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.
So, what do lawyers assisting Medicare beneficiaries do given all of the issues surrounding representing Medicare beneficiaries?
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July 8, 2021
Most attorneys are well aware of the need to resolve Medicare’s conditional payments in connection with a client’s settlement. This obligation stems from the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(A)(ii), which prohibits Medicare from making payment for medical services when “payment has been made or can reasonably be expected to be made under a workers’ compensation law or plan of the United States or a State or under an automobile or liability insurance policy or plan (including a self-insured plan) or under no fault insurance.” 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(ii). When a primary plan has not made or cannot reasonably be expected to make prompt payment for the service, Medicare may make a payment conditioned upon reimbursement of the payment to the appropriate Medicare Trust Fund. A failure to reimburse the Medicare Trust Fund may result in Medicare filing suit directly for double damages against any or all entities that were responsible for reimbursement of the conditional payments. 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii); 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3). Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA) Mandatory Insurer Reporting obligations require the primary plan’s Responsible Reporting Entity to report any liability physical trauma settlement involving a Medicare beneficiary that exceeds $750.00. This reporting requirement puts Medicare on notice of the settlement.
Once Medicare is notified of the settlement, a final conditional payment sweep will be completed, and a conditional payment demand will be issued. This demand will only address payments that were made under traditional Medicare Parts A and B. If the Plaintiff was enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, conditional payment information must be requested directly from the plan. This step should not be overlooked since Medicare Advantage Plans have the same recovery rights under the MSP Act as traditional Medicare.
The MSP Act and supporting regulations set out limits on the conditional payment amounts that must be reimbursed to Medicare. If Medicare does not have to take legal action to recover, Medicare is only able to recover the lesser of either “the amount of the Medicare primary payment” or “the full primary payment amount that the primary payer is obligated to pay without regard to any payment, other than a full primary payment that the primary payer has paid or will make, or in the case of a primary payment beneficiary, the amount of the primary payment.” 42 C.F.R. 411.24(c)(1). Section 411.37(d) of the regulations provides: “If Medicare payments equal or exceed the judgment or settlement amount, the recovery amount is the total judgment or settlement payment minus the total procurement costs.” If no procurement costs or attorney’s fees are reflected on the final settlement detail documentation provided to Medicare at the time of settlement, Medicare will not reduce the amount of their conditional payment demand. Attorneys should be aware of this should they seek to reduce or waive their fees.
Addressing Conditional Payments in Liability Cases
As a starting point, it is very important to understand that if the Final Demand is not paid timely, interest begins to accrue regardless of appeals or requests to reduce the amount owed to Medicare. There is no tolling of the interest meter while you dispute the amount due. Therefore, it is prudent to make sure that the conditional payment Final Demand is paid timely regardless of how you attempt to reduce the amount owed to Medicare.
The most common method of disputing conditional payments involves a request to remove unrelated charges from the conditional payment demand. The unrelated charges may appear on Medicare’s Payment Summary Form due to a “grouper” error within Medicare’s data collection system. They may also come from comingled billing from the service providers. In cases where the conditional payments are related to the injuries that are being settled, the Plaintiff may end up with very little of a net recovery.
There are two additional conditional payment calculation methods that may be available in certain liability cases. Both the “Self-Calculated Conditional Payment Amount” process and the “Fixed Percentage Option” have specific conditions that must be met before they may be used. The “Self-Calculated Conditional Payment Amount” process is available under the following circumstances: the claim involves an injury caused by physical trauma; the medical treatment was completed at least 90 days before and no further treatment is expected; the total settlement/judgment/award or other payment must be less than $25,000; and the date of the incident must have occurred more than six months prior to the submission of the self-calculated final conditional payment amount. Although the use of this process requires the plaintiff to give up the right to appeal the debt, the plaintiff retains the right to request a waiver of recovery.
The “Fixed Percentage Option” is available for smaller liability settlements. In order to be eligible for this, the following conditions must be met: the liability settlement/judgment/award or other payment must be related to a physical trauma; the total settlement must equal or be less than $5,000; the election of the option must be made within Medicare’s timeframe and prior to the issuance of any conditional payment reimbursement request from Medicare; and there are no other pending settlements, judgments, awards or other payments related to the incident. Additional details regarding the exact processes for both the “Self-Calculated Conditional Payment Amount” and “Fixed Percentage Option” methodologies may be found at the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center website.
Other options to consider involve payment of the final demand in order to stop the interest on the demand from running (as noted at the start of this section). Once this occurs, the plaintiff may seek a compromise or waiver of the conditional payment debt in order to get Medicare to reduce their conditional payment claim and issue a full or partial refund of the payment. The three statutory provisions that may be used for this are: §1870(c) of the Social Security Act (financial hardship waiver); §1862(b) of the Social Security Act (best interest of the program waiver); and the Federal Claims Collection Act (FCCA) (compromise). The authority to consider beneficiary requests for waivers under §1870(c) of the Act sits with the Benefits Coordination & Recovery Contractor (BCRC), while the authority to waive Medicare claims under §1862(b) and to compromise claims under FCCA, is reserved exclusively to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The basis for any waiver request comes from the regulations that provide:
“There shall be no recovery if such recovery would defeat the purposes of this chapter or would be against equity and good conscience.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1395gg(c); 42 C.F.R. 405.355-356; 42 C.F.R. 405.358; 20 C.F.R. 404.506-512; Medicare Secondary Payer Manual, Chapter 7 § 50.
To apply for the “Financial Hardship” waiver, the Medicare beneficiary must file form SSA-632-BK with the BCRC which documents their financial situation. Arguments that may be made in support of this position include showing that the repayment of the conditional payments would deprive the beneficiary of income required for ordinary and necessary living expenses. If someone is dual eligible, meaning they get both Medicaid and Medicare, it is great evidence of financial hardship since people who qualify for Medicaid have very little in the way of assets. That being said, even a 7-figure settlement could still be approved for a financial hardship waiver of the amount owed to Medicare.
The “Best Interest of the Program” waiver request under § 1870(b) of the Social Security Act is made to CMS. This rather vague criteria is nowhere further defined and lies completely at the discretion of CMS. Although this request is separate and distinct from a request for a Compromise under the Federal Claims Collection Act (FCCA), it is beneficial to seek both a request for this waiver and a request for a compromise when seeking a refund from CMS of the amounts the beneficiary has already paid to satisfy the “Final Demand.”
The third and final method for obtaining a refund from Medicare is a Compromise request made to CMS. Authority to grant a Compromise is granted to CMS under the Federal Claims Collection Act (FCCA). 31 U.S.C. § 3711. This section allows Federal agencies the authority to compromise where: the cost of collection does not justify the enforced collection of the full amount of the claim; there is an inability to pay within a reasonable time on the part of the individual against whom the claim is made; or the chances of successful litigation are questionable, making it advisable to seek a compromise settlement.” Medicare Secondary Payer Manual, Chapter 7 § 50.
The resolution of conditional payment reimbursement claims is a time-consuming process. To maximize the plaintiff’s net recovery, it is important to be familiar with the various options for calculating, disputing, and seeking a refund of conditional payments. When addressing conditional payment issues, consider the following best practice tips:
- Confirm the type of Medicare coverage your client was enrolled in from the date of the accident to the date of settlement.
- Make sure the Final Demand is paid within the time period specified in the recovery demand letter.
- Determine if the Self-Calculated Conditional Payment Amount is available in the case.
- Determine if the Fixed Percent Option process is available in the case.
- Determine if the final conditional payment demand should be disputed.
- Provide Medicare with the Final Settlement Details to secure a procurement cost reduction.
- Consider whether a full or partial conditional payment refund may be secured in the case.
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