Providers play waiting game on surety bonds...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Industry insurers reported in June that surety bond applications were coming in “slow but steady.”

“Applications are coming in, but we still feel providers are sitting on the fence, which is a concern,” said Warren Freeman, director of sales and marketing for VGM Insurance in Waterloo, Iowa. “If they wait until the last minute, the market won’t be able to handle it.”

HME providers that bill Medicare must obtain a $50,000 surety bond per national provider identifier (NPI) by Oct. 2.

Insurers believe some providers may be waiting to obtain bonds unnecessarily.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people: ‘Why would I want to get the bond now and have it be in effect before it needs to be in effect?’” said Bill McMahon, an account executive for Cailor Fleming Insurance in Youngstown, Ohio. “But they can get the bond now and have it go into effect Oct. 2. That way they can file the paperwork.”

Other providers haven’t started the process because they’re still unsure whether they need to obtain bonds, insurers report. Exemptions are physician- and government-owned providers; orthotics and prosthetics providers; and physician and occupational therapists.

“Because the bonds are so cheap, even if you have a question mark, you’re better off to buy them and just not renew them next year, if you find out you don’t need them,” McMahon said. “It’s not worth risking payment suspensions.”

If providers think that, like with accreditation, Medicare will delay the requirement, they’re sorely mistaken, insurers say.

“I don’t foresee any extensions,” McMahon said.

For providers that have already submitted bonds to the National Supplier Clearinghouse (NSC), the process, for the most part, has been a smooth one, insurers report.

“We have seen a few applications rejected by the NSC for small errors - things like not having a signature in the right place,” Freeman said. “Any time you’re dealing with Medicare, you have to make sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed.”