Are you self-administering your Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) funds or do you have a client doing so? If so, you are not alone. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) recently published a research brief updating its 2014 study on Workers’ Compensation MSAs (WCMSAs) and WCMSA reviews and reported that, between 2010 and 2015, approximately ninety-eight percent (98%) of the Workers’ Compensation cases included in the over 10,000 case sample, settled with the injured worker choosing to self-administer their MSA funds. Due to the large percentage of injured workers opting to self-administer, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a free downloadable, 31-page “Self-Administration Toolkit”, now in Version 1.3 which was updated on October 10, 2019.
If you’re a Claimant/Applicant/Petitioner’s attorney settling a WC case and your client is considering self-administration, below are a couple of blogs you may consider reading before deciding if self-administration is the best option.
CMS simply states that a competent administrator must be chosen to administer the MSA funds. The key word is competent, and it is the responsibility of the settling parties to deem whether the injured person is sufficiently competent to self-administer an MSA account. Below are a couple of scenarios regarding options for administration of MSA funds.
- Injured Person Self-Administers his/her MSA Funds – The injured person handles his/her own MSA funds and assumes responsibility for handling the MSA funds per CMS’ guidelines for Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) compliance.
- Engage a Professional Administrator – Engage a third-party professional administration company to administer the MSA funds, coordinate all aspects of billing, complete annual reporting to Medicare as needed, maintain accounting records, etc. The Administrator assumes responsibility for handling the funds per CMS’s guidelines for compliance. Per CMS’s guidelines, fees for professional administration cannot be deducted out of the corpus of the MSA funds.
- Engage A Trustee – Engage a person or professional entity (like a bank or trust company) who manages property or assets that have been placed in a Trust (i.e. a Special Needs Trust (SNT)). Per CMS’s guidelines, fees for a trustee cannot be deducted out of the corpus of the MSA funds.
- Appointed Guardian or Conservator – An individual that has been determined to be mentally or physically incapacitated by a court of law, or when a minor is in need of an adult to manage his/her property, a guardian or conservator may be appointed.
Post Settlement Tips for Self-Administration
- Per CMS’ guidelines, do not co-mingle MSA funds with personal funds. Place the MSA funds into a separate, interest bearing, FDIC insured account.
- Keep pertinent documents regarding the settlement in a safe place. You may need to refer to these documents for paying claims, if applicable. Examples include:
o Executed Settlement
o Power of Attorney
o Conservator or Guardianship appointment
o Trust documents
o MSA Allocation Report / Life Care Plan / Medical Cost Projection Report
or a report that was prepared and used in the settlement to determine
and allocate the total future Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) funds.
o CMS Approval Letter, applicable if the MSA was submitted to CMS for review
o Accurate annual accounting, post settlement
o Keep track of all post settlement expenses, receipts paid and copies of bills
o Annual attestation letters, post settlement (these can now be submitted electronically)
o Any correspondence from CMS, post settlement
- Document Retention – How long should you keep settlement documents, CMS letters, etc? These documents you may want to keep for the life of your account. How long should you keep payments of medical bills, annual accounting, and yearly attestations? State laws generally govern how long medical records are to be retained. However, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996’s (HIPAA) administrative simplification rules require a covered entity, such as a physician billing Medicare, to retain required documentation for six years from the date of its creation or the date when it last was in effect, whichever is later. https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNMattersArticles/downloads/SE1022.pdf
- What type of MSA funding arrangement was decided at the time of settlement? There are two types of MSA funding arrangements.
- Lump Sum Funding – After settlement, a check for a one-time payment representing all future medical expenses that are injury related and Medicare allowable is issued.
- Structured Annuity Funding – A combination of a check for the initial deposit or seed money used to fund the MSA. The amount of the seed deposit typically includes the first surgical procedure or replacement and the equivalent of two years of annual funds along with the yearly annuity payment beginning on the 1-year anniversary of settlement. Note: Medicare recognizes a structured settlement annuity as a viable method of funding MSAs. Medicare will become the primary payer of injury-related medical expenses, once documentation is provided showing the MSA funds were spent appropriately and there is no other available primary coverage to pay for injury-related Medicare covered medical expenses – until the next upcoming annuity payment has been deposited into the MSA account. For topics unique to Structured WCMSA Accounts, please refer to this link.
- Before the injured person’s case settles, the WC claims adjuster typically will have paid for medical treatments and prescription medication that were related to the injury. After settlement occurs, the MSA funds should be used to pay injury-related and Medicare allowable expenses from the settlement date forward until exhausted.
- If you are a Medicare beneficiary, you will need to continue to pay Medicare premiums, co-payments, and deductible amounts. Medicare updates its plans, premium costs, and coverage on a yearly basis. Each year, Medicare publishes a free downloadable handbook called “Medicare and You”.
- If the injured person is Medicare eligible, he/she can add coverage to or change his/her plan during Medicare’s Open Enrollment period. The Open Enrollment period would not have an impact on their MSA Funds that they are currently self-administering. Every year, Medicare’s Open Enrollment period begins October 15th and ends December 7th for most Medicare plans. For Medicare Advantage plans, open enrollment runs from January 1st through February 14th. Medicare has designed a Medicare Plan Finder which it describes as a convenient way to compare coverage options, shop for plans, and feel confident about the coverage choices Medicare enrollees make. It also lets Medicare beneficiaries build and track their drug list to determine the best Part D (prescription drug) plan that meets their medical needs, including the display of lower-cost generic alternatives. Some details regarding Medicare Advantage Plans can be reviewed by clicking this link so you can compare covered benefits.
- Medicare-Certified Providers – When choosing providers to receive care, consideration should be given whether the providers will be able to bill Medicare in the event MSA funds have either temporarily or permanently exhausted (depleted), or in the event a Medicare beneficiary may need Medicare covered treatment that is not injury related. If a provider cannot file claims to Medicare, the Medicare beneficiary may be billed for services in select circumstances. To locate providers that are Medicare-certified, please click here.
- Reimbursement of Medicare Conditional Payments before and after settlement. If Medicare pays for care related to your injury, it may be doing so on the condition that Medicare will later be reimbursed for such payments. More information about Medicare’s right to recovery may be found here.
- At the end of each year, interest earned on MSA funds will need to be identified as interest income generated from the MSA account for the prior tax year. Under CMS’ guidelines, the interest earned is to be deposited and remain in the MSA account to pay only for Medicare allowable expenses related to the injury, or used for other allowable purposes, such as to cover banking fees related to the account, mailing/postage fees related to the account, miscellaneous related document copying charges, and income tax on interest income from the MSA account.
Mismanaged MSA Funds
- During the pre-settlement phase, the pricing of medical items and services for most MSA allocation reports are prepared using Workers’ Compensation state fee schedules for the state where the injury occurs. For liability cases, those medical items and services are priced at the Usual and Customary rate for the geographic region. For both WC and liability cases, prescription drug expenses are typically priced at Average Wholesale Pricing (AWP). Injured parties might not subscribe to or otherwise access the AWP pricing rates or state fee schedule rates and could end up paying for medical treatment or prescriptions drugs at amounts higher than they should.
- When the injured person mistakenly pays for a non-Medicare allowable expense out of the MSA account, Medicare reserves the right to deny all injury-related Medicare covered claims until the MSA funds have been replenished or the injured worker can demonstrate appropriate usage equal to the full amount of the MSA.
- If a provider mistakenly sends the bill to Medicare when it should have been paid out of a MSA account, the claim may be denied by Medicare and this could lead to CMS initiating an audit of the MSA funds.
- Medicare may accidentally pay for an injury-related claim when it should have been paid out of the MSA account. The injured person may end up being billed or charged for the Medicare copay, coinsurance, or deductible amount, and later, still have to reimburse Medicare from the MSA funds.
When considering all the factors described above, doesn’t it make sense to strongly consider the use of a professional administrator? Also, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published in the WCMSA Reference Guide, that professional administration is highly recommended.
Simply put, Professional Administration makes sense. If you are an attorney or an injured person who has questions regarding switching from self-administration to professional administration, Medivest is here to answer any questions you may have.