Why You Need to Align Yourself with the Right Reporting Agent

Quite possibly the single largest incentive to comply with the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA) was the verbiage, “An entity… shall be subject to a civil money penalty of $1,000 for each day of noncompliance for each individual…”  The fear of an absolute penalty at the rate of $1,000 per claim per day is very persuasive.  The Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act, signed into law in early January 2013, softened the language in the statute such that an entity may be subject to a penalty of up to $1,000 per claim per day.  With the passing of the SMART Act, CMS was to provide further clarification as to what constitutes a lack of compliance with the MMSEA, including any safe harbors.  That verbiage has not yet been provided, so now is the critical time to ensure that you are properly aligned with a Reporting Agent that is fully committed to making you succeed in complying with the MMSEA.

Your claims should be properly vetted to determine which ones qualify for reporting and data deficiencies should be identified in advance of reporting to ensure acceptance by CMS.  While the Non-Group Health Plan (NGHP) User Guide (now in version 3.6) defines each field and the applicable error codes, there are many idiosyncrasies that go undocumented.  It is only when partnering with a Reporting Agent whom continuously reviews their own as well as CMS’ data validations that you can rest assured compliance with the MMSEA is fulfilled.  Your Reporting Agent must also provide you with a team of dedicated subject matter experts.  These SMEs are your lifeline with CMS EDI Representatives and management.  Without the proper people on your side, compliance with the MMSEA is extremely difficult.

If you are not fully comfortable with your current MMSEA Compliance Program, then I urge you to contact us today.

Humana Medical Plan and Humana Insurance Company v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLC

Russell S whittle, Esq VP MSP ComplianceFederal Circuit Court Finds Part C Medicare Advantage Plans Have Same Rights as CMS When Seeking Recovery from Primary Payer

On June 28, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit published its decision on Humana Medical Plan and Humana Insurance Company v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLC, concluding that any private party may bring an action under §1395y(b)(3)(A), as it establishes a private cause of action for damages. As a result, the court found that private parties like Humana can bring suit for double damages when a primary plan fails to appropriately reimburse any secondary payer. In addition, since 42 C.F.R. §422.108 stated that a Medicare Advantage organization can exercise the same rights to recover from a primary plan, entity, or individual that the Secretary of HHS exercises under the MSP regulations, the Medicare Act treats MAOs the same way it treats the Medicare Trust Fund for purposes of recovery from any primary payer.

Humana, an authorized Part C Medicare Advantage (MA) plan allows Medicare enrollees to obtain their Medicare benefits through private insurers (MAOs) instead of receiving direct benefits from the government under Parts A and B. § 1395w-21(a). CMS pays an MAO a fixed amount for each enrollee, per capita (a “capitation”). The MAO then administers Medicare benefits for those enrollees and assumes the risk associated with insuring them. MAOs like Humana are thus responsible for paying covered medical expenses for their enrollees.

Glaxo manufactured and distributed Avandia, a Type 2 diabetes drug that has been linked to substantially increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Thousands of Avandia patients alleged various injuries resulting from their use of the drug and Glaxo began entering into agreements to settle these claims. By August 2011, when Appellants filed their brief, Glaxo had paid more than $460 million to settle these claims. As part of the settlement process, where a claimant was insured by Medicare, Glaxo had set aside reserves to reimburse the Medicare Trust Fund for payments it made to cover the costs of treatment for the claimants’ Avandia-related injuries.

Glaxo had not, however, included reimbursement of MA plans in the settlement agreements that it had reached with Avandia claimants enrolled in MA plans, even though MAOs had paid the costs of treatment of Avandia-related injuries for these claimants. Humana filed suit seeking reimbursement from Glaxo for the cost of treating its enrollees’ Avandia-related injuries. Humana sought, on behalf of itself and a class of similarly-situated MAOs: (1) damages under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP Act”), which provides a private cause of action, 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A), allowing double damages for failure to reimburse a secondary payer; and (2) equitable relief in the form of an order compelling Glaxo to identify settling Avandia claimants to the MAOs that cover them.

Glaxo filed a motion to dismiss. The District Court heard oral argument on the motion and, granted it. In dismissing the action, the District Court found there was no clear legislative intent to create a remedy for Humana. The District Court therefore found that no implied private right of action existed. Accordingly, the Court did not defer to the CMS regulation that granted MAOs parity with Medicare recovery from primary payers.

On appeal, the court found that the text of the provision sweeps broadly enough to include MAOs and that, even if it determined the statute to be ambiguous on this point, deference to CMS regulations would require it find that MAOs have the same right to recover as the Medicare Trust Fund does.

The Medicare Statute creates two separate causes of action allowing for recovery of double damages where a primary payer fails to cover the costs of medical treatment. When the Medicare Trust Fund makes a conditional payment and the primary payer does not reimburse it, the United States may bring suit pursuant to §1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii). Additionally, a private cause of action with no particular plaintiff specified exists pursuant to §1395y(b)(3)(A) anytime a primary payer fails to make required payments.

The court found that the plain text of the MSP private cause of action lends itself to Humana’s position that any private party may bring an action under that provision. It establishes “a private cause of action for damages” and places no additional limitations on which private parties may bring suit. § 1395y(b)(3)(A). Accordingly, the court held that the provision is broad and unambiguous, placing no limitations upon which private (i.e., non-governmental) actors can bring suit for double damages when a primary plan fails to appropriately reimburse any secondary payer.

The court indicated that, although the MSP Act was enacted before Part C, which created MAOs, private Medicare risk plans were authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 1395mm in 1972, before the passage of the MSP Act. Act of Oct. 30, 1972, sec. 226(a), Pub. L. 92-603, 86 Stat. 1396. Thus, at the time it enacted the MSP Act, Congress was aware that private Medicare providers existed. Had it intended to prevent them from suing under the private cause of action provision, Congress could have done so explicitly. In short, the court found that there is nothing in the text or legislative history of the MA secondary payer provision that demonstrates a congressional intent to deny MAOs access to the MSP private cause of action.

The court also recognized that Congress’s goal in creating the Medicare Advantage program was to harness the power of private sector competition to stimulate experimentation and innovation that would ultimately create a more efficient and less expensive Medicare system. See, e.g., H.R. Rep. No. 105-217, at 585 (1997) (Conf. Rep.) (stating that MA program was intended to “enable the Medicare program to utilize innovations that have helped the private market contain costs and expand health care delivery options”). It was the belief of Congress that the MA program would “continue to grow and eventually eclipse original fee-for-service Medicare as the predominant form of enrollment under the Medicare program.” Id. at 638. The MA program was thus, like the MSP statute, “designed to curb skyrocketing health costs and preserve the fiscal integrity of the Medicare system.” Fanning v. United States, 346 F.3d 386, 388 (3d Cir. 2003).

The court reasoned that it would be impossible for MAOs to stimulate innovation through competition if they began at a competitive disadvantage, and, as CMS has noted, MAOs compete best when they recover consistently from primary payers. Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs, 75 Fed. Reg. 19678, 19797 (Apr. 15, 2010). When they “faithfully pursue and recover from liable third parties,” MAOs will have lower medical expenses and will therefore be at a disadvantage, unable to exert the same pressure and thus forced to expend more resources collecting from such payers. The court therefore concluded that it was not the intent of Congress to hamstring MAOs in this manner.

The court pointed out that although the legislative history is nowhere explicit that MAOs may bring suit for double damages under the MSP private cause of action or using any other provision, it does make clear that MAOs were intended to enjoy a status parallel to that of traditional Medicare. Under original fee-for-service, the Federal government alone set legislative requirements regarding reimbursement, covered providers, covered benefits and services, and mechanisms for resolving coverage disputes. Therefore, the Conferees intend that the legislation provide a clear statement extending the same treatment to private MA plans providing Medicare benefits to Medicare beneficiaries. H.R. Rep. No. 105-217, at 638. This court saw nothing in the text or legislative history of the statute to imply that Congress did not intend to facilitate recovery for MAOs in the same fashion.

The Supreme Court in Chevron established a two-part test for determining when a federal court ought to defer to the interpretation of a statute embodied in a regulation formally enacted by the federal agency charged with implementing that statute. 467 U.S. at 842-43. First, the court must determine whether Congress’s intent on the issue is clear — if so, it must abide by that intention, regardless of any regulations. If the statute is unclear, that is, “silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue, the question for the court is whether the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.” Id. at 843.

CMS “has the congressional authority to promulgate rules and regulations interpreting and implementing Medicare-related statutes.” Torretti v. Main Line Hosps., Inc., 580 F.3d 168, 174 (3d Cir. 2009); see also 42 U.S.C. §1395hh(a)(1) (“The Secretary shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the administration of the insurance programs under this subchapter.”); 42 U.S.C. § 1395w-26(b)(1) (“The Secretary shall establish by regulation standards for MA organizations and plans consistent with, and to carry out, this part.”). Thus, the court concluded that it must accord Chevron deference to regulations promulgated by CMS.

CMS regulations state that an “MA organization will exercise the same rights to recover from a primary plan, entity, or individual that the Secretary exercises under the MSP regulations in subparts B through D of part 411 of this chapter.” 42 C.F.R. § 422.108. The plain language of this regulation suggests that the Medicare Act treats MAOs the same way it treats the Medicare Trust Fund for purposes of recovery from any primary payer. In this circumstance, the court concludes it is bound to defer to the duly-promulgated regulation of CMS.

A recent memorandum from CMS specifically responded to decisions of the federal courts holding that MAOs were not “able to take private action to collection for MSP services under Federal law because they have been limited to seeking remedy in State court.” Ctrs. for Medicare & Medicaid Svcs., Dep’t of Health and Human Svcs. Memorandum: Medicare Secondary Payment Subrogation Rights (Dec. 5, 2011). This memorandum clarified that CMS itself understood § 422.108 to assign MAOs “the right (and responsibility) to collect” from primary payers using the same procedures available to traditional Medicare.

The court therefore reversed the District Court’s dismissal of the complaint, and remanded it for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

The decision is the latest in what seems to be an ongoing debate within the industry and amongst litigants regarding the rights of Part C plans when compared to those of traditional Medicare. The case distinguishes recent District Court decisions such as Parra v. PaciCare of Arizona, Inc., Civ. No. 10-008, 2011 WL 1119736 (D. Ariz. Mar. 28, 2011) which sought to define the priority rights of MAOs despite CMS regulation. In the Third Circuit there is now no question that MAOs enjoy the right of reimbursement and the ability to pursue that right through the private cause of action.

Some larger questions are presented by the ruling. With traditional Medicare, information regarding a potential recovery is reported through the Mandatory Insurer reporting mechanism. The Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 have mandated electronic reporting be completed by RREs or those responsible for payment. The acceptance of ongoing responsibility for medical benefits and the settlement itself are required to be provided. From that information, Medicare begins its recovery efforts against those who failed to protect its interests. However, without an mandate requiring reporting information to extend to Part C plans, it would appear that MAOs must rely on the beneficiary or their representative to advise that a settlement has occurred.  Will CMS now expand the recipients of Mandatory Insurer Reporting to include Part C plans?

Assuming that MAOs now have the same rights as traditional Medicare and that their recovery rights ripen on the fact of settlement, judgment or award, is it permissible to satisfy the lien before settlement? If so, can this be done by the primary payer or by the beneficiary pursuant to the policy of insurance? Clearly, logistical questions abound. For the time being, the law applies only in the Third Circuit. But, if adopted by the other Circuits it appears that CMS will have yet another technical challenge on its hands. Clearly, mindful MAO organizations will now step up their recovery efforts based upon the case.

Click Here to Download the MSP Compliance Protocols User Guide from Gould and Lamb

Download the MSP Compliance Protocols user guide today!

About the Author: Russell S. Whittle, Esq., is the Vice President of MSP Compliance for Gould & Lamb, LLC. In his twenty plus years of practice prior to joining Gould & Lamb, LLC, Mr. Whittle practiced primarily in the area of insurance defense, representing the interests of large insurers and employers in both workers’ compensation and general automobile liability matters.

Gould & Lamb is a global leader of MSA/MSP Compliance Services in the country, serving domestic and international insurance companies, third-party administrators and self-insured entities.

Oregon Court Finds Professional Liability Fund Not A Responsible Reporting Entity

Russell S whittle, Esq VP MSP ComplianceThe United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Portland Division recently published its opinion in the case of Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund v. United States Department of Health and Human Services and Kathleen Sebelius on March 29, 2012. At issue was whether the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund (PLF), the insurer covering legal malpractice actions against Oregon attorneys, was an “applicable plan” required to report under Section 111 on the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act as a Responsible Reporting Entity (RRE).

In July of 2010, the PLF wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting a formal opinion that the Reporting Act did not apply to the it. Secretary Sebelius responded by advising PLF that it was a “liability insurer” within the meaning of the Extension Act. The PLF then filed suit requesting a declaratory judgment that PLF was not an applicable plan, that the Secretary acted outside her authority in determining that PLF was an RRE, that the Secretary violated the Administrative Procedure Act in that determination, and that the District Court could review the Secretary’s decision concerning the PLF.

The Secretary moved for summary judgment arguing that the Medicare statutory scheme left no issue of material fact for the trial court. In short, the United States took the position that the Medicare Secondary Payer Act and the federal regulations empowering it were clear that the PLF, as a liability insurer, was subject to Mandatory Insurer Reporting.

In denying the government’s motion, Judge Marco A. Hernandez analyzed the role of professional liability insurance and made what appear to be several leaps of logic regarding its applicability to Medicare Secondary Payer issues and the reporting obligation. The court determined that PLF was, in fact, a liability insurer within the meaning of 42 USC 1395y(b)(2). However, the judge reasoned that because the insurance plan covers claims against attorneys who cause economic damage relating to the provision of legal services and does not cover claims of tortious conduct that result in bodily or emotional injuries the PLF does not become an RRE. Because PLF would “never have primary responsibility” for medical items claimed by a beneficiary, they are excused from the reporting obligation.

Interestingly, the judge acknowledged that a malpractice case “could” involve medical expenses paid conditionally by Medicare. However, he assumed that those injuries occurred as the result of the underlying accident or case being handled by the alleged negligent attorney. The judge failed to recognize that the nature of the malpractice alone could give rise to emotional or personal injuries. He further stated that the PLF does not cover bodily or emotional injuries. A close review of Medicare statutes and policy guidance indicates that insurance coverage is not what Medicare requires to be reported in a settlement involving a Medicare beneficiary but, rather, what is claimed and released in the process. Thus, if bodily or emotional injuries are claimed and released, the reporting obligation is triggered. Based upon a somewhat limited analysis of an automobile accident case, Judge Hernandez determined that the PLF was not the type of plan that Congress intended to saddle with the reporting obligation.

Based on the foregoing, the court determined that the alleged violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and whether the Secretary acted outside her authority were moot.

As of this writing, an appeal has not been filed by the United States. However, I fully expect that the decision will be appealed as the ruling seems to both misconstrue the arguments put forth by the United States and the legislative intent of the MMSEA. Judge Hernandez seems to assume that because he cannot envision a scenario in which Medicare’s interests would be raised by inadequate legal representation that they do not exist. A closer look at the intent underlying the MMSEA and the Medicare statutory scheme suggests differently.

Click Here to Download the MSP Compliance Protocols User Guide from Gould and Lamb

Download the MSP Compliance Protocols user guide today!

About the Author: Russell S. Whittle, Esq., is the Vice President of MSP Compliance for Gould & Lamb, LLC. In his twenty plus years of practice prior to joining Gould & Lamb, LLC, Mr. Whittle practiced primarily in the area of insurance defense, representing the interests of large insurers and employers in both workers’ compensation and general automobile liability matters.

Gould & Lamb is a global leader of MSA/MSP Compliance Services in the country, serving domestic and international insurance companies, third-party administrators and self-insured entities.

Appeal of Denied Medicare Benefits

Christie Luke Vice President OperationsDenial of Medicare benefits (even non-accident related Medicare benefits) are increasing. A beneficiary may face denial of benefits for medical treatment related or unrelated to a workers’ compensation, liability, or no-fault claim.

Denial of medical benefits that are unrelated to the claimed injury or illness can occur for many reasons. On many occasions bills are improperly submitted by medical providers.  If a bill erroneously documents that the treatment is related to a workers’ compensation/other insurance claim or is not supplied at all, Medicare may deny coverage until the bill is properly resubmitted.  In other instances, incorrect or vague diagnoses codes are provided via reporting pursuant to Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007, causing CMS to deny future benefits.

Beneficiaries may also be denied benefits related to a workers’ compensation, liability or no-fault claim.  As required by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, a beneficiary is responsible for exhausting Medicare Set-Aside funds to cover their future medical expenses which would otherwise be paid by Medicare.  At the time of settlement, it is important to advise the claimant of their obligation to protect Medicare’s interests regarding past and future medical expenses.

The right to appeal decisions denying care or benefits is a five-step process that starts with standard or expedited review by the entity making the original determination, with progression through administrative channels and to federal court, if necessary.  Beneficiaries and Medicare-participating health-care providers can file Medicare appeals when a claim is denied or even partially denied.

So, the question is, what remedy should be offered to the injured party whose benefits have been denied?  In addition to diligence on the part of Responsible Reporting Entities (RREs) including prompt and accurate reporting, confirming CMS records acceptance, and ensuring that misreported information is corrected and resubmitted, injured parties should be advised to utilize the normal appellate process within Medicare regarding denied treatment or benefits.

Although very similar to the Medicare Managed Care Appeals and Grievances as well as the Medicare Prescription Drug Appeals and Grievances process, the original Medicare Part A and B, Fee for Service, process has its own appeals process and procedures.

Appealing Medicare Decisions

Once an initial claim determination is made, beneficiaries (as well as participating providers, physicians and other suppliers) have the right to appeal.  However:

  • Physicians and other suppliers who do not take assignments on claims have limited appeal rights.
  • Beneficiaries may transfer their appeal rights to non-participating physicians, or other suppliers who provide the items or services and do not otherwise have appeal rights.
  • Form CMS-20031 must be completed and signed by the beneficiary and the non-participating physician or supplier to transfer the beneficiary’s appeal rights.
  • All appeal requests must be in writing.

Five Levels in the Appeals Process

Medicare offers five levels in the Part A and Part B appeals process:

1. Redetermination by Fiscal Intermediaries, Carriers or Medicare Administrative Contractors

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contracts with private insurance companies (called “carriers” for Part B, “fiscal intermediaries” for Part A, or “Medicare administrative contractors”) to perform many processing functions on behalf of Medicare, including local claims processing and first level appeal adjudication functions.  A redetermination is an examination of a claim by the fiscal intermediary, carrier or Medicare administrative contractor personnel that are from the individual(s) who made the initial determination. The appellant (the individual filing the appeal) has 120 days from the date of receipt of the initial claim determination to respond to the contractor.

The appellant should attach any supporting documentation to their redetermination request. Contractors will generally issue a decision (either a letter or a revised remittance advice) within 60 days of receipt of the redetermination request. The redetermination request should be sent to the contractor that issued the initial determination to file an appeal. A minimum monetary threshold is not required to request a redetermination.

2. Reconsideration by a Qualified Independent Contractor

A party to the redetermination may request a reconsideration if dissatisfied with the redetermination. Section 521 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000 (BIPA) included provisions aimed at improving the Medicare fee-for-service appeals process. Part of these provisions mandate that all second-level appeals (for both Part A and Part B) be conducted by qualified independent contractors.  The qualified independent contract reconsideration process allows for an independent review of medical necessity issues by a panel of physicians or other health care professionals. A minimum monetary threshold is not required to request a reconsideration.  However, a written reconsideration request must be filed within 180 days of receipt of the redetermination (a request for a reconsideration may be made on Form CMS-20033).

The request should clearly explain why the appellant disagrees with the redetermination. A copy of the MRN, and any other useful documentation should be sent with the reconsideration request to the qualified independent contract identified in the MRN. Evidence not submitted at the reconsideration level may be excluded from consideration at subsequent levels of appeal unless “good cause” is shown for submitting the evidence untimely.  Reconsiderations are conducted on-the-record and, in most cases, the qualified independent contract will send its decision to all parties within 60 days of receipt of the request for reconsideration.

3. Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

If at least $130 remains in controversy following the qualified independent contract’s decision, a party to the reconsideration may request that a hearing be conducted by Administrative Law Judge within 60 days of receipt of the reconsideration.

Appellants must also send notice of the ALJ hearing request to all parties to the qualified independent contract reconsideration and verify this on the hearing request form or in the written request. ALJ hearings are generally held by video-teleconference (VTC) or by telephone.  Appellants may also ask the Administrative Law Judge to make a decision without a hearing (on-the-record). Hearing preparation procedures are set by the Administrative Law Judge. CMS or its contractors may become a party to, or participate in, an ALJ hearing after providing notice to all parties to the hearing. The Administrative Law Judge will generally issue a decision within 90 days of receipt of the hearing request.

4. Review by the Medicare Appeals Council within the Departmental Appeals Board, (hereinafter “the Appeals Council”)

If a party to the ALJ hearing is dissatisfied with the Judge’s decision, the party may request a review by the Appeals Council. There are no requirements regarding the amount of money in controversy. The request for Appeals Council review must be submitted in writing within 60 days of receipt of the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, and must specify the issues and findings that are being contested.   In general, the Appeals Council will issue a decision within 90 days of receipt of a request for review (though that timeframe may be extended for various reasons).

5. Judicial Review in U.S. District Court

If at least $1,300 or more is still in controversy following the Appeals Council’s decision, a party to the decision may request judicial review before U.S. District Court Judge.  The appellant must file the request for review within 60 days of receipt of the Appeals Council’s decision.

While there may not be a remedy to stop denials of Medicare and/or medical benefits or treatment, there are certainly steps to mitigate the occurrence. Ensuring prompt and accurate reporting of data, and confirming CMS records acceptance, is a key first step.  In addition, if a beneficiary’s benefits are denied, it is imperative they are advised of the normal appellate process they can use within Medicare.  This combination of initial data being provided along with clear and accurate rules being provided to beneficiaries is critical to protecting future benefits.

About the Author: Christie Britt is the Vice President of Operations overseeing the extensive operations of Gould & Lamb.   She has vast knowledge of Medicare Set Asides and Post-Settlement Administration from an insurance claims perspective. Christie is MSCC certified and has her Green Belt Certification in Six Sigma.  She is also a member of the National Association of Medicare Set Aside Professionals (NAMSAP) and the Workers’ Compensation Claims Professionals (WCCP).

Gould & Lamb is a global leader of MSA/MSP Compliance Services, serving domestic and international insurance companies, third-party administrators and self-insured entities.

NAMSAP Conference Informative

Russell's photoI was pleased to attend the Seventh Annual Meeting and Educational Conference of the National Alliance of Medicare Set Aside Professionals (NAMSAP) in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 28 and 29, 2011. Despite a number of excellent presentations, the highlight of the conference was the participation of William Decker and Frank Johnson, of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Mr. Decker is currently a Senior Health Insurance Analyst and Business Function Lead for CMS while Mr. Johnson is a Health Care Specialist who is responsible for developing policy and operational procedures for Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangements.

Commentary from CMS Representatives

Unfortunately, neither Decker nor Johnson could attend the conference in person; however, both joined by speaker phone. Prior to the call, NAMSAP had provided them with a detailed list of questions on topics including the new Workers’ Compensation Review Contractor’s (WCRC’s) status, Medicare Part D review criteria, Mandatory Insurer Reporting (MIR) and liability MSAs. They entertained questions from the attendees as well.

Johnson and Decker advised that, because of the nature of the relationship between CMS and its contractors, they were not able to address many of the questions posed. They could not comment on the status of the WCRC contract, the conditional payment process or any pending CMS policy changes. However, they were quite forthcoming with their thoughts on a number of issues which provided insight into the CMS mind set and gave clues about potential changes to come.

Regarding Mandatory Insurer Reporting, Mr. Decker reported that there were approximately 20,800 Responsible Reporting Entities (RREs) that were actively reporting Non Group Health Plan claims to CMS. That number was expected to grow sharply in the coming months. He reported that the biggest challenge to CMS in the MIR arena was liability settlements or Total Payment Obligation to the Claimant (TPOC). It would appear that a large hurdle to the process is encountered in properly identifying what constitutes TPOC and by whom it should be reported. Thus, as has been widely speculated, CMS has been struggling with the realities of liability insurance, how it operates, how it is paid, and how to try to fit those facts into the no-fault and workers’ compensation models. Significantly, the pair reported that they were unaware of any delay in Mandatory Insurer Reporting and expected to proceed with the planned receipt of data on all claims, including liability claims without the acceptance of Ongoing Responsibility for Medical (ORM) as of January 1, 2012. On the whole, Mr. Decker found the insurance industry to have been “very cooperative” in Section 111 Reporting.

When asked about the current WCRC backlog and turnaround times, the men dispelled the rumor that the WCRC is simply overwhelmed, overworked, and under staffed. Rather, the current backlog is a function of technical difficulties and, what sounded like bad luck. According to Mr. Johnson, CMS decided to install an Enhanced WCRC Control System which, after implementation, encountered problems and had to be removed. Difficulties with T1 lines were encountered (one T1 line for all data received) and most importantly, CMS changed telephone providers from AT&T to Verizon. Additionally, continued technical enhancements to the Electronic Workers’ Compensation Portal caused workflow problems. Currently, CMS has authorized staff overtime to resolve the backlog problem and hope to have the electronic portal completed by the end of October, 2011. He indicated that the WCRC received an increase in reviews from 700 to 2400 cases per month since the previous WCRC contract was implemented. The new contract statement of work requires that the new vendor review 2000-2500 MSAs per month with capacity for 8% re-review of allocations. No time frame was identified regarding the resolution of the backlog.

Perhaps the most interesting portion of the discussion for the allocator attendees centered around Mr. Johnson’s statements regarding CMS’ policies when reviewing medical records and documentation in the MSA process. Mr. Johnson identified the CMS “hierarchy” with regard to physicians. The treating physician’s findings were entitled to the most deference followed by those of a State Court ordered or compulsory Examiner and then, an Agreed Medical Examiner. A Qualified Medical Examiner and the findings of an Independent Medical Examiner were identified as less persuasive but were considered within the hierarchy.

There was no resolution to the Mass tort Mandatory Insurer Reporting problem, although the men advised that the issue is being reviewed and a solution is expected by year’s end. Mr. Johnson also denied that CMS and the WCRC are inconsistent in their review practices. Further, he could give no guidance on whether a policy memo or other position statement was forthcoming regarding the use of MSAs in liability cases. The pair agreed to answer any written questions submitted by the NAMSAP membership as well.

Steps in the Right Direction

The participation of Mr. Decker and Mr. Johnson was a small first step in creating a meaningful discourse with CMS regarding the frustrations and difficulties encountered by the MSA industry and tort litigants. While the answers to most questions were met with “We’ll get back to you on that,” the discussion did provide hopeful signs that the CMS technological house may be getting cleaned up and the interminable delays in the review process may be reduced. Thanks must be offered to Gary Patureau of the Louisiana Association of Self Insured Employers (LASIE) for orchestrating CMS’ participation and for chairing an excellent conference as well as to the NAMSAP Board of Directors. As usual, we will await the CMS response to industry concerns as we move forward to what promises to be a very eventful 2012.

About the Author: Russell S. Whittle, Esq., is the Vice President of MSP Compliance for Gould & Lamb, LLC. In his twenty plus years of practice prior to joining Gould & Lamb, LLC, Mr. Whittle practiced primarily in the area of insurance defense, representing the interests of large insurers and employers in both workers’ compensation and general automobile liability matters.