Moving the HME Industry Forward

General Healthcare

Centralized Intake Call Center

April 11, 2016

AMARILLO, TX – In today’s environment, the DME supplier has no choice but to streamline its operation. One way to accomplish this is for the supplier to centralize its intake operations. Let’s look at a supplier that is organized as a legal entity with a single tax identification number (“Tax ID”) and with multiple locations.

Assume that each location has its own PTAN. The various locations route received telephone calls to a designated main location. Personnel at the main location perform eligibility checks and verify a beneficiary’s qualifications for the equipment. Physicians fax orders for equipment to a centralized fax number associated with the main location.

The issue of a centralized intake center, or call center, implicates the DMEPOS Quality Standards.1 With regard to the Quality Standards, a supplier is responsible for performing “intake and assessment.” The NSC has stated, in other context, that a supplier may not subcontract out or otherwise delegate to a third party its intake and assessment responsibilities. Unfortunately, neither CMS nor the NSC has issued additional significant guidance regarding what constitutes “intake and assessment.”  

Based on a review of the limited Medicare guidelines available and informal guidance from the NSC, locations sharing the same Tax ID are likely to be considered the same supplier and, therefore, may centralize their intake operations at a single location if the following policies and/or procedures are implemented:

• Each separate location must maintain its own local telephone number.
• Calls to a location’s local telephone number must allow a beneficiary to speak with a live representative at that location, if so desired by the beneficiary.  
• At the time of intake, the beneficiary will be assigned to the nearest supplier location, as determined by the beneficiary’s zip code.
• Intake personnel at the centralized call center or the main location must advise the beneficiary that the aforementioned nearest supplier location will be his or her supplier with regards to the equipment.    
• The location that dispenses the equipment must be the one that bills Medicare for the item using its PTAN.
• Paperwork provided to the beneficiary from the entity must clearly indicate the particular location from which the equipment will be dispensed.
• The equipment being dispensed must come from the inventory of the location that sets up the beneficiary.
• If necessary, the beneficiary must go to the particular location that dispensed the equipment for any service or repair.  

The analysis is limited to the centralization of intake operations among locations that share the same Tax ID under a single entity. In circumstances involving entities or locations with two or more distinct Tax IDs, such entities or locations are considered to be separate suppliers. Accordingly, to reduce the risk of violating the Quality Standards, additional procedures should be implemented if establishing a centralized intake or call center for multiple legal entities.

In those situations, in addition to the above provisions, to the extent that the centralized intake or call center obtains or collects eligibility information or other documentation regarding the beneficiary or the order (e.g., medical records), the centralized call center must provide such documentation to the primary supplier prior to furnishing the equipment to the beneficiary. Upon receipt, the primary supplier must review the documentation and independently determine whether there is medical necessity for the item prior to authorizing the centralized call center to furnish the equipment to the beneficiary.  

Joshua Skora will be presenting the following webinar:
After the Purchase is Complete: Transfer of Patient Files, Calling the Seller’s Patients, and Other Hot Button Issues
Presented by: Joshua I. Skora, Esq., Brown & Fortunato, P.C.
Monday, May 9, 2016
2:30-4:00 p.m. EASTERN TIME
Buying and selling a DME supplier is not simple.  In addition to the standard transactional issues (e.g., specific provisions in the Asset Purchase Agreement or Stock Purchase Agreement), there are a number of federal and state regulatory issues that must be addressed. For example, can a Medicare Part B supplier number be transferred?  What about a Medicaid provider number? Must the purchaser obtain new physician orders? New AOBs?  How do the WOPD and face-to-face rules fit in? What type of notice must be given to the seller’s patients?  Can the purchaser simply pick up the phone and call the patients who are transferred to the purchaser? The answers to these questions are impacted by whether the sale is a “stock” sale or an “asset” sale. This program will discuss the multiple regulatory issues that must be addressed when a DME supplier is sold.

Jeffrey S. Baird, JD, is Chairman of the Health Care Group at Brown & Fortunato, PC, a law firm based in Amarillo, Tex. He represents pharmacies, infusion companies, HME companies and other health care providers throughout the United States. Mr. Baird is Board Certified in Health Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and can be reached at (806) 345-6320 or