HHS inspectors will visit several large vendors in fiscal 2005 to determine if actual rebates to hospitals match what hospitals list on their Medicare cost reports, according to HHS' inspector general's fiscal 2005 work plan. The plan, identifying agency priorities for 2005, revisits familiar ground and explores new areas recently discussed by agency staffers. Ongoing interests include critical-access hospitals, diagnosis-related group coding, hospital reporting of restraint-related deaths and long-term acute-care hospitals. The plan significantly emphasizes prescription-drug issues, said Eve Brunts, a healthcare attorney in the Boston office of Ropes & Gray. "That's not surprising," Brunts said, considering the new Medicare drug benefit.
In addition to vendor rebates, new interests include the medical necessity of inpatient psychiatric stays and hospitals' compliance with beneficiary notification requirements for "lifetime reserve days," a nonrenewable Medicare benefit that Congress ordered the inspector general's office to track. The 92-page work plan was released Monday on the office's Web site. Read the work plan -- by Mark Taylor