Home > Fraud Awareness, SID Information > Violating the code: Providers who unbundle or upcode when billing BWC

Violating the code: Providers who unbundle or upcode when billing BWC

Some providers commit fraud by billing BWC separately for services that BWC requires to be billed together, as a single or “bundled” service. We refer to this fraudulent act as “unbundling.” For example, BWC requires a provider to cleanse the claimant’s skin with an antiseptic prior to giving him or her any injection. BWC requires providers to bill this as one, single service — for the cleansing of the skin and the injection. Providers are prohibited from unbundling this service. However, a criminal provider, motivated by greed, may attempt to circumvent the bundled billing requirement in order to bill BWC for a greater, total amount.

Some providers commit fraud by billing BWC using a more expensive treatment code than the appropriate code for the service actually performed. The costs of some medical services are based upon the length of time the service is provided. Services are often priced in minute increments. For example, BWC will reimburse a provider for some therapies based upon the number of minutes furnished to a claimant. However, a criminal provider may bill BWC for more minutes of therapy — at a greater cost — than they actually furnished the claimant.

A Case In Point

We detected two brothers — both Illinois psychiatrists, and one an owner/provider of an Ohio psychiatric practice — were upcoding bills they submitted to BWC for psychiatric services. Data analysis by our intelligence unit revealed the psychiatrists billed BWC for more than twenty hours of individual psychotherapy on a single day.

During the course of our investigation, we conducted undercover surveillance, a search warrant, record analyses, subject and patient interviews, and grand jury subpoenas. We obtained evidence to substantiate the allegation that the subjects falsified treatment notes and billed BWC for services not being rendered and upcoded bills for services that were provided. We determined the Ohio provider was spending significantly less time with his patients than he billed to BWC in their claims. The investigation uncovered instances in which the Ohio provider spent less than five minutes with the patient, yet he billed BWC for 45 to 50 minutes of individual psychotherapy. We also proved both brothers billed BWC for services when patients were not even present in the office.

The owner/provider of the Ohio practice pleaded no contest to one fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The court sentenced this subject to serve 5 years of community control and ordered him to pay $78,573 in restitution and investigative costs to BWC. His brother, the Illinois-based provider, pleaded no contest to one first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud. The court ordered this subject to pay $27,423 in restitution and investigative costs to BWC. Subsequently, he made payment in full. An employee of the practice pleaded guilty to one first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud. The court ordered this subject to pay a $250 fine.

BWC de-certified both providers; they may no longer provide services to BWC claimants. The convicted owner/provider closed the Ohio practice.

Be on the Lookout

Red flags that may indicate a provider is unbundling or upcoding:

  • Provider inexplicably attempts to explain or justify his/her billing practices to a patient;
  • Provider furnishes services to more patients in a period of time than one suspects is feasible; and
  • Provider furnishes a service for a shorter period of time than the patient suspects is needed for effective treatment.

Look for our next fraud provider awareness article that will discuss the role of managed care organizations (MCOs) in the Ohio workers’ compensation system. Meanwhile, be sure to read more about provider fraud investigations in our SID FY 2011 Annual Report.

If you suspect that a subject is committing workers’ compensation fraud, let us know. You may report it online at http://bit.ly/reportfraud or you may speak with a fraud hotline agent by calling 1-800-OHIOBWC.

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