TWC_EX_0In the upcoming November edition of Today’s Wound Clinic, Helen Gelly, MD has written a very informative  “Educational Note  to Provider.” Helen, and Joe Darrah, the Managing Editor of TWC have graciously allowed  me to share this
The prior authorization (PA) project for hyperbaric oxygen therapy that was started by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has been implemented fully, and all states, New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois are currently participating. The result has been a reduction in utilization that has been substantial. Reports vary from 40%- 80 % rate of denials, representing a significant reduction in hyperbaric oxygen treatments. It is not surprising to note that the prior authorization states number amongst the eleven states with the highest number of fraud and error-prone providers (Florida, California, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Louisiana and Illinois).
CMS has had considerable experience in using prior authorization projects to curb perceived over utilization and potential fraud and abuse.  By their very nature, prior authorization projects are limited in geographic scope. They can be expanded, but a national implementation requires some level of congressional intervention, and this is challenging in today’s political environment. However, traditional methods of auditing payment can be used instead; both prepayment and post payment review. TWC_Cover1015Post payment review and takebacks have taken a number of forms; this topic has been comprehensively covered in Today’s wound clinic October 2015 issue in an article written by Valerie Larson-Lohr, MSN, APRN.
Pre-payment review allows Medicare to review claims before payment for a service that has already been rendered in order to reduce their Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) error rates. The implementation of a pre-payment audit is well within the scope of all Medicare intermediaries, and present challenges to both physicians and hospitals.  Noridian, the intermediary that covers California, has recently implemented a “Probe and Provider on Review” (POR) for hyperbaric oxygen therapy provided in an outpatient hospital department. Although this is limited to OPHD now, the “creep” to physician payment is unknown. In the PA projects, if the hospital does not receive prior approval, the physician payment is also affected.
What does that mean to both a provider and an outpatient hospital department? The steps involved have many parallels. The reasons for flagging a provider are varied, but may include billing for a service that has been identified as “at risk” for fraud and abuse and over utilization. Hyperbaric therapy has unfortunately acquired that designation. Initial screening of claims is done using the National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) and Medically Unlikely Edits (MUEs).  NCCI Edits identify improper coding, MUEs limit the number of units of service within a day that would be seen as medically necessary. For example, the MUE for 99183 (physician supervision of HBOT) is 1, the MUE for G0277 (30 minute segment of HBOT) is currently 5. Patients treated on a BID schedule would be automatically flagged as “unlikely” and require Medical Review (MR).
A recent educational session offered by Noridian identified the steps that part of the HBO probe review. Providers will be notified by letter of the prepayment review, and an Additional Documentation Request (ADR) will be sent to the provider. The provider must respond within 45 days, and if no response is received; the denial is made for non-receipt of medical records. If the claim is denied (or if you are dissatisfied with the determination), then a redetermination must be sent within 120 days. The MAC redetermination review process has 60 days to respond. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you have 180 days to file a reconsideration request with the Qualified Independent Contractor (QIC) that is working with your MAC. At this level ALL the supporting documentation that you foresee using in your defense must be submitted, including literature, position statements and the complete but relevant medical record.   The QIC has 60 days to respond, if unfavorable, you may go to the third level of appeal, which is the Administrative Law Judge. At this level, you cannot easily submit additional information.  Ultimately, you have five levels of appeal.
Common reasons for unfavorable decisions for hyperbaric therapy include the lack of a legibly signed physician order for the hyperbaric therapy that must include the delineation of treatment pressure, rate of descent/ascent/ air breaks, planned duration of therapy, and frequency per day. Blood sugars must be ordered. The treatment note must clearly show the length of time of the total hyperbaric treatment, the appropriate treatment diagnosis, documentation that the physician was available and present during the therapy, and must be signed. Legibly. The initial ADR must have supporting documentation sent along with the treatment record, which would include the initial evaluation that addresses the  documentation of conventional care, lack of response, and goals for the hyperbaric therapy.
However, having all of that documentation is not necessarily a formula for immediate success. There is considerable variability in the quality of the reviewers, and depending on the medical director and the interpretation of the NCD, LCD or Article, the review process can be arduous.  Having had the dubious distinction of being under pre-payment review for the better part of 2015, I have more than my fair share of stories to share.  Some make me want to tear my hair out, others are so ludicrous that laughing is the only way to maintain sanity.  These comments are taken verbatim from the responses to redeterminations; the responses are my editorial comments.

“The provider is billing G0277 x4. According to the national Coverage Determination (NCD) for HYPERBARIC Oxygen Therapy (20.29), treatments greater than two services per day must have documentation supporting medical necessity for increased frequency…The claim is paid for two treatments.”

Perhaps the medical reviewer was looking at the MUE for 99183 and not G0277? In any event, nowhere in the NCD does it reference frequency of treatment.

“There is no a Wagner grade III classification or higher. The documentation only verifies one service according to National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (20.29). The use of HBO therapy is covered as an adjunctive therapy only after there are no measurable signs of healing for at least 30 days of treatment with standard wound therapy and must be used in addition to standard wound care. The documentation fails to support the service. Therefore, the denial is upheld.”

Well, it is pretty hard to have a Wagner grade III ulcer when the patient has radiation cystitis…however they had a co-morbidity of diabetes, and the DFU requirements are transposed to delayed effects of radiation.  But it gets better.

“This 69 year old female with soft tissue necrosis and history of radiation received one dive..and was billed and paid with service 99183.. Educational note to provider: There is no recorded Wagner scale of wound on the HBO document as required per National Coverage Determination (Publication 100-03), Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 20.29 Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.”

Educational note to reviewer: There is no Wagner scale of the wound in osteoradionecrosis of the mandible. Wagner refers to the ulcers of a dysvascular, neuropathic diabetic foot, and only the foot. However, the tendency for the requirements of the DFU to be reflected in all diagnoses is evident.

“70 ( seventy) year old female patient performed on …Our Medical review staff states that after review of the submitted documentation, it is determined that the documentation does not support the medical necessity..the use of HBO therapy is covered as adjunctive therapy only after there are no measurable signs of healing for at least thirty days of treatment with standard wound therapy and must be used in addition to standard wound care…the  documentation reflects this is a patient with a left nasal flap. However, the documentation only supports that this wound has been present for eight (8) days. Therefore the denial is upheld”

The indication for compromised flap/graft is urgent, and does not qualify for 30 days of standard wound care…but here again, is the tendency is to paint all indications with the DFU brush.
It is inevitable that there be some confusion at the beginning of the implementation of a process. These examples are more a reflection of the perception that every hyperbaric indication requires 30 days of standard care, and that the Wagner grading system for diabetic foot ulcers can be applied to any and every part of the body.
The hyperbaric community needs to pay attention to what is being documented in the denials in the Prior Authorization project as well as the Noridian POR. We need to share this information with each other, using blogs (http://www.todayswoundclinic.com/blogs) to make certain that the standards that we are judged by are accurate and  that we are following trends in misinformation, so that they may be corrected. Just an “Educational note to provider.”
Educational Note to Providers


GellyDr. Gelly has been involved in hyperbaric medicine and wound care since 1991. Past positions have included Medical Directorships at academic and community hyperbaric medicine and wound care programs. She started a non-hospital affiliated hyperbaric medicine center which was one of the first UHMS accreditated centers. She has been actively involved in billing and reimbursement issues for both facilities and physicians. Until recently, she was the Medical Director of Hyperbaric Physicians of Georgia, a group of physicians dedicated to the practice of hyperbaric medicine and wound healing, with 5 subspecialty boarded physicians in its membership. In addition to lecturing nationally on hyperbaric medicine and wound healing for many years, she was the president of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the UHMS from 2005-2007. Currently, she serves as the Emeritus Medical Director of Hyperbaric Physicians of Georgia, and as C.E.O. for HyperbaRXs.

Caroline Fife, MD
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