The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a report on variations in Medicare outlier payments made to acute hospitals under the inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS) during calendar years 2008 to 2011. According to the OIG, almost all hospitals received outlier payments, but some hospitals received a much higher proportion of Medicare IPPS reimbursements from outlier payments. Specifically, outlier payments averaged 12.8% of the Medicare IPPS reimbursement for 158 hospitals, compared to an average of 2.2% for all other hospitals. As a result, the high-outlier hospitals ended up charging Medicare substantially more for the same Medical Severity Diagnostic Related Groups (MS-DRG) provided in the subset of hospitals compared to other hospitals, even though their patients had similar lengths of stay. There were 16 specific MS-DRGs that accounted for 41% of such outlier payments. The OIG observed that high outlier charges could result from a hospital attracting a disproportionate share of exceptionally costly patients or applying costly technologies and treatments. Nevertheless, the OIG raised concerns about why charges for similar cases vary substantially across hospitals, and recommended that CMS: (1) instruct its contractors to increase monitoring of outlier payments, (2) publicly report hospital data regarding the distribution of outlier payments; and (3) examine whether MS-DRGs associated with high rates of outlier payments warrant coding changes or other adjustments. CMS concurred with the recommendations.
OIG Examines Inappropriate Medicare Payments on Behalf of Deceased or Unlawfully-Present Beneficiaries
According to the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Medicare program continues to make inappropriate payments on behalf deceased beneficiaries and beneficiaries who are unlawfully-present in the country. First, despite safeguards intended to prevent and recover Medicare payments made on behalf of deceased beneficiaries, Medicare inappropriately paid $23 million in 2011 for claims with service dates after beneficiaries' deaths. The majority of the improper payments were made under Medicare Part C. The OIG recommended a series of steps to improve payment safeguards in this area and to address providers and suppliers identified by the OIG with high numbers of claims with service dates after beneficiaries' deaths.
In a separate report, the OIG found that CMS did not adequately prevent Medicare Part D payment for unlawfully-present beneficiaries for calendar years 2009 through 2011. As a result, CMS inappropriately accepted 279,056 prescription drug event records submitted by Part D sponsors with unallowable gross drug costs totaling $29.0 million on behalf of 4,139 unlawfully-present beneficiaries. CMS used those records to make final payment determinations to sponsors. The OIG recommended that CMS resolve improper Part D payments made for drugs provided to unlawfully-present beneficiaries and take steps to develop and implement controls to prevent inappropriate payments in the future.
A recent OIG report links the growing presence of physician-owned distributorships, or PODs, to increased spinal surgery volumes and potentially increased Medicare costs. The OIG notes a “substantial presence” of PODs in the spinal device market, with PODs supplying spinal devices for 19% of the spinal fusion surgeries billed to Medicare in FY 2011. According to the OIG, hospitals that purchased devices from PODs performed more spinal surgeries in 2012 than hospitals that did not purchase from PODs, and hospitals increased the rate of growth in the number of spinal surgeries after they began purchasing from PODs. Hospitals identified surgeon preference as the strongest influence on their decisions to purchase spinal devices from PODs. The OIG also disagrees with PODs’ claims that their devices cost less than those from other suppliers; rather, in the categories examined by the OIG, the devices cost the same as or more than devices from companies not owned by physicians. This fact, coupled with increased volumes, according to the OIG, could increase overall Medicare costs over time. In addition, the OIG raises concerns about inconsistencies in hospital policies regarding physician disclosure of ownership to either hospitals or their patients of interests in PODs (although the OIG suggests that the new “Sunshine Act” disclosure rules may improve the ability of hospitals and patients to identify physicians’ investment in device companies). For a case urging an alternative perspective on PODs, see the report on our sister blog, http://www.lifescienceslegalupdate.com/, about a recent complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California that seeks a declaration that the OIG’s Special Fraud Alert on PODs unfairly and unconstitutionally burdens First Amendment rights of free speech and due process. The complaint defends the lawfulness of the physician-owned model, and characterizes the Fraud Alert as the result of a multi-year lobbying campaign by “Big Corporations” forced to compete with small physician-owned entities. For more details, see our full report.
As reported on our sister blog, http://www.lifescienceslegalupdate.com/, Reliance Medical Systems, LLC, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California this week that seeks a declaration that an Office of Inspector General (OIG) Special Fraud Alert on physician-owned distributors (PODs) unfairly and unconstitutionally burdens First Amendment rights of free speech and due process. The complaint sets forth Reliance’s legal rationale in support of the lawfulness of the physician-owned model, and it characterizes the Fraud Alert as the result of a multi-year lobbying campaign by “Big Corporations” forced to compete with small physician-owned entities. For more details, see our full report.
The OIG has issued a consumer alert warning consumers about potential fraud related to enrollment in ACA Health Insurance Marketplaces. Among other things, the OIG cautions individuals about people asking for money to enroll the individual in the Marketplace or “Obamacare”; high-pressure solicitations; or requests for personal information. Likewise, HHS, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission have launched an interagency initiative to prevent and, as necessary, prosecute consumer fraud and privacy violations in the ACA Marketplace.
This post was written by Nancy Sheliga.
In September 2013, the OIG issued a report on changes in the use of Medicare Part B ambulance transports from 2002 through 2011, including an analysis of the characteristics of beneficiaries, suppliers, and transports. The report found that between 2002 and 2011, the number of ambulance transports increased by 69%, payments for ambulance transports increased by 130%, and the number of beneficiaries who received ambulance transports increased by 34%. All of these increases were greater than the rates for Medicare Part B increases in general. Moreover, beneficiaries with end stage renal disease received a growing and disproportionate amount of transports, with dialysis-related ambulance transports increasing by 269%. In addition, beneficiaries receiving ambulance transport to outpatient visits for partial hospitalization program services at community mental health centers increased significantly. Overall, the number of ambulance suppliers increased 26% between 2002 and 2011, with those primarily providing basic life support nonemergency transports nearly doubling. The OIG also reports that while all states experienced increases in transports from 2002 to 2011, utilization changes varied widely by state, with high utilization growth linked to dialysis-related transports, basic life support nonemergency transports, and inpatient hospital visits to treat renal failure. The OIG attributes spending increases in part to inflation and the transition to the national fee schedule for Medicare ambulance transports, as well as continued growth in the use of ambulance transports. The OIG did not determine whether the utilization changes it observed were appropriate. Given that prior OIG reports have indicated that ambulance transports are vulnerable to fraud and abuse, however, the OIG does plan to issue a future report focusing on ambulance transport suppliers that exhibit questionable billing characteristics and the geographic areas in which they are concentrated.
This post was written by Nancy Sheliga.
On October 9, 2013, the OIG released a report focused on questionable Medicare billing for polysomnography services in 2011. Polysomnography is a type of sleep study that has seen increasing Medicare spending over the past few years and that the OIG notes has been identified as being vulnerable to fraud and abuse. The report analyzed polysomnography claims submitted by both hospital outpatient departments and nonhospital providers such as independent diagnostic testing facilities and physician-owned sleep laboratories. The OIG identified claims amounting to $16.8 million that did not meet Medicare requirements, many of which were due to inappropriate diagnosis codes submitted by hospital outpatient departments. In addition, the report found that 180 providers exhibited patterns of what the OIG identified as questionable billing, the majority of which had unusually high rates of multiple claims for polysomnography services for the same beneficiary on the same day. Other patterns suggesting questionable billing included providers sharing the same beneficiaries (which may indicate that providers are using compromised beneficiary numbers for fraudulent billing), potential unbundling of split-night services, and cases lacking evidence of a patient relationship with the ordering provider in the preceding year. The report recommended that CMS: develop more effective claims processing edits (especially prepayment edits to ensure the appropriate use of diagnosis codes); further investigate and attempt to recover payments for claims that failed to meet Medicare requirements; consider using factors identified in the study to screen polysomnography providers in the future; refer providers with patterns of questionable billing to Medicare contractors for further investigation. CMS agreed with all four recommendations. In addition to this study, the OIG notes that it is also conducting audits of polysomnography claims for selected regions to determine whether claims were appropriate and paid accurately.
This post was written by Nancy Sheliga.
In October 2013, the OIG issued a report (“The First Level of the Medicare Appeals Process, 2008–2012: Volume, Outcomes, and Timeliness") that addresses the first level of the appeals process for Medicare Parts A and B, known as redetermination. Eighteen contractors that process redeterminations and relevant CMS staff were contacted for the study, which focused on redeterminations and claims processed for Medicare Parts A and B between 2008 and 2012. The report found that the number of redeterminations processed increased by 33% over this period, with those relating to Part A (especially those involving inpatient hospital and home health claims) increasing more rapidly than those relating to Part B. The growth in the recovery audit contractor program accounted for a large part of the appealed Part A decisions. Nevertheless, 80% of all redeterminations in 2012 involved Part B services, with contractors deciding more often in favor of Part B appellants than Part A appellants. Part A reviews were reported to be typically more time and resource intensive than those for Part B. The report also found that contractors generally met required timeframes for processing redeterminations and paying for appeals won by appellants, and when there were problems in this regard they most often related to Part A related cases rather than Part B. Contractors did, however, more often fail to transfer case files for second-level appeals in a timely manner. The report includes the following three recommendations for CMS, with which the agency concurred: (1) using the Medicare Appeals System (MAS) implemented by CMS for first-level appeals to monitor contractor performance, (2) continuing to foster information sharing among Medicare contractors, and (3) monitoring the quality of redeterminations data in the MAS.
The ongoing partial federal government shutdown that began on October 1, 2013 due to the government funding impasse is having a varied impact on health care provider operations. CMS has ordered Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to continue to perform all Medicare claims processing and payment functions during the government shutdown. Some providers may experience the impact of the shutdown, however, in the form of curtailed survey and certification activities. In short, CMS is directing state survey agencies to continue to investigate and enforce only complaints involving immediate jeopardy or harm to individuals and revisit surveys necessary to prevent provider termination. Many other survey activities are being suspended during the federal government shutdown, including Medicare recertification surveys, revisits that are not required to prevent termination of Medicare participation, Medicare initial surveys, validation surveys, complaint investigations that do not allege immediate jeopardy or actual harm, Patient Safety Initiative Pilot Surveys, MDS or OASIS activities, informal dispute resolutions, or new improvement projects funded by collected civil monetary penalty funds. The shutdown also has hampered federal rulemaking activities; a lengthy shutdown could throw a wrench into CMS efforts to finalize annual Medicare payment rules for systems updated on calendar year basis (including the Medicare physician fee schedule, the hospital outpatient prospective payment system, and the ambulatory surgical center payment system), increasing uncertainty about major proposed policy changes. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is continuing Medicare and Medicaid oversight and enforcement activities, including maintaining its fraud and abuse hotline, while most other OIG activities will be suspended during this period. In other areas, the HHS shutdown contingency plan estimates that the shutdown will result in 52% of HHS employees being furloughed, with the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Administration for Community Living, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality having the vast majority of their staff on furlough. A wide range of HHS activities are also being curtailed, including payments under the Children’s Hospital GME Program and Vaccine Injury Compensation Claims, most new National Institutes of Health admissions and grant awards, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annual seasonal influenza program, and routine Food and Drug Administration activities not funded through user fees, among many other programs. There is no clear sign of when a deal on a funding bill will be reached.
A new OIG report estimates that Medicare could realize significant savings if drug manufacturers were required to pay rebates on Medicare Part B drugs, similar to rebates under the Medicaid program. Specifically, Medicare could have collected $3.1 billion in 2011 if manufacturers had been required to pay rebates based on average manufacturer price (AMP) for 60 high-expenditure Part B drugs, while rebates based on average sales price (ASP) for the same drugs could have generated $2.7 billion in payments. In the report, the OIG recommends that CMS examine establishing such a Part B drug rebate program and, if appropriate, seek legislative change. CMS rejected this suggestion, noting that developing such a plan – which would require new legislative authority -- would necessitate analysis of the effects of making fundamental changes to the Part B claims payment system, the impact on providers, and the impact on access to care. CMS maintains that it is “unable to devote significant administrative resources at this time to a proposal that is neither a provision of current law or actively under consideration.” (The Administration has, on the other hand, advocated rebates for Medicare Part D drugs furnished to low-income subsidy beneficiaries as part of its FY 2014 budget proposal.)
Almost two-thirds of critical access hospitals (CAHs) would not meet Medicare CAH location requirements if they were required to re-enroll today, according to the OIG. Many of these rural hospitals were permanently exempted from CAH distance requirements under previous authority of states to designate “necessary provider” (NP) CAHs. Medicare reimburses CAHs at 101% of their reasonable costs; if CMS had the authority to decertify CAHs that were 15 or fewer miles from their nearest hospitals in 2011, the OIG estimates that Medicare would have saved $449 million. The OIG recommends that CMS take several steps to “ensure that the only CAHs to remain certified would be those that serve beneficiaries who would otherwise be unable to reasonably access hospital services.” For instance, the OIG recommends that CMS seek legislative authority to remove NP CAHs’ permanent exemption from the distance requirement; CMS notes that the President’s proposed FY 2014 budget would decertify any CAHs located fewer than 10 miles from another hospital or CAH (and reduce payment to all remaining CAHs to 100% of reasonable cost). CMS also discusses steps it has already taken to implement OIG recommendations to periodically reassess CAHs for compliance with all location-related requirements and to ensure that CMS applies a uniform definition of “mountainous terrain” to all CAHs. CMS disagreed with an OIG recommendation to seek legislative authority to revise the CAH Conditions of Participation to include alternative location-related requirements.
Two recent OIG reports point out the savings that state Medicaid programs could attain if they based reimbursement for DME, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) on Medicare competitive bidding payment amounts – although at least one state is pushing back on this idea. In the first report, “Medicaid DMEPOS Costs May be Exceeding Medicare Costs in Competitive Bidding Areas,” the OIG calculated the potential savings Texas could have achieved in 2011 if it adopted Medicare DMEPOS bidding prices for selected items of DMEPOS. According to the OIG, Texas Medicaid fee-schedule could have saved approximately $2 million (state/federal shares combined) in the Dallas/Fort Worth area if it had based Medicaid rates on the Medicare DMEPOS competitive bidding amounts for 32 DMEPOS items covered under both programs. The OIG states that its report provides “a tangible example of potential State and Federal savings for Medicaid programs if the programs were to use the Medicare Competitive Bidding payment amounts for DMEPOS items.” This report did not include recommendations or state reaction.
In the second report, “New Jersey Medicaid Program Could Achieve Savings by Reducing Home Blood-Glucose Test Strip Prices,” the OIG estimates that the New Jersey Medicaid program could have saved approximately $1.8 million to $2.7 million in 2011 by reducing home blood-glucose test strip reimbursement rates to retail rates or by establishing a competitive bidding program for test strips. Such policy changes for test strips also could reduce Medicaid managed care organization reimbursement rates by up to 70%. However, the New Jersey Department of Human Services disagreed with the OIG’s recommendations to align state Medicaid reimbursement with average retail price or Medicare competitive bidding pricing, citing, among other things, doubts about the feasibility of attaining such savings and concerns about patient access and the impact on proper diabetes management.
The OIG has called on CMS to strengthen activities to prevent improper Medicare payments, including enhancements to the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program. For instance, the OIG notes that RACs identified half of all claims they reviewed in FYs 2010 and 2011 as having resulted in improper payments totaling $1.3 billion. While CMS took corrective actions to address the majority of identified vulnerabilities, the agency did not evaluate the effectiveness of these actions, however, so high levels of improper payments may continue. The OIG also raised concerns about CMS failure to act on all referrals of potential fraud that it received from RACs, along with gaps in CMS evaluations of RAC performance on contract requirements. The OIG recommends that CMS: address identified vulnerabilities; ensure that RACs refer all appropriate cases of potential fraud; take appropriate action on RAC referrals of potential fraud; and enhance RAC performance evaluation. CMS generally concurred with the OIG recommendations. The report, “Medicare Recovery Audit Contractors and CMS’s Actions to Address Improper Payments, Referrals of Potential Fraud, and Performance,” is available here.
In a recent report, “Medicaid Drug Pricing in State Maximum Allowable Cost Programs,” the OIG examines options for controlling state Medicaid prescription drug costs, particularly given a surge in Medicaid enrollment expected in the coming years as a result of the ACA. The OIG highlights the value of state Maximum Allowable Cost (MAC) programs as an alternative to federal upper limit (FUL) pricing, especially since CMS is years behind in implementing AMP-based federal upper limit (FUL) amounts under the ACA. The OIG found that aggregate pre-ACA FUL amounts were on average nearly double state MAC prices in January 2012, although the post-ACA FUL amounts (which have not been implemented) were lower than MAC prices on average. The OIG also notes that states could achieve additional cost savings by using more aggressive MAC pricing formulas and inclusion criteria, particularly along the lines of Wyoming’s program, which sets MAC prices by considering (1) acquisition cost plus a markup, (2) wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) minus a percentage, (3) average wholesale price (AWP) minus a percentage, or (4) AMP plus a markup. According to the OIG, 39 states would have saved $483 million (excluding dispensing fees) in the first half of 2011 if they had used Wyoming’s MAC criteria. The OIG recommends that CMS complete implementation of the post-ACA FUL amounts; CMS concurred and said it plans to finalize these FULs in the near future. CMS also concurred with OIG's recommendation to encourage states to reevaluate their Medicaid programs to identify additional cost saving opportunities, and noted its plans to release a related informational bulletin to the states in the near future.
The HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has issued a report entitled “Medicare Could Save Millions by Strengthening Billing Requirements for Canceled Elective Surgeries.” Based on a review of 100 claims, the OIG estimates that Medicare made $38.2 million in Part A inpatient hospital payments in calendar years 2009 and 2010 for short-stay, canceled elective surgery admissions that were not reasonable and necessary. Specifically, the OIG found that for 80 of the 100 sampled claims, Medicare made payments totaling $345,717 for hospital inpatient claims involving canceled elective surgeries when the condition of the patient was not severe enough to warrant an inpatient admission (i.e., a clinical condition did not exist on admission or a new condition did not emerge after admission that required inpatient care). The OIG recommends that CMS: (1) adjust sampled claims representing overpayments to the extent allowed under the law; (2) strengthen guidance to hospitals; (3) resolve remaining non-sampled claims and recover overpayments to the extent feasible and allowed under the law; and (4) instruct Medicare administrative contractors to emphasize to hospitals the need for stronger utilization review controls for claims that include admissions for elective surgeries that did not occur. CMS generally agreed with the OIG’s recommendations.
A recent OIG report examined “Hospitals’ Use of Observation Stays and Short Inpatient Stays for Medicare Beneficiaries.” The report was conducted in response to concerns about hospitals’ use of observation stays, which may be resulting in Medicare beneficiaries paying more as outpatients than if they were admitted as inpatients, and which may prevent beneficiaries from qualifying under Medicare for SNF services following discharge from the hospital. In addition, CMS is concerned about improper payments for short inpatient stays when the beneficiaries should have been treated as outpatients. Based on a review of claims from 2012, the OIG found that Medicare beneficiaries had 1.5 million observation stays, commonly spending one night or more in the hospital. Beneficiaries had an additional 1.4 million long outpatient stays; some of these may have been observation stays. Beneficiaries also had 1.1 million short inpatient stays, which the OIG notes typically cost Medicare and beneficiaries more than observation stays. In addition, beneficiaries had more than 600,000 hospital stays that lasted 3 nights or more but did not qualify them for SNF services, while Medicare inappropriately paid $255 million for SNF services for which beneficiaries did not qualify (CMS will refer these SNFs to CMS so the agency can look into recoupment). The OIG points out that that the CMS proposed IPPS rule for FY 2014 (which subsequently was finalized, as discussed above) would substantially affect how hospitals bill for these stays. While the number of short inpatient stays would be significantly reduced under the proposed rule, the number of observation and long outpatient stays may not be reduced if outpatient nights are not counted towards the proposed two night presumption. The OIG suggests that CMS consider how to ensure that beneficiaries with similar post-hospital care needs have the same access to and cost sharing for SNF services. In a related matter, a nationwide class action lawsuit filed November 3, 2011 on behalf of 14 named seniors by the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Senior Citizens Law Center challenging CMS’s observation day policy and practice is still pending in federal district court. Bagnall v. Sebelius, No. 11-1703 (D. Conn. filed Nov. 3, 2011). The lawsuit alleges that the use of observation status violates the Medicare Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
The OIG has issued a report entitled “Data and Safety Monitoring Boards in NIH Clinical Trials: Meeting Guidance, But Facing Some Issues.” The report examines the effectiveness of data and safety monitoring boards (DSMB) – or committees of experts that provide ongoing reviews of clinical trial data to ensure the safety of study subjects and validity and integrity of data. Based on a review of 44 National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded Phase III multi-site clinical trials that were completed in 2009 and 2010 that entailed potential risk, the OIG concluded that DSMBs met general NIH guidance in this area, including with regard to the experience of DSMB members. The OIG identified several potential issues, however, including that NIH participation in closed DSMB meetings diminishes the appearance of independence and not all NIH Institutes and Centers (IC) policies reference DSMB access to unmasked data. Based on these findings, the OIG recommends that NIH: direct ICs to delineate the circumstances in which IC staff should participate in DSMB meetings; direct IC DSMB policies to explicitly reference DSMB access to unmasked data, and identify ways to recruit and train new DSMB members. NIH concurred with the recommendations.
CMS Announces First Temporary Moratoria on HHA, Ambulance Supplier Enrollment in High-Risk Areas under ACA Authority
On July 26, 2013, CMS announced temporary moratoria on enrollment of new home health providers and ambulance suppliers under Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in three parts of the country identified as “fraud hot-spots.” This is the first time the agency is exercising its authority under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to impose temporary moratoria on new provider enrollment to protect against a high risk of fraud. The temporary moratorium applies to: (1) the enrollment of home health agencies (HHAs) in Miami-Dade County (Florida) and Cook County (Illinois), as well as selected surrounding areas, and (2) the enrollment of new ambulance suppliers and providers in Harris County, Texas and surrounding counties. CMS selected these areas and services, in consultation with the Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Department of Justice, because of the high potential fraud risk indicated by such factors as a disproportionate number of providers and suppliers relative to beneficiaries, a rapid increase in enrollment applications from providers and suppliers, and extremely high utilization of services.
The temporary enrollment moratoria begin on July 30, 2013 and will remain in effect for 6 months. If CMS deems it necessary, the moratoria may be extended in 6-month increments (with notification in the Federal Register). During the moratoria, existing providers and suppliers can continue to provide and bill for services, but no new provider and supplier applications for these provider types will be approved in these geographic areas. Note that the temporary moratorium does not apply to changes in practice locations, changes to provider or supplier information such as phone number, address, or changes in ownership (except changes in ownership of HHAs that require initial enrollments), nor does it apply to an enrollment application that a CMS contractor has already approved, but has not yet entered into the Provider Enrollment Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) at the time the moratorium is imposed.
CMS observes the tendency of health care fraud to “migrate” -- as enforcement efforts target a particular activity, “criminals may redesign the scheme or relocate to a new geographic area.” CMS will therefore monitor the broad geographic areas for “indicia of activity designed to evade these moratoria” and to address the spread of fraud activities beyond the identified areas.
The OIG has announced an online submission process for the Self-Disclosure Protocol, which is a vehicle for providers who wish to voluntarily disclose self-discovered evidence of potential fraud to the OIG.
The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued two recent reports focusing on inappropriate prescribers practices involving drugs paid under the Medicare Part D program. In one report, the OIG concluded that the Medicare Part D program inappropriately paid for drugs (including controlled substances) ordered by individuals who did not have the authority to prescribe, such as massage therapists, athletic trainers, home contractors, interpreters, transportation companies, counselors, social workers, and chiropractors in 2009. In a related report, " Prescribers with Questionable Patterns in Medicare Part D," the OIG identified more than 736 general-care physicians who demonstrated what the OIG considers to be questionable prescribing patterns, such as prescribing extremely high numbers of prescriptions per beneficiary, using numerous pharmacies, prescribing a high percentage of Schedule II and Schedule III drugs, and prescribing a high percentage of brand-name prescriptions. Medicare paid $352 million for the Part D drugs ordered by these "extreme outlier" physicians. The OIG notes that while "some of this prescribing may be appropriate, such questionable patterns warrant further scrutiny." To address issues identified in the reports, the OIG recommends that CMS increase oversight of the Part D program by: requiring Part D plan sponsors to verify that prescribers have the authority to prescribe drugs; providing sponsors with additional guidance on monitoring prescribing patterns; increasing the Medicare Drug Integrity Contractor’s monitoring of prescribers; providing education and training for prescribers; ensuring that Medicare does not pay for prescriptions from individuals without prescribing authority; and following up on the prescribers identified in the reports. CMS concurred with the recommendations. The first report, "Medicare Inappropriately Paid for Drugs Ordered by Individuals without Prescribing Authority," is available here. To highlight its concerns in this area, the OIG has created a new "Spotlight" web page focusing on OIG enforcement efforts and investigations related to prescription drug diversion.