The size of the Medicare program is astronomical – the system processes over one billion claims a year. CMS uses several types of contractors to verify that Medicare Fee for Service (FFS) claims are paid based on Medicare requirements. One type of contractor is a Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC). The Medicare FFS RAC Program is one of many tools used to prevent and reduce improper payments. RACs identify and correct overpayments made on claims for health care services provided to beneficiaries, identify underpayments to providers, and provide information that allows CMS to prevent future improper payments.
However, in the past there were numerous complaints about the RAC program. Providers found the audits time-consuming, necessitating high administrative expenses, and often requiring lengthy appeals. CMS listened to what providers were telling them and made meaningful changes. That input informed their thinking as they re-examined all aspects of the RAC process. They identified areas where they could reduce provider burden and appeals, and increase program transparency, while enhancing program oversight and effectiveness.
On May 3rd, CMS Administrator Seema Verma, outlined the key improvements and enhancements that were made to the program including:
- Better Oversite of RACs:
- Accountable for maintaining a 95% accuracy score.
- Maintain an overturn rate of less than 10%.
- Contingency fee will be delayed until after the second level of appeal is exhausted.
- Reducing Provider Burden and Appeals:
- Must audit proportionally to the types of claims a provider submits.
- Conduct fewer audits for providers with low claims denial rates.
- Allow more time to submit additional documentation before needing to repay a claim.
- Increasing Program Transparency:
- Regularly seeking public comment on proposed RAC areas for review.
- Required enhancements to provider portals for claim status understanding.
While the audits can become cumbersome and overwhelming at times, ensuring that the care being provided is the most appropriate for each individual patient will only continue to assist in getting the health system where it needs to be. The improvements outlined above have helped and will to continue to help make patient care, not paperwork compliance, the main focus of providers.
CMS’ blog regarding recovery audit improvements:
More information on the Medicare FFS Recovery Audit Program can be found at: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/Medicare-FFS- Compliance-Programs/Recovery-Audit-Program/