Federal investigators are warning physicians who allow healthcare firms to use their Medicare provider numbers that the doctors can be held liable for any fraudulent bills the firms submit on their behalf.
HHS warns of fraud liability in reassigned Medicare numbers
The warning to Medicare doctors was prompted by a spate of eight settlements in which physicians were accused of violating the Civil Monetary Penalties Law after reassigning their Medicare provider numbers to the firms in exchange for receiving medical directorships with the companies, the OIG Alert (PDF) from HHS' inspector general's office said. “We thought it might be helpful to remind physicians to exercise caution when reassigning Medicare payments,” an inspector general's office spokesman said.
Physicians can legally reassign their Medicare payments from the CMS to outside organizations by filling out Form CMS-855R (PDF). However, HHS' inspector general's office is warning physicians to use “heightened scrutiny” to ensure that the entities receiving their payments are legitimate providers or suppliers of healthcare items and services.
The eight physician settlements cited in the OIG Alert were not specifically disclosed, but the release said they all involved doctors who reassigned their Medicare numbers to “physical medicine” companies in exchange for jobs as medical directors, even though the doctors did not personally render or supervise services billed for under their identities.
The alert said the evidence showed the physicians' numbers were used to bill for services provided by individuals with little or no medical education such as retail cashiers and massage therapists, even though the Medicare claims said the services were either provided by the doctors or technicians they supervised.
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