Perhaps not coincidentally, immediately following the release of the Questionable Laboratory Payments Special Fraud Alert by the OIG, posted yesterday on the Med Law Blog, the OIG has followed up with Audit Report OIG – 03-11-00730: Questionable Billing for Medicare Part B Clinical Laboratory Services. Below are two quoted paragraphs from the executive summary stating the findings and recommendations of the OIG.

In 2010, over 1,000 labs exceeded the thresholds (i.e., had unusually high billing) for 5 or more measures of questionable billing for Medicare lab services. For example, a lab might have an unusually high percentage of claims with ineligible and/or invalid ordering-physician numbers, or an unusually high allowed amount per ordering physician. Almost half of the labs that exceeded the thresholds for five or more measures of questionable billing – compared to 13 percent of all labs – were located in California and Florida, areas known to be vulnerable to Medicare fraud. Some labs that exceeded the thresholds for fewer than five measures also exhibited billing that may warrant further review. Medicare allowed $1.7 billion across all labs for claims associated with questionable billing.

There may be some labs that have legitimate reasons for exceeding certain thresholds. However, collectively, these findings call for stronger oversight of labs and identify specific issues with Medicare payments for lab services that need to be addressed to more effectively safeguard Medicare. Therefore, we recommend that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) (1) review the labs identified as having questionable billing and take appropriate action, (2) review existing program integrity strategies to determine whether these strategies are effectively identifying program vulnerabilities associated with lab services, and (3) ensure that existing edits prevent claims with invalid and ineligible ordering-physician numbers from being paid. CMS concurred with all recommendations.