Texas Dental Providers – Take Aways from HHSC Committee Meeting 3/20/12

I listened to the live Texas Senate Committee meeting regarding the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Charge 4 (dental & orthodontics) yesterday 3/20/12.  Unfortunately, this Senate Committee is concerned about the amount of money paid for orthodontic services and convinced Orthodontic services were provided at an abusive level and they want this money back.  I am providing what I took away from this meeting and we will discuss how to protect yourself.

  1. Senator Jane Nelson is willing to push thru legislation to allow parents in the treatment room.  I didn’t understand this…I suspect she has received a complaint from a parent where the Dental Provider refused to allow the parent in the treatment room.  My opinion is, this is one thing if the room has a door or if the patient is sedated because you do not want to add liability to your business.  Having a second company staff member in the room present will reduce risk as well.  As for HIPAA, what are your privacy and security policies for this situation?  If you do not have policies, they have been required since 2003 and 2009 respectively so very important to get this done.
  2. They want to go after dentist for the unlimited orthodontic visits.  Policy said “unlimited”!  Keep in mind if the Dental Provider was racking up unnecessary visits, it doesn’t matter if it is unlimited visits in policy, the visits were unnecessary therefore a potential fraud and abuse overpayment.  If these were legitimate visits and necessary, you should not pay that money back.  So policy for this is being reduced to 12 visits, they say.
  3. They pay for transportation to the dentist if the patient cannot afford it.  At present the patients are paid upfront or MCD pays the transportation company.  In the future, they will have to provide proof of visit and proof they used the transportation to be reimbursed.
  4. They are looking at bundling orthodontic rates versus per visit rate.
  5. More talk of suspending provider numbers based on allegations of credible fraud.  This is huge and critically important to include exit interviews with staff that is leaving the company.  You also need to have a compliance program with reporting mechanism in place.  If you collect $5M or more in Medicaid funds you were required to have a healthcare compliance program in 2007.  All other Medicaid providers are required to have a compliance program by 2013.
  6. Inspector General has 31 current investigations of Orthodontic practices at this time.
  7. Senator Jane Nelson and the committee want the business to have to be licensed and registered with the dental board similar to a pharmacy with the pharmacy board.  I suspect changes will follow for a proposal of such.  This will bring additional revenue into the Dental Board but it will permit investigations into complaints of ABC Dental versus the need for a dental providers name which is the current requirement.
  8. Expect audits to pick up on Orthodontic services.  They noticed as of 10/1/11 when the requirement to send molds went into place, request dropped and PARs were denied.  If you provided orthodontics to children under 13 or now 12, those are especially at risk for audit.
  9. They put a lot of emphasis on HLD Scores.  Where do you record these and how you measure to get the score?
  10. The TMHP Medicaid contractor responsible for reviewing this information basically rubber stamped requests.  They did not review for “medical necessity;”  it was primarily to make sure the form was completed and the HLD Score was >=26.  The Dental Director was terminated and they have hired a replacement.  They HHS/IG will be auditing the approved PARs (Prior Auth Requests) and recouping money.  The debate is if they will recoup from TMHP or from the provider.  Again, if the services were fraudulent and dishonest it, I fully expect they will go after the provider.  There is always a possibility if TMHP didn’t review and it did not meet the coverage criteria, they will try to recoup from the provider as well.  They expect these audits to be complete in 6-12 months and they have already started.
  11. By using Dental Managed Care Payers, these organizations have experience in other states and they have ideas on how to reduce Fraud & Abuse (F&A).  They think by using someone with experience to review and process these claims will reduce F&A.
  12. On the federal level, in 2010 Office of Audit Services contacted Texas inquiring about Orthodontic billing and providers.  So the federal government has taken notice of Texas and since they provide funding to the medicaid program, Texas has to respond to the concerns.
  13. No recruiting clients in parking lots….…this seems to be an issue.
  14. The HHSC office admitted the policies were such that it didn’t catch issues and the department processing was not staffed properly.
  15. I would expect a tremendous increase in audits and policy changes.
  16. Texas spent as much as 49 other states total from 9/1/08-5/28/11 on Orthodontic services.  An additional 500,000 kids were seen for checkups after the rates increased in 2008 by 50-100% than in previous years.
  17. The committee suggested HHSC do a Cost Benefit Analysis on providing orthodontic care to children and if that prevented excessive spending later if it were not done.

Now, what should you do?  I strongly recommend the following and sometimes it is good to get an outside consultant to review because of objectivity and the familiarity with issues being identified.

  1. Make sure you have HIPAA policies in place that are applicable to your business.
  2. Assess whether you need a healthcare compliance program now (because you were required in 2007) or if not make a plan to get this done.
  3. Items 1 and 2, a vital if you are investigated now even if not required.  Corporate culture is first questions the government asks.
  4. A sample audit of claims.  This is critical because you need to assess your risk as a company.  Assess the documentation versus coverage criteria.
  5. If audited, NEVER just cut a check for the overpayment requested!  Why, you ask?  The payer sees this as admission of guilt and if they haven’t extrapolated already they are more likely to do so.  This is not a good surprise to get in the mail6-12-14 months later!!  I have seen this happen.  Get a consultant and attorney and prepare a defense.  It will be less expensive to do when you get the audit than after the appeal process has started.

We work with several dental practices and the goal is to educate providers so they reduce risk and pass audits.  We also work with Looper, Reed, and McGraw LP, a law firm with attorneys that specializes in dental practices.  We work as a team with our practice and emphasize “proactive”operations.  We will be happy to schedule

Angela Miller of Medical Auditing Solutions LLC has been in health care compliance, auditing, billing, collections and HIPAA for over 18 years.  Ms. Miller has made it the  focus of the business to help providers run their businesses efficiently, collect money, and maintain compliance with federal and state regulations and coverage criteria through compliance program development, management and training.  Ms. Miller is very experienced with Medicare & Payer audits.  Ms. Miller ran a very successful compliance program for over 5 years for the largest private held HME/Pharmacy provider in the US at the time.  Ms. Miller  also works as a contract compliance officer to provide an avenue to compliance training to staff, implementation of policies, as well as handling anything that affects cash flow from the initial intake to back-end collections. You can visit our website at Medical Auditing Solutions LLC.


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