As a result of Gould & Lamb’s continued advocacy with CMS Central Office, WCRC, and Regional Offices, Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set Aside submitters will see a light at the end of the tunnel. Based on direct conversations, we anticipate a turn-around in what has been an arduous approval process with repeated development requests that were neither germane nor reasonable. The WCRC is starting to address the back log that has accumulated since November 2013, has restated their commitment to abide by state specific statutes, and to refrain from seeking unnecessary, and unrelated medical records as part of its review process. The WCRC has expressed its commitment to expedite review of the backlog for all affected submitters.
Since the publication of CMS’ WCMSA Reference Guide in November 2013, there has been a marked increase in the number of development requests from the WCRC for medical records purportedly to enable the reviewers to accurately price future Medicare costs over a claimant’s life expectancy. To submitters and other stakeholders, the WCMSA Reference Guide, originally intended to herald a new era of transparency and accountability, , resulted in the WCRC increasing the issuance of development letters seeking medical records dated within six months of the submission or the reopen date — whichever is was later.
No Federal Preemption
The WCRC justification for its expanded request for medical records and the authority on which it relied is the November 2013 WCMSA Reference Guide and its subsequent update. The assumptions made by the WCRC were:
- The MSP preempts the state WC law.
- Even if the claimant treats outside the WC system and the carrier has no obligation to pay for the treatment Medicare is not primary.
- Even if the claimant is no longer entitled to medical benefits by operation of law, Medicare is still not the primary payer and the employer/carrier should bear the associated costs.
Moreover, the WCRC has asserted that it is doing “an investigation” and is not limited only to the records for treatment of the WC injury but to the claimant’s family doctor medical records, if there are no current records from the WC provider. This was a firm position until recently and accounted for countless delays in the determination process. Through Gould & Lamb’s advocacy, we successfully established that CMS and the WCRC must give deference to state specific statutes because there is no federal preemption. The MSP is a secondary payer law and where there is not otherwise a primary payer, Medicare is absolutely the primary payer. We continue to advocate with CMS to adopt clear and unambiguous polices so that there is no confusion on the part of the WCRC –the Agency charged with following CMS policies and reviewing submitters Life Care/Future Treatment Plans. We urge CMS and the WCRC to adopt policies that comport with the public policy of the MSP and the opinions of various U.S. Federal Courts that Medicare stands in the same shoes of the beneficiary and where the state does not require the carrier to pay, then Medicare has no right of recovery or subrogation under any theory of law.
We are pleased to see that the pace of approvals has picked up dramatically and the number of development requests has abated. We are committed to continuing to work with the CMS, the WCRC, and the Regional Offices to ensure a fair and transparent review/approval process.
For more information or if you have questions, please contact your Gould & Lamb Regional Claims Consultant at 1.866.MSA.FILE (672.3453).