New OIG Project Expands Telemedicine Audits to State Medicaid Programs

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Following on the heels of its plans to review Medicare payments for telehealth services, the federal Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) just announced a new project to review state Medicaid payments for telemedicine and other remote services. Accordingly, providers who bill state Medicaid programs for telemedicine, telehealth, or remote patient monitoring services may expect to have those claims reviewed to confirm payment was correctly made in accordance with the conditions for coverage. The project will be added to the OIG’s 2017 Work Plan.

How Does OIG Define Projects Contained on their Work Plan

Historically, at the beginning of each new fiscal year, the OIG issued its Work Plan, setting forth the compliance and enforcement projects and priorities OIG intends to pursue in the coming year. Beginning this past June, OIG began updating the annual Work Plan on a monthly basis. The Work Plan contains dozens of projects affecting Medicare and Medicaid providers, suppliers and payors, as well as public health reviews and Department-specific reviews.

The Work Plan reflects (in large part) two aspects of the work of OIG:

  1. Projects originating within the Office of Audit Services (OAS), which conducts financial, billing, and performance audits of HHS programs; and
  2. Projects originating within the Office of Evaluations and Inspections (OEI), which provides management reviews and evaluations of HHS program operations.

Except by providing general statistics, the Work Plan itself does not detail the work of the Office of Investigations or the Office of Counsel to the Inspector General in investigating and enforcing matters involving specific individual providers and suppliers.  The new Medicaid telemedicine project will be run by the OAS.

Review of Medicaid Services Delivered Using Telecommunication Systems

OIG describes its new telemedicine review project as follows:

“Medicaid pays for telemedicine, telehealth, and telemonitoring services delivered through a range of interactive video, audio or data transmission (telecommunications). Medicaid programs are seeing a significant increase in claims for these services and expect this trend to continue. We will determine whether selected States’ Medicaid payments for services delivered using telecommunication systems were allowable in accord with Medicaid requirements.”

The expected issue date of the OIG report is 2019, and this is understandable given the sweeping scope of the project and the significant variances in coverage rules across different state Medicaid programs.

As with the OIG’s Medicare review, telemedicine providers ought not fear the new OIG project, or see it as a reason not to offer telehealth services to their patients. Indeed, the project and its eventual report can help shed light on those areas of compliance which the OIG believes important. In the interim, providers should continue to ensure their telehealth programs and claims comply with state Medicaid requirements, including coverage, coding, and documentation rules.

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