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    Subject Term: Physicians

    30 publications with a total of 73 open recommendations including 7 priority recommendations
    Director: Debra A. Draper
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Undersecretary for Health should develop and implement a process to accurately count all physicians providing care at each medical center, including physicians who are not employed by VHA. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Undersecretary for Health should develop and issue guidance to the VAMCs on determining appropriate staffing levels for all mission-critical physician occupations. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Undersecretary for Health should ensure that when multiple offices issue similar productivity data on physician occupations, any methodological differences are clearly communicated and guidance is provided on how to interpret and reconcile the data. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Undersecretary for Health should establish a system-wide method to share information about physician trainees to help fill vacancies across VAMCs. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Undersecretary for Health should conduct a comprehensive, system-wide evaluation of the physician recruitment and retention strategies used by VAMCs to determine their overall effectiveness, identify and implement improvements, ensure coordination across VHA offices, and establish an ongoing monitoring process. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Carolyn Yocom
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that its efforts to increase patients' electronic access to health information are successful, the Secretary of HHS should direct ONC to develop performance measures to assess outcomes of key efforts related to patients' electronic access to longitudinal health information. Such actions may include, for example, determining whether the number of providers that participate in these initiatives have higher rates of patient access to electronic health information.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that its efforts to increase patients' electronic access to health information are successful, the Secretary of HHS should direct ONC to use the information these performance measures provide to make program adjustments, as appropriate. Such actions may include, for example, assessing the status of program operations or identifying areas that need improvement in order to help achieve program goals related to increasing patients' ability to access their health information electronically.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Kay E. Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help states effectively address ongoing challenges related to ensuring the appropriate use of psychotropic medications for children in foster care, the Secretary of HHS should consider cost-effective ways to convene state child welfare, Medicaid, and other stakeholders to promote collaboration and information sharing within and across states on psychotropic medication oversight.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS agreed with this recommendation and provided examples of the virtual convening of contingency groups they employed to provide technical assistance and peer to peer networking in child welfare. The agency plans to offer additional technical assistance that is specifically related to the topic of mental health and psychotropic medication. GAO will consider closing the recommendation when the agency completes these efforts.
    Director: Elizabeth Curda
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: In order to ensure that veterans receive quality care from qualified physicians, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Health to develop and implement a comprehensive oversight strategy that includes ongoing monitoring and evaluations of the contractors' verification of PC3 and Choice physicians' credentials, as well as VHA staff's review of Choice physicians. VHA's oversight should include reviewing documentation and assessing whether the contractors' plans for improving their processes for Choice credentials verification are effective.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In June and July 2017, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) completed separate audit evaluations of both contractors' verification of Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) and Choice physicians' credentials. This supplements the ongoing monitoring that VHA already had in place for routinely and independently checking the credentials for a sample of PC3 and Choice providers. However, as of October 2017, VHA has not yet implemented a strategy to oversee VHA staff's review of Choice physicians through the VHA Choice Provider Agreement program.
    Director: Cosgrove, James C
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To determine the suitability of Medicare's Part B drug payment rate methodology for drugs with coupon programs, Congress should consider (1) granting CMS the authority to collect data from drug manufacturers on coupon discounts for Part B drugs paid based on ASP, and (2) requiring the agency to periodically collect these data and report on the implications that coupon programs may have for this methodology.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
    Director: James Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help the Department of Health and Human Services ensure accuracy in Part B drug payment rates, Congress should consider requiring all manufacturers of Part B drugs paid at ASP, not only those with Medicaid drug rebate agreements, to submit sales price data to CMS, and ensure that CMS has authority to request source documentation to periodically validate all such data.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, no action has been taken on this Matter for Congressional Consideration.
    Recommendation: CMS should periodically verify the sales price data submitted by a sample of drug manufacturers by requesting source documentation from manufacturers to corroborate the reported data, either directly or by working with the HHS Office of Inspector General as necessary.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of this report, HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that it will continue to work with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) as appropriate to collect source documentation from drug manufacturers and take action as may be warranted. HHS also stated that OIG reviews and compares the submitted average sales price (ASP) to the average manufacturer price (AMP) for Medicare Part B drugs and CMS has the authority to adjust ASP-based payment amounts when the difference between the two rates reaches a certain threshold. We do not consider this recommendation closed because CMS only collects source documentation from manufacturers under very limited circumstances (e.g., when there are obvious inconsistencies in the data submitted by manufacturers). CMS does not periodically request source documentation, such as sales invoices, from a sample of drug manufacturers to verify that the reported data reflect actual sales prices. As of August 17, 2017, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions to address this recommendation.
    Director: Williamson, Randall B
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To develop and maintain medical sharing expertise within the network contracting offices, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Health to create a plan for increasing the retention of contracting officers that work in medical sharing teams.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, VHA reported that it is working on creating a plan for increasing the retention of contracting officers that work in medical sharing teams. The Medical Sharing Office (MSO) has taken several steps including conducting research on possible ways to minimize or eliminate steps within its existing plan and expanding the number of topical training provided virtually network contracting offices to develop competency in VHA Health Care 1102 staff. In addition, VHA reported they are developing a training schedule to ensure newly deployed interns have received the training and resource to successfully conduct health care contracts if they are assigned to health care resources team and continuing to collaborate with the field to ensure awareness of MSO support and assistance.
    Recommendation: To ensure VHA effectively communicates with its affiliates regarding SSACs, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Health to reach out to all of its affiliates, identify any concerns, and determine the most effective method of communicating with affiliates regarding SSAC development.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, the VHA reported that it plans to have an Academic Affiliate Contracting Forum on August 15-16, 2017 in Nashville, TN or Dallas, TX for VHA staff responsible for health care contracts and University affiliates. The purpose of the Forum is to strengthen and advance the collaborative partnership for providing service to Veterans; share perspectives; and enhance awareness about processes, procedures and tools that will help make contracting processes faster and easier for all parties.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that it provides all eligible populations access to its services and that its eligibility requirements are consistent with currently accepted practices, the Library of Congress should re-examine and potentially revise its requirement that medical doctors must certify eligibility for the NLS program for those with a reading disability caused by organic dysfunction.

    Agency: Library of Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has contracted for a study of how eligibility based on reading disability should be certified. This study will look at medical advances in the diagnosis of reading disabilities, the NLS authorizing statute, and the potential impact of a regulatory change on the program. The expected completion date is December 2017. To close this recommendation, the Library of Congress must demonstrate that this study has been completed and that NLS has determined whether a change in its requirements is warranted.
    Recommendation: To ensure funds are directed to the most cost-effective outreach efforts, NLS should evaluate the effectiveness of its outreach efforts, including the extent to which different outreach efforts have resulted in new users.

    Agency: Library of Congress: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has begun revising the program application form so that it captures information on how applicants were referred to the program. NLS expects to have all libraries nationwide using this revised application by sometime in 2018. In addition, the Library of Congress indicated that NLS has contracted for a multi-year, multi-media advertising campaign. This effort will assess the effectiveness of different approaches by connecting direct responses to ads with verified program enrollment. The campaign is expected to be fully underway by January 2018. To close this recommendation, the Library of Congress will need to demonstrate that NLS has fully implemented one or more of its planned new approaches for evaluating outreach.
    Recommendation: To help it determine the most cost-effective approach for its next audio player, NLS should comprehensively assess the alternatives of designing its own specialized audio player versus providing commercially available players to its users.

    Agency: Library of Congress: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has contracted for a study of the different commercially available audio players for their usability, life-cycle costs, maintenance needs, and durability. The study is expected to be completed by December 2017, and will guide NLS in its decision about how to develop its next generation of audio players. To close this recommendation as implemented, the Library of Congress will have to demonstrate that this study has been conducted and that NLS has considered its findings in making a decision about its next generation audio player.
    Recommendation: To help it determine whether to supplement its collection of human-narrated audio materials with text-to-speech materials, NLS should thoroughly assess the text-to-speech option versus continuing to provide only human-narrated materials.

    Agency: Library of Congress: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has developed a library of 100 text-to-speech (synthetic speech) talking books. In September 2017, NLS will begin a 3-month pilot in which a group of NLS users try out these talking books and provide input to NLS. Also, NLS will require that its next generation of audio players have the capacity to play synthetic speech talking books, and the study it has contracted of commercially available players will consider this requirement among other factors. To close this recommendation as implemented, NLS needs to demonstrate that it has completed its text-to-speech pilot and has decided on an approach going forward with regards to expanding this program.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance consistency with DOL policy and procedures in adjudicating EEOICPA Part E claims, the Secretary of Labor should strengthen internal controls by requiring district offices to take steps to ensure that all claimant correspondence for Recommended and Final Decisions receives supervisory review.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with our recommendation that a second level review will provide a higher degree of internal quality control. However, upon evaluating our recommendation, Labor determined that given its current staffing levels it would not be possible to conduct a supervisory review of all Recommended and Final Decisions without having an adverse impact on the issuance of timely decisions for claimants. Instead, Labor is implementing a process to review a sample of decision letters - initially 10 percent - and make procedural adjustments based on the results of those reviews. We will revisit the status of this recommendation pending the results of Labor's supervisory reviews of selected decision letters.
    Recommendation: To enhance consistency with DOL policy and procedures in adjudicating EEOICPA Part E claims, the Secretary of Labor should strengthen internal controls by requiring district offices to document that the SEM was checked for updates just prior to issuing a Recommended Decision to deny a claim in cases in which the date of the last SEM update has not changed since the claims examiner's prior check.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with our recommendation pertaining to documenting searches of the Site Exposure Matrix during claims processing. Labor stated that it has implemented the recommendation by updating relevant guidance in the Federal EEOICPA Procedure Manual. We will update the status of this recommendation pending verification that the Procedure Manual was revised to require claims examiners to document that, before denying a claim they checked the Site Exposure Matrix to ensure pertinent information had not changed since the examiner's prior check.
    Director: James Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to prevent the shift of services from physician offices to HOPDs from increasing costs for the Medicare program and beneficiaries, Congress should consider directing the Secretary of HHS to equalize payment rates between settings for E/M office visits--and other services that the Secretary deems appropriate--and to return the associated savings to the Medicare program.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Kathleen M. King
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that HHS workforce efforts meet national needs, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should develop a comprehensive and coordinated planning approach to guide HHS's health care workforce development programs--including education, training, and payment programs--that (1) includes performance measures to more clearly determine the extent to which these programs are meeting the department's strategic goal of strengthening health care; (2) identifies and communicates to stakeholders any gaps between existing programs and future health care workforce needs identified in the Health Resources and Services Administration's workforce projection reports; (3) identifies actions needed to address identified gaps; and (4) identifies and communicates to Congress the legislative authority, if any, the Department needs to implement the identified actions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2016, HHS indicated that the agency had not yet taken steps to implement a comprehensive workforce planning effort. Officials said that for the FY2018 cycle, HHS had planned to expand its group developing legislative proposals to include budget issues and gaps that warrant attention. While it did not do so during that cycle, officials indicated that they would recommend this broader approach to workforce planning for future budget and legislative cycles.
    Director: James Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To determine the extent to which Medicare payments are aligned with costs for specific types of dialysis treatment and training, the Administrator of CMS should take steps to improve the reliability of the cost report data for treatment and training associated with specific types of dialysis.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should examine Medicare policies for monthly payments to physicians to manage the care of dialysis patients and revise them if necessary to ensure that these policies are consistent with CMS's goal of encouraging the use of home dialysis among patients for whom it is appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure that patients with chronic kidney disease receive objective and timely education related to this condition, the Administrator of CMS should examine the Kidney Disease Education benefit and, if appropriate, seek legislation to revise the categories of providers and patients eligible for the benefit.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: James Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve its oversight of network adequacy in MA, the Administrator of CMS should augment MA network adequacy criteria to address provider availability.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a January 2016 update that CMS will review how to augment the MA network adequacy criteria to address provider availability in future years. As of September 2016, agency officials have not implemented this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve its oversight of network adequacy in MA, the Administrator of CMS should verify provider information submitted by MAOs to ensure validity of the Health Services Delivery data.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a January 2016 update that the agency is working to standardize existing protocols to ensure the validity of the Health Services Delivery data submitted by MAOs with regards to exceptions requests and partial county justifications. However, unless CMS verifies provider information submitted by MAOs, the agency cannot be confident that MAOs are meeting network adequacy criteria. As of September 2016, agency officials have not implemented this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve its oversight of network adequacy in MA, the Administrator of CMS should expand network adequacy reviews by requiring that all MAOs periodically submit their networks for assessment against current Medicare requirements.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In a January 2016 update, the agency noted that CMS has expanded its reviews to include both existing and new service areas for network adequacy when MAOs apply for a service area expansion, However, unless CMS periodically requires evidence of compliance of all existing MAO networks, the agency cannot be confident that MAOs are meeting network adequacy criteria. As of September 2016, agency officials have not implemented this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve its oversight of network adequacy in MA, the Administrator of CMS should set minimum requirements for MAO letters notifying enrollees of provider terminations and require MAOs to submit sample letters to CMS for review.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In a January 2016 update, the agency noted that the Medicare Marketing Guidelines contain best practice suggestions of what should be included in the written termination notice; however, we note in our report those practices are not required, nor are the letters regularly reviewed. The agency also noted that it was considering rulemaking to require that MAOs submit sample written notices of termination to HHS for review and approval. As of September 2016, agency officials have not implemented this recommendation.
    Director: James C. Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve CMS's process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, the Administrator of CMS should better document the process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, including the methods used to review RUC recommendations and the rationale for final relative value decisions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: To help improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, in May 2015 we recommended that the Administrator of CMS better document the process, including the methods used to review recommendations from the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) and the rationale for final relative value decisions. CMS concurred with this recommendation, stating that CMS establishes relative values for new, revised, and potentially misvalued physicians' services based on its review of a variety of sources of information, including the RUC. CMS officials told us the agency continues to improve the transparency of its process by proposing and finalizing changes to the process in the annual rule for the Physician Fee Schedule. Officials also told us that the agency is developing a means of displaying the direct practice expense inputs component of relative values in a consistent manner that will allow for greater transparency and documentation of the process, since currently the RUC recommends direct practice expense inputs to CMS through inconsistent formats that are not conducive to public transparency. Officials estimated that this process will take several years to complete. In order to close this recommendation as implemented, CMS will need to demonstrate that it has improved its internal and external documentation of its process for establishing relative values. As of August 2016, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help improve CMS's process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, the Administrator of CMS should develop a process for informing the public of potentially misvalued services identified by the RUC, as CMS already does for potentially misvalued services identified by CMS or other stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: To help improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, in May 2015 we recommended that the Administrator of CMS develop a process for informing the public of potentially misvalued services identified by the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), as CMS already does for potentially misvalued services identified by CMS or other stakeholders. CMS did not concur with this recommendation, asserting that the RUC is completely independent of CMS, and as such CMS has no authority to set the RUC's agenda for which services are reviewed. CMS reiterated their non-concurrence in February 2016. CMS officials noted that they recognize that some stakeholders, including those who are not participants in the RUC process, may not be aware of the new, revised, and potentially misvalued services that are under review by CMS prior to the establishment of interim final values in a final rule. For this reason and others, CMS proposed and finalized a change in its process for establishing or revising relative values for new, revised, or potentially misvalued services. Beginning in 2016, CMS will begin including proposed values for some of services in the annual proposed rulemaking for the Physician Fee Schedule, which means that the changes in values for these services will be open for public comment prior to them being finalized. In 2017, changes in values for almost all services will be included in the proposed rule for the Physician Fee Schedule. We continue to believe that CMS needs to inform the public of potentially misvalued services identified by the RUC, as the agency does for potentially misvalued services identified by other stakeholders for review. While the elimination of most interim final values in 2017 will allow stakeholders to comment on values before they become effective, we believe it is still important for CMS to inform stakeholders of those services identified by the RUC as potentially misvalued before CMS received RUC recommendations for these services and subsequently publishes the values in the proposed rule each year. Doing so would give stakeholders more time to provide input on values for services if they so choose before CMS included its proposed values in the annual proposed rulemaking, and we worded our recommendation to allow CMS to determine how to inform stakeholders of these services without delaying the timing of its revision of misvalued services.
    Recommendation: To help improve CMS's process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, the Administrator of CMS should incorporate data and expertise from physicians and other relevant stakeholders into the process as well as develop a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: To help improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, in May 2015 we recommended that the Administrator of CMS incorporate data and expertise from physicians and other relevant stakeholders into the process, as well as develop a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA). CMS concurred with this recommendation, stating that stakeholders have the opportunity each year to nominate potentially misvalued services for review through a public nomination process. In order to develop a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by PAMA, CMS is assessing the research conducted by two external contractors to determine the most effective and fiscally responsible way to use the funds. This work is ongoing, and CMS is using this work to understand the data collection limitations that exist and help inform the development of a timeline for the use of PAMA funds. CMS anticipates releasing a contract solicitation prior to the end of the calendar year. In order to close this recommendation as implemented, CMS will need to demonstrate that it has incorporated data and expertise from relevant stakeholders and has developed a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by PAMA. As of August 2016, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions to address this recommendation.
    Director: Kathleen M. King
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: CMS should conduct a formal analysis, using its experience and data it has collected since the implementation of the first MAC contracts, to determine whether alternative contracting approaches could be used--even if only for selected MAC contract responsibilities--to help promote improved contractor performance.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the agency to detect and prevent potential physician-assisted fraud, and to address potential disincentives for staff to detect and prevent physician-assisted fraud, SSA should review the standards used to assess DDS performance; and develop and distribute promising practices to incentivize staff to better balance the goal of processing claims promptly with the equally important goal of identifying and reporting evidence of potential fraud.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA partially agreed with this recommendation, citing that their employees take their stewardship responsibilities seriously and that field office and disability determination services (DDS) employees are the agency's first and best line of defense against fraud. In 2016, the agency reported that it was working with experts in its OIG and Office of Anti-Fraud Programs to develop and disseminate promising practices on identifying and reporting fraud. We will close this recommendation once SSA takes steps to review its standards for assessing DDS performance and disseminates the best practices it is developing.
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the agency to detect and prevent potential physician-assisted fraud, and to address the potential risks associated with medical evidence submitted by sanctioned physicians, SSA should evaluate the threat posed by this information and, if warranted, consider changes to its policies and procedures.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 2016, SSA reported that it was pursuing several options to address the potential risks of medical evidence submitted by sanctioned physicians. This included determining how it could use licensure information from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities. SSA stated that it believes the best opportunity to further evaluate the possible review of the license statuses of medical evidence providers is in conjunction with the implementation of the National Vendor File, part of the national Disability Case Processing System, which is under development. In addition, SSA reported it had drafted two Social Security Rulings to define fraud and to provide processes for disregarding evidence and making redeterminations in disability claims when there is reason to believe that fraudulent evidence was provided. We will close this recommendation once SSA articulates a strategy for using license status information in the vendor file and it finalizes its rulings.
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the agency to detect and prevent potential physician-assisted fraud, and to help ensure new initiatives that use analytics to identify potential fraud schemes are successful, SSA should develop an implementation plan that identifies both short- and long-term actions, including: (1) timeframes for implementation; (2) resources and staffing needs; (3) data requirements, e.g., the collection of unique medical provider information; (4) how technology improvement will be integrated into existing technology improvements such as the Disability Case Processing System and National Vendor File; and (5) how different initiatives will interact and support each other.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Since fiscal year 2015, SSA has taken several steps that will help the agency to combat fraud, waste, and abuse. SSA established the Office of Anti-Fraud Programs to provide centralized oversight and accountability for the agency's initiatives, which, in consultation with the Office of the Inspector General and other SSA components, will lead the development of SSA's anti-fraud initiatives and activities. This includes efforts to mitigate fraud through data analytics that utilize SSA's existing data systems. SSA developed a strategic plan for fiscal years 2016-2018 to guide its anti-fraud efforts that includes the use of data analytics. However, this plan does not specifically address actions to combat potential physician-assisted fraud. As of April 2017, SSA stated that it continued to develop a fraud management strategy that is consistent with the leading practices identified in GAO's report. Once the strategy is complete, SSA plans to conduct a fraud risk assessment on its major lines of business, beginning with the disability program in fiscal year 2017. We will continue to monitor SSA's progress to identify and prevent fraud schemes that include physicians.
    Director: Linda T. Kohn
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve consumers' access to relevant and understandable information on the cost and quality of health care services, the Secretary of HHS should direct the Administrator of CMS to include in the CMS Compare websites, to the extent feasible, estimated out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries for common treatments that can be planned in advance.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2015 CMS indicated that it is working to implement this recommendation. Specifically, it is actively investigating options for allowing a more targeted and consumer-centric individual user experience on Physician Compare. We will follow up to gather additional information from CMS officials as they continue their work.
    Recommendation: To improve consumers' access to relevant and understandable information on the cost and quality of health care services, the Secretary of HHS should direct the Administrator of CMS to organize cost and quality information in the CMS Compare websites to facilitate consumer identification of the highest-performing providers, such as by listing providers in order based on their performance.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2015, CMS indicated that it is working to implement this recommendation. We will follow up to gather additional information from CMS officials as they continue their work.
    Recommendation: To improve consumers' access to relevant and understandable information on the cost and quality of health care services, the Secretary of HHS should direct the Administrator of CMS to include in the CMS Compare websites the capability for consumers to customize the information presented, to better focus on information relevant to them.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2015, CMS indicated that it is working to implement this recommendation. Specifically, it is evaluating feasibility of including estimated out-of-pocket costs on physician compare. We will follow up to gather additional information from CMS officials as they continue their work.
    Recommendation: To improve consumers' access to relevant and understandable information on the cost and quality of health care services, the Secretary of HHS should direct the Administrator of CMS to develop specific procedures and performance metrics to ensure that CMS's efforts to promote the development and use of its own and others' transparency tools adequately address the needs of consumers.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2015, CMS indicated that it is working to implement this recommendation. CMS also noted that Physician Compare is in the early stages of public reporting, and is evaluating the feasibility of listing providers based on their performance in the new carefinder.gov project. We will follow up to gather additional information from CMS officials as they continue their work.
    Director: James Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As CMS implements and refines its physician feedback and Value Modifier (VM) programs, to help ensure physicians can best use the feedback to improve their performance, the Administrator of CMS should consider developing performance benchmarks that compare physicians' performance against additional benchmarks such as state or regional averages.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: CMS stated that it would consider the GAO recommendation regarding the use of additional benchmarks to compare physician performance. In addition, Congress passed legislation in 2015 requiring CMS to incorporate certain benchmark methodologies, including the use of both improvement and achievement. The agency is also replacing the Value Modifier program with a new merit-based incentive payment system. CMS may, in time, address GAO recommendations to develop additional performance benchmarks, but they have yet to be fully implemented. As of August 2017, CMS officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Yocom, Carolyn L
    Phone: (202) 512-4931

    3 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To more effectively use CQMs to assess provider performance, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct CMS and ONC to develop a comprehensive strategy for ensuring that CQM data collected and reported using certified EHR technology are reliable, including testing for and mitigation of reliability issues arising from variance in certified EHR systems tested to different CQM specifications.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In July 2015, CMS added that the agency is addressing the issue of reliability through the measure development process. Specifically, CMS stated that the agency has made tools available to measure developers which help to clarify the intent of the measure, catch errors in the development process, and minimize measure complexity. As of October 2016, CMS indicated that its National Testing Collaborative oversees implementation testing of quality measures, including testing for reliability issues. However, the agency did not indicate how these efforts constitute a comprehensive strategy, in conjunction with ONC, for achieving CQM reliability, as we recommended. In April 2017, CMS indicated that its pilot test of the National Testing Collaborative proved unsuccessful, and that CMS is continuing to look at how to best incorporate implementation testing into measure development and implementation. The agency did not indicate it has a comprehensive strategy for these efforts. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To ensure that CMS and ONC can effectively monitor the effect of the EHR programs and progress made toward goals, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the agencies to develop performance measures to assess outcomes of the EHR programs--including any effects on health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety and other health care reform efforts that are intended to work toward similar outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In July 2015, CMS noted that the agency is working to align the programs to better enable monitoring using outcome-oriented performance measures and noted that the agency is collecting data that will help them to develop such measures. CMS did not indicate when HHS plans to develop such measures as GAO recommended. In June 2016, CMS also noted that it analyzed the results of the EHR programs as of October 2015, but did not indicate that it used performance measures that assess outcomes. In September 2017, HHS officials provided us a variety of publically available reports, which they indicated show how program participants are progressing in the EHR programs and the related impacts. However, in reviewing those materials, we did not see evidence that HHS has developed outcome-oriented performance measures that align to the intended outcomes of the EHR programs?that is, goals related to improving health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To ensure that CMS and ONC can effectively monitor the effect of the EHR programs and progress made toward goals, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the agencies to use the information these performance measures provide to make program adjustments, as appropriate, to better achieve program goals.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written responses provided by HHS in February 2014, on a draft of the report, the agency indicated that it agrees that outcome-oriented performance measures will be useful to evaluating the extent that the EHR programs--enacted through legislation--achieve the expected results. However, HHS did not identify any specific actions that it might undertake to address our recommendation. In July 2015, CMS indicated that the agency is still working to develop additional performance measures, which is a necessary first step towards implementing our recommendation to HHS that CMS and ONC use the outcome-oriented performance measures to make program adjustments, as appropriate. In September 2017, HHS officials provided us documents, which they indicated show how information gathered through monitoring activities was used to inform the EHR programs. However, in reviewing those materials, we did not see evidence that HHS used information collected through outcome-oriented performance measures noted above. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Kohn, Linda T
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish key requirements for qualified CDRs that focus on improving quality and efficiency. These requirements could include, for example, having CDRs (1) identify key areas of opportunity to improve quality and efficiency for their target populations and collect additional measures designed to address them, (2) collect a core set of measures established by CMS, and (3) demonstrate that their processes for auditing the accuracy and completeness of the data they collect are systematic and rigorous.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As it has since initiation of the qualified CDR program, CMS continues to allow qualified CDRs to choose what quality measures they will track within very broad parameters. While it has developed a PQRS cross-cutting measure set requirement for physicians using other reporting mechanisms, this requirement does not apply to qualified CDRs. CMS officials report that they have addressed data accuracy and completeness by sharing with qualified CDRs issues and discrepancies that have been found in the data submitted so far.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct CMS to establish a requirement for qualified CDRs to demonstrate improvement on key measures of quality and efficiency for their target populations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: CMS officials report that they are working to implement this recommendation, but they have not yet put forward any specific proposals to address it.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct CMS to establish a process for monitoring compliance with requirements for qualified CDRs that draws on relevant expert judgment. This process should assess CDR performance on each requirement in a way that takes into account the varying circumstances of CDRs and their available opportunities to promote quality and efficiency improvement for their target populations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The limited changes for qualified clinical data registries that CMS outlined in its CY2016 proposed rule in July 2015 do not address this recommendation. CMS officials report that they are working to implement this recommendation, but the approach they describe focuses on assessing changes in the data submitted by qualified CDRs over several years.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should determine and implement actions to reduce barriers to the development of qualified CDRs, such as (1) developing guidance that clarifies Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requirements to promote participation in qualified CDRs; (2) working with private sector entities to make relevant multipayer cost data available to qualified CDRs; (3) testing one or more models of shared savings between Medicare and qualified CDRs that achieve reduced Medicare expenditures with improved quality of care, and (4) providing technical assistance to qualified CDRs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The limited changes for qualified clinical data registries that CMS outlined in its CY2016 proposed rule in July 2015 do not address the specific barriers to the development of qualified CDRs that we identified in our report. However, CMS officials report that they have provided technical assistance to qualified CDRs through monthly support calls and an annual kick-off meeting held in spring 2015.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should determine key data elements needed by qualified CDRs--such as those relevant for a required core set of measures--and direct Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS to include these data elements, if feasible, in the requirements for certification of EHRs under the EHR incentive programs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The limited changes for qualified clinical data registries that CMS outlined in its CY2016 proposed rule in July 2015 do not address this recommendation.
    Director: Cosgrove, James C
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase beneficiaries' awareness of providers' financial interest in a particular treatment, Congress should consider directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to require providers who self-refer IMRT services to disclose to their patients that they have a financial interest in the service.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2013, to increase beneficiaries' awareness of providers' financial interest in a particular treatment, we suggested that Congress should consider directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to require providers who self-refer IMRT services to disclose to their patients that they have a financial interest in the service. As of June 2017, Congress has not implemented this suggestion.
    Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should insert a self-referral flag on its Medicare Part B claims form, require providers to indicate whether the IMRT service for which a provider bills Medicare is self-referred, and monitor the effects that self-referral has on costs and beneficiary treatment selection.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2013, we recommended that the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) insert a self-referral flag on its Medicare Part B claims form, require providers to indicate whether the intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) service for which a provider bills Medicare is self-referred, and monitor the effects that self-referral has on costs and beneficiary treatment selection. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not concur with this recommendation, noting that CMS does not believe that this recommendation will address overutilization that occurs as a result of self-referral, would be complex to administer, and may have unintended consequences. We continue to believe that such a flag on Part B claims would likely be the easiest and most cost-effective way for CMS to identify self-referred IMRT services and monitor the effects of self-referral. As of June 2017, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions it has taken to address this recommendation.
    Director: Cosgrove, James C
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that ADI suppliers provide consistent, safe, and high-quality imaging to Medicare beneficiaries, the Administrator of CMS should determine the content of and publish minimum national standards for the accreditation of ADI suppliers, which could include specific qualifications for supplier personnel and requiring accrediting organization review of clinical images.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2016, HHS officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that ADI suppliers provide consistent, safe, and high-quality imaging to Medicare beneficiaries, the Administrator of CMS should develop an oversight framework for evaluating accrediting organization performance, which could include collecting and analyzing information on accreditation results and conducting validation audits.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2016, HHS officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that ADI suppliers provide consistent, safe, and high-quality imaging to Medicare beneficiaries, the Administrator of CMS should develop more specific requirements for accrediting organization mid-cycle audit procedures and clarify guidance on immediate-jeopardy deficiencies to ensure consistent identification and timely correction of serious care problems for the duration of accreditation.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2016, HHS officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Bagdoyan, Seto J
    Phone: (202) 512-4749

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider granting Labor the additional authority it is seeking to access wage data to help verify claimants' reported income and help ensure the proper payment of benefits.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislation introduced as of February 2017. The Workers' Compensation Reform Act of 2015 (S. 2051, title V) was introduced in the 114th Congress. It would have allowed DOL to access wage data, as GAO suggested in April 2013, from the National Directory of New Hires to improve the integrity of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act program, among other actions. If introduced in the 115th Congress and enacted, this legislation could help to prevent and detect improper payments in the Federal Employees' Compensation Act program.
    Director: Cosgrove, James C
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As CMS continues to implement and refine the Value Modifier program to enhance the quality and efficiency of physician care, the Administrator of CMS should consider whether certain private-sector practices could broaden and strengthen the program's incentives. Specifically, she should consider (1) developing at least some performance benchmarks that reward physicians for improvement as well as for meeting absolute performance benchmarks, and (2) making Value Modifier adjustments more timely in order to better reflect recent physician performance.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: CMS stated that it is working to implement GAO's recommendation. Previously, the agency noted that it would investigate accelerating the timeline of the Value Modifier, keeping in mind reporting requirements, data availability, and the need for valid and reliable measures. In addition, Congress passed legislation in 2015 requiring CMS to incorporate certain benchmark methodology and timing aspects that reflect GAO's 2013 recommendation, and the agency is replacing the Value Modifier with a new merit-based incentive payment system. CMS's efforts may, in time, address GAO recommendations to improve performance benchmarks and the timeliness of payment adjustments, but they have yet to be fully implemented. As of August 2017, CMS officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: The Administrator should develop a strategy to reliably measure the performance of solo and small physician practices, such as by aggregating their performance data to create informal practice groups.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: CMS stated that it is working to implement GAO's recommendation to measure the performance of solo and small physician practices. CMS included in its Value Modifier policies the amount of payment adjustments for solo and small physician practices, along with the parameters for measurement. In addition, Congress passed legislation in 2015 requiring CMS to establish a process to allow solo and physician practices under ten eligible professionals to be measured in a virtual group, and the agency is replacing the Value Modifier with a new merit-based incentive payment system. CMS's efforts may, in time, address GAO recommendations to reliably measure the performance of solo and small physician practices, but they have yet to be fully implemented. As of August 2017, CMS officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Cosgrove, James C
    Phone: (202)512-7029

    3 open recommendations
    including 3 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to improve CMS's ability to identify self-referred advanced imaging services and help CMS address the increases in these services, the Administrator of CMS should insert a self-referral flag on its Medicare Part B claims form and require providers to indicate whether the advanced imaging services for which a provider bills Medicare are self-referred or not.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: HHS did not concur with this recommendation, noting that CMS did not think this recommendation would be effective in addressing overutilization resulting from self-referral and that it would be complex to administer. We continue to believe that such a flag on Part B claims would likely be the easiest and most cost-effective way for CMS to identify self-referred advanced imaging services and monitor the behavior of those providers who self-refer these services even though the agency has no plans to take further action. As of October 2016, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: In order to improve CMS's ability to identify self-referred advanced imaging services and help CMS address the increases in these services, the Administrator of CMS should determine and implement a payment reduction for self-referred advanced imaging services to recognize efficiencies when the same provider refers and performs a service.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: HHS did not concur with this recommendation, noting that CMS did not believe that a payment reduction would address overutilization that occurs as a result of self-referral and that the agency's multiple procedure payment reduction policy for advanced imaging already captures efficiencies inhering in providing multiple advanced imaging services by the same physician. Further, CMS officials stated that providers in self-referring arrangements could avoid this reduction by having one provider refer an advanced imaging service while having another perform the service. Finally, CMS questioned whether implementing our recommendation would violate the Medicare statute prohibiting paying a differential by physician specialty for the same service. Our recommendation, however, refers to specific self-referral arrangements in which the same provider refers and performs an imaging service, and therefore would not be addressed by CMS's multiple procedure payment reduction policy. As noted in our report, this payment reduction would affect about 10 percent of advanced imaging services referred by self-referring providers. In addition, while CMS raised questions about whether implementing our recommendation would violate Medicare's prohibition on paying a differential by physician specialty for the same service, the agency did not indicate how it would do so as of October 2016. We continue to believe that CMS should determine and implement a payment reduction to recognize efficiencies for advanced imaging services referred and performed by the same provider even though, as of October 2016, the agency has no plans to take further action.
    Recommendation: In order to improve CMS's ability to identify self-referred advanced imaging services and help CMS address the increases in these services, the Administrator of CMS should determine and implement an approach to ensure the appropriateness of advanced imaging services referred by self-referring providers.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: HHS noted that it would consider this recommendation. The Secretary of HHS has the authority to establish a program to promote the use of appropriate use criteria - criteria that are evidenced-based (to the extent feasible) and that assist professionals to make the most appropriate treatment decisions for a specified clinical condition - for advanced imaging services under the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. CMS has begun developing its appropriate use criteria program (e.g., in November 2015, CMS established criteria to identify Qualified Provider Led Entities that are responsible for developing appropriate use criteria and has since selected Qualified Provider Led Entities), but full implementation of the program will not occur until at least January 1, 2018. If it - and the subsequent prior authorization program that incorporates appropriate use criteria - are implemented broadly enough (i.e., they ensure the appropriateness of advanced imaging services by all physicians, including those who self-refer), we could close the recommendation.
    Director: Williamson, Randall B
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the military services' requirements for physician credentialing and privileging are consistent across the MHS, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Surgeons General of the military services to establish a DOD-wide process to identify and address existing inconsistencies between DOD's and the military services' physician credentialing and privileging requirements, including those inconsistencies we identified in this report.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the military services' requirements for physician credentialing and privileging are consistent across the MHS, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Surgeons General of the military services to establish a DOD-wide process to coordinate all current and future efforts to revise physician credentialing and privileging requirements.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To assure that information on a physician's clinical competence and practice history is documented and available to support credentialing and privileging decisions by Army MTFs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Army Surgeon General to coordinate individual MTFs' efforts to establish mechanisms to collect and analyze data to evaluate physician performance and support performance assessments.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To assure that information on a physician's clinical competence and practice history is documented and available to support credentialing and privileging decisions by Army MTFs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Army Surgeon General to clarify requirements for how MTFs document follow-up on peer recommendations, including who is responsible for documenting follow-up and where that documentation should be filed.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To assure that information on a physician's clinical competence and practice history is documented and available to support credentialing and privileging decisions by Army MTFs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Army Surgeon General to clarify requirements for the information that physicians need to provide in their curriculum vitae (CV) so that MTFs can identify unaccounted for periods in practice history, as well as how MTFs should document explanations of any unaccounted for periods.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To assure that information on a physician's clinical competence and practice history is documented and available to support credentialing and privileging decisions by Army MTFs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Army Surgeon General to establish requirements for MTFs to document significant events that occur during the review of a credentials file, including which types of significant events should be documented, who is responsible for documenting significant events, and where that documentation should be filed.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To assure that information on a physician's clinical competence and practice history is documented and available to support credentialing and privileging decisions by Army MTFs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Army Surgeon General to establish a process to ensure that relevant information from the DPDB is documented in the credentials file.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: To assure that MTFs are fully complying with DOD's and the military services' requirements for physician credentialing and privileging and implementing these requirements appropriately, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Surgeons General of the military services to establish and implement an oversight process to conduct reviews of a sample of credentials files to identify and address areas of noncompliance and incomplete documentation.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD officials have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Kohn, Linda T
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As HHS implements its current and forthcoming efforts to make transparent price information available to consumers, HHS should determine the feasibility of making estimates of complete costs of health care services available to consumers through any of these efforts.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2013, CMS released average inpatient hospital charge information for more than 3,000 hospitals that receive Medicare Inpatient Prospective Payment System payments for the 100 most frequently billed discharges using DRGs from FY2011 and corresponding average Medicare payments. Shortly thereafter CMS also released outpatient charges. In April 2014, CMS also released data on payments to physicians under Medicare part B. This represents an effort to provide price transparency, although these are not complete cost estimates according to our definition in this report. As of September 2015, we are awaiting an update from HHS on the status of this recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Recommendation: As HHS implements its current and forthcoming efforts to make transparent price information available to consumers, HHS should determine, as appropriate, the next steps for making estimates of complete costs of health care services available to consumers.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2015, we are awaiting an update from HHS on the status of this recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Cosgrove, James C
    Phone: (202)512-7029

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that savings are realized from the implementation of an MPPR or other policies that reflect efficiencies occurring when services are furnished together, Congress may wish to consider exempting these savings from budget neutrality.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, we are awaiting an update from HHS on the status of this recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.
    Director: Steinwald, Alan Bruce
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the contribution of physicians to Medicare spending in total, the Administrator of CMS should develop a profiling system that identifies individual physicians with inefficient practice patterns and, seeking legislative changes as necessary, use the results to improve the efficiency of care financed by Medicare. The profiling system should include methods for measuring the impact of physician profiling on program spending and physician behavior.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: Physician feedback reporting was initiated under section 131(c) of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), and was expanded by section 3003 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). In addition, PPACA required the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate the physician feedback program with a Value Modifier (VM) that will adjust fee-for-service physician payments for the relative quality and cost of care provided to beneficiaries. In 2012, CMS provided Quality and Resource Use Reports (QRUR) to large providers nationwide and physician-focused QRURs to groups with 25 or more eligible providers in 9 states; by 2014, CMS sent QRURs to all group practices and solo practitioners. Also, as required in the act, CMS applied the VM to select physicians in 2015, with all physicians being subject to VM by 2017. The Act requires the VM to be implemented in a budget neutral manner, meaning that any upward payment adjustments for high performance must balance the downward payment adjustments applied for poor performance. CMS officials said they develop and will continue to develop experience reports related to each year's QRUR/VM cycle. In 2015, CMS used VM results for physicians in groups of 100 or more in public engagement of stakeholders, encouraging them to report quality, because quality performance was the driver of the payment adjustments in 2015. CMS is working with its Center for Clinical Standards and Quality to think of how to better engage physicians and groups in reporting, to avoid the automatic downward adjustment. As the program gains experience, CMS will use the experience reports to examine the impact of QRURs and VM on the Medicare program. In order for this recommendation to be closed as implemented, CMS will need to expand its efforts to measure the impact of QRURs and VM on program spending and physician behavior.
    Director: King, Kathleen M
    Phone: (312)220-7767

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better account for physicians practicing in underserved areas through the use of J-1 visa waivers, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should collect and maintain data on waiver physicians--including information on their numbers, practice locations, and practice specialties--and use this information when identifying areas experiencing physician shortages and placing physicians in these areas.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS's Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)is working with State Primary Care Offices (PCOs) to collect data to determine which geographic areas, population groups, and facilities are qualified and suitable to receive federal shortage designations. As part of this process, HRSA plans to have a list of the J-1 visa waiver providers who are providing patient care in underserved areas available after December 2016. As of September 2016, we are leaving this recommendation open until HRSA finishes collecting these data and finalizes plans on how the data will be used, particularly when identifying areas experiencing physician shortages and placing physicians in these areas.