Medicare Part D Audits: Top 11 Areas for Scrutiny

By Karen Blum, Published August 26, 2021 by Specialty Pharmacy Continuum

Medicare Part D pharmacy audits are on the rise, and pharmacists would be wise to adapt their business practices and know how to respond, an audit expert said at the virtual MHA 2021 Business Summit.

“Prior to COVID-19, we’ve seen a nearly 80% increase in audits that pharmacies experience,” said Trenton Thiede, PharmD, MBA, the president of PAAS National®, a pharmacy audit assistance company. These have primarily been from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) but also by plan sponsors and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Dr. Thiede noted. The increase has occurred partly as a result of escalating health care costs and the opioid epidemic, as well as instances of fraud, waste and abuse, he said. There’s been a shift from on-site to more quick turnaround desk audits that try to validate quick outliers, such as high-dollar items or incorrect days’ supply. Nearly one-fourth of desk audits seen by his company now are for these prescription validation requests, he said.

Over the past year, due to COVID-19, many PBMs have conducted virtual audits. These take elements from both on-site and desk audits, Dr. Thiede said, asking compliance questions, requiring photos of the pharmacy area and copies of licenses, as well as requesting copies of prescriptions and signature logs.

Pharmacy owners who don’t perform well on audits face risking their reputation, license, fines and even imprisonment, he said. Financial recoveries are common, but his firm is seeing more and more network terminations due to poor compliance or bad actors.

Overall, pharmacies need the following items to perform well on audits: prescriptions that are legal and valid per state and federal laws, proof of filling and billing accurately, proof of dispensing, proof of copay collection, and documents to prove enough inventory was purchased from an appropriate source.

Common audit discrepancies can occur over items such as missing, invalid or altered prescriptions; unauthorized refills; refilling medication too soon; incorrect dispense-as-written (DAW) codes; missing or invalid signature logs; and issues delivering medication greater than 10 days after the date of fill, Dr. Thiede said.

Dr. Thiede presented the top 11 audit discrepancy areas noted by his firm, and advised how to prepare for them. >>Learn more