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Denied Claim Zero MSAs: Still Available, but Put Through the Wringer by CMS

Posted on April 28, 2017 by Rita Wilson

In October 2016, CMS made an unannounced policy change which effectively eliminated the ability to obtain a Zero MSA approval from CMS based upon a complete denial of the claim, without a supporting judicial decision. After only a couple weeks, CMS withdrew this policy change and again allowed for approval of Zero MSAs based solely upon a complete claim denial. Nonetheless, these Zero MSAs reviews are placed through the proverbial wringer by CMS such that it is important to understand when a case meets the criteria for a Denied Claim Zero MSA and the documentation required to obtain CMS approval.

Denied Claim Zero MSA Approval Criteria: A Denied Claim Zero MSA (or Legal Zero MSA) approval from CMS is available when the claim has been completely denied with no medical or indemnity payments having been made with the exception of medical payments made for non-treatment purposes such as IMEs, case management and medical records copies (Note, in certain limited situations a Zero MSA may be approved with medical treatment payments having been made. Please consult with Tower MSA).

Importantly, CMS will not approve a Denied Claim Zero MSA if settlement is made final and/or a settlement payment or any medical or indemnity payment is made prior to CMS approval of the Zero MSA. A tentative or agreed to settlement is allowable, but please do not make the settlement final or make indemnity or medical payments prior to CMS approval of the Zero MSA.

If the case meets this criteria, then CMS has strict documentation requirements which must be adhered to or the Zero MSA will be rejected. Notably, since the policy change and rollback occurred in October 2016, CMS has added a requirement to provide claim reserve documentation. The requirement for claim reserve documentation, as well as all other supporting documentation, is detailed below.

Denied Claim Zero MSA documentation requirements: The following documents are required by CMS to obtain approval of a Zero MSA based upon a complete claim denial:

1. Claim Payment History

  • A claim payment history printout, even if blank, representing payments since the inception of the claim. All payments must be itemized.
  • Printout must be divided into categories for medical, indemnity and expenses with subtotals for each category and a grand total listed. Print or run date listed on the printout.
  • Date range for listed payments – Must be since inception of claim.
  • If the Claim Payment History does not meet the above requirements, then the following rules apply:
  • Provide a copy of the available Claim Payment History with the following statement inserted, signed and dated in the document:
    This document provides a complete representation of all payments made on the life of the claim (including medical of $0* and indemnity of $0)


    *If medical payments were made, provide the invoices or reports, i.e. IME report, associated with those payments and see below Financial Detail and Denial Letter requirement.

  • Letter providing an explanation why a Claim Payment History meeting CMS’s requirements is not available (See below Financial Detail and Denial Letter)
  • 2. Claim Reserves

  • A Claim Reserves printout divided into categories for medical, indemnity and expenses with subtotals for each category and a grand total.
  • Print or run date listed on the printout.
  • If there is a legal argument for claiming the reserve information is privileged then the legal argument, including citations to statute or case law must be provided along with a copy of a redacted (reserve information blacked out) version of the Claim Reserves printout.
  • If no reserves were placed on the claim, then a statement regarding the same.
  • 3. Draft or final settlement documents and court orders or rulings or a statement that no such documents exist
    (See below Financial Detail and Denial Letter).

    4. First Report of Injury or a statement that no such document exists (See below Financial Detail and Denial Letter).

    5. Financial Detail and Denial Letter – Tower MSA will provide draft letter upon request for submission of the Zero MSA to CMS

  • A statement indicating the claim was completely or fully denied with no medical or indemnity payments having been made.
  • If medical payments have been made for non-treatment purposes, i.e. IME, case management, medical records requests, then if the Claim Payment History does not properly explain the purpose of these payments, then provide an explanation for the payments.
  • If the available Claim Payment History does not meet the requirements under #1, then state that the carrier’s claim system does not have the ability to provide a Claim Payment History printout with the information requested by CMS, i.e. print date, subtotals for medical, indemnity and expenses.
  • If Claim Payment History did not meet the requirements under #1, then insert the requested information into the letter, i.e.list categories for medical, indemnity and expenses with subtotals for each category and a grand total.
  • If there are no draft or final settlement documents and no court orders or rulings, then a statement regarding the same.
  • If there is no First Report of Injury, then a statement regarding the same.
  • Letter must be placed on letterhead and hand signed.

  • 6. Consent to Release form executed by claimant

    While CMS places Zero MSA submissions based upon a complete denial through the wringer, these approvals remain available for workers’ compensation cases meeting the applicable criteria. Please contact Tower MSA Partners at or (888) 331-4941 to refer a claim meeting these requirements or for further consultation.

    Why is CMS Requesting Medical Records Which Are Not in My File and How Do I Respond?

    Posted on April 21, 2017 by Tower MSA Partners

    Tower MSA understands the frustration when following submission of a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shortly thereafter you receive a request for additional medical records and prescription history which you thought was already provided! Indeed, in most cases you have provided all the relevant documents from your claim file, but what CMS is requesting are medical records and prescription histories outside of your claim file.

    So why then is CMS requesting documentation for treatment and medications not even paid on the claim? What if the claimant has not even treated for the work injury in the last two calendar years, paid on the claim or not? What is the proper response to these CMS medical records requests?

    CMS Rules Require Submission of All Injury Related Medical Records

    CMS does not allow the employer or carrier to limit medical records in the MSA submission solely to records the employer, carrier or MSA submitter deem related to the work injury. Accordingly, CMS requires the production of records as defined in Section 10.7 of the CMS WCMSA Reference Guide which states as follows:

    All medical records from all treating physicians for the last two years of treatment related to the claim, even if the WC carrier has not paid for the treatment and even if the treatment was long ago (emphasis added). Remember, CMS needs medical records for the last two years of treatment, which may not be within the last two calendar years. . .

    . . . If the claimant has not been treated by any doctor for any reason within the last two calendar years, CMS generally needs all treating physicians to state when the last two years of treatment for any reason occurred. The treating physicians must also state, in writing, the specific condition/injury the claimant was last treated for, and any related therapy.

    In response to these rules, an employer or carrier may argue that if the treatment was not paid on the claim then it should not be considered “related.” However, CMS defines related as any treatment occurring to the alleged injured body part or condition notwithstanding who pays for the treatment. For example, a carrier employer accepts responsibility for a shoulder injury in February 2015, but following a favorable IME report disputes ongoing medical care starting in November 2016. Assuming the claimant continued medical care for the shoulder injury, CMS will want to review those records.

    That is not to say the employer or carrier cannot dispute the causal relatedness of the treatment in these medical records. While the IME itself will be insufficient on its own to dispute the care, a judicial decision after a hearing on the merits or a statement from the treating physician in which it is found that the ongoing treatment is unrelated to the claimed work injury, will in most cases be sufficient to exclude such care from the MSA.

    Response Scenarios to CMS Requests for Medical Records

    Below are several common scenarios in which CMS will likely request additional medical records, whether in the claim file or not, and how anticipation of this request can be addressed prior to submission of the MSA to CMS.

    Scenario #1 – Open-ended medical care without ongoing treatment

    Client provides Tower MSA with the last two years of medical records which match up with the dates of service in the claim payment history. The last available medical record for a 2/12/2015 date of service reports the claimant is to follow-up in three months. There is no indication in the claim file that the claimant sought further medical care post 2/12/2015. Once it is verified that the claimant indeed sought no further work-related medical care then through Tower MSA’s Physician Follow-up service, we will obtain a statement from the doctor confirming the last date of service and that all prescription medications, if any, were discontinued.

    Scenario #2 – Open-ended medical care with ongoing treatment

    Client provides Tower MSA with the last two years of medical records which match up with the dates of serve in the claim payment history. The last available medical record from a 2/12/2015 date of service reports the claimant is to follow-up in three months. There is no indication in the claim file that the claimant sought further medical care for the work injury. Communication with the claimant reveals though that the claimant has been receiving treatment which is related to the work injury although not paid on the claim. The requested medical records and prescription history (likely from the claimant’s pharmacy) will need to be obtained and submitted, although relevant legal defenses to the inclusion of care in the MSA based upon these records may be submitted as well.

    Scenario #3 – Availability of Medical-Legal Reports versus treatment records

    While this can occur in any jurisdiction (usually in the form of IME reports), California claims tend to have a greater prevalence of medical records containing QME, PQME or AME reports versus required treatment records. While such reports may be relevant to the MSA, they cannot make-up the sole basis of support for the allocation. Besides these type of medical-legal reports, we must provide CMS the treatment records upon which these reports are based.

    Scenario #4 – Medical Records Containing Inconsistencies

    There are situations where Tower MSA is provided updated medical records and prescription history but the records contain inconsistencies. Submitting an MSA to CMS with inconsistencies will either result in CMS issuing a Development Letter requesting additional documentation or CMS including treatments or medications that are actually no longer necessary.

    For example, in one case referred to Tower MSA the medical records documented the treating physician giving a sample and prescribing Pennsaid 1.5%, an extremely expensive medication. On the other hand, the prescription history showed the Pennsaid had never been filled. We alerted the client and through our Physician Follow-up service was able to obtain a report from the physician confirming that as the trial of Pennsaid did not effectively manage the pain, it had been discontinued – $970,355 in MSA savings

    In another example of a matter referred to Tower MSA, the medical records from two years before documented mention of a spinal cord stimulator as a potential treatment option for the claimant. The more recent medical records made no mention of a spinal cord stimulator as a potential treatment option Through Tower MSA’s Physician Follow-up service we were able to obtain a statement from the current treating physician that the SCS no longer is part of the claimant’s treatment plan – $187,822 in MSA savings.

    Tower MSA Partners Works with Our Clients to Effectively Address Medical Records Issues Prior to CMS Submission

    Tower MSA Partners’ MSA development process is uniquely designed to identify issues which may result in unnecessary medical care being included in the MSA and avoidance of post MSA submission Development Letters requesting additional medical records and prescription histories:

    Prior to MSA report completion: Prior to completion of the MSA report we review the claim payment history and request from the client any dates of service listed on the history for which medical records are missing from the file. This is insures we start with a complete record of all treatment paid on the claim.

    Post MSA report completion: Upon delivery of the MSA report we will advise our client of additional medical records likely to be requested if the MSA is submitted to CMS along with inconsistencies within the medical records and prescription histories and other opportunities to limit the MSA allocation.

    With client approval Tower MSA’s Physician Follow-up service will obtain supplemental statements from treating physician(s) confirming last date of service, discontinuation of medications, clarification of ongoing medication use and whether certain treatments remain options for the claimant, i.e. spinal cord stimulator. The result is an MSA which will be expeditiously approved by CMS and an allocation that accurately reflects the claimant’s future work-related medical care.

    Tower’s Physician Follow-Up service is provided at no charge when initiated as part of the MSA and CMS submission process.

    For further information on Tower MSA Partners services please contact us at (888) 331-4941.

    In a Volatile Political Climate MSAs & Professional Administration Provide Much Needed Assurances

    Posted on March 17, 2017 by Daniel Anders

    Learn why MSAs and professional administration offers stability in an otherwise volatile and partisan political environment in this joint article between Ametros Financial and Tower MSA Partners

    These first few of months of 2017 have been, to put it mildly, volatile in national politics. The incoming Trump Administration and a Republican Congress are poised to tackle the federal budget, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) among many other federal programs. All of these issues have sharp partisan divides, however no matter where your views lay on the political spectrum, if you are a professional involved in the workers compensation industry, these issues may have a big impact on how you can be successful at your job.

    This article looks at what impact the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress may have on Medicare Set-Asides (MSAs) in the context of the legislative and regulatory history of the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Act and how the uncertainty resulting from potential changes to federal healthcare programs results in MSAs and professional administration being even more relevant in the settlement of workers’ compensation cases.

    The MSP Act Has Been and Remains Bipartisan

    A review of the history of the MSP Act demonstrates a noticeably bipartisan effort to improve and expand its applicability and enforcement mechanisms. The MSP Act was enacted in 1980 during President Carter’s administration. Subsequent to its passage, provisions were added over the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, all emphasizing Medicare being secondary to group and non-group health plans. The most notable legislative expansion occurred in 2007 when a Democratic-controlled Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed into law, the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act which included Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting provisions for group and non-group health plans. There also continues to be a decade long effort to pass bipartisan legislation which would implement certain reforms to the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) review process. While the most recent WCMSA reform bill died in the last Congress it is expected a new bill will be reintroduced in 2017.

    Besides legislative expansion of the MSP Act, during President George W. Bush’s administration there occurred the release of the July 23, 2001 CMS memo, commonly called the “Patel Memo.” The Patel memo and subsequent CMS memos effectively formalized a process for CMS to review and approve WCMSAs.

    MSA reviews continued, Medicare conditional recovery processes expanded and Section 111 was implemented all during the course of President Obama’s administration. The only legislative change to the MSP Act occurring during the Obama years was the passage of the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2012 (SMART Act) which was a successful bipartisan effort to address deficiencies identified in the MSP Act, particularly Section 111 reporting and Medicare conditional payment recovery.

    Since the enactment then of the MSP Act in 1980 it has continued to be expanded and enforced consistently across both Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses.

    Why has there not been a partisan divide? The simple reason is that the MSP Act forces entities other than the federal government to pay which has benefits for both political parties. For Democrats it demonstrates their protecting the viability of a federal government entitlement program while for Republicans it demonstrates their protecting taxpayers by shifting costs away from the government. While the Trump administration has to our knowledge never issued any MSP policy statements, based upon the past bipartisanship on this issue, our expectation is the administration will continue and possibly expand the MSP compliance programs at CMS.

    Uncertainty Over Federal Healthcare Programs to Drive Assurance with MSAs

    President Trump has indicated repeatedly that he will not reduce benefits to Medicare beneficiaries. Nonetheless, Medicare beneficiaries are facing premium increases. Notably, a Kaiser Family Foundation report indicated Part D premiums are rising by an average of 9% in 2017. As for Medicaid, the Trump administration is supporting a block grant program which would give more discretion to the states in formulating and implementing their own Medicaid programs compared to the present process which includes significant federal oversight. Finally, and most significant, is the Republican-led initiative to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare. These potential changes to statutory programs create uncertainty for injured workers contemplating settlement of medical in their workers’ compensation cases.

    Uncertainty for injured workers exists with programmatic changes to Medicare and private group health plans which are increasingly driven by a more value-based approach to healthcare delivery. A value-based approach provides incentives to medical providers to be more cautious with prescribing treatments and medications which may have limited value to the patient. This is also usually tied in part to a utilization review process which places limits on care through the use of evidence-based medicine. While in the past some injured workers have settled medical stemming from their work related injury confident that they could shift their ongoing work-related care, if any, to their group health plan, such coverage may now be limited. And when it comes to shifting costs to Medicare, CMS’s long-standing policy is such costs must be accounted for in an MSA.

    MSAs and professional administration A Flight to Certainty

    Accordingly, injured workers and their attorneys when settling their workers’ compensation cases will look for certainty where it can be obtained so that they have the assurance of access to medical care for their future injury-related care. For claimants who are Medicare beneficiaries or are close to becoming Medicare beneficiaries, such assurance can be obtained by a properly allocated MSA which is CMS-approved, when necessary, and professionally administered to maintain the MSA funds over life-expectancy in compliance with CMS rules.

    Tower MSA Partners is committed to providing employers and claimants a reasonable MSA allocation which, along CMS guidelines, properly accounts for future injury-related and Medicare-covered medical care without unnecessary overfunding. This often includes Tower MSA reaching out to treating physicians to confirm current care regimens or clarity regarding ongoing medication and treatment prior to submission of the MSA to CMS.

    While CMS approval of the MSA and subsequent funding provides assurance at the point of settlement that funds for injury-related medical have been provided, equally important is proper administration of those funds such that an injured worker can be assured the funds for his or her care will last over their life expectancy and that there will be a seamless transition to Medicare for payment if the funds every run out.

    Ametros’ professional administration service, CareGuard, secures the injured party discounts on their medical treatment, and prescription costs. All the while they are free from utilization review allowing them to not have to worry about their treatment being rejected. Additionally, CareGuard will makes sure all MSA expenses are accounted for in the eyes of Medicare. Cost-effective programs like CareGuard are in place to protect the injured worker post-settlement and ensure compliance with CMS requirements for MSA administration.

    In this current era of high uncertainty, all parties can rest easy by focusing on known methods to protect themselves and the injured party throughout the claim handling and settlement process. That’s why many believe it is more critical than ever to obtain an adequate MSA that will cover the ongoing medical care of the injured party and, upon settlement, to have a professional administrator help the injured party make the funds last as long as possible and do all the required Medicare reporting.

    For further information or questions om MSAs and professional administration, please contact:

    Tower MSA Partners
    Dan Anders (847) 946-2880 or

    Learn more at:


    Porter Leslie – (339) 223 9857 or
    Jayson Gallant – (339-234-3420) or

    Learn more at:

    CMS to Begin Referencing 2012 Life Expectancy Table on April 1

    Posted on March 13, 2017 by Daniel Anders

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on 3/8/2017 that it “will begin referencing the CDC’s Table 1: Life Table for the total population: United States, 2012, for workers’ compensation medicare set aside (WCMSA) life expectancy calculations on April 1, 2017.” CMS presently uses the 2011 table, thus this announcement represents an expected annual update to the next available CDC table. In most instances the update to the most recen table represents at most a one-year change in the life expectancy used in the MSA report compared to the prior table. All Tower MSA reports completed on or after 4/1/2017 will reference the 2012 table.

    The 2012 Life Table for the total population may be found on Pages 10-11 of the CDC report.

    CMS Provides Another Piece of the Puzzle on Future LMSA Policy

    Posted on March 2, 2017 by Daniel Anders

    While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet to formally issue a policy regarding review of Liability Medicare Set-Asides (LMSAs), since a June 2016 announcement that it was considering expanding the WC MSA review process to liability and no-fault, CMS has nonetheless provided pieces of the puzzle which will ultimately make up a liability and no fault MSA review process. The most recent piece of the puzzle is an announcement by CMS that effective 10/1/2017, no Medicare payments are to be made to medical providers where a Liability Medicare Set-Aside (LMSA) or No-Fault Medicare Set-Aside (NFMSA) exists.

    The announcement comes via the issuance of a CMS MLN Matters article directed to physicians and other medical providers submitting claims to Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) for services to Medicare beneficiaries. It directs these MACs to deny payment for medical care that is covered under an LMSA or NFMSA as identified in the Common Working File (CWF).

    To clear up some of these technical terms, MACs process Medicare Part A and B payments to medical providers on behalf of Medicare. A Common Working File (CWF) is maintained by the CMS Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC) and contains information on a particular claimant’s Medicare eligibility and, importantly, when Medicare should be considered secondary such that payment to a medical provider should be denied and directed instead to the primary plan.

    BCRC presently keeps records of all WCMSAs that have been approved by CMS and funded through settlement (This is why CMS requires final settlement documents be submitted to BCRC post-settlement). The WCMSA funding information is placed in the CWF so that the MACs deny payment for medical care associated with the WCMSA until the WCMSA is exhausted. This directive from CMS makes this same process applicable to LMSAs and NFMSAs.

    In response to this announcement, you would be correct in asking, how can CMS deny payment for medical care based upon an LMSA an NFMSA process that does not yet exist? Putting aside that some CMS Regional Offices have reviewed and approved LMSAs at their own discretion for quite some time, this does pose a very good question. CMS responds as follows:

    CMS will establish two (2) new set-aside processes: a Liability Medicare Set-aside Arrangement (LMSA), and a No-Fault Medicare Set-aside Arrangement (NFMSA).

    So CMS readily admits the new set-aside processes will be put in place at some point in the future. Such future date has already been tentatively set based upon CMS’s release, in December 2016, of its request for proposals for the new Workers Compensation Review Contractor which includes an optional provision to expand reviews to LMSAs and NFMSAs effective July 2018 (See prior blog post: CMS MSA Review Expansion to Liability Planned for 2018). Consequently, this directive to the MACs is implementing medical payment processing changes which will be required to be place once the LMSA/NFMSA review process is made available.

    It is important to keep in mind that CMS has yet to release any guidance on such an expansion of the WCMSA review process to liability and no-fault and particularly how such a process would differ from that created for WC. Also note that CMS does not state that effective 10/1/2017 the MACs are to deny payment for all post-liability settlement injury-related medical care, rather, they are to “deny payment for items or services that should be paid from an LMSA or NFMSA fund.” The funds must exist for denial to occur. Accordingly, over 2017, as more pieces of the puzzle come together on CMS’s Liability and No-Fault MSA review policy, Tower MSA will provide further interpretation and guidance on what will be one of the most significant developments in MSAs since CMS formalized the WC MSA review process in 2001.

    Tower MSA Partners Selects Patricia Smith as EVP, Clinical Operations

    Posted on February 28, 2017 by Tower MSA Partners

    Patricia Smith, RN, BSN, MSCC, CDMS, CLCP has joined Tower MSA Partners as executive vice president of Clinical Operations. In this role, Smith reviews and monitors clinical trends related to Medicare coverage criteria within the confines of Medicare Secondary Payer compliance, develops clinical strategies to support company’s pre- and post-Medicare Set-Aside intervention workflow and manages all clinical and pharmaceutical oversight teams.

    Most recently Smith served as senior vice president of Clinical Solutions Services for Examworks Clinical Solutions. In previous positions with MedAllocators, Concentra Integrated Services, Coventry Workers Compensation, and NuQuest Resources, she produced Medicare Set-Asides, Medical Cost Projections, and Life Care Plans.

    “Pat has been involved with MSP compliance and MSAs in work comp for more than 14 years,” said Tower CEO Rita Wilson. “Her clinical expertise, track record of innovation and results-driven management philosophy make her a perfect fit to lead Tower’s clinically driven model to optimize the MSA and settlement.”

    A graduate of the University of Maine with a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, Smith holds several professional credentials. She is a Medicare Set Aside Consultant Certified (MSCC), a Certified Disability Management Specialist (CDMS), a Certified Life Care Planner (CLCP), and a legal nurse consultant. She is also a member of the National Alliance of Medicare Set Aside Professionals and International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals.

    Tower MSA Partners CEO, Rita Wilson, Elected NAMSAP Treasurer

    Posted on February 15, 2017 by Tower MSA Partners

    Tower MSA Partners CEO, Rita Wilson, who is a board member of the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP), has been elected Treasurer of the organization. Full details on her election as well as the election of other board members to leadership positions is detailed in the following NAMSAP new release:

    ELMHURST, Ill.–(February 2, 2017)–The board of directors of the National Alliance for Medicare Set-Aside Professionals has elected the following officers for 2017:

    • President: Shawn Deane, JD, MEd, MSCC, CMSP – assistant vice president of Product Development of ISO Claims Partners
    • Vice President: Greg Gitter, CMSP – president of Legacy Claims Solutions, Inc. (a Gitter Company)
    • Treasurer: Rita M. Wilson – CEO of Tower MSA Partners
    • Secretary: Christine Melancon, RN, CCM, MSCC, CNLCP, CMSP – vice president of Operations for EZ-MSA Services

    “I am honored to be selected to represent NAMSAP as president,” said Deane. “We will build upon initiatives launched by last year’s outstanding President, Gary Patureau, and forge new opportunities to improve Medicare Secondary Payer services.”

    Addressing the opioid epidemic remains a top priority, and NAMSAP will continue its efforts to persuade the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to follow its own Part D guidelines when reviewing and approving Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Asides (WCMSAs). NAMSAP will also monitor CMS’ selection of a new Workers’ Compensation Review Contractor and the evolution of the Commercial Recovery Center.

    “Promoting payer participation in NAMSAP is another high priority,” Deane added. “We are delighted to add Beth Hostetler with Albertsons and Safeway to our board of directors and look forward to better representing the MSP goals for both payers and submitters.”

    Other new board members are Amy Bilton with Nyhan Bambrick Kinzie & Lowry and Monica Williams, MWC Associates.

    About NAMSAP

    The National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP) is the only non-profit association exclusively addressing the issues and challenges of the Medicare Secondary Payer Statute and its impact on workers’ compensation and liability settlements. Through the voluntary efforts of our members, NAMSAP is a forum for the exchange of ideas and is a leading resource for information and news in this constantly evolving area of practice. The collective knowledge of our members and NAMSAP’s resources will provide attorneys, nurses, settlement planners, claims professionals, and others with the ingredients essential to their success.

    Successful Legacy Claim Settlement Initiatives Featured in WorkCompWire Article

    Posted on February 15, 2017 by Daniel Anders

    As part of its Leaders Speak series, WorkCompWire recently published a two-part article by Tower MSA Partners’ Chief Compliance Officer, Dan Anders, describing how clinically driven settlement initiatives on legacy or “old dog” workers’ compensation claims yield significant cost savings and become the foundation for best practices on new workers’ compensation claims.

    Part one of the article, How Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks, details how successful settlement initiatives include a clinical partner who identifies and analyzes legacy claim cost drivers and then works with the employer or carrier to separate claims into those that can immediately move to settlement negotiation, those that may settle after clinical or legal intervention, and those that are unlikely to benefit from intervention and thus cannot settle. The article explains the importance of connecting the appropriate clinical intervention to the legacy claim so as to drive a successful outcome and claim closure.

    Part two of the article, New Tricks for New Claims, focuses on how the lessons learned in resolving legacy claims can be applied to new or ongoing claims and as a result produce significant medical and indemnity cost savings. Highlighted in the article is a large employer whose legacy claim settlement initiative yielded significant reduction in legacy claim costs and continues to save the employer ongoing claim costs as now a new standard for claims handling.

    We encourage you to review the articles and contact Tower MSA Partners to discuss how we can drive case closure on your legacy or old and complex workers’ compensation claims.

    Dan Anders may be contacted at or (847) 946-2880.

    Federal Court Holds Against Medicare Practice of Over-Inclusive Reimbursement Demands

    Posted on February 13, 2017 by Daniel Anders

    The California Insurance Guarantee Association (CIGA) has prevailed in its lawsuit (Cali. Ins. Guar. Ass’n v. Burwell, No. 2:15-cv-01113-ODW (FFMx), 2017 U.S. Dist. Ct. LEXIS 1681) against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) challenging the practice of over-inclusive reimbursement demands by CMS. As a consequence of this ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, claimants and employers, have judicial support to dispute charges which contain mixed diagnosis codes, some related to the workers’ compensation injury and some unrelated, in CMS’s conditional payment demands.

    A summary of CIGA’s challenge to CMS, CMS’s response to the claim and the Court’s decision is detailed below with a discussion on practical implications of the decision.

    CIGA’s Claim Against Medicare

    CIGA claimed that CMS’s practice of seeking reimbursement for the full amount of a medical charge despite the charge including mixed diagnosis codes, some related to the workers’ compensation injury and some unrelated, goes beyond CMS’s authority under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act.

    By way of background, medical providers include ICD-10 diagnosis codes within billing records that are supposedly associated with the treatment provided. However, it is commonly known that medical providers, especially hospitals, may add any and all diagnoses for which a claimant reports a medical condition, even if such condition is not the subject of the treatment on the bill. For example, a claimant who has a low back injury and seeks treatment at a hospital for a cardiac condition may report on an intake form that he has ongoing low back pain. The hospital may list a low back diagnosis code on the medical bill even though the incurred medical treatment is solely related to the cardiac condition. This is not to say that there may also be situations where actual treatment was received for the work-related injury, but, even then, it may represent only a portion of the overall charge.

    As evidence to support its claim, CIGA presented three examples of recovery demands with mixed diagnosis codes. In one demand the Medicare conditional payment charge included a diagnosis code connected to the work-related back and hip injury, but other diagnosis codes relating to diabetes, insulin use and bereavement. In these cases, CMS issued a formal demand letter seeking recovery for the complete charge for both related and unrelated conditions. CIGA disputed on the basis that the charges “did not fall ‘within the coverage of an insurance policy of the insolvent insurer’” under California law.

    CMS’s Response

    The Court rejected all of CMS defenses as detailed below.

    CMS withdrawing the demand is not a sufficient basis to dismiss the case

    At some point following the initiation of CIGA’s lawsuit CMS “recalculated” its demands resulting in CMS effectively withdrawing the demands that were the subject of this litigation. CMS claimed that as the demands were withdrawn the case should be dismissed. The court denied the dismissal noting “Indeed, given the timing of the withdrawals (i.e., immediately after a hearing in which the Court made clear that CMS’s practice would not withstand scrutiny), it seems obvious that this is simply a strategic maneuver designed to head off an adverse decision so that CMS can continue its practice in the future.”

    CIGA identifying unrelated diagnosis codes is a sufficient basis to shift the burden to Medicare

    CMS disputed CIGA’s assertion that identifying the non-work related diagnosis codes is sufficient to shift the burden to Medicare to prove otherwise. The Court disagreed and held that it is sufficient to shift the burden to Medicare to prover otherwise, and further, that CMS never challenged CIGA’s claims that the diagnosis codes were unrelated.

    CMS’s claim that the term “item and service” refers to the charge and not the treatment is unsupported

    The Medicare Secondary Payer Act provides “a primary plan . . . shall reimburse [Medicare] for any payment made . . . with respect to an item or service if it is demonstrated that such primary plan has or had a responsibility to make payment with respect to such item or service.” CMS regulations (42 CFR 1003.101) further define item or service “Any item, device, medical supply or service provided to a patient which is listed in an itemized claim for program payment or a request for payment . . . .”

    CMS asserted the definition of “item or service” for which they are able to recover under their regulations refers to whatever (and how many) medical treatment(s) a provider lumps into a single charge. Not surprisingly, the Court found nothing under the statue nor the intent of Congress in writing the MSP Act to substantiate that “item or service” refers to the listed charge from the medical provider, rather than one medical treatment whether billed as a group with other treatments or listed singly.

    CMS is bound by state law in determining whether the WC employer or carrier has responsibility to reimburse Medicare

    CMS next argued that it is not bound by state law as state law is preempted under the MSP Act (Preemption refers to the principle that between federal and state law federal law trumps state law). The Court cited with approval a prior federal appellate court decision, Caldera vs. Ins. Co. of the State of Pa. 716 F.3d 861 (5th Cir. 2013) which addressed the question of whether CMS’s ability to recover is limited in anyway by state law. In Caldera the Court found “responsibility to make payment with respect to an item or service is generally a matter of state law.” Accepting then that CMS is held to state law in its ability to recovery, the judge in the present matter went on to cite several California state court decisions finding that a compensation carrier is not responsible for making payment on treatment unrelated to the workers’ compensation injury.

    CMS is not entitled to deference in its interpretation of the MSP Act and regulations

    The court rejected CMS claim of deference to its interpretation of the MSP Act and regulations since the Court found such an interpretation of CMS’s regulations actually supports CIGA and, further, its arguments conflict with CMS’s own MSP Manual which provides for medical providers to be reimbursed partially by a primary plan and partially by Medicare if work-related medical treatment is provided concurrently with non-work-related treatment.

    Court Finds the Real Reason CMS Calculates in this Manner

    The Court holds, “At bottom, it is quite clear that the real reason CMS calculates reimbursement demands in the manner that it does is simply because it is too difficult to do otherwise, not because that is what is required (or even permitted) by any statute, regulation, or policy manual.” According to the Court then, CMS must attempt to apportion the charge between covered and non-covered services. It is possible, as the court indicates, that CMS may find apportioning the charge unreasonable. The court further notes that if the charge is apportioned, it takes no position on how CMS should do so in terms of pro rata reimbursement, etc.

    Practical Implications of Decision

    Whether it is Medicare conditional payment recovery or Workers’ Compensation MSAs, CMS regularly asserts that it is not bound by state law in determining items or service for which it may seek recovery or to be included in the MSA. Further, CMS operates under an assumption that the courts will defer to its interpretation of the MSP Act and relevant regulations. At least in the Medicare conditional payment context, this decision completely refutes such assumptions. This is a well written decision which along with the holding in Caldera (mentioned above), is significant in finding that state law places limits on the extent of MSP conditional payment recovery. We applaud CIGA’s pursuit of this decision.

    It should be noted that this is a U.S. District Court decision, not an appellate decision, thus it has limited precedential value for other cases addressing this same issue. Nonetheless, along with the Caldera case, which is an appellate decision, we now have two decisions which limit Medicare recovery. It is unclear at this point whether CMS will appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision at that level would provide precedential value for all states within the 9th Circuit and would be on par with the Caldera case which was an appellate decision of the 5th Circuit.

    The court does leave a door open for CMS in that CMS can determine whether it is unreasonable to separate a charge between related and unrelated. It is assumed though that CMS would have to provide evidence to support why it cannot reasonably separate the charges.

    Tower MSA will utilize this important decision to support disputes of mixed diagnosis code conditional payment charges on behalf of our clients. Whether CMS will agree remains uncertain as this is a lower court decision and the decision itself still gives CMS the ability to determine whether it is reasonable to remove unrelated portions of a charge and how the remaining work-related amount of the charge should be apportioned. Tower MSA will continue to keep you apprised of any developments in this area of Medicare conditional payment recovery. Tower MSA Partners’ Rita Wilson Predicts CMS Re-Review Changes Will Help Payers

    Posted on January 27, 2017 by Daniel Anders

    Tower MSA Partners CEO, Rita Wilson, was recently interviewed by following her participation in a January 24, 2017 “State of MSP” webinar presented by the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP). asked Rita to comment on CMS’s December 21, 2016 announcement regarding its plans to update its WCMSA re-review process in 2017. This includes expansion of the process to previously approved MSAs where there has been a substantial change in the claimant’s medical condition and the case has not settled (For details see Tower MSA blog on the announcement: CMS Announces Plans for 2017 Expansion of MSA Re-Review Process & New Policy Regarding URs in MSAs)

    Rita’s comments to follow:

    “CMS will need to establish the parameters for re-review and define ‘substantial changes.’ We expect costly procedures such as surgeries and spinal cord stimulators to be included,” Wilson said. “A WCMSA involving patients who have weaned off expensive polypharmacy regimens could also qualify.”

    “Tower’s workflow and decision-tree software application identifies recommended, not-yet-performed procedures and intervenes to address inappropriate treatment prior to submitting an MSA,” Wilson said, “But this could be a game-changer for payers with CMS-approved MSAs that they were unable to settle.”

    The full article may be found here.

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    Helen King Patterson

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