As I begin this post, it’s been a typical Friday. My 4-year-old son took an interminably long time getting dressed this morning, I showered, shaved, ate breakfast and my picture ended up on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel….
OK, so one of those things is atypical. I’ll give you a hint: I usually eat breakfast.
For more information on my 14th minute and 58th second of fame in my lifetime, click here (I’m the guy with the orange guitar). The story accompanying my grainy image is self-explanatory. So as not to worry readers who may not click through about the reasons for appearing in the newspaper, it doesn’t involve an indictment, a drunken man running onto a baseball field or (surprisingly, to those who know me) a vicious automobile accident. In these troubled and trying times, it’s nice to be part of a good story for a change, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s events as described in the article.
So now that we all know what a happy story looks like, let’s explore the flip side as it applies to health care compliance. I came across a story out of Florida that is a good case in point. A couple from a town called Land O’ Lakes (like you, I immediately thought of butter) were making their Sunday run to their local recycling center. When they got there, they found that there was no room for their paper items in the designated dumpster at the center. This was because someone had filled the paper bin to capacity with discarded medical records. In some cases, the records included Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers in addition to medical information.
The first thing I thought of with this story was regarding EHR, and how stories like this may become obsolete within five years. Then I begin to think the opposite, with the personal theory that as practices transition from a paper record to an electronic record, we may see instances like this more often thanks to record destruction companies attempting to cut corners.
Then I begin to daydream, first about dancing in rain made of Newcastle Brown Ale to the music of the Who, then shaking my head and quickly transitioning to the government’s recent re-dedication to recovering money lost from Medicare and Medicaid due to fraud.
Having been involved with coding and compliance for several years, I’ve learned that there really is no end to to the devious machinations of the ethically-challenged in our business. From podiatrists who bill foot care on patients who have had previous foot amputations to DME suppliers forcing unneeded power mobility devices on the local population of elderly residents, extending to the virus of identity theft currently infecting some medical practices, you need a chain saw to cut through the levels of immoral behavior in this industry.
The damage that these assorted criminals inflict is not restricted to the CMS trust funds. Medical providers who spend their waking hours operating by the rules inadvertently find themselves in the outer remnants of the spotlight that shines on the crooks. The doctors acting above board and rendering legitimate services ultimately pay a high price for the actions of the bad seeds in increased regulation, investigation and bad public relations for the health care industry as a whole.
The current administration has doubled down on recovery of overpayments through fraud and abuse investigations. For the future of Medicare and Medicaid, I see this as overdue. There are many ways to make the news, but perhaps the best approach for the honest medical provider is to implement and follow policies that insure that you end up in the non-”perp walk” portions of the local news.