Medicare Officials Raise Issue of Fraud as Greater Use of Electronic Health Records Increases the Number of Claims Upcoded to More Complex CPT Codes
Issue does not directly affect clinical laboratories and pathology groups, but puts spotlight on some hospitals and physicians who frequently use these codes.
Could increased use of electronic health records (EHR) systems be causing more hospitals and physicians to commit fraud because of upcoding? That’s the assertion of certain federal health officials. They attribute the increased proportion of Medicare claims for more complex and more expensive services by some providers to be, in some part, acts of fraud.
Most pathologists and clinical laboratory managers will notice the irony in these allegations that providers are upcoding services to Medicare patients in fraudulent ways. After all, the federal government is currently paying billions of dollars in financial incentives to encourage providers to implement and use certified EHR systems with the goal of lowering healthcare costs, while improving patient outcomes.
OIG Audit Findings Are Source of Fraud Allegations
Insinuations of provider fraud came after the public learned of findings of an audit done by Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG determined that payments for more complex Level 5 E/M services increased by 21% between 2001 and 2010. During that same period, payments for medium-complexity patient services decreased by 11%.
For all of 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) paid out $33.5 billion for E/M billings. This was about one-third of Medicare Part B payments for physician services. These numbers were part of a story published in Modern Healthcare.