I just got Fired!

https://interimcfo.wordpress.com/2021/02/11/i-just-got-fired/

Image result for I just got Fired!

I went out on a social event with a hospital CFO. During the course of the day, it seemed that all I heard was griping about the CEO. Then I heard that the organization was ‘giving back’ most of the last year’s gains, how most of the leadership team were idiots, and on and on. Finally, I told my friend that I thought he was in burn-out and that if he did not do something to alleviate the stress he was bearing, things were not going to end well. A couple of weeks later, I received a call from my friend. The conversation started with, “You will not believe what just happened.” My answer was, “How many guesses do I get?”

In hindsight, it was easy to see this transition coming. I know. It has happened to me – more than once. The circumstances, emotions, and process leading up to a transition event are relatively consistent in my experience. People stop listening to you. You start feeling out of touch with the rest of the organization. Your relationships with peers begin to cool, especially the relationship with the boss. You learn that you are increasingly not invited to important meetings or summoned to participate in matters that are clearly within your scope. You begin to sense divergence of political and or philosophical views with the core leadership of the organization. Your boss and others start going around you to approach your staff directly.

These processes continue until you get invited to an unscheduled meeting where you learn that you are about to be freed up to seek other opportunities.

First, a disclaimer. I am assuming that the termination is not for cause, i.e., violation of policy, violation of the law, or behavior unbecoming. The majority of separations and terminations I am familiar with have little if anything to do with cause and occur primarily because of lack of fit or growing disagreement between the incumbent and their manager regarding the organization’s course. Sometimes, the incumbent’s area of responsibility is no longer meeting the needs of the organization. Too often, internal corporate politics are responsible for deals that started well souring. Sometimes, a transition follows an executive, usually but not always the CFO, digging in over their interpretation of the organization getting too close to crossing a compliance red line. Instead of greasing the squeaky wheel, the organization decides to address the problem by getting rid of the irritant. I have been in a situation more than once where I had to decide whether my integrity was for sale and what a fair price might be. In every case, I elected to avoid the disaster that has befallen executives that flew too close to the OIG’s flame, and in one case, it led to a separation from the organization.

One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes is, “Failure is an event; it is not a person.” Just because someone ends up in a transition does not mean by definition that they are a terrible person. Time and again, in these blogs, I have stipulated that for me to follow someone that was ‘bad’ in some way is extremely rare. In these articles, I address termination from the view of the ‘victim.’

I am speaking from experience writing this as I have been through an unplanned transition more than once. I know my problem; I get frustrated with politics, BS, sub-optimization, the toxicity of culture, and eventually lose my sense of humor or ability to eat crap without gagging. Not too long after I start telling people what I really think and, . . . . well, you know the rest of the story. What I believe is a growing risk of being an employee is why I decided to leave permanent employment and become a career Interim Executive Consultant. Regardless of the cause of a turnover event, it is gut-wrenching. Even if you sense it coming, it is no easier to bear. In a matter of a few minutes, you go from someone whose expertise and perspective are in high demand to someone that has no reason to get out of bed. The pain is increased exponentially by those that used to dote on you refusing to return phone calls or answer emails.

More than once, I have received a call from someone looking for help because their deal either has gone bad or is in the process of deterioriation. Invariably, a few weeks later, I get the call. Upon answering the phone, the conversation starts, “You aren’t going to believe what just happened to me!” My first thought is not again! It pains me almost as much to witness someone else go through a transition as it is to go through it yourself. As I said before, my response is, “How many guesses do I get?” I ask this question with a high degree of certainty that the answer is a forgone conclusion.


Sadly, people going through a transition process do not fully appreciate what they are facing, especially the first time. The first problem is the amount of time the executive is going to be unemployed. When this happened to me the first time in the ’80s, I was shocked when a mentor told me to expect a month for each $10,000 of pre-transition compensation. I could not believe this was possible, but I have seen it happen time after time. With the inflation that has occurred since then, a good rule of thumb is probably a month for each $20,000 of pre-transition compensation. Thinking back to my principle that the time to start planning for a transition is now, one of the things to be prepared for is up to a year of interruption in income unless you are fortunate enough to have a severance agreement.

Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions, or interim services. I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you. An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations. Some of my feedback comes from people who are demonstrating an interest in advancing their careers, and I am writing content to address those inquiries.

I encourage you to use the comment section at the bottom of each article to provide feedback and stimulate discussion. I welcome input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality and relevance of this work.

If you would like to discuss any of this content, provide private feedback or ask questions, you can reach me at ras2@me.com.

https://interimcfo.wordpress.com/

$6B fraud bust includes numerous telehealth schemes

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/6b-fraud-bust-includes-numerous-telehealth-schemes/586220/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-10-01%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29992%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Federal agencies have charged 345 people across the country, including more than 100 providers and four telehealth executives, with submitting more than $6 billion in fraudulent claims to payers. Of that, $4.5 billion was connected to telemedicine schemes and about $800 million each to substance abuse treatment and illegal opioid distribution.
  • More than 250 medical professionals had their federal healthcare billing privileges revoked for being involved in the scams, according to a statement released Wednesday.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice also said it is creating a new rapid response strike force to investigate fraud cases involving major providers that operate in multiple jurisdictions.

Dive Insight:

Telehealth fraud has increased significantly since 2016, the HHS Office of Inspector General said. As providers have quickly pivoted many services to virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic, attempts at fraud will likely follow.

One of the cases outlined Wednesday included false claims for COVID-19 testing while another involved a COVID-19 related scheme to defraud insurers out of more than $4 million.

The telehealth fraud allegedly involved a marketing network that lured hundreds of thousands of people into a criminal scheme with phone calls, direct mail, TV ads and online pop-up ads. Telemedicine executives then paid doctors to order unneeded medical equipment, testing or drugs with either no patient interaction or only a brief call. 

Those were either not given to the patients or were worthless to them. The proceeds were then laundered through international shell corporations and banks.

The scheme is similar to one DOJ prosecuted in April 2019 involving fraudulent telehealth companies that pushed unneeded braces on Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for kickbacks from durable medical equipment companies.

The massive bust included the work of 175 HHS OIG agents and analysts and targeted myriad fraud operations across the U.S. and its territories.

One of the larger scams involved 29 defendants in the Middle District of Florida. A telemedicine company and medical professionals working for it billed Medicare for medical equipment for patients they never spoke to.

In New Jersey, laboratory owners paid marketers to get DNA samples at places like senior health fairs. Doctors on telemedicine platforms then ordered medically unnecessary and not reimbursable genetic testing.

 

 

 

 

Medicare Advantage should not ‘game the system’ but prioritize patient care, honest billing

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/medicare-advantage-should-not-game-the-system-but-prioritize-patient-care/585613/

We all agree healthcare providers should prioritize patient well-being and bill honestly. Most do. But, if not, my office, the Office of Inspector General for the HHS, and other government agencies, are watching. 

We are especially monitoring an area of concern: abuse of risk adjustment in Medicare Advantage, the managed care program serving 23 million beneficiaries, 37% of the Medicare population, at a cost of about $264 billion annually. We have good reason to pay attention. Our recent report found that Medicare Advantage paid $2.6 billion a year for diagnoses unrelated to any clinical services.

Plans used a tool called “health risk assessments” to collect these diagnoses. Ideally, health risk assessments might be part of a Medicare beneficiary’s annual wellness visit and help care teams identify health issues. However, some Medicare Advantage plans use risk assessments without involving the patients’ regular care providers. 

Some plans partner with businesses whose primary livelihood entails identifying diagnoses by conducting risk assessments. Some organizations send professional risk assessors, perhaps practitioners with some medical credentials but not physicians or other clinicians involved in the person’s care, to the beneficiaries’ homes.  Our study found that 80% of that extra $2.6 billion payment resulted from in-home health risk assessments. 

Medicare’s capitated payments vary by beneficiary for good reason. If Medicare paid the same for every beneficiary, plans might favor younger and healthier enrollees. It may not hold true every month, but, on average, it will cost a plan less to serve a healthy 65-year-old than an older person with diabetes or cancer.

Risk adjustment tailors the capitated rate to each beneficiary’s expected costs, so plans should enroll any interested beneficiary and not discriminate. But the risk adjustment is just a projection. Beneficiaries need not actually incur higher costs for the plan to receive higher payments. Some beneficiaries with a seemingly low risk will incur high costs in a given year and some beneficiaries with a high risk will incur low or even no costs.

In fact, one Medicare Advantage plan received about $7 million for beneficiaries who did not appear to receive any clinical care that year — other than the risk assessment, which was the only reason for the higher Medicare payment. Finding beneficiaries with high risk scores but low care utilization can prove a profitable business strategy. 

Without gaming, on the aggregate, risk-based payments and utilization should even out over time.  But what if plans do game the system? Perhaps making their beneficiaries look sicker? Or not providing care for beneficiaries’ health conditions?

We identified two main concerns:

  • bad data — risk of incorrect diagnoses identified in the health risk assessment resulting in incorrect payments to plans.
  • suboptimal care — risk that diagnoses are correct, but patients are not getting the care they need.

The question of whether beneficiaries are experiencing quality and safety problems requires more study. For example, it is possible that beneficiaries are receiving care, but plans are not submitting this data as required. Regardless, plans that use risk assessments to gather diagnoses, but then take no further action, are clearly missing an opportunity for meaningful care coordination. We urge Medicare Advantage plans to:

  • Ensure practices drive better care and not just higher profits.  
  • Enact policies and procedures to ensure the integrity and usefulness of the data.

This could include measures like educating patients about the identified diagnoses and sharing them with caregivers. These steps are consistent with the best practices identified by CMS and provided to Medicare Advantage Plans in 2015.

It is not necessarily bad that Medicare allows risk assessments to influence payment, trusting that plans use risk assessments to identify missed diagnoses and not to fabricate nonexistent diagnoses. 

However, this practice only helps patients if there is some additional intervention to improve care. If risk assessments are performed by third parties, at minimum, the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s care team should learn the results. Risk assessments should trigger meaningful care coordination, patient engagement and help ensure the care team takes appropriate action. Risk assessments that generate diagnoses for payment purposes, but result in no follow-up care raise serious concerns.

Ensuring beneficiaries receive the care they need should be front of mind for executives as they design risk assessment programs with an eye to quality of care and better care coordination. Failing that, executives should know that government agencies will scrutinize risk adjustment for abuse. 

In response to our report, CMS promised to provide additional oversight and target plans that reap the greatest payments from in-home health risk assessments and conditions generated solely by risk assessments for which the beneficiaries appeared to receive no other clinical services. My office has identified red flags in some industry patterns and recommends plans adopt best practices. Executives should champion best practices and make sure their plans are driving correct diagnoses and quality care.

Ensuring that beneficiaries are properly diagnosed is important, not just for the integrity of taxpayer-funded federal healthcare programs, but also for the welfare of the beneficiaries served. Coordinating care and providing appropriate follow up is critical.

My office and other government agencies are targeting oversight to make sure plans do not pad risk adjustments with unsupported diagnoses. When plans find new real diagnoses, the plans deserve the extra payment, but only if patients get appropriate care.

 

 

 

 

Administration delays final rule easing anti-kickback regs until next August

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/trump-admin-delays-final-rule-easing-anti-kickback-regs-until-next-august/584158/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-08-26%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29307%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

Dive Brief:

  • CMS has pushed back publishing a final rule that would ease anti-kickback regulations on providers by a year. The move is likely to anger healthcare organizations that have long clamored for the rule’s relaxation.
  • The deadline to finalize the rule proposed Oct. 17, 2019, is now Aug. 31, 2021. Originally, the rule relaxing stipulations of the decades-old Stark Law was expected this month. It’s unclear how the extension affects OIG’s tandem rule slacking similar regulations outlined in the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law.
  • CMS chalked up the delay to the need to detangle the many thorny issues raised by healthcare companies in their comments on the rule. “We are still working through the complexity of the issues raised by comments received on the proposed rule and therefore we are not able to meet the announced publication target date,” Wilma Robinson, HHS deputy executive secretary, wrote in a notice on the change dated Monday. CMS did not respond to requests to clarify what issues are tying up the rule.

Dive Insight:

Hospital groups are unlikely to be pleased with the delay. The American Hospital Association earlier this month sent the Office of Management and Budget a letter urging them to expedite the review and release of the final Stark and AKS regulations.

“These rules take on even more significance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” AHA EVP Thomas Nickels wrote in the letter dated Aug. 19. “These rules will remove unnecessary regulatory burden from hospitals and health systems, allow for enhanced care coordination for patients, improve quality, and reduce waste in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

AHA did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

Healthcare organizations have said the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute, passed decades ago in an attempt to deter physicians from referring patients to other locations or for services that would financially benefit them, are outdated and burdensome. Providers say the proposed changes are long overdue, citing longstanding concerns the laws hinder efforts to coordinate patient care across different sites and episodes.

The proposed rule, if finalized, would sharply ease federal anti-kickback regulations in a bid to help providers use value-based payment arrangements, reflecting the growing shift away from fee-for-service reimbursement and siloed care models.

The rule clarified exemptions from the physician self-referral law for certain value-based payment arrangements among physicians, providers and suppliers. Specifically, it applies to models with a specific patient population, where one of the entities takes on full financial risk for providing Medicare Part A and Part B for the first six months. The payments can either be capitated or global.

Doctors would be required to pay back a fourth of payments if they don’t meet financial goals.

The proposed rule also introduced a new exemption for certain arrangements under which a doctor receives limited payment for items and services that he or she provides, and another that would allow hospitals and medical device manufacturers to donate cybersecurity tools and other related software to doctors without fear of retribution.

Comments on the proposed rule from the hospital and physician community were generally supportive of the changes, though some organizations, including the American Hospital Association and Walmart, thought the feds didn’t go far enough. Hospital groups argued the exceptions should be expanded to include private payers, along with Medicare and Medicaid and the definition of value-based arrangements should be broadened, along with some other clarifications.

Per the Social Security Act, agencies have to maintain a regular timeline for publishing final regulations, normally within three years of the draft. However, they are allowed to extend the original deadline, if they justify the change.

 

 

 

 

Many workers don’t get new paid sick leave, because of ‘broad’ exemption for providers, report finds

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/08/11/paid-sick-leave/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-08-12%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29035%5D

Many health-care workers don't get new paid sick leave, because of ...

The New York attorney general sued the Labor Department in April over the agency’s interpretation of ‘health care provider’.

A government watchdog said in a report out Tuesday that the Labor Department “significantly broadened” an exemption allowing millions of health-care workers to be denied paid sick leave as part of the law Congress passed in March to help workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March to ensure workers at small- and medium-size companies were able to take paid leave if they or a family member became sick with the coronavirus. The law exempts health-care providers as well as companies with more than 500 employees.

But an Office of the Inspector General report noted that a move by the Labor Department to more broadly expand how they categorize health-care providers ended up leaving far more workers without a guarantee of paid sick leave than the agency’s estimate of 9 million.

While existing federal statutes define health-care workers as doctors, someone practicing medicine or providing health-care services, the Labor Department’s exemption from paid sick leave included anyone employed at a doctor’s office, clinic, testing facility or hospital, including temporary sites. The report also found the agency also exempted companies that contract with clinics and hospitals, such as those that produce medical equipment or tests related to the coronavirus, the OIG found.

The report also suggested the Labor Department is not doing enough to enforce the paid-sick-leave provisions, as well as its existing laws on pay and overtime issues.

In an effort to be socially distant, the federal agency acknowledged it has been forgoing fact-finding, on-site investigations, where an investigator examines all aspects of whether an employer is complying with federal labor laws. Instead, the agency has been using conciliations, which are telephone-only reviews limited to looking into a single issue affecting one or a few employees, with no fact-finding.

Critics of the Labor Department’s more hands-off approach to the pandemic have seized on the report as another indication of the ways in which the Trump administration has abandoned its commitments to worker safety.

“The Inspector General’s report makes clear that the Department of Labor went out of its way to limit the number of workers who could take emergency paid leave,” Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Education Committee, said in a statement. “This absence of meaningful enforcement of our nation’s basic workplace laws creates a major risk to workers who are already vulnerable to exploitation amid record unemployment.”

Before the pandemic, limited or full on-site investigations, a more robust way the agency looked into pay and overtime issues, made up about 53 percent of its inquiries. But since March 18, only 19 percent of those inquiries have been on-site investigations.

Actions taken to enforce the sick-leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act have skewed even further away from investigations: 85 percent have been resolved through conciliations.

The agency’s Wage and Hour Division responded to the OIG’s findings, noting that they were “developing and sharing models for conducting virtual investigations,” and that they also pledged to maintain a backlog of delayed on-site investigations to be tackled when it was safer to conduct those reviews.

But critics suggest the pandemic alone is not a sufficient excuse for the drop-off in investigations, some aspects of which could be done remotely.

“These numbers just look so different than the numbers that I’m used to seeing in terms of conciliations versus investigations,” said Sharon Block, a senior Obama administration labor department official. “It really does jump out. That 85 percent is just a really big number.”

The issue about expanding who gets to opt out of offering paid sick leave has been the subject of complaints, according to the OIG report, as well as a federal lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. That lawsuit argued that the Labor Department overstepped its authority by defining health-care providers in such broad terms, saying it could be skewed to include workers such as teaching assistants or librarians at universities, employees who work in food services or tech support at medical schools, and cashiers at hospital gift shops and cafeterias.

Judge J. Paul Oetken, of New York’s Southern District, struck down the Labor Department’s definition, as well as three other provisions last week — but confusion remains about whether his ruling applies only to employers in New York.

In an internal response to the OIG report, which predates the New York ruling, the Labor Department said that it agreed with many of the OIG’s recommendations and that it would continue to use its definition of health-care providers until the resolution of the federal lawsuit.

The Labor Department did not reply to requests for comment about whether it planned to contest the judge’s ruling, or the other findings in the report.

The inspector general pointed to other ways the department is not doing enough to adjust to the challenges of the post-outbreak world.

The OIG report said that while the agency’s Wage and Hour Division referenced the coronavirus in an operating plan in late May, it pointed out that the division “focuses more on what the agency has already accomplished rather than thinking proactively and describing how it will continue to ensure FFCRA compliance while still maintaining enforcement coverage,” the report noted.

The department did not provide any goals about the enforcement or provide any requirements for tracking and reporting the new violations created by the FFCRA.

“With the predicted surge of covid-19 cases nationwide in upcoming months as more Americans return to work and as a consequence, an anticipated increase in complaint call volume to WHD, it would be expedient of the agency to devise a detailed plan as to how it intends to address this issue,” the OIG noted.

The report is the latest to spotlight the Trump administration’s employer-friendly approach to worker safety and protections.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the part of the Labor Department that investigates and is charged with upholding worker safety, has been criticized by workers and advocates for failing to issue citations for worker safety issues during the pandemic in significant numbers. It had only issued four citations out of more than 7,900 coronavirus-related complaints, according to figures from July 21.

 

 

 

Trump says IG report finding hospital shortages is ‘just wrong’

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/491454-trump-says-ig-report-finding-hospital-shortages-is-just-wrong?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=28856

Hospital Experiences Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Results ...

President Trump on Monday claimed that an inspector general report finding “severe” shortages of supplies at hospitals to fight the novel coronavirus is “just wrong.”

Trump did not provide evidence for why the conclusions of the 34-page report are wrong.

He implied that he is mistrustful of inspectors general more broadly. He recently fired the inspector general of the intelligence community, which has drawn outrage from Democrats.

“Did I hear the word inspector general?” Trump said in response to the reporter’s question about the findings.

“It’s just wrong,” Trump said of the report.

The inspector general report, released earlier Monday, was based on a survey of 323 randomly selected hospitals across the country.

It found “severe” shortages of tests and wait times as long as seven days for hospitals. It also found “widespread” shortfalls of protective equipment such as masks for health workers, something that doctors and nurses have also noted for weeks.

“The level of anxiety among staff is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” one hospital administrator said in the report.

Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, noted that the report’s survey of hospitals was conducted March 23 to March 27. He said testing had improved since then and that it was “quite a long time ago.”

Trump asked who the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services is.

“Where did he come from, the inspector general?” Trump said, adding, “What’s his name?”

The office is currently led by Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general.

According to her online biography, Grimm joined the inspector general’s office in 1999. 
Trump said the U.S. has now done more testing than any other country. “We are doing an incredible job on testing,” he said.
He also berated the reporter asking the question, saying testing has been a success.
“You should say, ‘Congratulations. Great job’ instead of being so horrid,” Trump said.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) on Monday said the inspector general report was accurate.

The report “accurately captures the crisis that hospitals and health systems, physicians and nurses on the front lines face of not having enough personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies and equipment in their fight against COVID-19,” the AHA said.

https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-20-00300.pdf?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=28856