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Medicare Advantage Plan MSP Private Cause of Action Suits – Eleventh Circuit Update
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Medicare Advantage Plan MSP Private Cause of Action Suits – Eleventh Circuit Update

Medicare Advantage Plan MSP Private Cause of Action Lawsuit Update

1. MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019).

On March 18, 2019, in MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc., the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear that while Medicare law as a whole and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[1] provisions in particular may be confusing, the MSP’s private cause of action provision [2] is clear[3]. MSPA Claims 1 (MSPA) appealed its dismissal by Defendant Tenet at the district court level in the Southern District of Florida. Because some changes had taken place since the dismissal, the appellate court indicated that MSPA was on solid legal footing if it had sued a primary plan instead of a medical provider. The take away of the Tenet case is that Medicare beneficiaries or entities such as Medicare Advantage Plans/Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) that wish to bring private cause of action claims under the MSP may not bring those claims against medical providers and must only bring those MSP private cause of action double damages (MSP PCOA) claims against primary plans that fail to timely pay or reimburse the aggrieved party.

As a reminder, the MSP makes Medicare secondary to all primary plans including both Group Health Plans and Non Group Health Plans. Non Group Health Plan primary plans include Automobile Insurers, Liability Insurance (including Self Insurance),Workers’ Compensation (WC) Plans or Insurance, and No Fault Insurance.

In many other MSP PCOA MAO cases that have been reported, MAO’s have typically sued primary plans that failed to pay. Most courts that have evaluated the issue of the right of the MAO’s to bring MSP PCOA claims have acknowledged the right of MAO’s or their assigns to bring MSP PCOA claims against primary plans. By contrast, the Tenet case involved an assignee of a MAO that sued a medical provider. The dismissal of MSPA at the district court level for this case focused on deficiencies in MSPA’s assignment chain and not on which entity could be sued under the MSP private cause of action. The key MSP PCOA language that was analyzed in the Tenet case is as follows:

There is established a private cause of action for damages (which shall be in an amount double the amount otherwise provided) in the case of a primary plan which fails to provide for primary payment (or appropriate reimbursement) in accordance with paragraphs (1) and (2)(A).

42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).

Comparing the limitations associated with the private cause of action with the public cause of action granted by the U.S. government in the MSP, the Eleventh Circuit clarified in Tenet that “[u]nlike the private cause of action, the government’s cause of action broadly permits lawsuits against ‘any entity that has received a payment from a primary plan’ – a grant that includes medical providers.” Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii)(the MSP direct cause of action by the U.S.); Haro v. Sebelius, 747 F. 3d 1099, 1116 and U.S. v. Stricker, 524 F. App’x 500, 504 (11th Circ. 2013)(unpublished)). This means that while providers, attorneys, Medicare beneficiaries, or other entities that receive payment from a primary plan can be sued by the U.S. under the MSP for double damages, only primary plans themselves can be sued under the MSP PCOA.

Before reaching its decision, the Tenet court went through an analysis to confirm subject matter jurisdiction by determining whether MSPA had standing to pursue the claim. To that end, MSPA would need to show that it suffered an injury-in-fact, that was fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct, and which was redressable by a favorable judicial decision. Id. at 2. The underlying federal claim revolved around the failure of the provider, Tenet, to pay a $286 medical bill on time. The bill was eventually paid approximately seven months late. Interestingly, the Eleventh Circuit explained that late payment was enough to show a concrete “injury-in-fact”. The Tenet court also explained why the assignment hurdles that had stopped MSPA at the district court level had been overcome at the time of the court’s decision. The district court evaluated the two-level assignment chain when the assignment chain was weak because the assignor, Florida Healthcare Plus (FHCP), had entered receivership proceedings and previously repudiated its assignment to La Ley, the entity that assigned the MSP PCOA claim to MSPA. The Eleventh Circuit in Tenet explained that just one week before its decision, FHCP entered into a settlement agreement with La Ley and MSPA that confirmed La Ley’s assignment of FHCP’s claim to MSPA and fully resolved the MSP Act assignment. Id. at 4. The court also dispelled Defendant/Appellee Tenet’s notion that an anti-assignment clause in a Hospital Services Agreement with assignee FHCP concerning the prohibition to assign hospital services would apply to the right of FHCP to assign its right (it received from the MAO) to La Ley that in turn assigned to MSPA the right to bring the MSP PCOA claim.

The Eleventh Circuit used established statutory interpretation rules to reach its final decision. MSPA argued that because paragraph (2)(A) that the private cause of action references makes a cross-reference to paragraph (2)(B), which establishes MSP conditional payment reimbursement and recovery (see MSP recovery actions by the U.S. and information on Medicare lien resolution and the new electronic payment functionality of the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal) rights, those recovery right concepts from paragraph (2)(B) should be incorporated back into the private cause of action. Essentially, MSPA was arguing that because other entities that receive payments from primary plans had obligations to reimburse Medicare for conditional payments and (2)(B) applies those recovery rights to this larger number of entities (“any entity that receives payment from a primary plan”), that the MSP PCOA could also be brought against any such entity that received a payment from a primary plan. This cross reference within a cross reference argument was shot down by the Tenet court as a “stretch.” Id. at 6. Alternatively, MSPA asked the court to rule in its favor based on authority from CMS promulgated regulations that afford MAOs the same MSP recovery rights as Medicare including the right to sue medical providers. Id. at 6 (citing 42 C.F.R.§§411.24(g), 422.108(f)). However, the Tenet court found the MSP statute to be clear and unambiguous and therefore, determined it unnecessary to look to the less authoritative CMS regulations for help with its interpretation of the MSP. Id. at 6. Because neither defendant was a primary plan, MSPA’s claim was dismissed.

2. MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Infinity Property & Casualty Group, 2019 WL 1238852 (N.D. Al. March 18, 2019).

This second case was decided on the same day as the Tenet case but was heard at the federal trial level in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Alabama. This court falls within the same appellate jurisdiction (Eleventh Circuit) that decided the Tenet case. The same MSPA plaintiff discussed in the Tenet case above filed suit as an assignee of two different MAO’s on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries identified with their initials as representative examples (exemplars) for each of the two MAO’s. The asserted claims were MSP PCOA claims against insurance company, Infinity Property & Casualty Group, an undisputed primary payer. If the facts in this Infinity case were the same as those in the Tenet case except that the Defendant in this Infinity case was a primary payer instead of a medical provider, the case would have not been dismissed. However, the facts in this case were distinguishable from those of the Tenet case beyond who was sued. In the first claim of the Infinity case, MSPA was found by the court to have failed to show that Florida Healthcare Plus (FHCP – the same entity that was involved in a chain of assignments in the Tenet case), a MAO, had paid any medical bill connected to a claim of the exemplar Medicare beneficiary identified as D.W. The court seemed perturbed in announcing that Plaintiff MSPA knew what the court required but “due to a lack of either diligence or ability” failed to produce it. MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Infinity Property & Casualty Group, 2019 WL 1238852 at 7 (N.D. Al. March 18, 2019). Without the connection to show that the MAO made a payment on behalf of the Medicare beneficiary, the Infinity court declared MSPA lacked standing to bring the claim.

The second claim of the Infinity case involved a MAO named Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc., its Management Service Organization (MSO) named InterAmerican Medical Center Group, LLC, and an exemplar Medicare beneficiary identified as B.G. The Infinity court pointed out that while the Eleventh Circuit in Western Heritage ruled that MAO’s accrue MSP PCOA recovery rights at the time they make conditional payments, the appellate court had not yet decided if the MSP statute also provides a private cause of action to MSO’s. Id. at 7 (citing Humana Medical Plan Inc. v. Western Heritage Ins., 832 F.3d 1229 (11th Cir. 2016). The Infinity court noted that district courts in the Eleventh Circuit and elsewhere overwhelmingly ruled that it does not. Id. (citing MSPA Claims I, LLC v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins., 322 F. Supp. 3d 1273, 1283 (S.D. Fla. 2018); MAO-MSO Recovery II, LLC et al. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., 1:17-CV-1541-JBM-JEH, 2018 WL 2392827, at *7 (C.D. Ill. May 25, 2018). The Infinity court cited one case in which a district court did not rule out the possibility of MSO’s having MSP PCOA rights, citing MAO-MSO Recovery II, LLC v. Mercury General, 17-2525-AB and 17-2557-AB, 2018 WL 3357493, at *7 (C.D. Cal. May 23, 2018). The Infinity court followed the Eleventh Circuit’s Western Heritage reasoning that because the MSP does not provide conditional payment reimbursement authority to MSO’s and does not obligate MSO’s to make secondary payments to be reimbursed, the obligations of a MSO would be contractual as opposed to statutory. Id. at 8. Therefore, the court declined to expand the scope of potential plaintiffs under the MSP PCOA beyond those listed in Western Heritage (a MAO when the MAO makes a conditional payment for healthcare services, by a Medicare beneficiary when the Medicare beneficiary had healthcare services paid by Medicare (or a MAO), or a healthcare provider when that healthcare provider has not been fully paid for services provided to a Medicare beneficiary).

The Infinity court also pointed out some potential flaws in the assignment chain to the MSO from another entity called IMC which by contract, needed to approve the assignment of any purported MSP rights from the MSO to MSPA unless it was “ministerial in nature.” Because the evidence presented that the assignment was ministerial in nature failed to explain how it met the definition of that term in the contract, it failed the preponderance of the evidence standard, and the Infinity court found MSPA failed to show a valid assignment under its potential MSO claim.

Take Aways:

In the Eleventh Circuit (covering Florida, Georgia and Alabama), it is now clear that the following can sue a primary plan (only) under the MSP’s private cause of action:
• (1) a MAO when the MAO makes a conditional payment for healthcare services,
• (2) a Medicare beneficiary when the Medicare beneficiary had healthcare services paid by Medicare (or a MAO), or
• (3) a healthcare provider when that healthcare provider has not been fully paid for services provided to a Medicare beneficiary
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[1] 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(2) et seq.

[2] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).

[3] MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019) (citing The Federalist No. 62, at 421 (James Madison) (Jacob E. Cook ed., 1961) and MSP Recovery, LLC v. Allstate Ins. Co., 835 F. 3d 1351, 1358 (11th Cir. 2016).

Protecting Medicare’s Past Interests (How Securing Medicare Lien Resolution Will Help Protect Dwindling Medicare Trust Funds)
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Protecting Medicare’s Past Interests (How Securing Medicare Lien Resolution Will Help Protect Dwindling Medicare Trust Funds)

During the 21 years between 1980 and 2001, it is no secret that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did very little to enforce the Medicare Secondary Payer statute (a series of provisions beginning at 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) commonly referred to as the MSP).  This is surprising because the MSP prohibits Medicare from making payment when a primary payer should pay but makes only one exception for Medicare to be able to make payments conditionally provided it gets paid back.  Therefore, in those 21 years, protecting Medicare’s past interests would seem to have been on the minds of all settling parties on either side of Non Group Health Plan (NGHP) claims – Automobile, Liability (including self-insurance), Workers’ Compensation, or No Fault cases involving Medicare beneficiaries.

With enforcement actions by the U.S. becoming a reality, most parties to settlement have come to learn the importance of identifying conditional payments made by Medicare prior to judgments, settlements, awards or other payments. However, early on, many plaintiffs and their attorneys ignored their obligations to consider and protect both Medicare’s past and future interests, most often without consequences. Regarding Medicare’s past interests, they were hoping to never hear from Medicare again. Regarding Medicare’s future interests, they hoped that Medicare would not deny injured Medicare beneficiaries’ injury related treatment. While there still seems to be some clarification on the horizon coming from CMS with respect to the legal obligations to protect Medicare’s future interests, there is no longer doubt regarding parties’ obligations to address Medicare’s past interests and satisfy conditional payments.  However, negotiating the amount that CMS will accept as full payment, often through a process called the Medicare compromise process, may actually help protect the Medicare Trust Funds that the MSP was originally designed to protect[1].

Medicare has two Trust Funds. One for Part A that covers hospital insurance for the aged and disabled and one for both Part B that mainly covers doctors’ visits and Part D that covers prescription medications, for the same population of Medicare enrollees. It was announced in June 2018 that the Part A Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is projected to be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than predicted just a year ago. The Part B and D Trust Fund is not as bad off due to a financing system with yearly resets for premium and general revenue income and is projected to have adequate funding for the next ten years and beyond.

Total Medicare expenditures were reported to be $710 billion in 2017. Medicare expenditures were projected to increase at a faster pace than either aggregate workers’ earnings or the economy, and to increase from approximately 3.7 percent in 2017 to between 6.2 percent and 8.9 percent as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2029, causing substantial strain on our nation’s workers, the economy, Medicare beneficiaries, and the Federal budget.

A 2018 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the two Medicare Trust Funds recommended a legislative response [2] to help protect the Part A Trust Fund. However, instead of waiting years for Congress to act, if parties to third party or workers’ compensation settlements involving Medicare beneficiaries [3], proactively address both past and future interests of Medicare, that could help slow Medicare Trust Fund depletion, in line with the above-described intent of the MSP.

With good reason, many MSP compliance discussions focus on considering and protecting the future interests of Medicare and the allocation and administration tools designed to protect Medicare’s future interests.  Equally, if not more important due to the enforcement mechanisms currently in place, parties should address and protect Medicare’s past interests through Medicare lien resolution.  Because we know the obligation to address Medicare’s past interests exists, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and seek opportunities to reduce/compromise the amount CMS will accept to fully resolve reimbursement of its conditional payment demands/Medicare liens? While it might seem that CMS would frown upon compromise requests, doesn’t it make more sense for CMS to encourage an open line of communication with settling parties and grant discounts to those who take the time to comply with the law as opposed to those settling parties that shirk their respective MSP responsibilities and ignore Medicare’s past interests?

CMS held a webinar today regarding an April 2019 upgrade to the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) scheduled to allow for electronic payment of conditional payments for all NGHP matters. The portal’s payment functionality should speed up the payment of known non-disputed conditional payment amounts. For parties interested in reducing exposure to high interest rates (close to 10% currently) associated with late payment of conditional payment demands, this new electronic payment functionality of the MSPRP should be welcome news. Ideally, there will be an opportunity to reduce the requested conditional payment amounts by the procurement costs associated with obtaining the settlements. However, Medicare lien resolution often involves more than just reducing the injured party’s conditional payment obligation by the procurement costs.  As even better news, the compromise and waiver processes will not be affected by the electronic payments process.  Therefore, even when conditional payment/Medicare lien amounts are paid electronically via this new MSPRP process, CMS will still consider compromise or waiver requests, and issue refunds to the party providing payment (or as directed and authorized in writing by the paying party).

 


[1] The MSP is a series of statutory amendments to the Medicare law from 1965 which in turn amends the Social Security Act of 1935.

[2] Because this is the second consecutive finding that the difference between Medicare’s outlays and its financing sources will exceed 45 percent of Medicare’s outlays within 7 years, a Medicare funding warning was issued, requiring the President to submit proposed legislation to Congress within 15 days after the submission of the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. Congress would then be required by law to consider the legislation on an expedited basis.

[3] The future interests of Medicare should be considered for any settlement regardless of claim type or Medicare enrollment status because the MSP does not make distinctions regarding Medicare’s payment status as a secondary payer for different claim types or about workload review threshold standards that currently exist in the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide published by CMS.  Those workload review thresholds allowing review by CMS are triggered for WCMSAs involving Medicare beneficiaries for judgments, settlements, awards, or other payments (“Settlements”) over $25,000, and injured parties with a reasonable expectation of becoming enrolled in Medicare within 30 months of Settlement for Settlements over $250,000.  Section 8.1 of the new WCMSA Reference Guide makes it clear that even for WC cases where the workload review thresholds are not met, Medicare’s future interests should be considered via a future care plan (using “plan for future care” to allow the reader to determine the method by which the plan for the future care of the injured party should be prepared – even if not recommending, certainly implying a method such as commonly seen in Medicare Set-Aside allocation reports), or else the settling parties will be placed “at risk for recovery from care related to the WC injury up to the full value of the settlement.”  The industry is still waiting for regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations by CMS clarifying this issue for liability cases.  This coming fall, there may be further clarification regarding consideration and protection of Medicare’s future interests via new Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the NGHP area, with the hope that any resulting regulations will address comparative/contributory negligence, causation, policy limits, non-economic damages, and other factors unique to liability cases.

 

 

Medicare Lien Investigation/Lien Resolution (Is Ignorance of MSPRP Procedures or Other CMS Access Channels a Valid Defense?)
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Medicare Lien Investigation/Lien Resolution (Is Ignorance of MSPRP Procedures or Other CMS Access Channels a Valid Defense?)

Not following proper lien investigation procedures for the investigation and negotiation of Medicare liens can have far-reaching consequences on settling parties. Lien investigation means finding the dollar amount of conditional payments made by Medicare that are related to an injury for which another entity has the primary responsibility to pay under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[1].  For a plaintiff and their attorney or even a defendant paying a third party settlement, there could be MSP conditional payment exposure with potential recovery actions from the U.S. government. In many areas of law, a party seeking to enforce a lien needs to first file a document in court, providing notice to the party against whom it seeks to enforce the lien.  The U.S.’s direct[2] statutory right to reimbursement of its conditional payments pursuant to the MSP does not require the filing of a document in court prior to becoming enforceable but does have a 60-day notice period from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs Medicare, after which interest begins accruing for parties that fail to pay CMS contractor final demands.  While the procedures establishing Medicare’s conditional payment reimbursement rights differ from other lien procedures, this direct reimbursement right of the U.S. under the MSP is often referred to as a lien right.

The Plaintiff in Mayo v. NYU Langone Medical Center, a New York state trial court case, seems to have gotten a second chance at settlement when the court vacated a Settlement Agreement in the amount of $725,000 when Plaintiff’s counsel received a letter soon after settlement requesting a much higher Medicare reimbursement than was originally discovered. While the court’s decision worked in favor of the Plaintiff this time, (giving the Plaintiff and attorney a second crack at a higher settlement or trial), if the motion was denied, the attorney might have been accused of committing legal malpractice.

In Mayo, the Plaintiff and Defendant each received different conditional payment letters from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). While not ideal, this can occur when duplicate files are generated from the two different contractors that CMS uses for collecting conditional payment reimbursements, often referred to as Medicare liens, stemming from liability/auto/self-insured, workers’ compensation and/or no-fault cases. The Plaintiff’s letter from the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC) indicated that Medicare’s conditional payment amount was $1,811.95. The Defendant’s letter from the Commercial Recovery Center (CRC) indicated that Medicare’s then existing lien amount for conditional payments was $2,824.50. Before requesting or obtaining a Final Demand from the CMS web portal, the parties created a written Settlement Agreement, agreeing to settle the matter in its entirety for $725,000 inclusive of what the parties contemplated as a “Medicare-final” conditional payment reimbursement of no more than $2,824.50. The Defendant never signed the Settlement Agreement. Prior to settlement funds being disbursed, a Final Demand from CMS was received by the Plaintiff, the Executor of an Estate of a Medicare beneficiary, asking for repayment of the shocking amount of $145,764.08.

The Plaintiff attempted to appeal the Final Demand amount at the first few administrative stages but was not able to be heard by a U.S. District Court because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.  Instead of completing all four administrative appeals before seeking federal court review, the Plaintiff went to state court and asked the court to void the Settlement Agreement. The Plaintiff argued that despite being in writing, the Settlement Agreement was unenforceable because it had not been signed by a representative for the Defendant and that there was a mutual mistake of fact concerning the Medicare lien amount. The court agreed with both arguments.

The CMS web portal, called the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal or MSPRP, was improved in July of 2018, to make it even easier for settling parties to obtain up to date conditional payment/lien reimbursement amounts. Congress, through the SMART Act amendments to the MSP[3], regulated by 42 C.F.R. § 411.39 of the Code of Federal Regulations, contemplated parties being able to rely on a download of a time and date stamped Final Conditional Payment Letter from the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) provided there was proper notification/reporting of a pending settlement within 120 days prior to the anticipated settlement and after giving CMS at least 65 days to search for conditional payments to be reimbursed. The updated functionality of the web portal provides a tool allowing authorized users to view conditional payment correspondence and request electronic or paper copies of same.

On November 19, 2018, CMS announced a webinar on upcoming self-reporting functionality that will be added to the MSPRP in January 2019.  Medivest will monitor this MSPRP enhancement and has representatives that regularly communicate with CMS via phone, fax, mail and the CMS MSPRP web portal to help parties stay up to date with CMS and avoid misunderstandings like the one that occurred in the Mayo case.

Take Aways:

• It is crucial for prospective settling parties to investigate conditional payment reimbursement amounts or work with an entity familiar with lien investigation procedures.

• There is value in evaluating Conditional Payment Summary forms that accompany the conditional payment correspondence from Medicare to confirm all entries on the form are injury-related and/or determine whether some entries should be disputed[4].

• In addition to checking and verifying the correct demand amounts from CMS contractors, prior to settlement, steps should be taken by all parties to expand lien search inquiries beyond traditional Medicare (and Medicaid) to determine whether a Medicare Advantage Plan or Organization (MAP/MAO) made any conditional payments that could be recovered under the MSP.

• If a Claimant/Applicant is a Medicare Advantage Plan member and any payments by the Medicare Advantage Plan should have been paid by a primary payer, steps should be taken to get those conditional payments reimbursed promptly.

• During the lien investigation process, parties should analyze whether a compromise (reduction) of a lien or potentially a waiver may be appropriate.

• Medivest provides lien resolution services to help parties satisfactorily negotiate outstanding public and private health care matters including Medicare liens, Medicaid liens, Veterans Administration/TriCare liens, hospital liens, and doctors’ bills. Our lien resolution team works hard to dispute non-claim related bills, resolve and reduce outstanding bills/liens, and will seek refunds for amounts already paid when appropriate. Please reach out to discuss lien resolution today.


[1] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et. seq.

[2] The MSP also provides the U.S. subrogation rights, subrogating the U.S. to the rights of any Medicare beneficiary as follows:

(iv) Subrogation rights

The United States shall be subrogated (to the extent of payment made under this subchapter for such an item or service) to any right under this subsection of an individual or any other entity to payment with respect to such item or service under a primary plan.

42 U.S.C.A. § 1395y (West)

[3] The MSP law says,

(III) Use of timely web download as basis for final conditional amount
If an individual (or other claimant or applicable plan with the consent of the individual) obtains a statement of reimbursement amount from the website during the protected period as defined in subclause (V) and the related settlement, judgment, award or other payment is made during such period, then the last statement of reimbursement amount that is downloaded during such period and within 3 business days before the date of the settlement, judgment, award, or other payment shall constitute the final conditional amount subject to recovery under clause (ii) related to such settlement, judgment, award, or other payment.

42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(vii)(III).

The protected period defined in subclause (V) is a 65-day period that can sometimes be extended another 30 days after a party, their attorney or other representative (such as a MSP Compliance company) has notified CMS through the MSP recovery web portal of a pending liability insurance (including self-insurance), no-fault insurance, or workers’ compensation settlement, judgment, award or other payment (“Settlement”). The entire process is outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) at 42 C.F.R. § 411.39. If after the 65 day Protected Period, the date/time stamped Final Conditional Payment Letter is downloaded within three days of a settlement, parties may reasonably rely on that Final Conditional Payment Letter. There seems to be some uncertainty whether the MSPRP Final Conditional Payment Letter may be re-requested at a later date if the settlement occurs later.

[4] There should be primary diagnosis codes obtained from the insurance carrier’s/Responsible Reporting Entity’s report of the claim under Section 111 of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP). It is important to parse out payments for co-morbid and other non-injury related payments made by Medicare that don’t count as conditional payments because disputes may only be made once during this process. Once disputed, unless CMS responds within 11 days from receipt, the dispute will be considered granted.

Conditional Payment Collections – Make It Stop!
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Conditional Payment Collections – Make It Stop!

When Medicare makes a payment for medical items, services or expenses that another entity (Primary Plans or Primary Payers[1]) should pay under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) [2], the payments that are made by Medicare are called conditional payments.  Under the MSP provisions and its regulations, Medicare is entitled to be reimbursed for its conditional payments. The U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury) has authority to collect conditional payments after being referred MSP debt cases from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs the Medicare program, when Primary Payers/settlement parties fail to timely pay final demands for conditional payments issued by CMS contractors.  Treasury collection tools include the Treasury Offset Program, that allows Treasury to divert tax refunds or government benefits that would otherwise flow to Medicare beneficiaries or Primary Plans, as well as Private Collection Agency actions. If conditional payments are not timely paid to Treasury, the U.S. may also file lawsuits directly under the MSP through the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Secretary). Appealing the amount of the debt and/or requesting a reduction of the conditional payment demand amount via the compromise process is supposed to stop or at least delay the collections process while the appeal/compromise request is pending.

At the October 2018 educational conference of the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals in Baltimore, during a presentation led by Ted Doyle, V.P. Healthcare Markets for Performant Recovery, Inc., the Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) contractor for CMS, several members of the audience voiced concerns over the CRC prematurely referring conditional payment collections cases to Treasury. The frustration focused on the difficulty of getting prematurely referred debt recalled from Treasury. It seems that even when people take steps to appeal the debt and/or request reductions via the compromise (or waiver) process, collections can sometimes mistakenly proceed. Jacqueline Cipa, the Deputy Director for the CMS Division of MSP Program Operations, recommended diligent follow up by requesting an internal “elevation”/review with the appropriate CMS contractor and suggested that if a Treasury referral error is not corrected, to reach out to her via e-mail at Jacqueline.cipa@cms.gov.

The CRC contractor is usually the entity in charge of collecting conditional payment reimbursements from commercial Primary Payers prior to any Treasury involvement[3].  The Benefits Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor for CMS, on the other hand, is the only entity to initiate collection attempts for reimbursement of conditional payments from Medicare beneficiaries. Primary Payers such as insurance carriers or Third Party Administrators (TPAs) sometimes use reporting agents for their MSP Section 111 Mandatory Insurance Reporting obligations under the MSP[4].  Those reporting agents are often the ones that are sent conditional payment correspondence, demand letters, intent to refer letters, and potentially, Treasury collection letters. If a reporting agent fails to provide notification to the respective carrier or TPA it reports for, a conditional payment collection could develop and be referred to Treasury before the carrier/TPA knows about it. Under that scenario, a lack of communication between the reporting agent and its client might lead to a referral of conditional payment debt without it technically being premature.  However, if a debt is referred to Treasury as a result of an error, the responsible party should take immediate steps to recall the debt. If using a third party for reporting purposes, consider setting up a calendar system to follow up with any reporting agents to help prevent an inadvertent Treasury referral.

Regardless of whether a referral to Treasury has been made or not, it is wise to make a written request for a Redetermination (first level appeal) and to also consider whether a compromise (or even waiver in cases regarding Medicare beneficiaries) might be appropriate. There is a five-level appeal process if a party decides to appeal conditional payment reimbursement debt. The first four levels of appeal are administrative remedies and the fifth is a court based remedy, with a review by a U.S. District (federal) Court. If the matter is timely appealed at any level, collection action through the BCRC, CRC, or Treasury should stop until the respective appeals stage is completed.

A party is timely with its first level of appeal by providing a written request for a Redetermination within 120 days of a final demand. The appeal phase directly after a Redetermination is called a Reconsideration.  It must be requested within 180 days of the Redetermination, may include new evidence, and is decided by a Qualified Independent Contractor (QIC). The third level of appeal must be requested within 60 days of the Reconsideration decision, is generally only based on the evidence previously presented during the first two appeal phases (unless good reason is shown why it was left out previously), and is heard before an Administrative Law Judge(ALJ). If the ALJ decision is unfavorable, the fourth appeal level is a request for Council Review within 60 days of the decision and takes place before the Medicare Appeals Council.  The final appeal goes before a U.S. District Court and must be filed within 60 days of the Medicare Appeals Council Review. The entire process of exhausting administrative remedies takes a minimum of 420 days and is required before a party is allowed to appear before a federal judge.

Because going to federal court takes so much time and can become quite expensive, especially during the last two stages of appeal, parties have found it beneficial to enter into negotiations with the appropriate CMS contractor/CMS Collection Officer/Regional Office as appropriate for compromises of the conditional reimbursement amounts while the appeals process is taking place. The compromise/negotiation process can be established and run at the same time as the appeals process. Many times, matters can be satisfactorily resolved before having to move to even the second level of appeal. Medivest is available to help parties negotiate conditional payment reimbursement amounts/liens and appeal conditional payment amounts. Please contact us to discuss best practices regarding conditional payment negotiations/appeals.


[1] Both Group Health Plans and Non Group Health Plans (NGHPs) are Primary Plans under the MSP. Entities in the NGHP category include Liability Insurance (including Self-Insureds), Workers Compensation Plans, and No Fault Insurance.

[2] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et seq.

[3] For commercial matters, it is most often the CRC contractor that sends these letters, although for matters prior to October 2015, and more recently during backlogs associated with the changeover to the new CRC contractor, the BCRC has initiated files for some commercial repayment matters. Parties are urged to pay careful attention to which entity sends each letter and to provide development information or other responses and/or requests to the respective entity that sends the letter.

[4] Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA) (P.L. 110-173), found within the MSP at 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(8).

Updated Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) and User Guide
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Updated Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) and User Guide

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a web portal called the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) used by settling parties or those with authorization[1], to investigate and confirm the dollar amount of injury related medicals paid by Medicare. When Medicare makes injury related payments for medical items and services prior to a judgment, settlement, award or other payment to a Medicare beneficiary, those payments are called conditional payments and need to be reimbursed to Medicare, or otherwise resolved via lien resolution. CMS uses its Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor to both gather information about claims and their pending resolutions from beneficiaries and carriers and to most often pursue collection of the Medicare beneficiaries for recovery of conditional payments contemplated to be paid back pursuant to the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[2]. CMS uses its Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) to develop recovery cases against commercial entities that are primary to Medicare under the MSP including both Group Health Plans (GHPs) and Non Group Health Plans (NGHPs). An entity classified under the NGHP designation would include any liability insurance plan including an auto-insurer or a self-insured entity, a workers’ compensation plan, or a no fault insurer.

Therefore, parties involved in resolving liability, workers’ compensation or no fault claims should continue to focus their attention on and use the MSPRP. This July, CMS released an updated version of the MSPRP User Guide (Version 4.2) after increasing the functionality of the portal to help provide a more efficient process for both beneficiaries and insurers (and respective representatives/recovery agents) to obtain updated conditional payment information. Changes to the MSPRP, discussed in a CMS webinar on August 16, 2018, included allowing authorized persons/entities access to view correspondence sent and received on files in chronological order, to request electronic or paper copies of conditional payment correspondence, to confirm primary diagnosis codes on payment summary forms, and to even request a waiver for lien resolution (only after a recovery demand has been issued) and/or file a first level appeal concerning a determination of the conditional payment amounts to be reimbursed to Medicare. Future enhancements to the MSPRP may include a more convenient way for Medicare beneficiaries or authorized agents to notify the BCRC of pending cases and a way to make conditional payment reimbursements via the portal.

For cases that arose prior to October 1, 2015 and anytime that a backlog may exist, the BCRC also may pursue collections from commercial entities for recovery of conditional payments. For example, the BCRC is currently helping the CRC contractor, Performant Recovery, Inc. with a backlog it inherited when it took over the CRC contract from CGI in February of 2018[3]. While slightly confusing, case numbers are based on what entity sends the letter instead of based on the type of case. Therefore, the BCRC uses its traditional numbering system for all of its cases regardless of whether it is pursuing a beneficiary or a commercial entity, so it is important to pay attention to who sends the letter and what the letter is requesting, instead of concentrating on the case number. The entity that sends the letter is the entity to which you should address responses and follow up correspondence. The CRC on the other hand, is solely focused on commercial collections. When the CRC initiates a NGHP collection, the MSPRP is the web portal to access to check on the conditional payment reimbursement.

CMS recently announced that it will host a webinar providing an overview of the functions of a currently existing web portal called the Commercial Repayment Center Portal (CRCP) that involves claims outside the NGHP scope. While the CRCP involves the CRC, this upcoming CMS webinar (September 19, 2018) only pertains to CRC’s recoveries in the Group Health realm. There has been no indication from CMS that the CRCP functions would or even might be expanded to accommodate CRC collections for NGHP matters that will instead remain with the MSPRP.

In addition to the authorization backlogs referenced above, there seems to have been a delay in obtaining conditional payment amounts in writing from the new CRC contractor via phone communication or traditional written correspondence. Hopefully, the updates to the MSPRP web portal will begin to help alleviate some of the delays that have been experienced by prospective settling parties by allowing for timely electronic confirmation of receipt of authorizations and access to updated conditional payment information.


[1] All authorizations are forwarded to the BCRC. Authorization for a Medicare beneficiary will typically require a Proof of Representation form signed by the Medicare beneficiary (or someone legally authorized to act on their behalf if they are incapacitated) in favor of the representative along with written documentation from the attorney for the Claimant/Applicant/Plaintiff documenting the chain of representation and intent for the representative to be able to transmit and receive information and act on behalf of the beneficiary for CMS purposes. Authorization for a commercial entity will typically require a Consent to Release form signed by the Medicare beneficiary and a Letter of Authority from the commercial entity/carrier demonstrating the intent for the representative to be able to openly communicate and act on the commercial entity’s behalf with CMS via a “two-way street”.
[2] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et. seq.
[3] Jacqueline Cipa, Department Director, Division of Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Program Operations for CMS, explained in a presentation at the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) annual conference in Orlando in August 2018 that there is a backlog for confirmations of receipt of authorization documents at the CRC of up to 45 days.