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Thursday Dec 03, 2009

CMS issues a temporary cease fire

As a follow-up to my last posting ("Medicare shoots first and asks questions later," Nov. 19), I wanted to let readers know that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services(www.cms.hhs.gov) (CMS) announced on Nov. 23 that it would delay implementation of new rules that give Medicare the authority to reject claims for services or supplies when the ordering physician or health care professional is not enrolled in the Medicare Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System(www.cms.hhs.gov), or PECOS. The agency is delaying implementation of the new policy until April 5, 2010.  According to CMS, an extension of the implementation date will give physicians and other health care providers sufficient time to enroll or, if necessary, re-enroll in Medicare.  CMS has indicated that more detailed information about the rules delay will be published soon in MLN Matters, an online publication that is part of CMS's Medicare Learning Network(www.cms.hhs.gov).   

Interestingly, CMS's announcement came just a week after the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, and more than 50 other medical organizations sent a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Charlene Frizzera(www.ama-assn.org) expressing concerns about the policy.  Among other things, the letter asked for an indefinite suspension of CMS's plans.  While April 5 does not constitute an "indefinite" suspension, it does suggest that CMS is listening and that collective advocacy on the part of organized medicine can have an impact.  When it comes to Medicare, one must take comfort where one can find it.

So, if you or other health care professionals who refer to you are not yet in PECOS, you have been granted a reprieve.  Just remember that a reprieve is not a pardon, and CMS will resume shooting on April 5, 2010.  In the meantime, to quote an old adage, "Forewarned is forearmed."

Posted at 12:15PM Dec 03, 2009 by Kent Moore

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