IMPACT: Administration official asks for Medicare billing review

The Center for Public Integrity: By Fred Schulte, October 16, 2012

Expert committee will examine whether electronic health records are leading to extra charges

The nation’s top health information technology official has launched an internal review to determine if electronic health records are prompting some doctors and hospitals to overbill Medicare.

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the Obama administration’s National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said in an interview Monday afternoon that his policy-setting committee of experts would examine the issue and make recommendations on how to address it.

It is the second government action in the wake of the Center for Public Integrity’s“Cracking the Codes” series, which found that thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating seniors on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees.

The Center’s year-long investigation, published in September, suggested that Medicare billing errors and abuses are worsening as doctors and hospitals switch toelectronic health records. A similar report was subsequently published by the New York Times.

Mostashari said he wants to find out if the digital systems are triggering higher billing codes by allowing doctors to cut and paste records from prior encounters with a patient, a practice known as “cloning.” Many experts say that this process can raise the size of a patient’s bill, even though it reflects little in the way of added or necessary medical service. Read more