By Shawn Johnson and Sid Wong
On September 24th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) held a webinar session to address “redetermination” requests as part of the administrative appeals process regarding conditional payment disputes of non-group health plans (NGHP). As part of this 75-minute session, CMS touched on several different topics, including the steps in the administrative appeals process, timelines and other requirements for redeterminations, and what arguments CRC will accept as part of a redetermination request.
The following provides a general overview of the main areas addressed by CMS and the CRC on this webinar:
Administrative appeals process – overview
The CRC began the webinar with a review of the formal administrative appeals process available to primary payers for disputing conditional payment demands. The CRC explained this process is open to appeal “initial determinations,” including CRC demand letters. Of note, the CRC noted primary payer disputes of pre-demand correspondences issued by CMS or its contractors, such as conditional payment letters (CPL) or conditional payment notices (CPN) are not part of the administrative appeals process.
The CRC noted the administrative appeals process consists of five levels as follows:
- Redetermination by the CRC;
- Reconsideration by a CMS Qualified Independent Contractor (QIC);
- Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ);
- Review by the Departmental Appeals Board’s Medical Appeals Council (MAC); and
- Judicial Review in federal court.
The focus of this webinar, as noted above, was on redeterminations (level one), and the panel did not address the appeals process beyond the redetermination level. While a review of each level of appeal is beyond the scope of this article, it is noted the administrative appeals process is outlined more fully at 42 C.F.R. § 405.900, et seq. (Subpart I – Determinations, Redeterminations, Reconsiderations, and Appeals Under Original Medicare Part A and B).
Adhering to appeal timelines and requirements is critical
Next, the CRC emphasized adherence to established appeal timelines and other related requirements is critical. On this point, the CRC advised redeterminations must be received within 120 days from the date a Medicare demand letter is received by the named debtor, which CRC noted is presumed to be five days after the date of demand.
Additionally, the redetermination request must include required information such as demographic information regarding the Medicare beneficiary, the dates of service under dispute, and an explanation as to why the applicable plan (or their recovery agent) disagrees with the CRC’s initial determination. Further, the CRC noted a Letter of Authority (LOA) from the primary payer must be on file if an appeal is being submitted by an authorized representative on behalf of the debtor. If an LOA is not on file when an appeal is submitted, then one must be submitted simultaneously with the appeal, or else the appeal will be dismissed. The CRC stressed failure to submit a timely appeal or provide the required information is likely to result in an unfavorable redetermination.
Debtors are limited to specific arguments on appeal
According to the CRC, it only accepts redetermination appeals disputing a conditional payment debt’s amount or existence. In practice, this stems from primary payer claim information reported though Section 111 reporting, which the CRC relies heavily on for its recovery practices.
The CRC outlined the specific arguments it will accept as part of a redetermination request as follows:
- Termination of Ongoing Responsibility for Medicals (ORM) due to benefits exhaustion;
- Termination of ORM due to settlement or other claim resolution;
- Benefits denied/revoked by applicable plan;
- Non-covered services;
- Unrelated services; and
- Duplicative primary payment.
In addition to understanding the types of appeals the CRC will accept, the CRC stressed debtors must provide the correct information and documentation required for each argument to maximize the chances of a favorable redetermination.
CMS indicated it plans to post the PowerPoint used as part of this webinar on its website in approximately two weeks. We will update this article to include a link to CMS’s PowerPoint once the agency posts this information to its website.
With the steady stream of Medicare conditional payment demands issued by the CRC, primary payers and their authorized representatives need to understand CMS’s administrative appeals process. Particularly the timelines and requirements related to redeterminations which is an important first step of this process, per this webinar. As discussed by the CRC in the webinar, there is a limited timeframe for primary payers to file a redetermination and the CRC is adhering strictly to this requirement. Thus, primary payers must have a process to identify Medicare conditional payment correspondence and ensure Medicare demands are reviewed and addressed to ensure redetermination requests are filed promptly.
Likewise, it is also important redeterminations contain the required information and supporting documentation to avoid the request being rejected. Given CMS’s strong reliance on data reported via Section 111, this includes reviewing Section 111 reporting to ensure the data is up to date and accurate.
Please do not hesitate to contact the authors if you have any questions regarding this webinar or conditional payment issues and disputes.
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