By SARAH HILLEGONDS
Wachler & Associates, P.C.
In today’s mobile society, it is important that physicians are reminded of the requirement to maintain current, accurate mailing information with the appropriate state and federal agencies for licensing and Medicare and/or Medicaid billing purposes. There are significant potential consequences if a physician has an inaccurate address on file, fails to regularly check the mailbox connected to the address on file, or does not timely report a change in mailing address or practice location.
For state licensing, under the Michigan Public Health Code, Act 368 of 1978, physicians have a duty to notify the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (“LARA”) of a change in mailing address within 30 days after the change occurs(1). Failure to report a change of mailing address is, by itself, a sanctionable offense under the Public Health Code. The disciplinary subcommittee may impose a fine or reprimand a physician who fails to timely report a change of address(2).
In addition, if LARA files an administrative complaint against a physician alleging any sanctionable offense, it may notify the physician by sending a copy of the administrative complaint through regular mail and certified mail, return receipt requested, to the provider’s last known mailing address(3). A physician has 30 days from receipt of the complaint to respond to the allegations in writing or LARA will treat the allegations as admitted(4). If the time to respond to the administrative complaint expires and the physician has not submitted a written response, a copy of the complaint will be forwarded to the disciplinary subcommittee, which may then impose sanctions against the provider(5).
This means that a physician who does not receive notice of an administrative complaint and therefore fails to timely respond may be defaulted by the disciplinary subcommittee and subject to the penalties authorized under the Public Health Code. The penalties, which may be as severe as suspension or revocation of the physician’s medical license, will be imposed based on allegations that the physician does not have the opportunity to defend against on the merits.
Once a final order is entered by the disciplinary subcommittee, there is no administrative mechanism for overturning it. Under current law, the only avenue for relief that is available to a physician who has been defaulted is to challenge entry of the disciplinary subcommittee’s order in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which is a costly and time-consuming process.
It is therefore critical that physicians maintain a current, reliable address on file with LARA, and regularly check the mailbox for that address. Physicians should be cautious of maintaining a Post Office (P.O.) Box address on file with LARA, instead of a business or residential address, because there is a greater risk of delayed notice of an administrative complaint. With a P.O. Box, the recipient of certified mail is not present to accept delivery, thus, it may take longer to receive important documents such as an administrative complaint. Physicians that use a P.O. Box, or any other mailing address, should have a system in place to ensure that their mailbox is regularly checked in the event they are unavailable or unable to do so.
Similarly, physicians that bill Medicare or Medicaid are required to timely report a change in practice location. For Medicare, physicians are required to report a change in practice location within 30 days(6). CMS may take adverse action against a physician who fails to comply with this requirement, including deactivation of the physician’s Medicare billing privileges, an assessment of an overpayment back to the date of the change in practice location and, most significantly, revocation of the physician’s Medicare billing privileges(7).
For Medicaid, the Michigan Medicaid Provider Manual requires that physicians notify the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) via the online CHAMPS system of any changes to their enrollment information within 35 days, including “moving to a new office,” “adding another office or location,” and “changing the address to which [remittance advices] and/or correspondence are sent.(8)” DHHS may terminate a physician’s enrollment in the Michigan Medicaid Program, which means revocation of billing privileges, if he or she fails to submit timely and accurate information.
Accordingly, to comply with Medicare and Medicaid billing rules, physicians should promptly notify the appropriate state and federal agencies if there is any change in practice location. Failure to do so may result in severe penalties including, but not limited to, revocation of billing privileges. If you need additional information or assistance, contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at (248) 544-0888.
Sarah Hillegonds is an associate attorney at Wachler & Associates, P.C. Ms. Hillegonds practices in all areas of health care law and devotes a substantial portion of her practice to representing health care entities in the defense of RAC, Medicare, Medicaid, and third party payor audits. Ms. Hillegonds also represents health care providers in licensing matters.
(2)MCL 333.16221(g) and MCL 333.16626.
(4)MCL 333.16231(8), (9)
(6)42 CFR § 424.516
(7)42 CFR § 424.516; 42 CFR § 424.540; 42 CFR § 424.565
(8)DHHS Medicaid Provider Manual, General Information for Providers, Section 3, Maintenance of Provider Information