The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) audit validation process has evolved over the past few years. Here is what you should know about the changes and how to best prepare to contract with an Independent Auditor, or IA.
Let’s go back to 2012. CMS was conducting the validation of audited Sponsors’ corrective action plans (CAPs) by retesting areas found to be problematic. While the terminology has changed, the charge was led at that time by the Regional Office. In 2013, validation became an activity conducted by the Medicare Parts C & D Oversight and Enforcement Group (MOEG) at Central Office and Regional Office staff. Any items that resulted in a Corrective Action Required (CAR) or an Immediate Corrective Action Required (ICAR) were subject to validation.
As part of the 2013 validation timeline, the Sponsor had seven days from the issuance of the final audit report to submit a CAP for each condition. If we reference the 2014 Part C and Part D Program Audit and Enforcement Report, CMS outlined the average number of days which elapsed after an audit notice was issued.
If we take a look at the average days elapsed from the Exit Conference to the Final Report Issued date, the number of days elapsed has decreased, from 241 days in 2011 to 99 days in 2014. Based on the last year of reported data, plans still had a healthy three months from the verbal acknowledgement of CARs and ICARs (that is, the Exit Conference) to the issuance of the final report in order to implement corrections. In theory, by the time the final report was issued, some issues could have been corrected and, therefore, could have been ready for validation. However, time had to elapse for CMS to approve the CAPs, and after that point, CMS allowed Sponsors another 90 calendar days from that approval to implement and test the results of those CAPs. That’s a lot of time when you look at it from the beneficiary perspective.
Fast forward to today — CMS is exercising their authority to require a Sponsor to hire an IA in order to validate if deficiencies found during a CMS program audit have been corrected. In a memo released on November 12, 2015, CMS confirms they will not provide recommendations on IA firms. Instead, they require the Sponsor to attest to both the independence of the IA as well as an absence of conflicts of interest. They point to the 2010 guidance for the selection of a Data Validation auditor for examples of relationships not meeting the standard for organization independence.
We are united with CMS’ recommendation that Sponsors solicit proposals to select an IA early in the post-audit phase. Speaking from the auditor standpoint, it is much better for all parties involved to plan early, so exceed CMS’ expectations and seek proposals as soon as possible. It’s better to have that agreement in place ahead of time, rather than waiting until CMS sends you their instruction to hire an IA. This will give you the time to evaluate your options, so you can best determine their experience and subject matter expertise. When you are accountable to CMS to validate corrections, it is particularly important to partner with someone you can trust to apply a skilled eye to the validation activities. Otherwise, you may be subject to further scrutiny by CMS, which is the last thing any Sponsor needs when coming to the close of their audit process.
Determining conflict of interest is the responsibility of the Plan Sponsor and can be subject to interpretation. Not every auditor that a Plan Sponsor has used in the past is necessarily a conflict of interest. Contact us for further questions >>
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