CMS to launch online enrollment system for healthcare providers

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is planning to launch a web-based system for their Medicare practitioner database early next year, allowing doctors and others to complete part of its enrollment process online.

The online portion of the agency’s Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System will be available in all states—except California, Missouri and New York—early in the year, and the remaining states will have access by Oct. 1, 2009, according to CMS.

The officials also proposed changes in the enrollment process, including eliminating a practice that lets Medicare providers bill the agency for services provided up to 27 months before enrolling as official providers, according to Government HealthIT.

However, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) has called the enrollment process broken, “draconian and punitive” and urged CMS to make no changes in it before the online enrollment system is fully implemented.

CMS’ announcement, a 50-page Federal Register notice dated July 7, said that the online system should allow most providers to be enrolled with the Medicare program in 30 to 45 days, compared with the 60 to 90 days it takes with the paper-based system.

The MGMA officials said it can take many more months to enroll. “Despite their best efforts, it has taken quite a few practices well over a year to enroll some providers,” they wrote.

“In this latest attempt to fix the enrollment process, CMS appears to suggest that all problems will be resolved with the advent of the web-based enrollment system,” the letter stated. “After years of promises to resolve the numerous difficulties with the provider enrollment process, this new promise is received by the physician community with much skepticism.”

According to the letter, the agency said it would have a web-based system by March.

MGMA also opposed CMS’ decision not to accept electronic signatures or electronic documents for enrollment applications, Government HealthIT reported. As a result, providers must follow each online enrollment with paper documents sent to the Medicare contractors who process claims and enrollments.

Additionally, each provider seeking to enroll as a Medicare provider must first register in another system, called Individuals Authorized to Access CMS Computer Services, according to the MGMA letter.

This month, CMS released results of its annual survey of healthcare providers’ satisfaction with Medicare contractors. The average score was 4.51 on a scale of 1 to 6, which the agency designated as satisfied. However, the contractors received some of their lowest scores for enrollment processing.