Eargo Inc. (Eargo), has agreed to pay $34.37 million to resolve allegations that it submitted, or caused the submission of, claims for hearing aid devices for reimbursement to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) that contained unsupported hearing loss diagnosis codes.
The FEHBP, administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), is the largest employer-sponsored group health insurance program in the world. It provides health benefits through various health insurance carriers and covers over eight million federal employees, retirees, former employees, family members, and former spouses.
Certain FEHBP health insurance plans elect to offer a hearing aid benefit, which varies from plan to plan. FEHBP carriers that offer a hearing aid benefit require that claims for hearing aid devices include a hearing loss-related diagnosis code. These diagnosis codes must be supported by a hearing loss diagnosis, which is typically based on a hearing test performed by a health-care provider.
The United States alleged that, from January 1, 2017, through January 31, 2021, Eargo included unsupported hearing loss-related diagnosis codes on claims for hearing aid devices that Eargo submitted to the FEHBP and on invoices—called superbills—that Eargo provided to FEHBP beneficiaries to obtain reimbursement for such devices from the FEHBP.
The United States further alleged that between February 1, 2021, and September 22, 2021, Eargo continued to include these unsupported hearing loss-related diagnosis codes on claims and superbills—even after completing an internal review of its billing and coding practices in January 2021—resulting in Eargo knowingly submitting or causing the submission of false claims for payment to the FEHBP.
U.S. Department of Justice. (2022) Hearing aid company Eargo inc. agrees to pay $34.37 million to settle common law and false claims act allegations for unsupported diagnosis codes. Electronically published April 29.
Academy Provides Recommendations to Congress on Remedying Health-Care Workforce Shortages
The American Academy of Audiology responded to a request for information issued by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee seeking input on strategies to remedy current health-care workforce shortages. Academy comments urge congressional leaders to approve federal appropriations to fund the recently enacted Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act (AHWD). This funding would…
Minnesota Becomes First State to Screen for Viral Infection Connected to Newborn Hearing Loss
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) became the first state in the nation to screen all newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), a common viral infection that can have serious health effects for children if not detected early. This common virus can lead to hearing loss in about 20 percent of diagnosed cases. Minnesota passed…
CMS Releases Updated Guidance on AB Modifier
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released further guidance for audiologists on billing for services using the AB modifier for limited direct access. Effective January 1, 2023, the new Medicare policy for limited direct access allows audiologists to see beneficiaries without a physician order for non-acute hearing conditions and to bill 36 CPT codes using…