MAC: If it’s not a signature, don’t write it on Medicare claims

by Roy Edroso on Oct 3, 2016

It’s only one Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) at the moment, but expect others to join this prohibition against handwritten entries on claims.

On Sept. 28, MAC NGS announced that starting Oct. 1, 2016, it would start sending back “any paper claim submitted with handwriting on the face of the claim that does not meet the criteria of being a signature field for Items 12, 13 or 31.”

The notice refers readers to the “Printing Standards and Print File Specifications Form CMS-1500" chapter in the Medicare Claims Processing Manual. Those specifications, NGS notes, “do not provide instructions to submit handwritten claims.” Entries on claims can be typed or computer-generated.

Later NGS sent providers a note clarifying that the the ban applied only to Jurisdiction 6 Part B providers (in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois) but “will eventually apply to Jurisdiction K providers” (New England and New York state).

In the past, MACs have indicated that they would accept handwritten entries — see this September 2015 presentation by Noridian, instructing providers -- if handwritten claims use block letters and numbers (though Noridian did add, “No handwritten corrections”).

Given that handwritten claims are a processing hassle — as expert Terri Bradley told Dentistry IQ in 2015, “Not only do handwritten claim forms delay the processing, when we hand write something we’re relying on someone else to interpret our handwriting and input the information into their system” — expect other MACs to pass a similar prohibition sooner rather than later. 

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