Improvements Needed in Provider Communications and Contracting Procedures

GAO-01-1141T: Published: Sep 25, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2001.

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Leslie G. Aronovitz
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Complete, accurate, and timely communication of program information is necessary to help Medicare providers comply with program requirements and appropriately bill for their services. Information provided to physicians about billing and payment policies is often incomplete, confusing, out of date, or even incorrect. GAO found that the rules governing Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) contracts with its claims processors lack incentives for efficient operations. Medicare contractors are chosen without full and open competition from among health insurance companies, rather from a broad universe of potential qualified entities, and CMS almost always uses cost-only contracts, which pay contractors for costs incurred but generally do not offer any type of performance incentives. To improve Medicare contractors' provider communications, CMS must develop a more centralized and coordinated approach consistent with the provisions of the Medicare Regulatory and Contracting Reform Act (MRCRA) of 2001. MRCRA would require that CMS (1) centrally coordinate contractors' provider education activities, (2) establish communications performance standards, (3) appoint a Medicare Provider Ombudsman, and (4) create a demonstration program to offer technical assistance to small providers. MRCRA would also broaden CMS authority so that various types of contractors would be able to compete for claims administration contracts and their payment would reflect the quality of the services they provide.

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