCA) and MSP Act was submitted, his need for any ongoing post-settlement medical care was moot. Rather, it appears that Penelope Stillwell’s FCA may have been motivated by a financial incentive along with a desire to force the Court to provide guidance regarding the consideration of Medicare’s interest in post-settlement injury-related care in a liability settlement.
It is clear that the Stillwells didn’t understand that the settlement of the case would make William the primary payer for any post-settlement injury-related care. Although his estimated future medical treatment would be about $700,000, liability settlements are compromise settlements that involve many more elements of damages than those found in workers’ compensation settlement. In light of this, it would be extremely rare to have a liability settlement include the full value of the estimated future medical care or even include an apportionment in the first place.
A discussion of the MSP Act and its potential impact on a settlement is a proactive way to prevent MSP confusion. Discussing the ramifications of the MSP with injury victims prior to settlement is important to avoid issues such as this and prevent the need to be in a federal district court post-settlement.
Learn more about Synergy’s MSP Compliance Services here.
September 9, 2021
Structured settlements may be used to fund a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA). Samantha Webster, Synergy’s Director of Case Management, addresses two common questions that come up about funding of a WCMSA with a structured settlement annuity.
“Are there different structured settlement options to fund a Medicare Set-Aside and what is the difference?”
Yes, there are different types of structured settlement payment plans that can fund a Medicare Set-Aside. After an initial cash deposit is made to start the Medicare Set-Aside account (seed), a structured settlement will make annual payments to replenish/ add to the account. The most common structured settlement option offered by the carrier is a temporary life payment stream. With a temporary life payment stream, the annual payments to the MSA account are payable only as long as the injury victim is alive and for a maximum number of years (the life expectancy used for the MSA allocation). If the injury victim dies before reaching the maximum number of years, the payments stop. There are no structured settlement payments payable to their beneficiaries. A great alternative, but higher cost, is a period certain payment stream. With a period certain payment stream, the annual payments to the MSA account are paid for a certain number of years (generally the life expectancy used for the MSA allocation). Every payment is “guaranteed,” which means that in the event of the injury victim’s death before all payments are made, the remaining payments would go to designated death beneficiaries or the injury victim’s estate. While there are other options, these are the two most common.
“My client’s CMS-approved MSA is being funded with a structured settlement, but the payments do not add up to the total on the CMS approval, is that acceptable?”
CMS will provide parameters for the funding of an approved MSA using a structured settlement. In providing the initial seed amount and the annual payments, CMS rounds the numbers down. In doing so, the initial seed/deposit and the sum of all annual payments may be less than the total amount approved. If an MSA is funded with a structured settlement and the proposal follows the recommendation of CMS with regard to the initial seed/deposit and the annual payment amount, CMS will consider the MSA as being fully funded. If you or your client are concerned about the discrepancy, you can add the difference to the seed or ask your settlement planning professional to include the difference in the annual structured settlement payment stream. Both options will allow your client to match the total CMS-approved MSA amount.
CMS Approved MSA $345,687.00
Initial seed/deposit $48,549.00
Annual Payments $14,149.00
Duration per CMS 21 years
In this case, the seed/deposit plus the annual payments equals $345,679 which is $9 less than the CMS-approved MSA. To relieve any concerns, $9 can be added to the seed/deposit or the annual payments can be increased to $14,149.43.
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