This week, under a “Miscellaneous Medicare Secondary Payer Clarifications and Updates” title, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provided information that in September of 2019 there will be a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS, its sub agency that runs Medicare, to “ensure that beneficiaries are making the best health care choices possible by providing them and their representatives with the opportunity to select an option for meeting future medical obligations that fits their individual circumstances, while also protecting the Medicare Trust Fund.” The abstract acknowledges that “[c]urrently, Medicare does not provide its beneficiaries with guidance to help them make choices regarding their future medical care expenses when they receive automobile and liability insurance (including self-insurance) no fault insurance, and workers’ compensation settlements, judgments, awards, or payments, and need to satisfy their Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) obligations.” Interestingly, the projected NPRM will be geared to clarifying MSP obligations to protect Medicare’s future interests regarding injury related future medicals regardless of the case type.
Stakeholders in the MSP compliance community must always look first to the Medicare Secondary Payer statute (a series of provisions beginning at 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) commonly referred to as the MSP) to help determine how to best comply with the statute. However, while the MSP prohibits Medicare from making payment when a primary payer should pay and makes an exception for Medicare to be able to make payments conditionally provided it gets paid back, no part of the MSP or any related regulation references the term Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) or addresses what a Medicare beneficiary’s obligations are under the law as it relates to Medicare’s future interests.
Because the law does not directly address MSAs or future interests of Medicare, parties look to case law interpreting the MSP, regulations issued by CMS, a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide published by CMS, and MSP compliance companies and attorneys, to help guide MSP compliance decision making. While CMS has issued memos discussing MSAs and have clarified that there is no difference under the law between workers’ compensation and liability cases in terms of the need to consider and protect Medicare’s interests, uncertainty has remained as to the “how” and “when” as opposed to the “why”.
MSP stakeholders have been waiting for clarification from CMS regarding Liability Medicare Set-Asides (LMSAs) and No Fault MSAs for quite some time. It is generally understood that an injured party that receives payment from an injury complies with the MSP regarding Medicare’s future interests, when he or she does not prematurely bill Medicare for injury related Medicare covered medicals. In the workers’ compensation context, because CMS sets workload review thresholds at over $25,000 when an injured worker is a Medicare beneficiary and at over $250,000 when the injured worker has a reasonable expectation of becoming a Medicare beneficiary within 30 months, this has been a standard that many in the industry look to when trying to determine when to protect Medicare’s future interests in injury cases outside of the workers’ compensation field. This “when” has not yet been clarified by CMS. Confusion over the “how” to protect Medicare’s future interests has surrounded LMSAs because liability cases often settle for amounts lower than full case value due to questions over causation, comparative or contributory negligence or hybrids of those concepts, policy limits, caps on damages, along with the allowance for a variety of non-economic damages in liability cases. While the abstract describing the future Notice of Rulemaking does not use the term Medicare Set-Aside or MSA, it describes precisely what Medicare Set-Asides are designed to address.
As described, the proposed rule would address the protection of Medicare’s future interests in each of the Non Group Health Plan (NGHP) categories described in the MSP and its regulations, those being automobile and liability insurance (including self-insurance) no fault insurance, and workers’ compensation cases. The OMB notification defines the future action as a NPRM. Prior to the distribution of the Notice of Rulemaking, agencies typically publish a notice in the Federal Register called an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or ANPRM, to “test out” a proposal or to solicit ideas before drafting its actual Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The ANPRM is often an intermediate step for an agency to let the public know it intends to take official action in creating a regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations pertaining to a statute. The statute this NPRM would relate to is the MSP. An ANPRM had been announced in 2012 and it sought public comment but was subsequently withdrawn.
We have also written about some private MSP stakeholder meetings in 2018 during which CMS indicated that, while subject to change, denial of service would be their primary enforcement mechanism with respect to injury related Medicare covered future medicals in the liability area when specifically discussing Liability Medicare Set-Asides (LMSAs). With the addition of a Mandatory Insurance Reporting (Section 111 Reporting) section in the MSP effective in 2009, and the collection of Medicare beneficiary injury data by CMS now approaching 10 years, it seems inevitable that denials of service will increase for Medicare beneficiaries who fail to set money aside to cover their injury related Medicare covered items, services, and expenses. Due to the private stakeholder meetings CMS has had, it is not known whether CMS will provide an ANPRM prior to the NPRM.
Therefore, it remains to be seen how soon regulations clarifying the obligations of parties to protect Medicare’s future interests will be promulgated. Medivest will continue to keep you apprised as this important Medicare future interest matter progresses.