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Physician Billing & Management Service

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Noridian Jurisdiction JE: California’s New Medicare Administrative Contractor

Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Hopefully you’ve already heard that CMS selected a new Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for California, and now that the lawsuits are settled (Palmetto did not go down without a fight) the switch is hot on our heels. Are you ready for implementation? If not, perhaps we can help by providing a quick update of what you can expect.
The jurisdiction we’ve known as Palmetto J1B will be known as Noridian’s Jurisdiction JE. The cut-over is set to take place as follows:
  • Part A Implementation/Cutover: August 26, 2013
  • Part B Implementation/Cutover: September 16, 2013

You do not need to register with Noridian. All data is set to change hands from Palmetto to Noridian without any new applications if you are currently enrolled in Medicare. I know of at least one clearinghouse that was sending messages stating that you had to register with Noridian’s EDI department and Noridian has confirmed that this is incorrect.

All currently processing enrollment applications, revalidations, claim appeals, etc are supposed to change hands from Palmetto to Noridian the weekend before implementation. Noridian will honor any deadlines issued by Palmetto, so do not expect the transition tol buy you extra time with appeals, data requests or timely filing issues. The Noridian transition team is urging the provider community not to resubmit data that you’ve already sent to Palmetto because they expect to see it turned over to them. Could they guarantee Palmetto would not accidentally forget anything? Of course not. My advice: Keep close tabs on anything currently processing and call Noridian after the cross-over to confirm that they have it. Due dilligence is required.

To minimize both provider headaches and nagative impact on cash flow, Noridian is keeping many things consistent with status quo.

Things that will remain the same with Noridian:

  • Electronic Funds Transfers  If you are set up with Palmetto, you will not need to reapply or make any changes.
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Functionality
  • Listserv  If you are on a Palmetto listserv, your email information has been transferred to Noridian and added to their listserv. You already should have received emails from Noridian. This will keep you in the loop on educational events, deadlines, and any other informational releases as the cutover date approaches.
  • Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs)  Noridian will adopt the same LCD policies currently active under Palmetto. However, they will change the policy numbers. Keep an eye out for a policy number cross-walk if you are tracking this data.
  • Your EDI submitter number will not change.
Things that will change with Noridian:
  • Single Toll Free Customer Service Number  Noridian will consolidate all customer service numbers down to a single telephone number. After dialing in, you will be triaged to one of the appropriate departments:
    • General inquiries
    • EDI Support Services
    • Provider Enrollment
    • Phone Reopenings
    • User Security
  • No more invoices You will not have to submit invoice data with claims as sometimes required with Palmetto. Necessary information can be entered in Box 19 on the traditional CMS 1500 form.
  • New Provider Portal  The provider portal will change from the OPS system you use now to a portal called Endeavor. Like OPS, you will be able to check claim status, verify eligibility, and review single claim remits. You will also be able to view, track and reopen redetermination requests. You will need to register for Endeavor. Updates on how to register will be available closer to the implementation date.
  • You will receive new logins to the EDI system.
  • The contractor ID/code will change. This information will be available on the EDISS (Electronic Data Interchange Support Services) support page located at: EDISS Information. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT change the contractor ID on any of your claims until the cut-over date.

For detailed information on the implementation, FAQs, EDISS and “early boarding”, workshops, etc, visit the Noridian Home Page.


Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

The Healthcare Billing & Management Association (HBMA.org) is urging Congress to avert the pending 26.5% reduction in the Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) Conversion Factor on January 1, 2013, and impose the longest possible Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) fix immediately this year, in 2012.

HBMA members believe that should this cut occur as scheduled, thousands of physicians will either dramatically curtail the number of Medicare patients they will see in their practice, or in the most extreme cases, no longer accept Medicare patients.

HBMA is the premiere, non-profit educational resource and advocacy group representing third-party medical billing companies and billing professionals. HBMA President, Don Rodden said, “Either way, millions of Medicare beneficiaries will surely see a precipitous drop in the availability of medical care they have come to expect and deserve.”

Medical billing companies, such as those which are members of HBMA, are retained by physicians to handle the business aspects of a busy medical practice. These medical business experts, or member companies, are intimately familiar with what it costs a physician to submit a medical claim and get paid for the services they render. If Congress decided to retroactively “fix” the SGR problem , as they have done in the past, the costs of the retroactive adjudication would add to the already high cost of doing business.

Whether Congress decides on a long-term or short-term fix, HBMA urges Congress to act now, prior to January 1, 2013, and not to postpone action.

HBMA recognizes that new payment methodologies may be necessary to maintain the long-term viability of the Medicare Trust Fund. However, the more steps a claim must go through, the higher the cost of getting a medical claim processed. In many cases the cost of processing the claim could become higher than the value of the claim.

Rodden added, “Medicare beneficiaries deserve to know that the quality healthcare they have come to rely upon will be there when they need it.”

To learn more about the critical nature of this issue, go to www.hbma.org or call 1-800.640.4262.

Mission Critical: Developing a Claims Denial Management Strategy

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

As any seasoned practice manager knows, medical claim denials are more than an annoyance; they can break the back a practice’s financial stability. The AMA’s Heath Insurer Report Card showed that in 2009, Medicare denied 4% of all submitted claim lines, and private insurers had an average denial rate of 2.8%.

Don’t think 4% sounds tragic? Let’s look more closely: A hypothetical group practice has 10 physicians, each generating $250,000 in net revenue per year. Accepting a loss of just 3% slashes $75,000 from the practice’s annual revenue. And this example assumes that all claim line items have an equal value, which we know is never the case. In fact, billable charges with a higher dollar values are denied most frequently. This further inflates the total loss to the medical group. Unless you’re Berkshire Hathaway, an annual bleed rate of $75,000/year will put your business under before you know what hit you.

These days, a medical practice’s operating expenses easily exceed 50% of its total revenue. With thin margins defining the financial success or failure of a group practice, you have to develop an aggressive denial management strategy.

Adopting a Claims Denial Management Strategy may sound complex and time consuming, and yes, there is effort involved in setting one up. However, a streamlined plan can establish a more efficient billing and collections process that is worthwhile and pays huge dividends.

Here are six easy steps to managing the process in your practice:

  • First, put someone in charge. You will need a responsible party who knows what to look for, where to look for it, and how to address the problems. This supervisor might assign tasks to other staff members, but she will keep tabs on the big picture.
  • Standardize the way denials are posted in your accounts. Data entry personnel often record denials as contractual adjustments, annihilating all opportunity to find and correct problems. With standardized posting procedures, you can pull meaningful reports from your practice management software and identify denied line items.
  • Create a denied claims log. This will serve as the starting point for the denial management process. From here, you can track claim numbers, dollar values, corrective measures, and the dates of resolution. Some practice management software products will automate this process, or it can be done manually. Bottom line: It should be done.
  • Track denial reason codes. To reduce denial occurrences, your practice must understand the causes. Are claims denied due to timely filing limitations? Are patients out of network? Were services considered medically unnecessary or uncovered?
  • Take corrective measures, also known as closing the loop. Many claim denials are caused by errors at the practice level. For example, missing modifiers, unbundling, inadequate documentation, mismatched age or sex with a procedure code, are each denials that can be remedied by educating office staff in coding and billing rules. If the denied claims log reveals that patient eligibility is not verified consistently, changes to your registration process might eliminate this denial. Perhaps you find that physicians are ordering services without authorizations, and lack of authorization numbers are causing claims to kick out. Again, simple physician education and procedural changes will reduce future denials and expedite payment.
  • Embrace efficiency. If your system allows for automation, use it. Electronic tickler files can serve as your denied claims log. The American Medical Association has a Claims Workflow Assistant tool. This is free, and includes appeal letter templates that you can customize to suit your practice’s needs.

Speak with your claims processing clearinghouse. Most offer online access that allows you to monitor your claims traffic. Acknowledgement reports from insurers will let you know when claim batches are received or rejected. Claim scrubbing tools at the clearinghouse or payer level will frequently identify denials and the corresponding denial reason. If your clearinghouse offers “real time claims adjudication,” you can make minor corrections online (changes to an ICD-9 code or CPT code), and immediately resubmit the claim. Why wait weeks for the explanation of benefits to arrive? Handle it on the spot when you can.

Unaddressed claim denials are as serious as the holes in the hull of a ship. Over time, revenue leakage will sink the entire vessel. Using these easy steps, practices can increase clean claims submission and elevate collection rates to help keep the practice financially viable for many years to come.


Author: Melanie Tisman