Monday, June 30, 2003

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Last December, David Fields moved his office 30 feet to a new warehouse suite and messed up his Medicare cash flow for close to 45 days.

How’s that, you ask? The owner of Kentucky Home Care didn’t pay attention to a Medicare bulletin issued about a year ago telling providers that, as a safeguard, starting in October 2002 payments would be stamped with “Do Not Forward.” As a result, filing a change of address form with the U.S. Post Office no longer cuts it. You’ve also got to fill out the proper Medicare forms that specify your new address.

That process, as Fields found out the hard way, can delay your Medicare reimbursement for weeks.

“It was right at 45 days until I started getting current checks, and then it took another two weeks to get what had been returned,” Fields said. “I had to do some scrambling. I went down to a bank and ended up paying some interest on some short-term loans.”

That aside, providers “should be painfully aware” of Medicare’s new change of address requirement, said Bruce Brothis, president of Centralized Billing and Intake, in Parker, Colo. Brothis has heard several tales similar to Fields’ ordeal.

His advice: If you plan on relocating your company, give Medicare plenty of advance notice.

The easiest solution, however, is to arrange for an electronic funds transfer with Medicare. That way, you can change locations anytime and Medicare will still deposit payments into your bank account, Brothis said. HME

Even though it’s faster and can reduce your DSO - not to mention eliminated payment slowdowns do to a move - there’s a reason only 25% to 35% of HME providers use electronic funds transfer for their Medicare billing. Just as Medicare deposits money into your account, it can go in and remove cash in an overpayment situation, Brothis said.

That can create another problem.

“Say the money is going into their operating account and they are running a tight ship,” Brothis said. “All of a sudden Medicare comes in and takes a few grand out. Payroll checks could bounce.”