By Chase Doscher, Class of 2018; Colbey B. Reagan, Partner at Waller; Daniel Patten, Associate at Waller
Last April, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a change request making revisions to Chapter 15 (Medicare Enrollment) of the Medicare Program Integrity Manual. Specifically, this change request made significant alterations to Section 188.8.131.52.5 – Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Payment and CHOWs. Prior to the change request, when dealing with a change of ownership (CHOW), Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) continued to pay the Seller of a healthcare provider or facility until they received the tie-in notice from the CMS Regional Office. MACs would reject any application submitted by either the Seller or the Buyer to change the EFT account or special payment address prior to receiving approval from CMS. The ultimate responsibility for determining payment arrangements was left to the Buyer and Seller while the MAC and CMS processed the CHOW application.
Effective May 15, 2017, when the Seller and the Buyer initiate a CHOW, the provider agreement in existence, alongside the CMS Certification Number (CCN), is assigned automatically from the Seller to the Buyer effective on the transfer date. It is important to note that the Buyer retains the ability to reject the automatic assignment prior to the transfer date. To reject the automatic assignment of the provider agreement, the Buyer must file an initial participation application with the Medicare program. The assigned provider agreement is still subject to all applicable statutes and regulations as well as the terms and conditions under which it was issued. Any contractor will continue to adjust payments to the provider to account for both prior overpayment and underpayment, even if the claims relate to services provided before the CHOW. Additionally, the Buyer in a CHOW may obtain a new National Provider Identifier (NPI) or maintain the existing NPI. Once the CHOW processing is complete, the Seller will no longer be allowed to bill for services furnished after CHOW processing, and only the Buyer is permitted to submit claims using the existing CCN. It is important for parties undergoing CHOW processing to understand that under the implemented changes, any payment arrangement for services furnished during the CHOW processing period is left up to the parties to work out. One primary implication of this is that the Buyer will have some long-term responsibility to bill for services provided by the Seller during CHOW processing.