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CMS launches prepayment audits of Meaningful Use attesters

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By Marla Durben Hirsch
In what appears to be a shift in policy, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has begun auditing providers attesting to Meaningful Use of their electronic health record systems before doling out incentive payments, according to a report from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
CMS has targeted 5 to 10 percent of those who attested to Meaningful Use in January 2013, according to Elizabeth Holland, director of the Health IT Initiative Group’s Office of E-Health Standards and Services. Eligible professionals selected for audit were chosen both “randomly” and “based on protocols that identify suspicious or anomalous attestation data,” according to the AAFP News Now article.

An additional 5 to 10 percent of physicians and others will be subject to post-payment audits, according to Holland. The audits are being conducted by Garden City, NY-based CPA firm Figliozzi and Company.

CMS is required to conduct audits of providers attesting under the EHR incentive program, and began postpayment audits in July 2012. However, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) chastised CMS in November 2012 for poor auditing of the incentive program, a concern echoed by the Government Accountability Office.

OIG specifically recommended that CMS conduct prepayment audits of a select number of providers before issuing their incentive payments. At that time, CMS would not concur with the OIG’s recommendation, saying that prepayment audits would impose a “huge new burden” on providers and impede EHR adoption.

Other CMS programs are moving from “pay and chase” to prepayment review. GAO recently reported that expanding prepayment audits could save Medicare $115 million.

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