Is The Tidal Wave of CMS Development Letters Behind Us?
Posted on May 14, 2014 by Rita Wilson
In case you didn’t hear us shouting from the rooftop, Tower MSA Partners (as well as other companies across the MSA industry) was notified Tuesday, May 13, 2014 that full MSA approval had been given for approximately 100 cases, more than 50 of which were in various stages of development request processing. While this was certainly a welcomed announcement, I believe strongly that it was not an arbitrary decision by CMS, nor was it achieved by a few large companies. I see this accomplishment as the result of the combined and focused efforts of many in the MSP compliance industry.
Where Do I Begin?
As many of our clients have become painfully aware, development requests have been a major issue for Tower, as well as every carrier, employer and MSA provider in our industry, since late 2013. In early January, I discussed this new trend via a blog article (http://www.mspcomplianceblog.com/cms-wcrc-development-letters-essential-information-or-delay-tactic/ ) to explain what we were seeing as a company. In follow up to the article, I took this information to my industry peers, encouraging their participation to track the trend through my involvement with the Data and Development Committee of NAMSAP (National Alliance of MSA Professionals).
An Industry Moved to Action
Data capture of development requests began in January with analytics by the DDC for the next 90 days. At the same time, the NAMSAP Board of Directors asked that I prepare an article to be published in NAMSAP’s national newsletter, and also to help author a letter to be submitted to CMS on behalf of the NAMSAP BOD. The article’s intent was to communicate the source and impact of development letters among our membership, and to encourage readers to share their experiences in the form of actual data. The letter to CMS presented aggregated, experiential data to demonstrate the effects of the WCRC’s actions, and to communicate the settlement obstacles being created by this process (not the least of which was the request for HIPAA protected primary care physician medical records).
Communication Through Data Analytics
Through the efforts of the DDC to summarize the data obtained from multiple companies across our industry, the letter submitted by NAMSAP’s BOD to CMS provided clear evidence of the impact of the actions of the WCRC on settlement initiatives. We then requested that CMS work with our industry to reestablish a strategy that included only ‘injury related’ medical and pharmacy history, and followed the published standards defined in the March 2013, November 2013 and February 2014 editions of CMS’s own WCMSA Reference Guide as their only criteria to ensure that Medicare’s interests are adequately protected.
While we cannot confirm that CMS’s recent actions were in response to the initiatives pursued by NAMSAP, or through the efforts of a single company, we certainly believe industry involvement for the benefit of all stakeholders was the right course of action and are thrilled with the outcome. We are pleased to have been an active participant in this process.
As the MSP compliance partner for employers, TPAs and carriers, our primary responsibility is to prepare and submit Medicare Set Asides that to the best of our knowledge, ability and expertise ensure that Medicare’s interests are adequately protected when settling future medical claims. From a professional ethics perspective, this means doing what is reasonable on behalf of the claimant. For Tower, we describe this as, “helping clients balance care, cost and compliance when settling claims that involve Medicare beneficiaries”.
One of our client’s website taglines reads as follows, “We strive to ensure that injured workers get the right care at the right time—and we focus on getting it done the right way. It’s our commitment.” I’ve read this quote many times and strongly believe this is the goal of most in our industry….. do what is reasonable. And in the end, regardless of CMS submission and approval, I believe this will provide adequate evidence of our efforts to protect Medicare.
Looking ahead, we must now prepare our team and our clients for the next wave of CMS submissions. How do the experiences of the past 6 months impact our internal processes going forward? Was the development letter barrage truly a ‘ghost hunt’, or is there something to be learned from the WCRC’s actions? This will be the focus of our attention in the coming weeks.
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