Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act: 30 Days and Counting…. Can it Succeed?

June 18, 2012

Introduced into the US House of Representatives on April 27, 2012, the Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreements Act of 2012 (HR 5284) aims to streamline the settlement of workers’ compensation agreements by creating an exception to Medicare secondary payer requirements. The bill also provides language that could ease the path toward satisfying these requirements by using qualified Medicare set-aside arrangement (MSA) under these agreements.

Designed to apply to certain workers’ compensation settlements agreements, the bill proposes changes if any of the following criteria is present:

  1. The total settlement is $25,000 or under;
  2. The claimant is not eligible for Medicare at settlement date and is not expected to be eligible within 30 months;
  3. The settlement agreement does not limit or eliminate the claimant’s right to payment of future medical bills;
  4. The claimant is not eligible for future medical bill payments under the settlement.

US representative David Reichert (WA-8) introduced the bill in an attempt to improve the set-aside process for workers’ compensation claims. Current settlements that overlap with Medicare coverage create a lengthy review period on what constitutes the set-aside coverage amounts.

Currently, HR 5284 has been referred to the Subcommittee on Health for review. The bill has gained heavy support from industry organizations, including American Insurance Association (AIA), American Association for Justice (AAJ), American Bar Association (ABA), National Council of Self Insurers (NCSI), Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), UWC – Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation (UWC), Washington Self-Insurers Association (WSIA), and Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG).

Part of the problem may be that the legislation tries fixing what isn’t governed. There is a lack of any real definition of MSA from a regulatory sense. Would wrapping laws around an undefined practice work?

Also, industry buzz suggests that legislators are treating workers’ compensation issues much like they would group health issues. Also, detractors of the bill believe there is little to address the calculation of allocation amounts and too little consistency in understanding and applying CMS policies.

The success of H.R. 5284 will depend largely on how well the legislation understands the MSA environment. While the idea may be a good one, the actual practice may fall short of its intended goal.

H.R. 5284 – The Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act of 2012

May 17, 2012

The Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act of 2012, H.R. 5284, was filed in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) on April 27, 2012. The Government Printing Office released the text of the bill o May 7, 2012.

What H.R. 5284 Promises
Rep. Reichert purports that this bill “improves the Medicare Set-Aside process for workers compensation claims” and “provides clear and consistent standards for an administrative process that provides reasonable protections for injured workers and Medicare”.

Provides An Exemption From MSP Statute
H.R. 5284 amends the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) statute to provide an exemption from the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) statute for workers’ compensation settlements where any of the following occur:

• Total settlement is less than or equal to $25,000;
• Claimant is not eligible for Medicare at settlement date and is unlikely to become eligible for within 30 months;
• Future medical coverage is not included in the settlement;
• Settlement agreement does not limit or extinguish the right of the claimant to payment of future medical bills.

Defines “Qualified Medicare Set-Aside”
A (QMSA), as defined in H.R. 5284, is “a Medicare set-aside that reasonably takes into account the full payment obligation for present and future medical payments”. HR 5284 amends the MSP Statute such that a workers’ compensation settlement that includes a “qualified Medicare Set-Aside” (QMSA) will satisfy any obligation, with respect to present or future payment reimbursement under Section 1395y(b)(2) of the MSP statute.

To be considered as a QMSA, the MSA must give due consideration to:

• The illness or injury, age and life expectancy,
• the reasonableness of and necessity for future medical expenses,
• the duration of and limitations on benefits payable under the workers’ compensation law or plan and the relevant State workers’ compensation regulations and case law.

The QMSA must also:

• Include payment for items, services that are covered by the workers’ comp law or plan involved;
• Be based on the applicable workers’ compensation State fee schedule;
• Can (not must) be calculated using a proportional adjustment for compromised settlements that reduces the QMSA by the same proportion that the total settlement was reduced.

Under H.R. 5284, the current CMS review process remains intact. However, the follow requirements must be met during the review process to be considered a QMSA:

• The Secretary has 60 days to review the QMSA.
• Failure to meet that 60-day deadline will deem the QMSA to be approved.
• If denied, the Secretary must include specific reasons.
In addition, HR 5284 establishes an appeals process, with specific time deadlines, that entitles the dissatisfied party the right to all of the following:
• a reconsideration by the Secretary,
• a hearing before an administrative law judge,
• a judicial review.

Establishes a “Safe Harbor” Amount
Medicare set-asides of $250,000 or less are deemed QMSAs upon written consent of all parties to the settlement agreement, AND if a “safe harbor amount” is paid directly to Medicare.
The safe harbor amount is defined as “15% of the total settlement, excluding repayment of conditional payments and previously settled portions of the claim”. The bill gives the Secretary the authority to modify the safe harbor percentage if it is determined that the 15% rate causes significant negative impact.

Sets Time Limit for Conditional Payment Request
If the Secretary fails to provide conditional payment information within 90 days, then neither the claimant nor the payer is liable for any reimbursement to Medicare with respect to the conditional payment information being requested.
Sets QMSA Payment Not > Workers’ Compensation Fee Schedule
No one shall be liable for any payment amount established under a Medicare set-aside for an item or service provided to the claimant that is greater than the related workers’ compensation fee schedule amount. In addition, a provider may not bill a Medicare set-aside more than the payment rate used in the Medicare set-aside or the Secretary may apply sanctions.

 Treatment of state workers’ compensation law
If a workers’ compensation settlement agreement is accepted in accordance with the workers’ compensation law of a jurisdiction, then that acceptance shall be deemed conclusive. That includes determination of reasonableness of the settlement value, any allocation of funds, the projection of future indemnity or medical benefits that may be payable under State workers’ compensation law.

To view the text of H.R. 5248, click here.