When I announced on my favorite physician Web board that I had mailed discharge letters to five patients solely because they have Medicare my colleagues hailed me as their "hero."
I don't feel like a hero.
I opted out of Medicare years ago, but Medicare requires physicians who have opted out to write a letter reaffirming that status every two years. Last year I realized it might have been four years, so I dashed off a letter and waited. You can imagine my shock when, on February 10, 2012, I opened a letter from "Darla" (no signature or last name) dated August 4, 2011, but with no postmark on the envelope. Darla writes that my "affidavit does not meet CMS requirements." (What affidavit?) She goes on in her 6th grade English: "Opt Out Affidavit was unable to be processed. We did not receive the requested information in a timely manner. A request for information was sent June 13, 2011 to apply for a Type 1 NPI number." (If Darla intends to say Noridian, the Medicare administrator for my area, sent that information to me, I never received it, and I already have some type of NPI number.) Then she writes that I need to use my "Legal Name" when "filling out the information." (How does one "fill out information?")
I called Noridian provider enrollment to investigate. "April" reminded me that treating these Medicare beneficiaries without opting out subjects me to prosecution. I don't want to go to jail, although at least there I might have a right to free medical care.
I sent discharge letters to 5 patients and asked my office manager to call them to warn them in advance. Now I am completing a Medicare DISenrollment form. In the future I will require all new patients to demonstrate that they do NOT have Medicare.