The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has embarked on an important initiative to further expand its campaign against Medicare waste, fraud and abuse under the Medicare Integrity Program. To consolidate the activities that support the collection, management, and reporting of other insurance coverage of Medicare beneficiaries, CMS awarded the Coordination of Benefits (COB) contract.
The awarding of the COB contract provides many benefits for employers, providers, suppliers, third party payers, attorneys, beneficiaries, and Federal and State insurance programs. All Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) claims investigations are initiated from, and researched at the COB Contractor. This is no longer the function of your local Medicare intermediary or carrier. Implementing this single-source development approach will greatly reduce the amount of duplicate MSP investigations. This will also offer a centralized, one-stop customer service approach, for all MSP-related inquiries, including those seeking general MSP information, but not those related to specific claims or recoveries that serve to protect the Medicare Trust Funds. The COB Contractor provides customer service to all callers from any source, including but not necessarily limited to, beneficiaries, attorneys/other beneficiary representatives, employers, insurers, providers, and suppliers.
Medicare generally uses the term Medicare Secondary Payer or "MSP" when the Medicare program is not responsible for paying a claim first. The COB Contractor will use a variety of methods and programs to identify situations in which Medicare beneficiaries have other health insurance that is primary to Medicare. In such situations, the other health plan has the legal obligation to meet the beneficiary's health care expenses first before Medicare. The table below describes a few of these methods and programs.
Method/Program and Description
- IRS/SSA/CMS Data Match
- Under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989, employers are required to complete a questionnaire that requests Group Health Plan (GHP) information on identified workers who are either entitled to Medicare or married to a Medicare beneficiary.
- MSP Claims Investigation
- This activity involves the collection of data on other health insurance that may be primary to Medicare based on information submitted on a medical claim or from other sources.
- Voluntary MSP Data Match Agreements
- Voluntary Agreements allow for the electronic data exchange of GHP eligibility and Medicare information between CMS and employers or various insurers.
Provider Requests and Questions Regarding Claims Payment
Intermediaries and carriers will continue to process claims submitted for primary or secondary payment. Claims processing is not a function of the COB Contractor. Questions concerning how to bill for payment (e.g., value codes, occurrence codes) should continue to be directed to your local intermediary or carrier. In addition, continue to return inappropriate Medicare payments to the local Medicare contractor. Checks should not be sent to the COB Contractor. Questions regarding Medicare claim or service denials and adjustments should continue to be directed to your local intermediary and carrier. If a provider submits a claim on behalf of a beneficiary and there is an indication of MSP, but not sufficient information to disprove the existence of MSP, the claim will be investigated by the COB Contractor. This investigation will be performed with the provider or supplier that submitted the claim. The goal of MSP information gathering and investigation is to identify MSP situations quickly and accurately, thus ensuring correct primary and secondary payments by the responsible party. Providers, physicians, and other suppliers benefit not only from lower administrative claims costs, but also through enhanced customer service to their Medicare patients.
Medicare Secondary Payer Auxiliary Records in CMS's Database
The COB Contractor is the sole authority to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the MSP information contained in CMS's database (i.e., Common Working File (CWF)). Information received because of MSP gathering and investigation is stored on the CWF in an MSP auxiliary file. The MSP auxiliary file allows for the entry of several auxiliary records, where necessary. MSP data may be updated, as necessary, based on additional information received from external parties (e.g., beneficiaries, providers, attorneys, third party payers). Beneficiary, spouse and/or family member changes in employment, reporting of an accident, illness, or injury, Federal program coverage changes, or any other insurance coverage information should be reported directly to the COB Contractor. CMS also relies on providers and suppliers to ask their Medicare patients about the presence of other primary health care coverage, and to report this information when filing claims with the Medicare program.
Termination and Deletion of MSP Auxiliary Records in CMS's Database
Intermediaries and carriers will continue to terminate records on the CWF where the provider has received information that MSP no longer applies (e.g. succession of employment, exhaustion of benefits). Termination requests should continue to be directed to your local intermediary or carrier. MSP records on the CWF that you identify as invalid should be reported to the COB Contractor for investigation and deletion.
Contacting the COB Contractor
Effective January 1, 2001, refer all MSP inquiries; including, the reporting of potential MSP situations, invalid MSP auxiliary files, and general MSP questions/ concerns to the COB Contractor. Continue to call your local intermediary and/or carrier regarding claims-related and recovery questions. The COB Contractor's Customer Call Center toll free number is 1-800-999-1118 or TDD/TYY 1-800-318-8782. Customer Service Representatives are available to assist you from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time, except holidays. Clip and post this section in a handy place for access by your office and billing staff.
Medicare Learning Network (MLN) Matters - Provider Education Articles
Effective February 5, 2004, the CMS implemented an initiative known as Consistency in Medicare Contractor Outreach or CMCOM. This initiative provides clear concise instructions to contractors regarding new or changed Medicare policy. Contractors informed their provider communities of this initiative and where this provider outreach material is located. This outreach material is written in provider-friendly language by clinicians and medical coding/billing specialists and posted as Medicare Learning Network (MLN) Matters articles. These articles are prepared concurrent with the process for clearing and releasing a related change request (CR) to allow sufficient time to implement.
- Page last Modified: 04/02/2013 3:54 PM
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