Tuesday, February 20, 2018

OCMA Blog

Physician Advocate Tip of the Month

Verifying your patients' eligibility and benefits in 2015 may save your practice thousands of dollars

Physicians are urged to be diligent in verifying patients' eligibility and benefits to ensure that you will be paid for services rendered. The beginning of a new year means that calendar year deductibles and visit frequency limitations start over. With open enrollment there may also be changes to patients' benefit plans, or they may even be insured through a new payor. 

Don't get stuck with unnecessary denials or an upset patient. Do your homework before the patient arrives by obtaining updated insurance information at the time of scheduling, if possible, and making copies of the insurance card at the time of the visit.
 
The new year also brings a host of other challenges that could affect your ability to be paid:  Read full article here.


Communication Is Key to Improving Diabetic Patient Outcomes and Reducing Liability


Because diabetes has the potential for serious complications and requires immense involvement by patients and physicians for successful outcomes, healthcare professionals who treat diabetic patients may be at risk for malpractice lawsuits.

In a study of claims closed from 2007 to 2013, The Doctors Company identified four common allegations made by patients with diabetes: improper management of treatment (37 percent), failure or delay in diagnosis (31 percent), failure to treat (9 percent), and improper management of medication regimens (6 percent).  

Diabetic patients’ treatment is often managed by a multidisciplinary care team, which may include a primary care physician, endocrinologist, dietician, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, and dentist. When patients file claims, it’s not uncommon for them to name the entire care team in the complaint, alleging failure to properly diagnose, supervise, monitor, and/or treat their disease.  

To promote patient safety, the healthcare team should engage the patient in collaborative care planning and problem solving to produce an individualized care plan as well as team support when problems are encountered. Other ways to promote patient safety and mitigate the risk of malpractice claims related to diabetes care are: 

  • Communicate. Talking openly with diabetic patients about their condition and encouraging them to take an active role in decision making enhances patient safety. 

- Overcome patients’ fears about their disease by taking time to answer questions.
- Discuss all associated risk factors, including weight gain. The American Medical 
  Association and American Diabetes Association have resources available to help physicians
  talk to their patients 
about weight and diabetes.
- Provide written instructions and information about adverse effects for prescription drugs
  and 
complex prescription drug regimens.
- Communicate with the patient and prepare written information in the language and at the 
  literacy level that the patient understands.
- Ask patients to repeat the information shared, not just whether they understand what 
  they have been told.

  • Educate. Educate patients about the importance of self-management to help increase their compliance and to reduce the risk of patients attributing their injuries to substandard care. Diabetic patients should be able to articulate the importance of lab tests, medication management, diet, and exercise. Barriers to self-management such as financial issues or lack of social support, healthcare literacy, and patient-caregiver relationships should be assessed.
  • Document. Document any and all patient interactions and discussions regarding the patient’s condition, including diagnosis, specialist referrals, and treatment options.
  • Manage care. Implement a program that ensures timely follow-up when a patient fails to schedule an appointment, misses an appointment, or cancels an appointment and does not reschedule. Failure to follow up and provide intensive patient management can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, accelerated disease symptoms, morbidity, and/or mortality. 

Contributed by The Doctors Company. For more patient safety articles and practice tips, visit www.thedoctors.com/patientsafety.


OCMA Collaboration with CalOptima Secures Reimbursement Increase for ER Physicians

Emergency room physicians in Orange County will see an increase in reimbursement by CalOptima due to successful efforts by the Orange County Medical Association (OCMA).

OCMA worked in close collaboration with CalOptima to address the issue of ER physician payments. Since January 1, the full implementation of federal health reform and resulting increase in health insurance coverage has led to increased use of emergency rooms throughout the county as the system faces a growing demand for services.

Although there has been significant growth in utilization, emergency room physicians had not seen an increase in their payment rates for a number of years. This is despite the fact that Orange County ER physicians have seen a greater percentage of high-acuity cases in ERs after the implementation of health reform and the expansion of Medi-Cal and CalOptima coverage to OC residents.

ER physicians initially attempted to secure an increase from the Medi-Cal plan, but were unsuccessful. “At that point we saw that we needed help. The funding was critical to our specialty, but we realized we couldn’t get it alone, so we reached out to the OCMA,” said Dr. Peter G. Anderson, head of the ER physician team at Fountain Valley Regional Medical Center.

OCMA worked closely with executives and staff at CalOptima to develop a proposal that addressed the physicians’ needs and was financially prudent for the plan.

“We have a great relationship with the Orange County Medical Association, and work closely with them on initiatives directly impacting our physician provider partners,” stated Javier Sanchez, chief network officer for CalOptima. “The solution we put together with them on the ER rate issue is just the most recent example of that.”

The increase applies to services rendered to CalOptima patients on and after Sept. 1, 2014. The case rate was increased from $85 to $95, and physician critical care services outside of the case rate will now be reimbursed at 133% of the Medi-Cal fee schedule, up from the previous 123%.

These increases will be provided to both CalOptima Direct as well as Shared Risk Groups (SRGs) and Physician-Hospital Consortia (PHCs) working through the health networks.

The proposal was adopted by the CalOptima Board of Directors at their regular monthly meeting on Sept. 4.

“OCMA was pleased to have been able to help secure this rate increase for our ER physician members,” said Robert McCann, CEO of the Orange County Medical Association. “OCMA is proud of our advocacy on behalf of all of our physician members. We will continue to strive to do all we can to assist them in their efforts to serve the healthcare needs of the Orange County community.”

Specialty physicians received a reimbursement increase from CalOptima in December 2013, but ER physicians were exempted and did not get an increase. ER physicians are also not eligible for the reimbursement increase to primary care physicians included in federal health reform, so the recent increase was a great win for ER physicians.

Read full article in Physicians News Network - Orange County.


DHCS Releases Online UCR Attestation Form for ACA Primary Care Rate Increase

The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) included an increase in reimbursement to eligible primary care physicians for specified services provided from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014. Payments for services rendered to Medi-Cal patients will be reimbursed at Medicare rates for the two-year period.
 
However, according to DHCS and CMS policy, total payment for services rendered may not exceed a provider's billed charges. Due to system limitations at the DHCS, providers may be restricted from billing their usual and customary rates on the PM-160 billing form. In most cases, providers have adapted to this restriction by billing at the expected Medi-Cal reimbursement rate for services provided to Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP) participants. This has created a problem for physicians anticipating the higher reimbursements, as according to DHCS and CMS policy, the providers have been paid at billed charges and are not owed additional ACA reimbursement.  As a result, millions of dollars in payments to California physicians have not been released.
 
CalOptima and other California managed care plans have been working with the DHCS for several months to develop a solution that wouldn't require physicians to re-bill all eligible CHDP claims in order to obtain the increase. At the urging of physician advocacy groups such as CMA, OCMA and other stakeholders, the DHCS has agreed to a workaround that would allow these practices to be paid at the higher rate without the inconvenience of rebilling each claim. 
 
DHCS recently released an online form where providers may attest to their usual and customary rates for CHDP services, allowing the practice to receive the higher reimbursement intended by the ACA rate increase. This attestation must be completed by November 28, 2014. The form may be found online at: http://files.medi-cal.ca.gov/pubsdoco/ACA/articles/acanews_23115_1.asp
 
DHCS recently announced it intends to make an interim payment on CHDP claims in December, with a true up to occur in 2015.

Updated Ebola Guidance from the OC Health Care Agency

The Ebola epidemic of West Africa has led to 13268 cases as of November 7, with 8168 confirmed cases and 4960 deaths. The epidemic seems likely to continue for at least the next several months. There still have been no suspect Ebola cases in Orange County.

To date, there have been no confirmed Ebola cases in California.
 The Orange County Health Care Agency will be monitoring persons returning from countries with widespread Ebola virus transmission (currently Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone) or who have had contact with a confirmed Ebola case within the previous 21 days.  The risk of Ebola in the U.S. remains low, and the risk of a symptomatic (infectious) patient that we are not following presenting unannounced for health care is even lower, but something we all continue to prepare for.  The following recently released documents may be of assistance to you in your preparations:

1)      Algorithm for Ambulatory Care Evaluation of Patients with Possible Ebola Virus Disease – CDC document, modified by OCHCA with Orange County contact information (attached)

2)      Algorithm for Emergency Department Evaluation and Management of Patients with Possible Ebola Virus Disease:  http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/ed-algorithm-management-patients-possible-ebola.pdf 

3)      Web-based training- Guidance for Donning and Doffing PPE during Management of Patients with Ebola in US Hospitals:  http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/ppe-training/index.html 

Traveler Assessment
Travelers coming from a country experiencing widespread Ebola disease will be assessed upon arrival to one of five airports in the United States. Information about the traveler will be passed on to local public health departments. The Orange County Health Care Agency will monitor any such travelers in our county daily to assess for symptoms. A hospital will be pre-designated for each of these travelers, based on factors such as a patient’s insurance type and proximity to a facility. That facility will be contacted ahead of time, to assure that the patient receives prompt care if needed. However, it is not certain that this system will identify all travelers from the affected areas, so area hospitals need to be prepared in the event that a suspect case arrives at their facility without prior warning.

Healthcare providers should assess all patients for a history of travel to countries experiencing widespread Ebola disease, which includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia at this point. Providers should report any suspect Ebola cases to the Orange County Health Care Agency immediately at 714-834-8180 during regular hours, or 714-628-7008 after hours.

All Orange County hospitals need to prepare to isolate and evaluate a potential Ebola patient.

There is no designated Ebola hospital in Orange County. University of California-Irvine Medical Center has indicated that it will accept one confirmed Ebola case. However, suspect cases identified at a different hospital will need to be cared for at that facility until the case is confirmed, which may take from 24-72 hours. For suspect cases that present to an outpatient clinical setting not associated with a hospital, Orange County Public Health will facilitate transfer of the patient to the closest appropriate facility.

Orange County Health Care Agency can assist with testing a patient for possible Ebola disease.

The test of choice for Ebola is serum PCR. Tests can be falsely negative if performed in the first three days of illness. Patients who test serum PCR negative but have a clinical and exposure history consistent with Ebola may need repeat testing performed. This test is currently performed at selected public health laboratories.

For more information, see http://ochealthinfo.com/phs/about/dcepi/epi/disease/ebola . For healthcare worker recommendations, see www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html. A hospital checklist for Ebola preparedness can be found at www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/hospital-checklist-ebola-preparedness.pdf.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

If you have any comments or questions or would like to be added to the distribution list, please email us at epi@ochca.com 

HCA/Epidemiology & Assessment
1719 W. 17th St., Bldg. C/79
Santa Ana, CA 92706
(P) 714-834-8180
(F) 714-834-8196


"No on 46" Campaign Victorious

 

We did it!  A coalition of nearly 1,000 organizations, led by CMA and OCMA, successfully - and resoundingly - defeated Proposition 46.  Here are the results that were posted early this morning:

                                • No: 67.1% / 3,415,996 votes
                                • Yes: 32.9% / 1,671,163 votes

This unworkable proposition would have dramatically altered MICRA by making it easier to file lawsuits against health care providers, increasing health care costs, reducing access to care and ultimately generating more legal fees for lawyers.

Despite the proponents' attempt to confuse voters about Proposition 46, the public decisively voiced its desire to preserve MICRA and all of its protections. This win is proof that Californians agree on the importance of access to quality health care across the state and they won't be fooled by political sweeteners.

OCMA and CMA will continue to stay vigilant in our work with the legislature to ensure that your elected representatives remember what the people said on Election Day 2014. We will continue to work to ensure that MICRA is protected. 
 
Thank you for your hard work, ongoing efforts and financial contributions to defeat Proposition 46!  We couldn't have done it without you.


AMA Statement on Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption Announcement

Due to significant pressure from the AMA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the reopening of its Meaningful Use (MU) hardship exception application for physicians and hospitals to avoid the 2015 penalty. 
 
CMS' action gives physicians the opportunity to seek exemption from meeting Meaningful Use requirements in 2014 and avoid Medicare payment penalties in 2015.
 
The new deadline will be November 30, 2014.  Previously, the hardship exception application deadline was April 1, 2014 for hospitals and July 1, 2014 for physicians.
 
While all Medicare physicians have until February 28, 2015 to attest to any 90-day reporting period in 2014 to obtain an MU incentive, Medicare physicians who started the program this year were required to attest by October 1, 2014 to avoid a penalty of up to 2 percent in 2015.  Those new to the MU program can now apply for a hardship exception to avoid this penalty if they missed the October 1 deadline.  In addition, even if you are prepared to attest by February 28, 2015, you can still apply for a hardship exception as a fallback precaution to avoid the penalty.  We believe this hardship exemption will be interpreted broadly by CMS and we therefore encourage all physicians who meet the following criteria to apply by the November deadline.
 
The hardship exception, however, only provides relief from the MU penalty and will not earn you an incentive.  Meaningful Use incentives are still available for those who are able to meet and attest to the Stage 1 or Stage 2 measures by the February deadline. 
 
This reopened hardship exception period is for Medicare physicians and hospitals that:

  • Have been unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT due to delays in 2014 Edition CEHRT availability; and
  • Physicians who were unable to attest by October 1, 2014 and hospitals that were unable to attest by July 1, 2014 using the flexibility options provided in the CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule.

The CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule allows physicians to use older certified EHR technology (Version 2011), a combination of old and new technology (Version 2011 and Version 2014), or just new technology (Version 2014) to attest for their 2014 reporting period. A more in-depth review of the rule can be found on the AMA website under "Avoiding meaningful use penalties / Hardship Exceptions." Unfortunately, the CMS system was not ready to accept attestations by the October 1, the last date Medicare physicians new to MU could attest to avoid a penalty.  This is part of the reason why CMS elected to re-open the hardship filing period, ensuring more doctors avoid a 2015 penalty.
 
For more information, and for a link to the hardship exemption application, visit the CMS website.

Below is the AMA press statement.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 7, 2014
 
AMA Statement on Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption Announcement
Statement attributed to:
Robert M. Wah, MD
President, American Medical Association
 
"The American Medical Association (AMA) is pleased that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken a step towards addressing AMA concerns and has decided to reopen the Meaningful Use hardship submission period.  Medicare physicians who were unable to fully implement their new certified electronic health record software due to delays in receiving it and who were unable to successfully attest by the October 1 deadline can apply for the exception through November 30th. This change will allow more physicians to avoid an unfair Meaningful Use financial penalty in 2015.
 
"Giving physicians more time to file for a hardship exemption provides necessary relief as many physicians are struggling to meet a number of reporting mandates to avoid multiple penalties.
 
"The AMA remains committed, however, to ensuring that the Meaningful Use program requirements are in fact meaningful and deliver the intended improvements in patient care and practice efficiencies. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to make the program requirements more flexible and ensure physicians have certified products that better support their practices and patients' needs."


Ebola Resources from the OC Health Care Agency

The first case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) diagnosed in the United States was confirmed on September 30, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. However, the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States remains low. Health care providers should remember to obtain a travel history for any patients with febrile illness, and be familiar with Ebola's clinical presentation and infection control requirements.  Any suspect cases meeting the clinical and epidemiologic criteria for EVD should be reported immediately to Orange County Public Health Epidemiology at 714-834-8180. 


For more information, see www.ochealthinfo.com/ebola

For specific health care-related guidance including infection prevention and environmental infection control precautions, see www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html

To receive alerts, updates and newsletters on communicable disease issues affecting Orange County, email epi@ochca.com.


Understanding Advancements in Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer

Written by Nimmi Kapoor, MD, Surgical Oncologist, Breastlink

Our understanding of breast cancer is rapidly advancing.  Breast cancer is not a single disease entity, but a heterogeneous disease spectrum with numerous genetic alterations involved in its pathogenesis. Some breast cancers are indolent and not life-threatening, while others are very aggressive. Similarly, we find different genetic alterations in different breast cancers. Some of these genetic changes are familial, or the result of genetic mutations passed from parent to child. The BRCA genes were the first to shed light on familial breast cancer genetics. Now we are capable of screening over a dozen different genes for mutations implicated in breast cancer risk. Navigating these new complexities in genetic testing can be challenging. It will be important for all physicians to become more familiar with this expanding area of medicine.

Background to Genetic Testing for Breast CancerIt is the 20-year anniversary since the first BRCA gene mutation was identified. By the mid-2000s, enough data had been collected for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) to issue guidelines on genetic testing. Most insurance plans began to offer some sort of coverage for genetic testing by 2010. In the short time since, genetic testing has become much more widespread and tests have advanced to identify numerous genetic mutations linked to breast cancer.

Two of the most well-known genes associated with increased risk for developing breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Between 15 and 20 percent of all breast cancers are familial, with BRCA1 and BRCA2 responsible for approximately half of these familial cancers. These genes have been well described and there are established guidelines for their management. However, there are numerous other genes also known to increase risk for breast cancer. The most updated NCCN guidelines now recommend considering multi-gene testing over single gene testing. Some of these genes, in addition to the BRCA genes, include:
 

• PALB2
• PTEN
• TP53
• CDH1
• ATM
• CHEK2

Of these genes, PALB2, PTEN, TP53 and CDH1 are also well described and guidelines exist for their management. ATM and CHEK2, along with a handful of other genes, explain a significant portion of hereditary breast cancers, but are less understood and guidelines do not exist for their management.

Choice in Genetic Testing
Initially, there was not much choice when it came to testing for genes associated with increased risk for developing breast cancer. However, there are several factors at play today when physicians identify patients who may benefit from genetic testing.

Steps involved in completing genetic testing include assessing patient personal health and familial history, determining an appropriate test, educating the patient and obtaining informed consent, facilitating testing, interpreting results and developing a management plan. Several resources are available, such as the IBIS Breast Cancer Risk Evaluation Tool, to help physicians determine patient risk.

Numerous sequencing panels exist for testing of breast cancer genes, including single gene tests and multi-gene panels. Single gene tests may not reveal the presence of certain genes associated with increased risk for breast cancer, but are straightforward with clear guidelines for management. Multi-gene panels cast a wider net, concurrently testing for multiple genes, but results can include variants of unknown significance and be more difficult to manage.

There are also variables when it comes to choosing a laboratory for the analysis of genes. These include a patient’s insurance status and cost-effectiveness, turn-around time, ease-of-use services and patient tolerance for uncertain answers. For instance, a quick turn-around time may be necessary to inform decisions about surgery.

Breastlink’s Experience with Multi-Gene Panels
Breastlink began to offer multi-gene testing in 2013. Through a high-risk program, physicians working with Breastlink identify patients at high risk for developing breast cancer, a member of the Breastlink medical staff provides a consultation and coordinates genetic testing if necessary, and the physician uses results to inform a management plan.

From July 2013 to September 2014, Breastlink collected data on the multi-gene panel testing results of 398 patients referred to Breastlink through the high-risk program. Of these, 83% had negative results while 6% tested positive for a gene associated with increased risk for developing breast cancer. In the 23 patients with mutations, a mutation in a non-BRCA1/BRCA2 gene was identified in 10 patients, or 43%. In other words, multi-gene testing increased diagnostic yield by 77%.

As knowledge of the relationship between genetics and breast cancer grows, multi-gene testing will likely prove beneficial. It offers efficient sequencing of multiple genes and helps clinicians to better understand the true nature of individual cancers.

Physicians must learn how to talk with patients about genetic testing without limiting discussions to BRCA genes. A better understanding of the relationship between genetics and breast cancer risk will help women to make informed decisions about testing. Also, by identifying patients who are mutation carriers, we can counsel patients on individual risk management options, identify family members who can also be screened and contribute to our understanding of cancer biology.

Management options for gene mutation carriers
Once a patient is diagnosed with a mutation related to an increased cancer risk, they should be given adequate counseling on management options. Ideally, early involvement of a genetic counselor is a good idea. At the same time, all physicians should be aware of options and how to generally guide patients. Some gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 gene for example, will lend to an increased risk of multiple types of cancer including breast, ovarian, melanoma, and even pancreas cancer.

Not all gene carriers will necessarily develop cancer and each patient will have an individualized risk based on their personal and family history. There are on-line tools and algorithms such as brcatool.stanford.edu that can help guide individuals with gene mutations on their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer and dying from cancer depending on how and when they choose particular interventions.  For example, a 35 year-old woman with a BRCA-1 mutation who chooses to have a prophylactic oophorectomy by age 35 and will have a 30% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70 compared to a similar woman who does not remove her ovaries with a 50% risk of breast cancer. This decrease of breast cancer risk by 20% with a prophylactic oophorectomy can be helpful to young women deciding on how to best manage their high risk state.

While preventive surgery is an option for women at high risk, alternatives include high risk screening with MRI or medical prophylaxis. Fortunately, because of advances in surgical technique, many women who choose to have prophylactic mastectomy will be able to undergo nipple-sparing mastectomy with some form of immediate reconstruction. This type of surgery offers superior cosmetic outcome and is ideal for the appropriate candidate.

Upcoming Event
Physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are invited to join Dr. Lisa Curcio and Dr. Nimmi Kapoor, two Breastlink surgical oncologists, to learn more about the genetic testing landscape at a CME course to be held at MASTRO’s Steak House in Costa Mesa on October 23. For more information or to RSVP, please call 714-804-0940 or email events@breastlink.com.  

Click here for the event flyer.


Blue Shield makes positive changes to reimbursement policy for physicians treating out-of-network exchange PPO patients

Blue Shield of California recently announced a two-part reimbursement policy change for contracted providers that do not currently participate in the plan's Individual and Family Plan (IFP) PPO product, otherwise known as its exchange/mirror PPO product.
 
Effective with September 14, 2014 dates of services, Blue Shield will implement changes to the out-of-network claims payment process and will now reimburse providers directly when PPO exchange/mirror product patients are seen out of network. Previously, Blue Shield issued payment directly to the patient. The notice also states that out-of-network physicians may continue bill patients for the balance of billed charges.
 
Additionally, for Blue Shield contracted providers who see Blue Shield PPO exchange/mirror patients out of network, the plan will process payment based on the provider's PPO contracted amount. Please note out-of-network benefit rules will still be applied, meaning the patient will still have the same out-of-network cost sharing. Previously, Blue Shield processed out-of-network PPO claims based on the reimbursement rate for its IFP product, which is typically discounted from the PPO rate.
 
The policy change does not affect services provided to patients with a Blue Shield IFP EPO plan, as there are no out-of-network benefits with an EPO product.
 
Blue Shield reports the policy change is in response to provider feedback of difficulties collecting from exchange/mirror patients they have seen out-of-network. The policy change also brings its physician payment rules in line with Blue Shield's facility payment policy for PPO exchange/mirror patients who are seen out of network.
 
CMA believes the policy change will be positive for physicians and commends Blue Shield for their responsiveness to provider concerns.
 
To view the Blue Shield notice, click here.
 
Physicians with questions about the policy can contact Blue Shield Provider Information & Enrollment at (800) 258-3091. OCMA members can contact Mitzi Young, OCMA Physician Advocate at (888) 236-0267 or myoung@cmanet.org

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