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e-CFR data is current as of March 3, 2021

Title 38Chapter IPart 17 → Subject Group


Title 38: Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans' Relief
PART 17—MEDICAL


Charges, Waivers, and Collections

§17.100   Requirements for provider-based status.

(a) Scope. This section establishes the criteria that VA uses to determine whether a VA medical facility is designated as provider-based for purposes of billing for non-service-connected and non-special treatment authority conditions.

(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). A CBOC is a VA-operated, VA-funded, or VA-reimbursed site of care that is not located within a VA Medical Center. A CBOC can provide primary, specialty, subspecialty, mental health, or any combination of health care delivery services that can be appropriately provided in an outpatient setting.

Community Living Center (CLC). A CLC is a component of the spectrum of long-term care that provides a skilled nursing environment and houses a variety of specialty programs for persons needing short and long stay services. VA CLCs are typically located on, or near a VA medical facility and are VA-owned and operated, but may be free-standing in the community.

Facility. A facility is a point of care where individuals can seek VA health care services, to include a VA Medical Center, CBOC, Health Care Center, CLC, and Other Outpatient Services site.

Health Care Center (HCC). An HCC is a VA-owned, VA-leased, VA-contracted or shared clinic that is operational at least five days per week and provides primary care, mental health care, on site specialty services, and performs ambulatory surgery and/or invasive procedures that may require moderate sedation or general anesthesia.

Main provider. A main provider (or parent facility/hospital or provider-based hospital (PBH)) is a provider that either creates, or acquires ownership of, another facility to deliver additional health care services under its name, ownership, and financial and administrative control. For example, VA Medical Centers and HCCs can be main providers.

Other Outpatient Services (OOS). A site that provides outpatient services to veterans, but does not meet the definition of a CBOC or HCC per this section.

Prospective Payment System (PPS). A Prospective Payment System (PPS) is a method of reimbursement in which Medicare payment is made based on a predetermined, fixed amount. The payment amount for a particular service is derived based on the classification system of that service (for example, Medicare Severity Diagnosis-Related Groups for inpatient hospital services furnished by most acute care hospitals).

Provider-based outpatient facility (PBO). A provider-based outpatient facility is a provider of health care services that is either created by, or acquired by, a main provider for the purpose of furnishing additional health care services under the ownership, administrative, and financial control of the main provider, and meets the criteria outlined in this section.

Remote location of a hospital. A remote location of a hospital is a CBOC, OOS Site, or HCC that is located offsite from the main facility.

VA Medical Center (VAMC). A VAMC is a VA facility that provides at least two categories of care (inpatient, outpatient, residential, or institutional extended care).

(c) Criteria for provider-based status. In order to be designated as a provider-based facility, the following criteria must be met:

(1) Licensure. The facility seeking provider-based status and the main provider must operate under the same license. VA facilities are not licensed by States but all VA facilities are considered licensed for the purpose of collection and recovery by VA as part of VA's national organization structure and in accordance with VA standards, including standards established or recognized by VA's Offices of the Medical Inspector and Inspector General and major healthcare accreditation organizations.

(2) Clinical services. The clinical services of the facility seeking provider-based status and the main provider must be integrated. Integration is demonstrated by the following:

(i) The professional staff of the facility has clinical privileges at the main provider.

(ii) The main provider maintains the same monitoring and oversight (i.e. credentialing and privileging) of the facility seeking provider-based status as it does for any other department of the provider.

(iii) The medical director of the facility seeking provider-based status maintains a reporting relationship with the chief medical officer or other similar official of the main provider that has the same frequency, intensity, and level of accountability that exists in the relationship between the medical director of a department of the main provider and the chief medical officer or other similar official of the main provider, and is under the same type of supervision and accountability as any other director, medical or otherwise, of the main provider.

(iv) The medical staff committees or other professional committees at the main provider are responsible for medical activities in the facility seeking provider-based status, including quality assurance, utilization review, and the coordination and integration of services, to the extent practicable, between the facility seeking provider-based status and the main provider.

(v) Medical records for patients treated in the facility seeking provider-based status are integrated into a unified retrieval system (or cross reference) of the main provider.

(vi) Inpatient and outpatient services of the facility seeking provider-based status and the main provider are integrated, and patients treated at the facility who require further care have full access to all services of the main provider and are referred where appropriate to the corresponding inpatient or outpatient department or service of the main provider.

(vii) Inpatient and outpatient services of the facility seeking provider-based status and the main provider are recognized under the main provider's accreditation.

(3) Financial integration. The financial operations of the facility seeking provider-based status are fully integrated within the financial system of the main provider, as evidenced by shared income and expenses between the main provider and the facility. The costs of a facility that is a hospital department are reported in a cost center of the provider, costs of a facility other than a hospital department are reported in the appropriate cost center or cost centers of the main provider. The main provider's integrated health care system manpower and labor budget and the financial status of any facility seeking provider-based status is incorporated and readily identified in the main provider's integrated system reports.

(4) Public awareness. The facility seeking provider-based status must be held out to the public (and other payers) as part of the main provider. Patients of the facility must be made aware that the facility is part of a main provider and that they will be billed accordingly. All literature, brochures, and public relations newsletters from the facility seeking provider-based status must provide the relationship between the main provider and the facility.

(5) Obligations of hospital outpatient departments and hospital-based facilities. If the facility seeking provider-based status is a hospital outpatient department or hospital-based facility, the facility must fulfill the obligations described in this paragraph:

(i) The hospital outpatient department must comply with the antidumping rules of 42 CFR 489.20(l), (m), (q), and (r) and §489.24.

(ii) Physician services furnished in hospital outpatient departments or hospital-based facilities must be billed with the correct site-of-service so that appropriate physician and practitioner payment amounts can be determined based on their geographical location.

(iii) Physicians who work in hospital outpatient departments or hospital-based facilities are obligated to comply with the non-discrimination provisions in 42 CFR 489.10(b).

(iv) Hospital outpatient departments must treat all Medicare patients seen on an urgent/emergent basis as hospital outpatients.

(v) In the case of a patient admitted to the hospital as an inpatient after receiving treatment in the hospital outpatient department or hospital-based facility, payments for services in the hospital outpatient department or hospital-based facility are subject to the payment window provisions applicable to PPS hospitals and to hospitals and units excluded from PPS set forth at 42 CFR 412.2(c)(5) and at 42 CFR 413.40(c)(2), respectively.

(vi) The hospital outpatient department must meet applicable VA policies pertaining to hospital health and safety programs.

(vii) VA must treat any facility that is located on the main hospital campus as a department of the hospital.

(6) Operation under the control of the main provider. The facility seeking provider-based status is operated under the control of the main provider. Control of the main provider requires:

(i) The main provider and the facility seeking provider-based status have the same governing body.

(ii) The facility seeking provider-based status is operated under the same organizational documents as the main provider. For example, the facility seeking provider-based status must be subject to common bylaws and operating decisions of the governing body of the main provider.

(iii) The main provider has final responsibility for administrative decisions, final approval for contracts with outside parties, final approval for personnel actions, final responsibility for personnel policies (such as code of conduct), and final approval for medical staff appointments in the facility seeking provider-based status.

(7) Administration and Supervision. The reporting relationship between the facility seeking provider-based status and the main provider must have the same frequency, intensity, and level of accountability that exists in the relationship between the main provider and one of its existing departments, as evidenced by compliance with all of the following requirements:

(i) The facility seeking provider-based status is under the direct supervision of the main provider.

(ii) The facility seeking provider-based status is operated under the same monitoring and oversight by the main provider as any other department of the provider, and is operated just as any other department of the provider with regard to supervision and accountability. The facility director or individual responsible for daily operations at the facility:

(A) Maintains a reporting relationship with a manager at the main provider that has the same frequency, intensity, and level of accountability that exists in the relationship between the main provider and its existing departments; and

(B) Is accountable to the governing body of the main provider, in the same manner as any department head of the provider.

(iii) The following administrative functions of the facility seeking provider-based status are integrated with those of the main provider where the facility is based: Billing services, records, human resources, payroll, employee benefit package, salary structure, and purchasing services. Either the same employees or group of employees handle these administrative functions for the facility and the main provider, or the administrative functions for both the facility and the main provider are contracted out under the same contract agreement; or are handled under different contract agreements, with the contract of the facility or organization being managed by the main provider.

(d) Illustrations of how the criteria are applied. (1) A VA facility that is seeking provider-based status that exists under contract arrangements, where only VA patients are seen, may be designated as provider-based if the provider-based requirements in this section are met.

(2) A VA facility seeking provider-based status that exists under contract arrangements, where VA patients and non-VA patients are seen at the same non-VA owned facility, will have the same provider-based status as the non-VA owned facility that is hosting the VA facility.

(3) A VA owned and operated facility seeking provider-based status, where some or all of the staff are contracted employees, may be designated as provider-based if the provider-based requirements in this section are met.

[85 FR 53174, Aug. 28, 2020]

§17.101   Collection or recovery by VA for medical care or services provided or furnished to a veteran for a non-service connected disability.

(a)(1) General. This section covers collection or recovery by VA, under 38 U.S.C. 1729, for medical care or services provided or furnished to a veteran:

(i) For a nonservice-connected disability for which the veteran is entitled to care (or the payment of expenses of care) under a health plan contract;

(ii) For a nonservice-connected disability incurred incident to the veteran's employment and covered under a worker's compensation law or plan that provides reimbursement or indemnification for such care and services; or

(iii) For a nonservice-connected disability incurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident in a State that requires automobile accident reparations insurance.

(2) Methodologies. Based on the methodologies set forth in this section, the charges billed will include the following types of charges, as appropriate: Acute inpatient facility charges; skilled nursing facility/sub-acute inpatient facility charges; partial hospitalization facility charges; outpatient facility charges; physician and other professional charges, including professional charges for anesthesia services and dental services; pathology and laboratory charges; observation care facility charges; ambulance and other emergency transportation charges; and charges for durable medical equipment, drugs, injectables, and other medical services, items, and supplies identified by HCPCS Level II codes. In addition, the charges billed for prescription drugs not administered during treatment will be the amount determined under paragraph (m) of this section. Data for calculating actual charge amounts based on the methodologies set forth in this section will either be published in a notice in the Federal Register or will be posted on the Internet site of the Veterans Health Administration Chief Business Office, currently at http://www.va.gov/cbo, under “Charge Data.” For care for which VA has established a charge, VA will bill using its most recent published or posted charge. For care for which VA has not established a charge, VA will bill according to the methodology set forth in paragraph (a)(8) of this section.

(3) Data sources. In this section, data sources are identified by name. The specific editions of these data sources used to calculate actual charge amounts, and information on where these data sources may be obtained, will be presented along with the data for calculating actual charge amounts, either in notices in the Federal Register or on the Internet site of the Veterans Health Administration Chief Business Office, currently at http://www.va.gov/cbo, under “Charge Data.”

(4) Amount of recovery or collection—third party liability. A third-party payer liable under a health plan contract has the option of paying either the billed charges described in this section or the amount the health plan demonstrates is the amount it would pay for care or services furnished by providers other than entities of the United States for the same care or services in the same geographic area. If the amount submitted by the health plan for payment is less than the amount billed, VA will accept the submission as payment, subject to verification at VA's discretion in accordance with this section. A VA employee having responsibility for collection of such charges may request that the third party health plan submit evidence or information to substantiate the appropriateness of the payment amount (e.g., health plan or insurance policies, provider agreements, medical evidence, proof of payment to other providers in the same geographic area for the same care and services VA provided).

(5) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

APC means Medicare Ambulatory Payment Classification.

CMS means the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

CPI-U means Consumer Price Index—All Urban Consumers.

CPT code and CPT procedure code mean Current Procedural Terminology code, a five-digit identifier defined by the American Medical Association for a specified physician service or procedure.

DME means Durable Medical Equipment.

DRG means Diagnosis Related Group.

Geographic area means a three-digit ZIP Code area, where three-digit ZIP Codes are the first three digits of standard U.S. Postal Service ZIP Codes.

HCPCS code means a Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System Level II identifier, consisting of a letter followed by four digits, defined by CMS for a specified physician service, procedure, test, supply, or other medical service.

ICU means Intensive Care Unit, including coronary care units.

MDR means Medical Data Research, a medical charge database published by Ingenix, Inc.

MedPAR means the Medicare Provider Analysis and Review file.

RBRVS means Resource-Based Relative Value Scale.

RVU means Relative Value Unit.

Unlisted procedures mean procedures, services, items, and supplies that have not been defined or specified by the American Medical Association or CMS, and the CPT and HCPCS codes used to report such procedures, services, items, and supplies.

(6) Provider-based status and charges. Facilities that have provider-based status by meeting the criteria in §17.100 are entitled to bill outpatient facility charges and professional charges. The professional charges for these facilities are produced by the methodologies set forth in this section based on facility expense RVUs. Facilities that do not have provider-based status because they do not meet the criteria in §17.100 are not permitted to bill outpatient facility charges and can only bill a professional charge. The professional charges for these facilities are produced by the methodologies set forth in this section based on non-facility practice expense RVUs.

(7) Charges for medical care or services provided by non-VA providers at VA expense. When medical care or services are furnished at the expense of the VA by non-VA providers, the charges billed for such care or services will be the higher of the charges determined according to this section, or the amount VA paid to the non-VA provider.

(8) Charges when a new DRG or CPT/HCPCS code identifier does not have an established charge. When VA does not have an established charge for a new DRG or CPT/HCPCS code to be used in determining a billing charge under the applicable methodology in this section, then VA will establish an interim billing charge or establish an interim charge to be used for determining a billing charge under the applicable methodology in paragraphs (a)(8)(i) through (a)(8)(viii) of this section.

(i) If a new DRG or CPT/HCPCS code identifier replaces a DRG or CPT/HCPCS code identifier, the most recently established charge for the identifier being replaced will continue to be used for determining a billing charge under paragraphs (b), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (k), or (l) of this section until such time as VA establishes a charge for the new identifier.

(ii) If medical care or service is provided or furnished at VA expense by a non-VA provider and a charge cannot be established under paragraph (a)(8)(i) of this section, then VA's billing charge for such care or service will be the amount VA paid to the non-VA provider without additional calculations under this section.

(iii) If a new CPT/HCPCS code has been established for a prosthetic device or durable medical equipment subject to paragraph (l) of this section and a charge cannot be established under paragraphs (a)(8)(i) or (ii) of this section, VA's billing charge for such prosthetic device or durable medical equipment will be 1 and 12 times VA's average actual cost without additional calculations under this section.

(iv) If a new medical identifier DRG code has been assigned to a particular type of medical care or service and a charge cannot be established under paragraphs (a)(8)(i) through (iii) of this section, then until such time as VA establishes a charge for the new medical identifier DRG code, the interim charge for use in paragraph (b) of this section will be the average charge of all medical DRG codes that are within plus or minus 10 of the numerical relative weight assigned to the new medical identifier DRG code.

(v) If a new surgical identifier DRG code has been assigned to a particular type of medical care or service and a charge cannot be established under paragraphs (a)(8)(i) through (iv) of this section, then until such time as VA establishes a charge for the new surgical identifier DRG code, the interim charge for use in paragraph (b) of this section will be the average charge of all surgical DRG codes that are within plus or minus 10 of the numerical relative weight assigned to the new surgical identifier DRG code.

(vi) If a new identifier CPT/HCPCS code is assigned to a particular type or item of medical care or service and a charge cannot be established under paragraphs (a)(8)(i) through (v) of this section, then until such time as VA establishes a charge for the new identifier for use in paragraphs (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (k), or (l) of this section, VA's billing charge will be the Medicare allowable charge multiplied by 1 and 12 , without additional calculations under this section.

(vii) If a new identifier CPT/HCPCS code is assigned to a particular type or item of medical care or service and a charge cannot be established under paragraphs (a)(8)(i) through (vi) of this section, then until such time as VA establishes a charge for the new identifier, the interim charge for use in paragraphs (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (k), or (l) of this section will be the charge for the CPT/HCPCS code that is closest in characteristics to the new CPT/HCPCS code.

(viii) If a charge cannot be established under paragraphs (a)(8)(i) through (a)(8)(vii) of this section, then VA will not charge under this section for the care or service.

(9) Care provided under special treatment authorities. (i) Notwithstanding any other provisions in this section, VA will not seek recovery or collection of reasonable charges from a third party payer for:

(A) Hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care provided by VA or at VA expense under 38 U.S.C. 1710(a)(2)(F) and (e).

(B) Counseling and appropriate care and services furnished to veterans for psychological trauma authorized under 38 U.S.C. 1720D.

(C) Medical examination, and hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care furnished to veteran for cancer of the head or neck as authorized under 38 U.S.C. 1720E.

(ii) VA may continue to exercise its right to recover or collect reasonable charges from third parties, pursuant to this section, for the cost of care that VA provides to these same veterans for conditions and disabilities that VA determines are not covered by any of the special treatment authorities.

(b) Acute inpatient facility charges. When VA provides or furnishes acute inpatient services within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, acute inpatient facility charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. Acute inpatient facility charges consist of per diem charges for room and board and for ancillary services that vary by geographic area and by DRG. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each acute inpatient stay, or portion thereof, for which a particular DRG assignment applies, the total acute inpatient facility charge is the sum of the applicable charges determined pursuant to paragraphs (b)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) of this section. For purposes of this section, standard room and board days and ICU room and board days are mutually exclusive: VA will bill either a standard room and board per diem charge or an ICU room and board per diem charge, as applicable, for each day of a given acute inpatient stay.

(i) Standard room and board charges. Multiply the nationwide standard room and board per diem charge determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(2) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific standard room and board per diem charge. Multiply this amount by the number of days for which standard room and board charges apply to obtain the total acute inpatient facility standard room and board charge.

(ii) ICU room and board charges. Multiply the nationwide ICU room and board per diem charge determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(2) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific ICU room and board per diem charge. Multiply this amount by the number of days for which ICU room and board per diem charges apply to obtain the total acute inpatient facility ICU room and board charge.

(iii) Ancillary charges. Multiply the nationwide ancillary per diem charge determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(2) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific ancillary per diem charge. Multiply this amount by the number of days of acute inpatient care to obtain the total acute inpatient facility ancillary charge.

Note to paragraph (b)(1): If there is a change in a patient's condition and/or treatment during a single acute inpatient stay such that the DRG assignment changes (for example, a psychiatric patient who develops a medical or surgical problem), then calculations of acute inpatient facility charges will be made separately for each DRG, according to the number of days of care applicable for each DRG, and the total acute inpatient facility charge will be the sum of the total acute inpatient facility charges for the different DRGs.

(2) Per diem charges. To establish a baseline, two nationwide average per diem amounts for each DRG are calculated, one from the MedPAR file and one from the MedStat claims database, a database of nationwide commercial insurance claims. Average per diem charges are calculated based on all available charges, except for care reported for emergency room, ambulance, professional, and observation care. These two data sources may report charges for two differing periods of time; when this occurs, the data source charges with the earlier center date are trended forward to the center date of the other data source, based on changes to the inpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Results obtained from these two data sources are then combined into a single weighted average per diem charge for each DRG. The resulting charge for each DRG is then separated into its two components, a room and board component and an ancillary component, with the per diem charge for each component calculated by multiplying the weighted average per diem charge by the corresponding percentage determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section. The room and board per diem charge is further differentiated into a standard room and board per diem charge and an ICU room and board per diem charge by multiplying the average room and board charge by the corresponding DRG-specific ratios determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section. The resulting per diem charges for standard room and board, ICU room and board, and ancillary services for each DRG are then each multiplied by the final ratio determined pursuant to paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section to reflect the nationwide 80th percentile charges. Finally, the resulting amounts are each trended forward from the center date of the trended data sources to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (b)(2)(iv) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile standard room and board, ICU room and board, and ancillary per diem charges.

(i) Room and board charge and ancillary charge component percentages. Using only those cases from the MedPAR file for which a distinction between room and board charges and ancillary charges can be determined, the percentage of the total charges for room and board compared to the combined total charges for room and board and ancillary services, and the percentage of the total charges for ancillary services compared to the combined total charges for room and board and ancillary services, are calculated by DRG.

(ii) Standard room and board per diem charge and ICU room and board per diem charge ratios. Using only those cases from the MedPAR file for which a distinction between room and board and ancillary charges can be determined, overall average per diem room and board charges are calculated by DRG. Then, using the same cases, an average standard room and board per diem charge is calculated by dividing total non-ICU room and board charges by total non-ICU room and board days. Similarly, an average ICU room and board per diem charge is calculated by dividing total ICU room and board charges by total ICU room and board days. Finally, ratios of standard room and board per diem charges to average overall room and board per diem charges are calculated by DRG, as are ratios of ICU room and board per diem charges to average overall room and board per diem charges.

(iii) 80th percentile. Using cases from the MedPAR file with separately identifiable semi-private room rates, the ratio of the day-weighted 80th percentile semi-private room and board per diem charge to the average semi-private room and board per diem charge is obtained for each geographic area. The geographic area-based ratios are averaged to obtain a final 80th percentile ratio.

(iv) Trending forward. 80th percentile charges for each DRG, obtained as described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, are trended forward based on changes to the inpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the center date of the trended data sources through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges.

(3) Geographic area adjustment factors. For each geographic area, the average per diem room and board charges and ancillary charges from the MedPAR file are calculated for each DRG. The DRGs are separated into two groups, surgical and non-surgical. For each of these groups of DRGs, for each geographic area, average room and board per diem charges and ancillary per diem charges are calculated, weighted by nationwide VA discharges and by average lengths of stay from the combined MedPAR file and MedStat claims database. This results in four average per diem charges for each geographic area: room and board for surgical DRGs, ancillary for surgical DRGs, room and board for non-surgical DRGs, and ancillary for non-surgical DRGs. Four corresponding national average per diem charges are obtained from the MedPAR file, weighted by nationwide VA discharges and by average lengths of stay from the combined MedPAR file and MedStat claims database. Four geographic area adjustment factors are then calculated for each geographic area by dividing each geographic area average per diem charge by the corresponding national average per diem charge.

(c) Skilled nursing facility/sub-acute inpatient facility charges. When VA provides or furnishes skilled nursing/sub-acute inpatient services within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, skilled nursing facility/sub-acute inpatient facility charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. The skilled nursing facility/sub-acute inpatient facility charges are per diem charges that vary by geographic area. The facility charges cover care, including room and board, nursing care, pharmaceuticals, supplies, and skilled rehabilitation services (e.g., physical therapy, inhalation therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology), that is provided in a nursing home or hospital inpatient setting, is provided under a physician's orders, and is performed by or under the general supervision of professional personnel such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each stay, multiply the nationwide per diem charge determined pursuant to paragraph (c)(2) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (c)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific per diem charge. Finally, multiply the area-specific per diem charge by the number of days of care to obtain the total skilled nursing facility/sub-acute inpatient facility charge.

(2) Per diem charge. To establish a baseline, a nationwide average per diem billed charge is calculated based on charges reported in the MedPAR skilled nursing facility file. For this purpose, the following MedPAR charge categories are included: room and board (private, semi-private, and ward), physical therapy, occupational therapy, inhalation therapy, speech-language pathology, pharmacy, medical/surgical supplies, and “other” services. The following MedPAR charge categories are excluded from the calculation of the per diem charge and will be billed separately, using the charges determined as set forth in other applicable paragraphs of this section, when these services are provided to skilled nursing patients or sub-acute inpatients: ICU and CCU room and board, laboratory, radiology, cardiology, dialysis, operating room, blood and blood administration, ambulance, MRI, anesthesia, durable medical equipment, emergency room, clinic, outpatient, professional, lithotripsy, and organ acquisition services. The resulting average per diem billed charge is then multiplied by the 80th percentile adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section to obtain a nationwide 80th percentile charge level. Finally, the resulting amount is trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section.

(i) 80th percentile adjustment factor. Using the MedPAR skilled nursing facility file, the ratio of the day-weighted 80th percentile room and board per diem charge to the day-weighted average room and board per diem charge is obtained for each geographic area. The geographic area-based ratios are averaged to obtain the 80th percentile adjustment factor.

(ii) Trending forward. The 80th percentile charge is trended forward based on changes to the inpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charge.

(3) Geographic area adjustment factors. The average billed per diem charge for each geographic area is calculated from the MedPAR skilled nursing facility file. This amount is divided by the nationwide average billed charge calculated in paragraph (c)(2) of this section. The geographic area adjustment factor for charges for each VA facility is the ratio for the geographic area in which the facility is located.

(d) Partial hospitalization facility charges. When VA provides or furnishes partial hospitalization services that are within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the facility charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. Partial hospitalization facility charges are per diem charges that vary by geographic area. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each partial hospitalization stay, multiply the nationwide per diem charge determined pursuant to paragraph (d)(2) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (d)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific per diem charge. Finally, multiply the area-specific per diem charge by the number of days of care to obtain the total partial hospitalization facility charge.

(2) Per diem charge. To establish a baseline, a nationwide median per diem billed charge is calculated based on charges associated with partial hospitalization from the outpatient facility component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. That median per diem billed charge is then multiplied by the 80th percentile adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section to obtain a nationwide 80th percentile charge level. Finally, the resulting amount is trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section.

(i) 80th percentile adjustment factor. The 80th percentile adjustment factor for partial hospitalization facility charges is the same as that computed for skilled nursing facility/sub-acute inpatient facility charges under paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section.

(ii) Trending forward. The 80th percentile charge is trended forward based on changes to the outpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges, as described in paragraph (d)(2) of this section.

(3) Geographic area adjustment factors. The geographic area adjustment factors for partial hospitalization facility charges are the same as those computed for outpatient facility charges under paragraph (e)(4) of this section.

(e) Outpatient facility charges. When VA provides or furnishes outpatient facility services that are within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. Charges for outpatient facility services vary by geographic area and by CPT/HCPCS code. These charges apply in the situations set forth in paragraph (e)(1) of this section and are calculated as set forth in paragraph (e)(2) of this section.

(1) Settings and circumstances in which outpatient facility charges apply. Outpatient facility charges consist of facility charges for procedures, diagnostic tests, evaluation and management services, and other medical services, items, and supplies provided in the following settings and circumstances:

(i) Outpatient departments and clinics at VA medical centers;

(ii) Other VA provider-based entities; and

(iii) VA non-provider-based entities, for procedures and tests for which no corresponding professional charge is established under the provisions of paragraph (f) of this section.

(2) Formula. For each outpatient facility charge CPT/HCPCS code, multiply the nationwide 80th percentile charge determined pursuant to paragraph (e)(3) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (e)(4) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific outpatient facility charge. When multiple surgical procedures are performed during the same outpatient encounter by a provider or provider team, the outpatient facility charges for such procedures will be reduced as set forth in paragraph (e)(5) of this section.

(3) Nationwide 80th percentile charges by CPT/HCPCS code. For each CPT/HCPCS code for which outpatient facility charges apply, the nationwide 80th percentile charge is calculated as set forth in either paragraph (e)(3)(i) or (e)(3)(ii) of this section. The resulting amount is trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (e)(3)(iii) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile outpatient facility charges by CPT/HCPCS code.

(i) Nationwide 80th percentile charges for CPT/HCPCS codes which have APC assignments. Using the outpatient facility charges reported in the outpatient facility component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample, claim records are selected for which all charges can be assigned to an APC. Using this subset of the 5 percent Sample data, nationwide median charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratios, by APC, and nationwide 80th percentile to median charge ratios, by APC, are computed according to the methodology set forth in paragraphs (e)(3)(i)(A) and (e)(3)(i)(B) of this section, respectively. The product of these two ratios by APC is then computed, resulting in a composite nationwide 80th percentile charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratio. This ratio is then compared to the alternate nationwide 80th percentile charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratio computed in paragraph (e)(3)(i)(C) of this section, and the lesser amount is selected and multiplied by the current Medicare APC payment amount. The resulting product is the APC-specific nationwide 80th percentile charge amount for each applicable CPT/HCPCS code.

(A) Nationwide median charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratios. For each CPT/HCPCS code, the ratio of median billed charge to Medicare APC payment amount is determined. The weighted average of these ratios for each APC is then obtained, using the reported 5 percent Sample frequencies as weights. In addition, corresponding ratios are calculated for each of the APC categories set forth in paragraph (e)(3)(i)(D) of this section, again using the reported 5 percent Sample frequencies as weights. For APCs where the 5 percent Sample frequencies provide a statistically credible result, the APC-specific weighted average nationwide median charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratio so obtained is accepted without further adjustment. However, if the 5 percent Sample data do not produce statistically credible results for any specific APC, then the APC category-specific ratio is applied for that APC.

(B) Nationwide 80th percentile to median charge ratios. For each CPT/HCPCS code, a geographically normalized nationwide 80th percentile billed charge amount is divided by a similarly normalized nationwide median billed charge amount. The weighted average of these ratios for each APC is then obtained, using the reported 5 percent Sample frequencies as weights. In addition, corresponding ratios are calculated for each of the APC categories set forth in paragraph (e)(3)(i)(D) of this section, again using the reported 5 percent Sample frequencies as weights. For APCs where the 5 percent Sample frequencies provide a statistically credible result, the APC-specific weighted average nationwide 80th percentile to median charge ratio so obtained is accepted without further adjustment. However, if the 5 percent Sample data do not produce statistically credible results for any specific APC, then the APC category-specific ratio is applied for that APC.

(C) Alternate nationwide 80th percentile charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratios. A minimum 80th percentile charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratio is set at 2.0 for APCs with Medicare APC payment amounts of $25 or less. A maximum 80th percentile charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratio is set at 6.5 for APCs with Medicare APC payment amounts of $10,000 or more. Using linear interpolation with these endpoints, the alternate APC-specific nationwide 80th percentile charge to Medicare APC payment amount ratio is then computed, based on the Medicare APC payment amount.

(D) APC categories for the purpose of establishing 80th percentile to median factors. For the purpose of the statistical methodology set forth in paragraph (e)(3)(i) of this section, APCs are assigned to the following APC categories:

(1) Radiology.

(2) Drugs.

(3) Office, Home, and Urgent Care Visits.

(4) Cardiovascular.

(5) Emergency Room Visits.

(6) Outpatient Psychiatry, Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

(7) Pathology.

(8) Surgery.

(9) Allergy Immunotherapy, Allergy Testing, Immunizations, and Therapeutic Injections.

(10) All APCs not assigned to any of the above groups.

(ii) Nationwide 80th percentile charges for CPT/HCPCS codes which do not have APC assignments. Nationwide 80th percentile billed charge levels by CPT/HCPCS code are computed from the outpatient facility component of the MDR database, from the MedStat claims database, and from the outpatient facility component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. If the MDR database contains sufficient data to provide a statistically credible 80th percentile charge, then that result is retained for this purpose. If the MDR database does not provide a statistically credible 80th percentile charge, then the result from the MedStat database is retained for this purpose, provided it is statistically credible. If neither the MDR nor the MedStat databases provide statistically credible results, then the nationwide 80th percentile billed charge computed from the 5 percent Sample data is retained for this purpose. The nationwide 80th percentile charges retained from each of these data sources are trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (e)(3)(iii) of this section.

(iii) Trending forward. The charges for each CPT/HCPCS code, obtained as described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section, are trended forward based on changes to the outpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges, as described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section.

(4) Geographic area adjustment factors. For each geographic area, a single adjustment factor is calculated as the arithmetic average of the outpatient geographic area adjustment factor published in the Milliman USA, Inc., Health Cost Guidelines (this factor constitutes the ratio of the level of charges for each geographic area to the nationwide level of charges), and a geographic area adjustment factor developed from the MDR database (see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources). The MDR-based geographic area adjustment factors are calculated as the ratio of the CPT/HCPCS code weighted average charge level for each geographic area to the nationwide CPT/HCPCS code weighted average charge level.

(5) Multiple surgical procedures. When multiple surgical procedures are performed during the same outpatient encounter by a provider or provider team as indicated by multiple surgical CPT/HCPCS procedure codes, then each CPT/HCPCS procedure code will be billed at 100 percent of the charges established under this section.

(f) Physician and other professional charges except for anesthesia services and certain dental services. When VA provides or furnishes physician and other professional services, other than professional anesthesia services and certain professional dental services, within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, physician and other professional charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. Charges for professional dental services identified by CPT code are determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph; charges for professional dental services identified by HCPCS Level II code are determined in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (h) of this section. Physician and other professional charges consist of charges for professional services that vary by geographic area, by CPT/HCPCS code, by site of service, and by modifier, where applicable. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each CPT/HCPCS code or, where applicable, each CPT/HCPCS code and modifier combination, multiply the total geographically-adjusted RVUs determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(2) of this section by the applicable geographically-adjusted conversion factor (a monetary amount) determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(3) of this section to obtain the physician charge for each CPT/HCPCS code in a particular geographic area. Then, multiply this charge by the appropriate factors for any charge-significant modifiers, determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(4) of this section.

(2)(i) Total geographically-adjusted RVUs for physician services that have Medicare RVUs. The work expense and practice expense RVUs for CPT/HCPCS codes, other than the codes described in paragraphs (f)(2)(ii) and (f)(2)(iii) of this section, are compiled using Medicare Physician Fee Schedule RVUs. The sum of the geographically-adjusted work expense RVUs determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(2)(i)(A) of this section and the geographically-adjusted practice expense RVUs determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(2)(i)(B) of this section equals the total geographically-adjusted RVUs.

(A) Geographically-adjusted work expense RVUs. For each CPT/HCPCS code for each geographic area, the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule work expense RVUs are multiplied by the work expense Medicare Geographic Practice Cost Index. The result constitutes the geographically-adjusted work expense RVUs.

(B) Geographically-adjusted practice expense RVUs. For each CPT/HCPCS code for each geographic area, the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule practice expense RVUs are multiplied by the practice expense Medicare Geographic Practice Cost Index. The result constitutes the geographically-adjusted practice expense RVUs. In these calculations, facility practice expense RVUs are used to obtain geographically-adjusted practice expense RVUs for use by provider-based entities, and non-facility practice expense RVUs are used to obtain geographically-adjusted practice expense RVUs for use by non-provider-based entities.

(ii) RVUs for CPT/HCPCS codes that do not have Medicare RVUs and are not designated as unlisted procedures. For CPT/HCPCS codes that are not assigned RVUs in paragraphs (f)(2)(i) or (f)(2)(iii) of this section, total RVUs are developed based on various charge data sources. For these CPT/HCPCS codes, the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges are obtained, where statistically credible, from the MDR database. For any remaining CPT/HCPCS codes, the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges are obtained, where statistically credible, from the Part B component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. For any remaining CPT/HCPCS codes, the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges are obtained, where statistically credible, from the Prevailing Healthcare Charges System nationwide commercial insurance database. For each of these CPT/HCPCS codes, nationwide total RVUs are obtained by taking the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges obtained using the preceding three databases and dividing by the untrended nationwide conversion factor for the corresponding CPT/HCPCS code group determined pursuant to paragraphs (f)(3) and (f)(3)(i) of this section. For any remaining CPT/HCPCS codes that have not been assigned RVUs using the preceding data sources, the nationwide total RVUs are calculated by summing the work expense and non-facility practice expense RVUs found in Ingenix/St. Anthony's RBRVS. The resulting nationwide total RVUs obtained using these four data sources are multiplied by the geographic area adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(2)(iv) of this section to obtain the area-specific total RVUs.

(iii) RVUs for CPT/HCPCS codes designated as unlisted procedures. For CPT/HCPCS codes designated as unlisted procedures, total RVUs are developed based on the weighted median of the total RVUs of CPT/HCPCS codes within the series in which the unlisted procedure code occurs. A nationwide VA distribution of procedures and services is used for the purpose of computing the weighted median. The resulting nationwide total RVUs are multiplied by the geographic area adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(2)(iv) of this section to obtain the area-specific total RVUs.

(iv) RVU geographic area adjustment factors for CPT/HCPCS codes that do not have Medicare RVUs, including codes that are designated as unlisted procedures. The adjustment factor for each geographic area consists of the weighted average of the work expense and practice expense Medicare Geographic Practice Cost Indices for each geographic area using charge data for representative CPT/HCPCS codes statistically selected and weighted for work expense and practice expense.

(3) Geographically-adjusted 80th percentile conversion factors. CPT/HCPCS codes are separated into the following 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups: allergy immunotherapy, allergy testing, cardiovascular, chiropractor, consults, emergency room visits and observation care, hearing/speech exams, immunizations, inpatient visits, maternity/cesarean deliveries, maternity/non-deliveries, maternity/normal deliveries, miscellaneous medical, office/home/urgent care visits, outpatient psychiatry/alcohol and drug abuse, pathology, physical exams, physical medicine, radiology, surgery, therapeutic injections, vision exams, and well baby exams. For each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups, representative CPT/HCPCS codes are statistically selected and weighted so as to give a weighted average RVU comparable to the weighted average RVU of the entire CPT/HCPCS code group (the selected CPT/HCPCS codes are set forth in the Milliman USA, Inc., Health Cost Guidelines fee survey); see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources. The 80th percentile charge for each selected CPT/HCPCS code is obtained from the MDR database. A nationwide conversion factor (a monetary amount) is calculated for each CPT/HCPCS code group as set forth in paragraph (f)(3)(i) of this section. The nationwide conversion factors for each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups are trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (f)(3)(ii) of this section. The resulting amounts for each of the 23 groups are multiplied by geographic area adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(3)(iii) of this section, resulting in geographically-adjusted 80th percentile conversion factors for each geographic area for the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups for the effective charge period.

(i) Nationwide conversion factors. Using the nationwide 80th percentile charges for the selected CPT/HCPCS codes from paragraph (f)(3) of this section, a nationwide conversion factor is calculated for each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups by dividing the weighted average charge by the weighted average RVU.

(ii) Trending forward. The nationwide conversion factors for each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups, obtained as described in paragraph (f)(3)(i) of this section, are trended forward based on changes to the physicians' services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 23 conversion factors.

(iii) Geographic area adjustment factors. Using the 80th percentile charges for the selected CPT/HCPCS codes from paragraph (f)(3) of this section for each geographic area, a geographic area-specific conversion factor is calculated for each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups by dividing the weighted average charge by the weighted average geographically-adjusted RVU. The resulting conversion factor for each geographic area for each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups is divided by the corresponding nationwide conversion factor determined pursuant to paragraph (f)(3)(i) of this section. The resulting ratios are the geographic area adjustment factors for the conversion factors for each of the 23 CPT/HCPCS code groups for each geographic area.

(4) Charge adjustment factors for specified CPT/HCPCS code modifiers. Surcharges are calculated in the following manner: From the Part B component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample, the ratio of weighted average billed charges for CPT/HCPCS codes with the specified modifier to the weighted average billed charge for CPT/HCPCS codes with no charge modifier is calculated, using the frequency of procedure codes with the modifier as weights in both weighted average calculations. The resulting ratios constitute the surcharge factors for specified charge-significant CPT/HCPCS code modifiers.

(5) Certain charges for providers other than physicians. When services for which charges are established according to the preceding provisions of this paragraph (f) are performed by providers other than physicians, the charges for those services will be as determined by the preceding provisions of this paragraph, except as follows:

(i) Outpatient facility charges. When the services of providers other than physicians are furnished in outpatient facility settings or in other facilities designated as provider-based, and outpatient facility charges for those services have been established under paragraph (e) of this section, then the outpatient facility charges established under paragraph (e) will apply instead of the charges established under this paragraph (f).

(ii) Charges for professional services. Charges for the professional services of the following providers will be 100 percent of the amount that would be charged if the care had been provided by a physician:

(A) Nurse practitioner.

(B) Clinical nurse specialist.

(C) Physician Assistant.

(D) Clinical psychologist.

(E) Clinical social worker.

(F) Dietitian.

(G) Clinical pharmacist.

(H) Marriage and family therapist.

(I) Licensed professional mental health counselor.

(g) Professional charges for anesthesia services. When VA provides or furnishes professional anesthesia services within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, professional anesthesia charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. Charges for professional anesthesia services personally performed by anesthesiologists will be 100 percent of the charges determined as set forth in this paragraph. Charges for professional anesthesia services provided by non-medically directed certified registered nurse anesthetists will also be 100 percent of the charges determined as set forth in this paragraph. Charges for professional anesthesia services provided by medically directed certified registered nurse anesthetists will be 100 percent of the charges determined as set forth in this paragraph. Professional anesthesia charges consist of charges for professional services that vary by geographic area, by CPT/HCPCS code base units, and by number of time units. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each anesthesia CPT/HCPCS code, multiply the total anesthesia RVUs determined pursuant to paragraph (g)(2) of this section by the applicable geographically-adjusted conversion factor (a monetary amount) determined pursuant to paragraph (g)(3) of this section to obtain the professional anesthesia charge for each CPT/HCPCS code in a particular geographic area.

(2) Total RVUs for professional anesthesia services. The total anesthesia RVUs for each anesthesia CPT/HCPCS code are the sum of the base units (as compiled by CMS) for that CPT/HCPCS code and the number of time units reported for the anesthesia service, where one time unit equals 15 minutes. For anesthesia CPT/HCPCS codes designated as unlisted procedures, base units are developed based on the weighted median base units for anesthesia CPT/HCPCS codes within the series in which the unlisted procedure code occurs. A nationwide VA distribution of procedures and services is used for the purpose of computing the weighted median base units.

(3) Geographically-adjusted 80th percentile conversion factors. A nationwide 80th percentile conversion factor is calculated according to the methodology set forth in paragraph (g)(3)(i) of this section. The nationwide conversion factor is then trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (g)(3)(ii) of this section. The resulting amount is multiplied by geographic area adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (g)(3)(iii) of this section, resulting in geographically-adjusted 80th percentile conversion factors for each geographic area for the effective charge period.

(i) Nationwide conversion factor. Preliminary 80th percentile conversion factors for each area are compiled from the MDR database. Then, a preliminary nationwide weighted-average 80th percentile conversion factor is calculated, using as weights the population (census) frequencies for each geographic area as presented in the Milliman USA, Inc., Health Cost Guidelines (see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources). A nationwide 80th percentile fee by CPT/HCPCS code is then computed by multiplying this conversion factor by the MDR base units for each CPT/HCPCS code. An adjusted 80th percentile conversion factor by CPT/HCPCS code is then calculated by dividing the nationwide 80th percentile fee for each procedure code by the anesthesia base units (as compiled by CMS) for that CPT/HCPCS code. Finally, a nationwide weighted average 80th percentile conversion factor is calculated using combined frequencies for billed base units and time units from the part B component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample as weights.

(ii) Trending forward. The nationwide conversion factor, obtained as described in paragraph (g)(3)(i) of this section, is trended forward based on changes to the physicians' services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the conversion factor.

(iii) Geographic area adjustment factors. The preliminary 80th percentile conversion factors for each geographic area described in paragraph (g)(3)(i) of this section are divided by the corresponding preliminary nationwide 80th percentile conversion factor also described in paragraph (g)(3)(i). The resulting ratios are the adjustment factors for each geographic area.

(h) Professional charges for dental services identified by HCPCS Level II codes. When VA provides or furnishes outpatient dental professional services within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and such services are identified by HCPCS code rather than CPT code, the charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. The charges for dental services vary by geographic area and by HCPCS code. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each HCPCS dental code, multiply the nationwide 80th percentile charge determined pursuant to paragraph (h)(2) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (h)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific dental charge.

(2) Nationwide 80th percentile charges by HCPCS code. For each HCPCS dental code, 80th percentile charges are extracted from three independent data sources: Prevailing Healthcare Charges System database; National Dental Advisory Service nationwide pricing index; and the Dental UCR Module of the Comprehensive Healthcare Payment System, a release from Ingenix from a nationwide database of dental charges (see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources). Charges for each database are then trended forward to a common date, based on actual changes to the dental services component of the CPI-U. Charges for each HCPCS dental code from each data source are combined into an average 80th percentile charge by means of the methodology set forth in paragraph (h)(2)(i) of this section. HCPCS dental codes designated as unlisted are assigned 80th percentile charges by means of the methodology set forth in paragraph (h)(2)(ii) of this section. Finally, the resulting amounts are each trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (h)(2)(iii) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile charge for each HCPCS dental code.

(i) Averaging methodology. The average charge for any particular HCPCS dental code is calculated by first computing a preliminary mean average of the three charges for each code. Statistical outliers are identified and removed by testing whether any charge differs from the preliminary mean charge by more than 50 percent of the preliminary mean charge. In such cases, the charge most distant from the preliminary mean is removed as an outlier, and the average charge is calculated as a mean of the two remaining charges. In cases where none of the charges differ from the preliminary mean charge by more than 50 percent of the preliminary mean charge, the average charge is calculated as a mean of all three reported charges.

(ii) Nationwide 80th percentile charges for HCPCS dental codes designated as unlisted procedures. For HCPCS dental codes designated as unlisted procedures, 80th percentile charges are developed based on the weighted median 80th percentile charge of HCPCS dental codes within the series in which the unlisted procedure code occurs. The distribution of procedures and services from the Prevailing Healthcare Charges System nationwide commercial insurance database is used for the purpose of computing the weighted median.

(iii) Trending forward. 80th percentile charges for each dental procedure code, obtained as described in paragraph (h)(2) of this section, are trended forward based on the dental services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges.

(3) Geographic area adjustment factors. A geographic adjustment factor (consisting of the ratio of the level of charges in a given geographic area to the nationwide level of charges) for each geographic area and dental class of service is obtained from Milliman USA, Inc., Dental Health Cost Guidelines, a database of nationwide commercial insurance charges and relative costs; and a normalized geographic adjustment factor computed from the Dental UCR Module of the Comprehensive Healthcare Payment System compiled by Ingenix, as follows: Using local and nationwide average charges reported in the Ingenix data, a local weighted average charge for each dental class of procedure codes is calculated using utilization frequencies from the Milliman USA, Inc., Dental Health Cost Guidelines as weights (see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources). Similarly, using nationwide average charge levels, a nationwide average charge by dental class of procedure codes is calculated. The normalized geographic adjustment factor for each dental class of procedure codes and for each geographic area is the ratio of the local average charge divided by the corresponding nationwide average charge. Finally, the geographic area adjustment factor is the arithmetic average of the corresponding factors from the data sources mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph (h)(3).

(i) Pathology and laboratory charges. When VA provides or furnishes pathology and laboratory services within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. Pathology and laboratory charges consist of charges for services that vary by geographic area and by CPT/HCPCS code. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each CPT/HCPCS code, multiply the total geographically-adjusted RVUs determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(2) of this section by the applicable geographically-adjusted conversion factor (a monetary amount) determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(3) of this section to obtain the pathology/laboratory charge for each CPT/HCPCS code in a particular geographic area.

(2)(i) Total geographically-adjusted RVUs for pathology and laboratory services that have Medicare-based RVUs. Total RVUs are developed based on the Medicare Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLAB). The CLAB payment amounts are upwardly adjusted such that the adjusted payment amounts are, on average, equivalent to Medicare Physician Fee Schedule payment levels, using statistical comparisons to the 80th percentile derived from the MDR database. These adjusted payment amounts are then divided by the corresponding Medicare conversion factor to derive RVUs for each CPT/HCPCS code. The resulting nationwide total RVUs are multiplied by the geographic adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(2)(iv) of this section to obtain the area-specific total RVUs.

(ii) RVUs for CPT/HCPCS codes that do not have Medicare-based RVUs and are not designated as unlisted procedures. For CPT/HCPCS codes that are not assigned RVUs in paragraphs (i)(2)(i) or (i)(2)(iii) of this section, total RVUs are developed based on various charge data sources. For these CPT/HCPCS codes, the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges are obtained, where statistically credible, from the MDR database. For any remaining CPT/HCPCS codes, the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges are obtained, where statistically credible, from the Part B component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. For any remaining CPT/HCPCS codes, the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges are obtained, where statistically credible, from the Prevailing Healthcare Charges System nationwide commercial insurance database. For each of these CPT/HCPCS codes, nationwide total RVUs are obtained by taking the nationwide 80th percentile billed charges obtained using the preceding three databases and dividing by the untrended nationwide conversion factor determined pursuant to paragraphs (i)(3) and (i)(3)(i) of this section. For any remaining CPT/HCPCS codes that have not been assigned RVUs using the preceding data sources, the nationwide total RVUs are calculated by summing the work expense and non-facility practice expense RVUs found in Ingenix/St. Anthony's RBRVS. The resulting nationwide total RVUs obtained using these four data sources are multiplied by the geographic area adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(2)(iv) of this section to obtain the area-specific total RVUs.

(iii) RVUs for CPT/HCPCS codes designated as unlisted procedures. For CPT/HCPCS codes designated as unlisted procedures, total RVUs are developed based on the weighted median of the total RVUs of CPT/HCPCS codes within the series in which the unlisted procedure code occurs. A nationwide VA distribution of procedures and services is used for the purpose of computing the weighted median. The resulting nationwide total RVUs are multiplied by the geographic area adjustment factors determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(2)(iv) of this section to obtain the area-specific total RVUs.

(iv) RVU geographic area adjustment factors for CPT/HCPCS codes that do not have Medicare RVUs, including codes that are designated as unlisted procedures. The adjustment factor for each geographic area consists of the weighted average of the work expense and practice expense Medicare Geographic Practice Cost Indices for each geographic area using charge data for representative CPT/HCPCS codes statistically selected and weighted for work expense and practice expense.

(3) Geographically-adjusted 80th percentile conversion factors. Representative CPT/HCPCS codes are statistically selected and weighted so as to give a weighted average RVU comparable to the weighted average RVU of the entire pathology/laboratory CPT/HCPCS code group (the selected CPT/HCPCS codes are set forth in the Milliman USA, Inc., Health Cost Guidelines fee survey). The 80th percentile charge for each selected CPT/HCPCS code is obtained from the MDR database. A nationwide conversion factor (a monetary amount) is calculated as set forth in paragraph (i)(3)(i) of this section. The nationwide conversion factor is trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (i)(3)(ii) of this section. The resulting amount is multiplied by a geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(3)(iv) of this section, resulting in the geographically-adjusted 80th percentile conversion factor for the effective charge period.

(i) Nationwide conversion factors. Using the nationwide 80th percentile charges for the selected CPT/HCPCS codes from paragraph (i)(3) of this section, a nationwide conversion factor is calculated by dividing the weighted average charge by the weighted average RVU.

(ii) Trending forward. The nationwide conversion factor, obtained as described in paragraph (i)(3) of this section, is trended forward based on changes to the physicians' services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the pathology/laboratory conversion factor.

(iii) Geographic area adjustment factor. Using the 80th percentile charges for the selected CPT/HCPCS codes from paragraph (i)(3) of this section for each geographic area, a geographic area-specific conversion factor is calculated by dividing the weighted average charge by the weighted average geographically-adjusted RVU. The resulting geographic area conversion factor is divided by the corresponding nationwide conversion factor determined pursuant to paragraph (i)(3)(i) of this section. The resulting ratios are the geographic area adjustment factors for pathology and laboratory services for each geographic area.

(j) Observation care facility charges. When VA provides observation care within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the facility charges billed for such care will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. The charges for this care vary by geographic area and number of hours of care. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each occurrence of observation care, add the nationwide base charge determined pursuant to paragraph (j)(2) of this section to the product of the number of hours in observation care and the hourly charge also determined pursuant to paragraph (j)(2) of this section. Then multiply this amount by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (j)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific observation care facility charge.

(2)(i) Nationwide 80th percentile observation care facility charges. To calculate nationwide base and hourly facility charges, all claims with observation care line items are selected from the outpatient facility component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. Then, using the 80th percentile observation line item charges for each unique hourly length of stay, a standard linear regression technique is used to calculate the nationwide 80th percentile base charge and 80th percentile hourly charge. Finally, the resulting amounts are each trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (j)(2)(ii) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile base and hourly facility charges for observation care.

(ii) Trending forward. The nationwide 80th percentile base and hourly facility charges for observation care, obtained as described in paragraph (j)(2)(i) of this section, are trended forward based on changes to the outpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges.

(3) Geographic area adjustment factors. The geographic area adjustment factors for observation care facility charges are the same as those computed for outpatient facility charges under paragraph (e)(4) of this section.

(k) Ambulance and other emergency transportation charges. When VA provides ambulance and other emergency transportation services that are within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the charges billed for such services will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. The charges for these services vary by HCPCS code, length of trip, and geographic area. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each occasion of ambulance or other emergency transportation service, add the nationwide base charge for the appropriate HCPCS code determined pursuant to paragraph (k)(2)(i) of this section to the product of the number of miles traveled and the appropriate HCPCS code mileage charge determined pursuant to paragraph (k)(2)(ii) of this section. Then multiply this amount by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (k)(3) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific ambulance or other emergency transportation service charge.

(2)(i) Nationwide 80th percentile all-inclusive base charge. To calculate a nationwide all-inclusive base charge, all ambulance and other emergency transportation claims are selected from the outpatient facility component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. Excluding professional and mileage charges, as well as all-inclusive charges which are reported on such claims, the total charge per claim, including incidental supplies, is computed. Then, the 80th percentile amount for each HCPCS code is computed. Finally, the resulting amounts are each trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (k)(2)(iii) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile all-inclusive base charge for each HCPCS base charge code.

(ii) Nationwide 80th percentile mileage charge. To calculate a nationwide mileage charge, all ambulance and other emergency transportation claims are selected from the outpatient facility component of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample. Excluding professional, incidental, and base charges, as well as claims with all-inclusive charges, the total mileage charge per claim is computed. This amount is divided by the number of miles reported on the claim. Then, the 80th percentile amount for each HCPCS code, using miles as weights, is computed. Finally, the resulting amounts are each trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (k)(2)(iii) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile mileage charge for each HCPCS mileage code.

(iii) Trending forward. The nationwide 80th percentile charge for each HCPCS code, obtained as described in paragraphs (k)(2)(i) and (k)(2)(ii) of this section, is trended forward based on changes to the outpatient hospital services component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges.

(3) Geographic area adjustment factors. The geographic area adjustment factors for ambulance and other emergency transportation charges are the same as those computed for outpatient facility charges under paragraph (e)(4) of this section.

(l) Charges for durable medical equipment, drugs, injectables, and other medical services, items, and supplies identified by HCPCS Level II codes. When VA provides DME, drugs, injectables, or other medical services, items, or supplies that are identified by HCPCS Level II codes and that are within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the charges billed for such services, items, and supplies will be determined in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph. The charges for these services, items, and supplies vary by geographic area, by HCPCS code, and by modifier, when applicable. These charges are calculated as follows:

(1) Formula. For each HCPCS code, multiply the nationwide charge determined pursuant to paragraphs (l)(2), (l)(3), and (l)(4) of this section by the appropriate geographic area adjustment factor determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(5) of this section. The result constitutes the area-specific charge.

(2) Nationwide 80th percentile charges for HCPCS codes with RVUs. For each applicable HCPCS code, RVUs are compiled from the data sources set forth in paragraph (l)(2)(i) of this section. The RVUs are multiplied by the charge amount for each incremental RVU determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section, and this amount is added to the fixed charge amount also determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section. Then, for each HCPCS code, this charge is multiplied by the appropriate 80th percentile to median charge ratio determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section. Finally, the resulting amount is trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (l)(2)(iv) of this section to obtain the nationwide 80th percentile charge.

(i) RVUs for DME, drugs, injectables, and other medical services, items, and supplies. For the purpose of the statistical methodology set forth in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section, HCPCS codes are assigned to the following HCPCS code groups. For the HCPCS codes in each group, the RVUs or amounts indicated constitute the RVUs:

(A) Chemotherapy Drugs: Ingenix/St. Anthony's RBRVS Practice Expense RVUs.

(B) Other Drugs: Ingenix/St. Anthony's RBRVS Practice Expense RVUs.

(C) DME—Hospital Beds: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(D) DME—Medical/Surgical Supplies: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(E) DME—Orthotic Devices: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(F) DME—Oxygen and Supplies: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(G) DME—Wheelchairs: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(H) Other DME: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(I) Enteral/Parenteral Supplies: Medicare Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Fee Schedule amounts.

(J) Surgical Dressings and Supplies: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(K) Vision Items—Other Than Lenses: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(L) Vision Items—Lenses: Medicare DME Fee Schedule amounts.

(M) Hearing Items: Ingenix/St. Anthony's RBRVS Practice Expense RVUs.

(ii) Charge amounts. Using combined Part B and DME components of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5% Sample, the median billed charge is calculated for each HCPCS code. A mathematical approximation methodology based on least squares techniques is applied to the RVUs specified for each of the groups set forth in paragraph (l)(2)(i) of this section, yielding two charge amounts for each HCPCS code group: a charge amount per incremental RVU, and a fixed charge amount.

(iii) 80th Percentile to median charge ratios. Two ratios are obtained for each HCPCS code group set forth in paragraph (l)(2)(i) of this section by dividing the weighted average 80th percentile charge by the weighted average median charge derived from two data sources: Medicare data, as represented by the combined Part B and DME components of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5% Sample; and the MDR database. Charge frequencies from the Medicare data are used as weights when calculating all weighted averages. For each HCPCS code group, the smaller of the two ratios is selected as the adjustment from median to 80th percentile charges.

(iv) Trending forward. The charges for each HCPCS code, obtained as described in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section, are trended forward based on changes to the medical care commodities component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of the source data through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges, as described in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section.

(3) Nationwide 80th percentile charges for HCPCS codes without RVUs. For each applicable HCPCS code, 80th percentile charges are extracted from three independent data sources: the MDR database; Medicare, as represented by the combined Part B and DME components of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample; and Milliman USA, Inc., Optimized HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) Data Sets (see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources). Charges from each database are then trended forward to the effective time period for the charges, as set forth in paragraph (l)(3)(i) of this section. Charges for each HCPCS code from each data source are combined into an average 80th percentile charge by means of the methodology set forth in paragraph (l)(3)(ii) of this section. The results constitute the nationwide 80th percentile charge for each applicable HCPCS code.

(i) Trending forward. The charges from each database for each HCPCS code, obtained as described in paragraph (l)(3) of this section, are trended forward based on changes to the medical care commodities component of the CPI-U. Actual CPI-U changes are used from the time period of each source database through the latest available month as of the time the calculations are performed. The three-month average annual trend rate as of the latest available month is then held constant to the midpoint of the calendar year in which the charges are primarily expected to be used. The projected total CPI-U change so obtained is then applied to the 80th percentile charges, as described in paragraph (l)(3) of this section.

(ii) Averaging methodology. The average 80th percentile trended charge for any particular HCPCS code is calculated by first computing a preliminary mean average of the three charges for each HCPCS code. Statistical outliers are identified and removed by testing whether any charge differs from the preliminary mean charge by more than 5 times the preliminary mean charge, or by less than 0.2 times the preliminary mean charge. In such cases, the charge most distant from the preliminary mean is removed as an outlier, and the average charge is calculated as a mean of the two remaining charges. In cases where none of the charges differ from the preliminary mean charge by more than 5 times the preliminary mean charge, or less than 0.2 times the preliminary mean charge, the average charge is calculated as a mean of all three reported charges.

(4) Nationwide 80th percentile charges for HCPCS codes designated as unlisted or unspecified. For HCPCS codes designated as unlisted or unspecified procedures, services, items, or supplies, 80th percentile charges are developed based on the weighted median 80th percentile charges of HCPCS codes within the series in which the unlisted or unspecified code occurs. A nationwide VA distribution of procedures, services, items, and supplies is used for the purpose of computing the weighted median.

(5) Geographic area adjustment factors. For the purpose of geographic adjustment, HCPCS codes are combined into two groups: drugs and DME/supplies, as set forth in paragraph (l)(5)(i) of this section. The geographic area adjustment factor for each of these groups is calculated as the ratio of the area-specific weighted average charge determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(5)(ii) of this section divided by the nationwide weighted average charge determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(5)(iii) of this section.

(i) Combined HCPCS code groups for geographic area adjustment factors for DME, drugs, injectables, and other medical services, items, and supplies. For the purpose of the statistical methodology set forth in paragraph (l)(5) of this section, each of the HCPCS code groups set forth in paragraph (l)(2)(i) of this section is assigned to one of two combined HCPCS code groups, as follows:

(A) Chemotherapy Drugs: Drugs.

(B) Other Drugs: Drugs.

(C) DME—Hospital Beds: DME/supplies.

(D) DME—Medical/Surgical Supplies: DME/supplies.

(E) DME—Orthotic Devices: DME/supplies.

(F) DME—Oxygen and Supplies: DME/supplies.

(G) DME—Wheelchairs: DME/supplies.

(H) Other DME: DME/supplies.

(I) Enteral/Parenteral Supplies: DME/supplies.

(J) Surgical Dressings and Supplies: DME/supplies.

(K) Vision Items—Other Than Lenses: DME/supplies.

(L) Vision Items—Lenses: DME/supplies.

(M) Hearing Items: DME/supplies.

(ii) Area-specific weighted average charges. Using the median charges by HCPCS code from the MDR database for each geographic area and utilization frequencies by HCPCS code from the combined Part B and DME components of the Medicare Standard Analytical File 5 percent Sample, an area-specific weighted average charge is calculated for each combined HCPCS code group.

(iii) Nationwide weighted average charges. Using the area-specific weighted average charges determined pursuant to paragraph (l)(5)(ii) of this section, a nationwide weighted average charge is calculated for each combined HCPCS code group, using as weights the population (census) frequencies for each geographic area as presented in the Milliman USA, Inc., Health Cost Guidelines (see paragraph (a)(3) of this section for Data Sources).

(m) Charges for prescription drugs not administered during treatment. Notwithstanding other provisions of this section regarding VA charges, when VA provides or furnishes prescription drugs not administered during treatment, within the scope of care referred to in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, charges billed separately for such prescription drugs will consist of the amount that equals the total of the actual cost to VA for the drugs and the national average of VA administrative costs associated with dispensing the drugs for each prescription. The actual VA cost of a drug will be the actual amount expended by the VA facility for the purchase of the specific drug. The administrative cost will be determined annually using VA's managerial cost accounting system. Under this accounting system, the average administrative cost is determined by adding the total VA national drug general overhead costs (such as costs of buildings and maintenance, utilities, billing, and collections) to the total VA national drug dispensing costs (such as costs of the labor of the pharmacy department, packaging, and mailing) with the sum divided by the actual number of VA prescriptions filled nationally. Based on this accounting system, VA will determine the amount of the average administrative cost annually for the prior fiscal year (October through September) and then apply the charge at the start of the next calendar year.

Note to §17.101: The charges generated by the methodology set forth in this section are the same charges prescribed by the Office of Management and Budget for use under the Federal Medical Care Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. 2651-2653.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 101, 501, 1701, 1705, 1710, 1720D, 1720E, 1721, 1722, 1729)

(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection requirements in this section under control number 2900-0606)

[68 FR 70715, Dec. 19, 2003, as amended at 69 FR 1061, Jan. 7, 2004; 72 FR 68072, Dec. 4, 2007; 75 FR 61623, Oct. 6, 2010; 83 FR 31454, July 6, 2018; 85 FR 53176, Aug. 28, 2020]

§17.102   Charges for care or services.

Except as provided in §17.101, charges at the indicated rates shall be made for Department of Veterans Affairs hospital care or medical services (including, but not limited to, dental services, supplies, medicines, orthopedic and prosthetic appliances, and domiciliary or nursing home care) as follows:

(a) Furnished in error or on tentative eligibility. Charges at rates prescribed by the Under Secretary for Health shall be made for inpatient or outpatient care or services (including domiciliary care) authorized for any person on the basis of eligibility as a veteran or a tentative eligibility determination under §17.34 but he or she was subsequently found to have been ineligible for such care or services as a veteran because the military service or any other eligibility requirement was not met, or

(b) Furnished in a medical emergency. Charges at rates prescribed by the Under Secretary for Health shall be made for any inpatient or outpatient care or services rendered any person in a medical emergency who was not eligible for such care or services as a veteran, if:

(1) The care or services were rendered as a humanitarian service, under §17.43(b)(1) or §17.95 to a person neither claiming eligibility as a veteran nor for whom the establishment of eligibility as a veteran was expected, or

(2) The person for whom care or services were rendered was a Department of Veterans Affairs employee or a member of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee's family; or

(c) Furnished beneficiaries of the Department of Defense or other Federal agencies. Except as provided for in paragraph (f) of this section and the second sentence of this paragraph, charges at rates prescribed by the Office of Management and Budget shall be made for any inpatient or outpatient care or services authorized for a member of the Armed Forces on active duty or for any beneficiary or designee of any other Federal agency. Charges for services provided a member or former member of a uniformed service who is entitled to retired or retainer pay, or equivalent pay, will be at rates prescribed by the Secretary (E.O. 11609, dated July 22, 1971, 36 FR 13747), or

(d) Furnished pensioners of allied nations. Charges at rates prescribed by the Under Secretary for Health shall be made for any inpatient or outpatient care or services rendered a pensioner of a nation allied with the United States in World War I and World War II; or

(e) Furnished under sharing agreements. Charges at rates agreed upon in an agreement for sharing specialized medical resources shall be made for all medical care or services, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, rendered to a person designated by the other party to the agreement as a patient to be benefited under the agreement; or

(f) Furnished military retirees with chronic disability. Charges for subsistence at rates prescribed by the Under Secretary for Health shall be made for the period during which hospital care is rendered when such care is rendered to a member or former member of the Armed Forces required to pay the subsistence rate under §17.47 (b)(2) and (c)(2).

(g) Furnished for research purposes. Charges will not be made for medical services, including transportation, furnished as part of an approved Department of Veterans Affairs research project, except that if the services are furnished to a person who is not eligible for the services as a veteran, the medical care appropriation shall be reimbursed from the research appropriation at the same rates used for billings under paragraph (b) of this section.

(h) Computation of charges. The method for computing the charges under §17.86 and under paragraphs (a), (b), (d), (f), and (g) and the last sentence of paragraph (c) of this section is based on the Monthly Program Cost Report (MPCR), which sets forth the actual basic costs and per diem rates by type of inpatient care, and actual basic costs and rates for outpatient care visits or prescriptions filled. Factors for depreciation of buildings and equipment and Central Office overhead are added, based on accounting manual instructions. Additional factors are added for interest on capital investment and for standard fringe benefit costs covering government employee retirement and disability costs. The current year billing rates are projected on prior year actual rates by applying the budgeted percentage increase. In addition, based on the detail available in the MPCR, VA intends to, on each bill break down the all-inclusive rate into its three principal components; namely, physician cost, ancillary services cost, and nursing, room and board cost. The rates generated by the foregoing methodology will be published by either VA or OMB in the ‘Notices’ section of the Federal Register.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 1729; sec. 19013, Pub. L. 99-272)

[32 FR 11382, Aug. 5, 1967, as amended at 34 FR 7807, May 16, 1969; 35 FR 11470, July 17, 1970; 36 FR 18794, Sept. 22, 1971; 47 FR 50861, Nov. 10, 1982; 47 FR 58249, Dec.30, 1982; 52 FR 3010, Jan. 30, 1987. Redesignated and amended at 61 FR 21965, 21967, May 13, 1996; 62 FR 17072, Apr. 9, 1997. Redesignated and amended at 64 FR 22678, 22683, Apr. 27, 1999; 69 FR 1061, Jan. 7, 2004; 73 FR 26946, May 12, 2008]

§17.103   Referrals of compromise settlement offers.

Any offer to compromise or settle any charges or claim for $20,000 or less asserted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in connection with the medical program shall be referred as follows:

(a) To Chief Financial Officers of the Consolidated Patient Account Centers. If the debt represents charges made under §§17.108, 17.110, or 17.111, the compromise offer shall be referred to the Chief Financial Officer of the Consolidated Patient Account Center (CPAC) for application of the collection standards in §1.900 et seq. of this chapter, provided:

(1) The debt does not exceed $1,000, and

(2) There has been a previous denial of waiver of the debt by the CPAC Committee on Waivers and Compromises.

(b) To Regional Counsel. If the debt in any amount represents charges for medical services for which there is or may be a claim against a third party tort-feasor or under workers' compensation laws or Pub. L. 87-693; 76 Stat. 593 (see §1.903 of this chapter) or involves a claim contemplated by §1.902 of this chapter over which the Department of Veterans Affairs lacks jurisdiction, the compromise offer (or request for waiver or proposal to terminate or suspend collection action) shall be promptly referred to the field station Regional Counsel having jurisdiction in the area in which the claim arose, or

(c) To Committee on Waivers and Compromises. If one of the following situations contemplated in paragraph (c)(1) through (3) of this section applies

(1) If the debt represents charges made under §17.101(a), but is not of a type contemplated in paragraph (a) of this section, or

(2) If the debt represents charges for medical services made under §17.101(b), or

(3) A claim arising in connection with any transaction of the Veterans Health Administration for which the instructions in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section or in §17.105(c) are not applicable, then, the compromise offer should be referred for disposition under §1.900 et seq. of this chapter to the field station Committee on Waivers and Compromises which shall take final action.

[39 FR 26403, July 19, 1974, as amended at 47 FR 58250, Dec. 30, 1982. Redesignated and amended at 61 FR 21966, 21967, May 13, 1996; 62 FR 17072, Apr. 9, 1997; 80 FR 23241, Apr. 27, 2015]

§17.104   Terminations and suspensions.

Any proposal to suspend or terminate collection action on any charges or claim for $20,000 or less asserted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in connection with the medical program shall be referred as follows:

(a) Of charges for medical services. If the debt represents charges made under §§17.108, 17.110, or 17.111 questions concerning suspension or termination of collection action shall be referred to the Chief Financial Officer of the Consolidated Patient Account Center for application of the collection standards in §1.900 et seq. of this chapter, or

(b) Of other debts. If the debt is of a type other than those contemplated in paragraph (a) of this section, questions concerning suspension or termination of collection action shall be referred in accordance with the same referral procedures for compromise offers (except the Fiscal activity shall make final determinations in terminations or suspensions involving claims of $150 or less pursuant to the provisions of §1.900 et seq. of this chapter.)

[34 FR 7807, May 16, 1969, as amended at 39 FR 26403, July 19, 1974. Redesignated and amended at 61 FR 21966, 21967, May 13, 1996; 80 FR 23241, Apr. 27, 2015]

§17.105   Waivers.

Applications or requests for waiver of debts or claims asserted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in connection with the medical program generally will be denied by the facility Fiscal activity on the basis there is no legal authority to waive debts, unless the question of waiver should be referred as follows:

(a) Of charges for medical services. If the debt represents charges made under §17.102, the application or request for waiver should be referred for disposition under §1.900 et seq. of this chapter to the field facility Committee on Waivers and Compromises which shall take final action, or

(b) Of claims against third persons and other claims. If the debt is of a type contemplated in §17.103(b), the waiver question should be referred in accordance with the same referral procedures for compromise offers in such categories of claims, or

(c) Of charges for copayments. If the debt represents charges for outpatient medical care, inpatient hospital care, medication or extended care services copayments made under §§17.108, 17.110, 17.111, or 17.4600, the claimant must request a waiver by submitting VA Form 5655 (Financial Status Report) to the Consolidated Patient Account Center (CPAC) Chief Financial Officer. The claimant must submit this form within the time period provided in §1.963(b) of this chapter and may request a hearing under §1.966(a) of this chapter. The CPAC Chief Financial Officer may extend the time period for submitting a claim if the Chairperson of the Committee on Waivers and Compromises could do so under §1.963(b) of this chapter. The CPAC Chief Financial Officer will apply the standard “equity and good conscience” in accordance with §§1.965 and 1.966(a) of this chapter, and may waive all or part of the claimant's debts. A decision by the CPAC Chief Financial Officer under this provision is final (except that the decision may be reversed or modified based on new and material evidence, fraud, a change in law or interpretation of law, or clear and unmistakable error shown by the evidence in the file at the time of the prior decision as provided in §1.969 of this chapter) and may be appealed in accordance with 38 CFR parts 19 and 20.

(d) Other debts. If the debt represents any claim or charges other than those contemplated in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, and is a debt for which waiver has been specifically provided for by law or under the terms of a contract, initial action shall be taken at the station level for referral of the request for waiver through channels for action by the appropriate designated official. If, however, the question of waiver may also involve a concurrent opportunity to negotiate a compromise settlement, the application shall be referred to the Committee on Waivers and Compromises.

(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection requirements in this section under control number 2900-0165)

[39 FR 26403, July 19, 1974. Redesignated and amended at 61 FR 21966, 21967, May 13, 1996; 69 FR 62204, Oct. 25, 2004; 80 FR 23241, Apr. 27, 2015; 84 FR 26017, June 5, 2019]

§17.106   VA collection rules; third-party payers.

(a)(1) General rule. VA has the right to recover or collect reasonable charges from a third-party payer for medical care and services provided for a nonservice-connected disability in or through any VA facility to a veteran who is also a beneficiary under the third-party payer's plan. VA's right to recover or collect is limited to the extent that the beneficiary or a nongovernment provider of care or services would be eligible to receive reimbursement or indemnification from the third-party payer if the beneficiary were to incur the costs on the beneficiary's own behalf.

(2) Definitions. For the purposes of this section:

Automobile liability insurance means insurance against legal liability for health and medical expenses resulting from personal injuries arising from operation of a motor vehicle. Automobile liability insurance includes:

(A) Circumstances in which liability benefits are paid to an injured party only when the insured party's tortious acts are the cause of the injuries; and

(B) Uninsured and underinsured coverage, in which there is a third-party tortfeasor who caused the injuries (i.e., benefits are not paid on a no-fault basis), but the insured party is not the tortfeasor.

Health-plan contract means any plan, policy, program, contract, or liability arrangement that provides compensation, coverage, or indemnification for expenses incurred by a beneficiary for medical care or services, items, products, and supplies. It includes but is not limited to:

(A) Any plan offered by an insurer, reinsurer, employer, corporation, organization, trust, organized health care group or other entity.

(B) Any plan for which the beneficiary pays a premium to an issuing agent as well as any plan to which the beneficiary is entitled as a result of employment or membership in or association with an organization or group.

(C) Any Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA) plan.

(D) Any Multiple Employer Trust (MET).

(E) Any Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA).

(F) Any Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan, including any such plan with a point-of-service provision or option.

(G) Any individual practice association (IPA) plan.

(H) Any exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan.

(I) Any physician hospital organization (PHO) plan.

(J) Any integrated delivery system (IDS) plan.

(K) Any management service organization (MSO) plan.

(L) Any group or individual medical services account.

(M) Any participating provider organization (PPO) plan or any PPO provision or option of any third-party payer plan.

(N) Any Medicare supplemental insurance plan.

(O) Any automobile liability insurance plan.

(P) Any no fault insurance plan, including any personal injury protection plan or medical payments benefit plan for personal injuries arising from the operation of a motor vehicle.

Medicare supplemental insurance plan means an insurance, medical service or health-plan contract primarily for the purpose of supplementing an eligible person's benefit under Medicare. The term has the same meaning as “Medicare supplemental policy” in section 1882(g)(1) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395, et seq.) and 42 CFR part 403, subpart B.

No-fault insurance means an insurance contract providing compensation for medical expenses relating to personal injury arising from the operation of a motor vehicle in which the compensation is not premised on who may have been responsible for causing such injury. No-fault insurance includes personal injury protection and medical payments benefits in cases involving personal injuries resulting from operation of a motor vehicle.

Participating provider organization means any arrangement in a third-party payer plan under which coverage is limited to services provided by a select group of providers who are members of the PPO or incentives (for example, reduced copayments) are provided for beneficiaries under the plan to receive health care services from the members of the PPO rather than from other providers who, although authorized to be paid, are not included in the PPO. However, a PPO does not include any organization that is recognized as a health maintenance organization.

Third-party payer means an entity, other than the person who received the medical care or services at issue (first party) and VA who provided the care or services (second party), responsible for the payment of medical expenses on behalf of a person through insurance, agreement or contract. This term includes, but is not limited to the following:

(A) State and local governments that provide such plans other than Medicaid.

(B) Insurance underwriters or carriers.

(C) Private employers or employer groups offering self-insured or partially self-insured medical service or health plans.

(D) Automobile liability insurance underwriter or carrier.

(E) No fault insurance underwriter or carrier.

(F) Workers' compensation program or plan sponsor, underwriter, carrier, or self-insurer.

(G) Any other plan or program that is designed to provide compensation or coverage for expenses incurred by a beneficiary for healthcare services or products.

(H) A third-party administrator.

(b) Calculating reasonable charges. (1) The “reasonable charges” subject to recovery or collection by VA under this section are calculated using the applicable method for such charges established by VA in 38 CFR 17.101.

(2) If the third-party payer's plan includes a requirement for a deductible or copayment by the beneficiary of the plan, VA will recover or collect reasonable charges less that deductible or copayment amount.

(c) VA's right to recover or collect is exclusive. The only way for a third-party payer to satisfy its obligation under this section is to pay the VA facility or other authorized representative of the United States. Payment by a third-party payer to the beneficiary does not satisfy the third-party's obligation under this section.

(1) Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 1729(b)(2), the United States may file a claim or institute and prosecute legal proceedings against a third-party payer to enforce a right of the United States under 38 U.S.C. 1729 and this section. Such filing or proceedings must be instituted within six years after the last day of the provision of the medical care or services for which recovery or collection is sought.

(2) An authorized representative of the United States may compromise, settle or waive a claim of the United States under this section.

(3) The remedies authorized for collection of indebtedness due the United States under 31 U.S.C. 3701, et seq., 28 CFR part 11, 31 CFR parts 900 through 904 and 38 CFR part 1, are available to effect collections under this section.

(4) A third-party payer may not, without the consent of a U.S. Government official authorized to take action under 38 U.S.C. 1729 and this part, offset or reduce any payment due under 38 U.S.C. 1729 or this part on the grounds that the payer considers itself due a refund from a VA facility. A written request for a refund must be submitted and adjudicated separately from any other claims submitted to the third-party payer under 38 U.S.C. 1729 or this part.

(d) Assignment of benefits or other submission by beneficiary not necessary. The obligation of the third-party payer to pay is not dependent upon the beneficiary executing an assignment of benefits to the United States. Nor is the obligation to pay dependent upon any other submission by the beneficiary to the third-party payer, including any claim or appeal. In any case in which VA makes a claim, appeal, representation, or other filing under the authority of this part, any procedural requirement in any third-party payer plan for the beneficiary of such plan to make the claim, appeal, representation, or other filing must be deemed to be satisfied. A copy of the completed VA Form 10-10EZ or VA Form 10-10EZR that includes a veteran's insurance declaration will be provided to payers upon request, in lieu of a claimant's statement or coordination of benefits form.

(e) Preemption of conflicting State laws and contracts. Any provision of a law or regulation of a State or political subdivision thereof and any provision of any contract or agreement that purports to establish any requirement on a third-party payer that would have the effect of excluding from coverage or limiting payment for any medical care or services for which payment by the third-party payer under 38 U.S.C. 1729 or this part is required, is preempted by 38 U.S.C. 1729(f) and shall have no force or effect in connection with the third-party payer's obligations under 38 U.S.C. 1729 or this part.

(f) Impermissible exclusions by third-party payers. (1) Statutory requirement. Under 38 U.S.C. 1729(f), no provision of any third-party payer's plan having the effect of excluding from coverage or limiting payment for certain care if that care is provided in or through any VA facility shall operate to prevent collection by the United States.

(2) General rules. The following are general rules for the administration of 38 U.S.C. 1729 and this part, with examples provided for clarification. The examples provided are not exclusive. A third-party payer may not reduce, offset, or request a refund for payments made to VA under the following conditions:

(i) Express exclusions or limitations in third-party payer plans that are inconsistent with 38 U.S.C. 1729 are inoperative. For example, a provision in a third-party payer's plan that purports to disallow or limit payment for services provided by a government entity or paid for by a government program (or similar exclusion) is not a permissible ground for refusing or reducing third-party payment.

(ii) No objection, precondition or limitation may be asserted that defeats the statutory purpose of collecting from third-party payers. For example, a provision in a third-party payer's plan that purports to disallow or limit payment for services for which the patient has no obligation to pay (or similar exclusion) is not a permissible ground for refusing or reducing third-party payment.

(iii) Third-party payers may not treat claims arising from services provided in or through VA facilities less favorably than they treat claims arising from services provided in other hospitals. For example, no provision of an employer sponsored program or plan that purports to make ineligible for coverage individuals who are eligible to receive VA medical care and services shall be permissible.

(iv) The lack of a participation agreement or the absence of privity of contract between a third-party payer and VA is not a permissible ground for refusing or reducing third-party payment.

(v) A provision in a third-party payer plan, other than a Medicare supplemental plan, that seeks to make Medicare the primary payer and the plan the secondary payer or that would operate to carve out of the plan's coverage an amount equivalent to the Medicare payment that would be made if the services were provided by a provider to whom payment would be made under Part A or Part B of Medicare is not a permissible ground for refusing or reducing payment as the primary payer to VA by the third-party payer unless the provision expressly disallows payment as the primary payer to all providers to whom payment would not be made under Medicare (including payment under Part A, Part B, a Medicare HMO, or a Medicare Advantage plan).

(vi) A third-party payer may not refuse or reduce third-party payment to VA because VA's claim form did not report hospital acquired conditions (HAC) or present on admission conditions (POA). VA is exempt from the Medicare Inpatient prospective payment system and the Medicare rules for reporting POA or HAC information to third-party payers.

(vii) Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) may not exclude claims or refuse to certify emergent and urgent services provided within the HMO's service area or otherwise covered non-emergency services provided out of the HMO's service area. In addition, opt-out or point-of-service options available under an HMO plan may not exclude services otherwise payable under 38 U.S.C. 1729 or this part.

(viii) A third party may not reduce or refuse payment if the facility where the medical treatment was furnished is designated by VA as provider-based, but the facility does not meet the provider-based status requirements under 42 CFR 413.65.

(g) Records. Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 1729(h), VA shall make available for inspection and review to representatives of third-party payers, from which the United States seeks payment, recovery, or collection under 38 U.S.C. 1729, appropriate health care records (or copies of such records) of patients. However, the appropriate records will be made available only for the purposes of verifying the care and services which are the subject of the claim(s) for payment under 38 U.S.C. 1729, and for verifying that the care and services met the permissible criteria of the terms and conditions of the third-party payer's plan. Patient care records will not be made available under any other circumstances to any other entity. VA will not make available to a third-party payer any other patient or VA records.

(Authority: 31 U.S.C. 3711, 38 U.S.C. 501, 1729, 42 U.S.C. 2651)

[76 FR 37204, June 24, 2011, as amended at 79 FR 54616, Sept. 12, 2014; 85 FR 53176, Aug. 28, 2020]

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