RACs and The Two-Midnight Rule Enforcement

The Two-Midnight Rule Enforcement

Elizabeth Weeks Leonard, Professor of Law at the University of Georgia Law School in Athens, Georgia,   has written a clear and concise article on the issues surrounding the Two-Midnight Rule: “CMS’ Proposed Changes To The Two-Midnight Rule: Partial Restoration Of Medical Judgment” in the Health Affairs Blog.

An expert on health care issues, Professor Leonard is widely published in the field and teaches courses on Health Care Financing and Regulation and Health Care Fraud and Abuse at the University of Georgia Law School.

Barraclough LLC recommends this article to our readers; it is available at this link.

Summary

The CMS Two-Midnight rile “clarifies the circumstances under which Medicare will consider a given hospital stay to be an inpatient service (and therefore reimbursable at a higher rate under Medicare Part A), versus an outpatient service (and therefore reimbursable at a lower rate under Part B).”

“The Two-Midnight Rule largely replaced medical judgment with regulatory benchmarks for inpatient versus outpatient admissions.”

Professor Leonard further explains:

  • The Two-Midnight Rule was precipitated by a number of factors. One was a trend of aggressive Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) claims reviews, identifying a high error rate for medically unnecessary Part A inpatient services that should have been submitted by the provider as lower reimbursement Part B outpatient services.
  • The RAC Program is a component of the federal government’s crackdown on health care fraud. RACs are essentially private bounty hunters, authorized to ferret out improper payments. They are paid on a contingency basis, typically receiving 9 percent to12.5 percent of any amounts recovered.

RAC Involvement and Rise in Appeals

“Short-stay hospitalizations became a favorite RAC target. But given the regulatory uncertainty and complex medical judgment involved in determining the appropriateness of an inpatient versus an outpatient stay, RAC audits also spawned high rates of provider appeals.”

Barraclough notes that  “The number of pending appeals overwhelmed the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals, leading to CMS’ offer to settle hospitals’ claims for partial payment—68 cents on the dollar—of net allowable amounts.”

Hence, one of the reasons for all the settlements that have been in the news lately.

As a result,  CMS recently proposed incremental changes to the Two-Midnight Rule.”

Read more about how the RACs lost control of the Two-Midnight rule and the issues of claims and settlements going forward.