February 9, 2023
Rasa Fumagalli, JD, MSCC, CMSP-F
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.