Recent CMS Reforms Address Carrier Scrutiny of Physicians' Claims for Payment

GAO-02-693: Published: May 28, 2002. Publicly Released: May 28, 2002.

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Leslie G. Aronovitz
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In 1990, GAO designated the Medicare program to be at high-risk for waste, fraud, and abuse. More than a decade later, Medicare remains on GAO's high-risk list. This report examines Medicare's claims review process, which is designed to detect improper billing or payments. GAO found that most physicians who bill Medicare are largely unaffected by carriers' medical reviews, with 90 percent of physician claims going unreviewed in fiscal year 2001. At the three carriers GAO studied, implementation of the progressive corrective action initiative has reduced medical reviews of claims and has increased carrier education to individual physicians. The carriers in the study generally made appropriate payment determinations in examining physician claims selected for a medical review. By targeting claims that are more likely to have errors, carriers could improve the efficiency of their own operations and reduce administrative demands on the small proportion of physician practices with claims selected for review. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is refocusing its oversight of carrier performance in processing and reviewing claims. The agency intends to hold carriers accountable for the overall level of payment errors in all the claims they process, not just the ones they review. Consistent with this approach, CMS is developing a program in which an independent contractor determines the accuracy of claims processed and paid by each carrier using quantitative performance measures.

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