Who’s Scrutinizing COVID-19 Claims

on Tuesday, 10 November 2020. All News Items | Case Management | Documentation | Coding

The OIG and the SMRC

2020 has been a very long and challenging year. In addition to caring for the influx of COVID-19 patients, hospitals have been bombarded with information on how to code and bill for COVID-19. Included in last week’s newsletter was an FAQ detailing the requirement that documentation of a positive COVID-19 test be in the medical record for hospitals to receive the additional 20% payment for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).

In March, CMS suspended most Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) medical reviews because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to add to the challenge for hospitals, medical reviews resumed in August. This article focuses on COVID-19 related reviews being conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC).  


Completed OIG Work Plan Reviews Related to COVID-19

As of November 6, 2020, the OIG’s Office of Evaluation and Inspections has issued reports for two Work Plan items related to the COVID-19 PHE.  

COVID-19 Hospital Response Report (OEI-06-20-00300)

In this report, the OIG notes that feedback from hospitals reflects “perspectives at a point in time-March 23-27, 2020.” At that time, the most significant challenges reported by hospitals was related to testing and caring for patients with COVID-19 and keeping staff safe. From anecdotal conversations with our clients, these challenges remain eight months later.

Highlights of OIG’s Emergency Preparedness Work: Insights for COVID-19 Response Reports

Prior to the COVID-19 PHE, the OIG had published several reports about community and health care facility emergency preparedness and response. The OIG developed the following two toolkits “to assist communities in responding to the current pandemic and to other emergencies as they arise.”

  • Toolkit: Insights for Communities From OIG’s Historical Work on Emergency Response (OEI-09-20-00440), and
  • Toolkit: Insights for Health Care Facilities from OIG’s Historical Work on Emergency Response (OIE-06-20-00470) OEI-06-20-00470


Active OIG Work Plan Reviews Related to COVID-19

Currently, thirteen of thirty Active Work Plan Items that are related to COVID-19 fall under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The following table lists when each of these thirteen items were added to the Work Plan and the Titles of the Item.

Announced or RevisedAgencyTitle
Oct-20 CMS Medicare Telehealth Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Program Integrity Risks
Oct-20 CMS Use of Medicare Telehealth Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Oct-20 CMS Nursing Home Oversight During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Sep-20 CMS Infection Control at Home Health Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Aug-20 CMS Audit of Medicare Payments for Inpatient Discharges Billed by Hospitals for Beneficiaries Diagnosed with COVID-19
Aug-20 CMS Infection Control and Emergency Preparedness at Dialysis Centers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Aug-20 CMS A Review of Medicare Data To Understand Hospital Utilization During COVID-19
Jul-20 CMS End Stage Renal Disease Networks' Responsibilities During COVID-19
Jul-20 CMS Medicaid: Expedited Provider Enrollment During COVID-19 Emergency
Jun-20 CMS Trend Analysis of Medicare Laboratory Billing for Potential Fraud and Abuse With COVID-19 Add-on Testing
Jun-20 CMS Medicaid—Telehealth Expansion During COVID-19 Emergency
Jun-20 CMS Meeting the Challenges Presented by COVID-19: Nursing Homes
Jun-20 CMS Audit of Nursing Homes' Reporting of COVID-19 Information Under CMS's New Requirements
Source: OIG Active Work Plan Items at https://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/workplan/active-item-table.asp

I want to call your attention to the August 2020 Item: Audit of Medicare Payments for Inpatient Discharges Billed by Hospitals for Beneficiaries Diagnosed with COVID-19. Specifically, the following summary description for this Work Plan Item:

“Section 3710 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act directs the Secretary to increase the weighting factor that would otherwise apply to the assigned diagnosis-related group by 20 percent for an individual who is diagnosed with COVID-19 and discharged during the COVID-19 public health emergency period.”  We will audit whether payments made by Medicare for COVID-19 inpatient discharges billed by hospitals complied with Federal requirements.”

It is not clear the claims dates of service that the OIG will request. For claims requested with a date of service on or after September 1, 2020 keep in mind that CMS mandated that a positive COVID-19 test within 14 days of admission must be documented in the record to receive the 20% additional payment. If you receive a notice for records from the OIG and the dates of service are on or after September 1 you should verify whether or not a note for “No Pos Test” was submitted to your MAC. If not, be sure to submit the COVID-19 test results when submitting the record to the OIG. 


Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC)

Noridian Health Solutions, LLCL (Noridian) is the current SMRC. At the direction of CMS, Noridian conducts nationwide medical reviews for Medicare FFS Part A, Part B and Durable Medical Equipment (DME). On October 15, 2020, Noridian posted a Notification of Medical Review titled DRG COVID 20% Add On Payment.

This project will consist of post-payment reviews of Medicare Part A acute care inpatient hospital claims billed on dates of service from April 1, 2020 through August 30, 2020. Documentation requirements to be included in each Additional Documentation Request (ADR) are listed in Noridian’s notification. Included in this list is “Lab/Diagnostic reports, if applicable, including any that support the COVID-19 diagnosis.” Note, the claims being reviewed are prior to the CMS requirement of a positive COVID-19 test result be in the record to receive the 20% additional payment. This will be important to keep in mind in case you receive a denial based solely on the lack of this documentation being in the record.


Article by Beth Cobb

Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc.  Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. 

In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Risk Assessment (CRA) Tool. You may contact Beth at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice.  Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.


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