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Healthcare fraud and abuse

“During Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, the Federal Government won or negotiated over $2.4B in health care fraud judgments and settlements…$2.6B was returned to the Federal Government or paid to private persons.”

Put this into perspective.  If you were born today and started counting one…two…three…four, you would get to 2B right around retirement age.  This is of course assuming that you don’t sleep.

That’s a lot of money!

What’s important is to read that the money was returned to the government or paid to private persons.  This means that the Government is at least paying this much out to health care providers in order to recover the money at a later date.

There is a saying in health care…”it’s not about how much you make, but how much you keep that matters”.

“In FY 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened 967 new criminal health care fraud investigations…filed criminal charges in 439 cases.”

Again, I’d love to say that health care is a field full of altruistic people, we we know that some people suck!  They just suck. They take advantage of people.  They may have been bullied as a child and feel the need to get payback.  They may have been the bullies and just continue to try to take advantage of others.  It doesn’t matter the why, but they can’t be trusted to do the right thing when placed in a situation in which personal gain is an option.

“HHS-OIG also excluded 3,244 individuals and entities from participation in Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health care programs.”

When a health care provider attempts to defraud a federally funded program, the health care provider can be excluded from seeing any patients that participate in these programs.  For instance, if I were to be a shady individual and overbill or bill for services that I didn’t actually provide, the government can then say that I am no longer allowed to see these patients.  The government could also enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the person or company and allow them to see patients, but the company would have to prove that steps are being taken in order to minimize abusing the system.

“Under the joint direction of the Attorney General and the Secretary, the Program’s (Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program) goals are:

  1. To coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement efforts relating to health care fraud and abuse with respect to health plans;
  2. To conduct investigations, audits, inspections, and evaluations relating to the delivery of and payment for health care in the United States;
  3. To facilitate enforcement of all applicable remedies for such fraud; and
  4. To provide education and guidance regarding complying with current health care law. “

Imagine that you have the full force of the Federal Government tracking you as a health care professional.  How confident are you that you are doing everything correctly? We are responsible for complying with health care laws and regulations.

It’s unfortunate, but there are many therapists that still struggle with how to bill appropriately and will just take the word of another health care provider instead of looking up the rules and regulations.

“Relators’ Payments: $262,095,000…are funds awarded to private persons who file suits on behalf of the Federal Government under the qui tam (whistleblower) provisions of the False Clams Act”

In my opinion, this is where it gets interesting.  If anyone sees an injustice of abuse or fraud and reports it to the government, the government may pay that person(s) a percentage of what is recovered from the abusing person or company.

About 10% of what was recovered was paid out to individuals and groups that reported this fraud.

Someone is hitting the lottery by doing the right thing and reporting on those that are taking advantage of the system or are ignorant of the rules of the system.

“The return on investment (ROI) of the HCFAC program over the last three years is $4.20 returned for every $1.00 expended.”

If you are the federal government, “would you put more or less money into trying to recover more money from those committing fraud or abuse?”

I don’t see these recovery attempts to slow down over the years.

“Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT)…The Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams are a key component of Heat.  The mission of Heat is:

  1. To marshal significant resources across government to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid  programs and crack down on the fraud perpetrators who are abusing the system and costing us all billions of dollars.
  2. To reduce health care costs and improve the quality of care by riding the system of perpetrators who are preying on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
  3. To highlight best practices by providers and public sector employees who are dedicated to ending waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare.
  4. To build upon existing partnerships between DOJ and HHS, such as our Medicare Fraud Strike force Teams, to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars. “

If you are in healthcare…are you listening?!

Does this sound personal?

This is to crack down on perpetrators costing us billions of Dollars.

“DOJ and HHS have expanded data sharing and improved information sharing procedures in order to get critical data and information into the hands of law enforcement to track patterns of fraud an database and increase efficiency in investigating and prosecuting complex health care fraud cases…enables the DOJ and HHS to efficiently identify and target the worst actors in the system.”

As a therapist, you should be shaking in your boots…if you are breaking the rules.  When the DOJ gets involved, it gets serious.

If you aren’t sure if you are one of the “worst actors in the system” you should check out the statistics.

Scary statistics for some

“In January and February 2017, 4 defendants pled guilty…conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering…submit false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for among other things, fraudulent physical and occupational therapy services…patients received medically unnecessary services that were later falsely billed to Medicare and Medicaid…totaling over $55 million were submitted to Medicare and Medicaid in connection with the scheme”

This may be more than most people can perceive regarding fraud, but it doesn’t always start this way.  I’ve heard that it starts with overcharging by a couple of minutes and when a person doesn’t get caught, then the billing becomes more and more unethical.  Before you know it, the person is billing for thousands of dollars of services that weren’t actually performed.

“In March 2017, an owner of several physical and occupational therapy clinics in the Central District of California was sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in prison after pleading guilty to health care fraud conspiracy…ordered to pay more than $2.4 million in restitution to Medicare…instructed therapists and others to bill Medicare for physical and occupational therapy services that were medically unnecessary and not provided”

This is unfortunately all to common.  I received calls just in the past year from PT;s in Minneapolis, Houston, NYC, and San Diego describing similar situations.  This is happening all across the country, but very few people are saying anything about it.  It is much easier to ask opinions of others that have no vested interest in the topic than it is to actually call the compliance officer for the company or call the office of inspector general.

“In July 2017…a 2-count indictment against 5 high-billing medical professionals who worked at a network of Brooklyn-area clinics where patients were paid illegal kickbacks in return for subjecting themselves to purported physical and occupational therapy, diagnostic testing and other medical services.”

Kickbacks are illegal.  Kickbacks come in many forms.  Money is the easy one, but there are others.  I’ve heard of free sports tickets, free trips to medical conferences, paying patients to show up for sessions, waiving co-pays for all patients in order to keep them in the clinic, etc. etc. etc.

If you are a patient, this is illegal and needs to be reported.  If you are a therapist, this is illegal and needs to be reported.

“In October 2016, the owner and medical director of Christian Home Health Agency in New Orleans were sentenced to 8 years and 6 years in prison, respectively, after being convicted of health care fraud for billing Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary or were not provided.”

People go to prison.  Some worry about whether they will be shunned by their job, so they don’t report the wrongs noted in the clinic.  Some people worry about whether they will lose their job, so they don’t report it.  People are going to prison.  Jobs come and go, but time served isn’t something that one can just walk away from.  Walk away from a negative situation while you still have time…or you may find yourself doing time.

To see the report in whole click here

To learn more click here.

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Why Rush

I came across this quote today in Black Belt Magazine. (Read topics from other fields because you will expand your knowledge and may find information that applies to your mastery).

This quote is perfect for the profession of physical therapy.

Are you in this profession for the long term?

If so, study every day. Learn a little bit every day. Master a topic every day. You have time to reach that mastery. You have you’re entire career to become a master at physical therapy.

If this is a stepping stone to something else (I ain’t gonna hate ya for it), then why bother to master anything at all?

If your goal is to go into the business of owning a clinic, teaching courses, becoming a professor, then it doesn’t matter if you “master the profession”. It only matters that you master that which is your goal.

Happy thought for the day.

Progress isn’t always linear

I went months without setting a PR when I was powerlifting. It was horrible. When I first started, I made gains weekly just by walking into the gym and breathing the musky air from the dungeon. I could stand next to the strongest guys, and women, in the world and get stronger from their aura. It wore off over time and I had to come out with some tactics to get stronger. I’ve used chains, rubber bands, static holds and changed the tempo of the repetition. I did what I had to in order to make progress, albeit slow progress at times.

Now, I’m a Doctor of PT and I am managing a clinic. During the Fall, times were a boomin’, but the winter brings with it a season of decreased want to leave the house. People don’t want to come to therapy multiple times per week in order to alleviate pains that have been there for years. “It can wait another month”, they think. “It can wait until winter’s over”, they think. If they only knew that the solution could be easy!

Wait…that’s my job to educate them!

I was once told that if you build it, they would come. Well, that guy was wrong and I’m busting my behind in order to get them to come.

These times of scarcity allow for some time to create my brand, donate my time to the communities and allow me to learn more about the people that I will serve. It’s hard to watch the numbers go down in the gym, but it’s very frustrating to know that I am going through these patterns over again 10 years later.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s the light from 10 years ago.

“Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence.”

Christopher Sommer from the book Tools of Titans

Marathon or sprint

“Customers and employees come and go. Supporters are with you for the long haul.”

Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS shoes

I recently took over as a manager in an outpatient physical therapy clinic. I would love to say that I came in and that business is booming, but it’s not so…yet. I’m busting my tail and those patients that have come into the clinic are no longer just patients. They are supporters. Heck, they might as well be a giant billboard walking around town. I’m getting new patients coming in and their doctors are telling them that they are hearing great things about me and the clinic! This is exciting. It takes a small event to create a ripple in the ocean. That one patient telling the prospective patient about me and the clinic is the rippling effect that I need.

Not everyone needs PT. It’s a shock to hear that coming from a PT! I’m telling you that you may not need my services, which in turn means that you won’t spend your hard earned money on my services. Financially, this statement hurts, but I learned from a wise business man that service to the people is the most important part in business. I had the opportunity to hear his story and ask questions about his journey. This man has a following, with me included in that line. He built a career on serving his customers and creating supporters.

This guy is one that I will attempt to emulate in the coming years. Doing good deeds can’t hurt anyone. When I go back and review these blog posts next year, I’ll give an update on my attempt to emulate the best businessman that I had the opportunity to chat with this year.

Thanks for reading.

Story

“Having a story may be the most important part of your new venture…”

We all have a story. I actually have spent a good amount of my time recently learning about other people’s, group’s and mission’s story on my FB page People you should know. My story started a long time ago, but I won’t bore you with the details. The one part of the story that is most important is that I always look for the next opportunity to succeed. At Sam’s club, I was named employee of the year in 2013 and quit soon thereafter because I had reached my ceiling. There was no other Hill to climb or challenge to face. I know that it sounds like a small feat, but I worked hard to reach that status. Unfortunately, the journey was worth more than the victory, because my journey seemed complete.

My PT career has taken a similar trajectory. I started in a clinic, that I was excited to work at, in order to learn as much as I could. After 2 years, I lost that zest because I was more like a robot than a sponge. I wasn’t learning…growing…as much as I was simply going through the motions of treating patients. It sounds horrible, I know, but I was pretty good at using the McKenzie Method back in those days. If you’re familiar with Mariano Rivera, you know that he had one pitch. It was an unhittable pitch for a long period of time. He built a career on throwing his “cut fastball”. I spent more than two years honing my craft as a McKenzie based PT, but after 2 years I felt like the game wasn’t any fun anymore. I remember taking the trash out after 18 months on the job and thinking that I was “bored” with my job and could treat patients with back pain while dreaming.

Not soon after, I left that job and took a hefty pay cut in the process (you’ll start to see a pattern that I didn’t see until recently). I switched to a hospital-based outpatient department. Mind you, for two years I saw nothing but patients in pain with a generic diagnosis of: low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, hip pain so on and so forth. I don’t mean to demean the patient’s pain, but c’mon “low back pain”?! Is t that what the patient told the doctor at the beginning of the session. The doctor then turns around and gives the patient a referral to PT stating back pain. (Venting a little).

At the hospital, I encountered something that I hadn’t encountered in the two previous years…a protocol! A protocol is similar to the old book “paint by number”. There is. O significant thought that goes into treating these patients post-surgically because we are bound to treat the patient by following the directions given. I had the hardest time treating patients post-surgically because I spent the previous 2-3 years with constant algorithms floating through my head. Think John Nash from “A Beautiful Mind”. I may be exaggerating, but that’s what it feels like at times. For those two years I was playing a chess match with the patient’s symptoms and pain. I was always playing 5 moves ahead with an answer for every patient move. (A patient move is considered his/her response to a previous exercise or intervention. For instance, a patient can only always respond one of three ways: better, worse, same). I had a response for each of these answers and just worked through this chess match with each patient. My biggest fear was “paint by number” because the patient would come in and…game was already over because I couldn’t make any moves.

I digress.

I matured while working at the hospital. I learned to be a team player instead of playing clean-up or closer. I learned that when horses pull in the same direction that they can pull harder than they could as individuals. Unfortunately, I also learned something else about me…I hate when the game is over. I continue to search for ways to grow and be better day-day. I reached the end of my limit at the hospital because the opportunities to play and grow were no longer available.

This is where my story starts again. This time, this time, the game is much bigger. The chess board has expanded. The moves I can make are multi-variable. I liken my current position in the profession like playing a continuous chess match in which the boards are suspended above each other like floating plates. When one piece gets taken it gets placed on the board above the previous board. The game ends when all of the pieces make it to the top board and only one piece remains. There is no tipping pieces. There is no quitting. Only moves and reactions. This is the equivalent to the biggest algorithm I have ever got to play inside. I can make on”wrong” moves, only temporary losses.

Life is pressure, but the game is fun.

Goodnight all.

Thanks for reading some of the late night ramblings.

Btw, the quote was from Blake Mycoski in “Start Something That Matters”.

Admit weaknesses

“You don’t always need to talk with experts;sometimes the consumer, who just might be a friend or an acquaintance, is your best consultant.”

Blake Mycoskie

This is more apparent now than it has ever been.  As a practicing clinician for over 10 years, the patient’s/consumer’s/acquaintance’s input mattered, but it played a small role in how I would change.  Not to belittle the advice, but I was getting great outcomes in patient care and was just making great strides clinically over the past decade.  My patients had little to offer in terms of things to change.

Fast forward to now and I am a clinic director taking on the same struggles that other new businesses face.  Not many new patients are walking through the door.  I will always be my biggest critic, but at this point, the words of wisdom given to me by patients and family members is worth gold.

“You have no visibility from the street.”

“No one knows that you are here.”

“You need to get out more to the older communities.”

“You should advertise in the local newspaper.”

“You should give more talks to churches.”

“You should go to neighborhood associations and speak”

All of these are great pieces of advice.  Some are more doable than others because advertising takes money.  Fortunately, since I have time on my hands, I am reaching out to different organizations for speaking opportunities.

Listen to your ideal client because they know how to reach more people like him/her.

 

Be the change

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

Mahatma Gandhi

This quote gets thrown around, but how often do we stop to analyze it?

What is the change that I want to see?

1. I want all PTs to have easier access to research.

2. I want the public to be more aware of the difference between good PT and bad PT services.

3. I want the public to know that a. PTs exist b. how PT is covered by insurance related to out of pocket costs c. and how PTs can help with physical issues.

4. I want PTs and students to be humbled and ask for help when needed and offer help when able.

Hello 2018, I got some lofty wants.

How have I started to accomplish these goals

1. Writing a blog and putting out videos describing the research that I am reading on a daily basis.

2. Giving community lectures educating the public regarding what to expect from a physical therapist. Educating the public on the core values and how some practices may demonstrate the practices. Unfortunately, I also highlight how some may not practice according to our profession’s core values.

I also started posting reviews of some of the neighboring clinics on social media when these clinics aren’t practicing in an ethical fashion.

3. Again, the blog and community lectures serve to educate the public of our existence and during these lectures I typically explain Medicare Part B regulations and coverages so that the potential patient can feel more comfortable about their responsibility financially.

4. To help others in areas of my strengths I do one-one conversations on FB, via telephone and in person. I readily ask for help when I am stuck and believe that I have a team of Avengers that I can reach out to at all times of the day.

How will you be the change in 2018?

 

Archilochus

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training”

This quote is taken from the Tim Ferriss book Tools of Titans.

In PT, we all believe that we will change the world. We have visions of grandeur in which we take patients from wheelchair to playing field. Preventing surgeries, curing world health problems and wearing a red cape with a big “S” on our chest…okay maybe not all of us have these dreams.

In the end though, our patients are doomed to fail if they see a PT that has not lived up to his/her professional duties of continuing education. In Illinois, we are required to obtain 40 hours of continuing education every 2 years.

Let’s think about this number. It’s been said that one needs about 10,000 hours to master a topic. That’s a lot of years if one takes the minimum amount of hours. At that pace, one can never become a master of anything other than a long commute.

When choosing a therapist, there has to be more thought put into it than your next vacation. You are spending your hard earned money…or the insurance company’s money…don’t you want to know that the person treating you is actually good at what they do?

Have they taught classes? Have they studied independently? Are they giving back to the community?

HELL, let’s start at the basics…do they pay attention to you when you’re in the clinic? Not in a three ring circus kind of way, in which they are just managing the acts that come in and send the patient from machine to machine, but are they paying attention to YOU?

I’d love to think that everyone in this profession of PT is operating up to his/her expectations, but deep down I know that we operate at or below our training. Not all PTs have the same knowledge.

https://movementthinker.org/2017/10/17/not-knowing-versus-not-learning/

Having spent time in the profession, I can state that I’ve seen the top 5% of the profession, and they are awesome. Unfortunately, it’s only the top 5%. The rest go nameless like worker bees to support a queen. There are very few queens in this industry and if you do a quick search, you can find those companies that make the most, are worth the most, are publicly traded etc.

We just want to help people. That’s the number one answer I hear from students entering the field, unfortunately not everyone continues to practice in this mentality once out of PT school.

We need to live up to our expectations more and improve our training to reach those expectations.

Salute!

Online presence

I think that this sums it up. If we aren’t posting online on our personal websites, on social media (SoMe) or on a work website then we are missing out on contact points with over a third of the population. Our role has to grow larger than treating the patient that walks in the door with a referral. We, as a profession, have to go out there and educate the public, medical doctors, podiatrists, dentists, laborers, plumbers, and at times other therapists.

We don’t get to sit in our offices anymore and wait for patients to come to us, but we have to go out and educate!

How are you establishing a presence in your community, your workplace and your profession?

Leave comments below.

A quick story

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…Explore. Dream. Discover” Mark Twain
Where do I start? I come from very humble beginnings. We were a family of 5 growing up on the East side of Joliet. I have 3 brothers and one sister. This changes over time so follow closely. Growing up on the East side wasn’t easy. Access to drugs was though. I smoked my first joint before some kids learned to read, although I learned to read before smoking the joint. My dad used to make me sit down with the Joliet Herald News and read the comics to him. This was from the age of 3 onward. Anytime I would ask him a question, one that readily comes to mind is “why is Australia called the land down under?” He would tell me to look it up. I WAS FIVE! This was before the days of Google. We actually had to go to someone’s house (Terri Graves) of someone that had the old set of encyclopedia Brittanica. I learned the answer from somewhere in that stack. My dad would always say that he was doing it to make me learn, but I don’t think he actually knew the answer and was taking the easy way out. If you knew my dad, he’s never at a loss for saying what’s on his mind.
I smoked my first joint at 5. Before I got hit by a car on Clay street, which is another good story that I will get to. Marijuana was so easy to come by on the East side. Hell, we were growing it in the backyard. (When I say we, I mostly mean my brothers). I am the youngest of the bunch…the runt of the litter you could say. Wasn’t planned, but i’ve come to accept that over time. Drugs were commonplace, and access to guns was even less restricted. At one point growing up there were guns in almost every room, but that because of a Hatfield-McCoy quarrel that my family had with one of the gangs on the East side in the 1990’s.
How does a kid from that environment go on to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy? How does one get out of that mindset of drugs, gangs, teenage pregnancy, and high school dropout to go on to study under some of the best minds regarding back pain and dizziness that our country has to offer? Why would that same kid go “straight edge” for over 20 years?
Finally, why would that kid ever want to come back to the streets and city that started it all?