HIMSS19: Grassley presses CMS on recovery of improper EHR incentive payments
- A top Republican lawmaker is pushing CMS to disclose more details on its progress recovering improper EHR incentive payments just as HIMSS, the largest health IT conference of the year, kicks into gear.
- In June 2017, the HHS Office of Inspector General estimated CMS inappropriately paid more than $729 million to health professionals and hospitals that didn't meet meaningful use requirements between May 2011 and June 2014. CMS Administrator Seema Verma tells Healthcare Dive that she continues to monitor efforts to recover the improper payments, but noted they occurred prior to President Donald Trump taking office.
- Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is concerned taxpayers are on the hook for "staggering" financial losses. "I urge CMS to take all reasonable steps to ensure that taxpayer money is properly used and recovered within the EHR program," he wrote to the agency last week.
The newest inquiry from Grassley is the second round of questioning regarding the OIG finding that CMS distributed millions of improper payments. In September 2017, Verma told Grassley CMS was conducting audits of the EHR Incentive Programs to strengthen oversight.
At the time, she noted that CMS had recovered just over $2 million of the overpayments and had validated $291,222 in suspected overpayments made to the sample pool of professionals examined by OIG. The agency had $201,457 in outstanding improper payments it was in the process of recovering through its debt collection processes.
Grassley is now seeking additional information on CMS' progress recovering improper EHR incentive payments, such as how many random audits of eligible professionals the agency has conducted in the past five years.
He is also asking what steps CMS has taken to recover the $729 million in OIG-estimated improper payments and how many professionals were subject to downward adjustments to their Medicare physician fee schedule payments between 2015 and 2018 when they did not meet meaningful use requirements.
Verma noted that many of the improper payments occurred under President Barack Obama's administration, saying that program integrity continues to be a strong focus under Trump. "We don't have extra dollars for fraud and abuse. We're going to be doubling down on efforts to address that," she said.
Grassley asked CMS to respond to his letter by Feb. 19.
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