Exclusion Databases: How Difficult Is Screening and Verifying?
I. Which Exclusion Databases Do I Need to Screen?
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommends that you screen your employees, contractors, and vendors every month against the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) and the System for Award Management (SAM). Your State Medicaid director mandates monthly screening of your State exclusion database, in addition to the LEIE and, perhaps, the SAM. In a number of states, when you enroll or re-enroll you have to certify that none of your employees or contractors are excluded from any Federal or State Healthcare Program.
If your State happens to be Texas, you will have to certify that you have conducted an “internal review” to determine if any of your employees or contractors have been excluded from Medicare, any State Healthcare program, or from the CHIP program. Unfortunately, each of the 37 databases to be searched (the LEIE, SAM and 37 States) are “stand alone” databases that are unique in their composition, content and the way they can be screened. This article discusses those differences and the problems associated with them.
II. Screening the LEIE
The LEIE contains approximately 60,000 persons and is updated monthly. It contains identifying information such as the excluded individual’s name, date of birth, provider type, and other information. It is also searchable or downloadable. The LEIE allows a provider to perform a basic name search. It then provides a list of names that match your search. To determine if the potential match is your employee, the database verifies quickly by Social Security Number (SSN). The OIG describes the process in its May, 2013 Advisory Bulletin as a relatively simple one in which providers only have to “review each job category or contractual relationship to determine whether the item or service being provided is directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, payable by a Federal health care program.” If only it was as easy as the OIG makes it sound.
Although the LEIE is “searchable,” it only allows five names to be searched at a time. In addition, potential matches can only be verified individually by entering the social security number. While this is not a problem for a 10-person practice, the difficulty of checking and verifying increases exponentially with a practice of 100, 1000, or even a provider with 5000 employees, such as a hospital.
The alternative of downloading the LEIE database is equally problematic. Most providers simply do not have the capability to download the LEIE (which contains almost 60,000 names), and compare it with their own employee database in any reliable or economically viable way.
We also note that the LEIE’s matching criteria is not exact and often overlooks potential exclusions. For example, there is no mechanism built into the LEIE that will allow a search for “William Smith” to return matches for common alternatives such as “Bill,” “Will,” “Willie” or “Billy” Smith. Finally, one last significant issue is that the guidance by OIG ignores State screening requirements and regulations.
The System for Award Management (SAM) consolidated the Central Contractor Registry (CCR), Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), and Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) into a single database for federal contractors who were debarred, sanctioned, or excluded for contract or other fraud. The consolidation eliminated certain codes, reclassified others, and uses four exclusion classifications: Firm, Individual, Vessel, and Special Entity Designation (a catch-all phrase for an organization that is not considered a firm, individual, or vessel, but nonetheless needs to be excluded).
The SAM consists of almost 126,000 excluded entities and providers. It verifies by EIN, CAGE Code, DUNS, NAICS, or PSC. Excluded individuals are verified by SSN. Similar to the LEIE, the SAM is either searchable or downloadable, but it also presents similar problems. For instance, the name search is limited and must be an exact match, so any slight variation will not return a match.
When verifying an excluded provider on SAM by SSN, you are directed to type your employee’s name and his or her SSN into the boxes provided. The database will then report whether the SSN and the provider’s name are a match in SAM. Unlike the LEIE, SAM matches the exact provider name and SSN to the SAM database names and their associated SSNs. This is a big contrast to the LEIE, since SAM does not pull up a list of every person who matched your query for you to verify individually. As with the LEIE, downloading the entire list of 126,000 names and matching it with a large employee list is beyond the capabilities of most providers.
IV. The States
Even though the States have much smaller exclusion registries, they are even more challenging than both the LEIE and the SAM when it comes to screening and verifying. Each listing is unique and comes in different document formats, with different fields, and contains different information. As a result of these differences, cross-checking names between State and Federal databases is a significant obstacle to overcome.
When it comes to verification, unlike digital verification as with the LEIE or SAM, most states verify excluded providers by email with the provider’s last four digits of his or her SSN. Usually, the email for the State’s contact is listed on the State’s exclusion database website or on the list itself. However, it is not unusual for there to be difficulty in tracking down the responsible person, different persons depending on the nature of the exclusion, or nobody listed at all. In those instances, phone skills and perseverance are required to find the right person to talk to. It can also take from around twenty minutes to several weeks to receive a response as to whether the names and SSNs listed are a match.
V. Screening and Verifying All State Databases
We address why all State and Federal databases should be screened in other blog postings, but it is imperative to note that providers should screen and verify every State database. Section 6501 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that if a provider or entity is excluded under any State Medicaid database, then that provider or entity should be excluded from participating in all States. Accordingly, providers should know how to perform exclusion checks of all State databases.
While Exclusion Screening, LLCSM has compiled all thirty-seven State and Federal databases into our own searchable database for checks and verifications, this step is beyond the IT ability of most providers due to the variety of list formats (PDF, Word, Excel); the differences in information provided within each database (i.e., some States provide first and last names, while other states provide first, last, and middle names; additionally, some States parse the names into different excel fields, while others leave the entire name in one field); and the constant (usually monthly) updates to each State exclusion list.
You can see why the checking and verification process is not as simple as OIG and the States may have suggested. Even though the process is time consuming, it is critical that providers check employees, vendors and contractors against all 40 lists. Failure to properly screen employees and vendors could result in CMP liability of up to $10,000 for each item or service furnished directly or indirectly by an excluded individual. Instead of overburdening your current employees, contact Exclusion Screening, LLCSM today and we will do the heavy lifting for you.
Erin Archer is the author of this article. Feel free to contact us at 1-800-294-0952 or online for a free consultation.
 See, e.g., Texas Admin. Code, Rule § 352.5. An even more exacting obligation is found in Louisiana where provider agreements require applicants to certify that no employees or contractors are currently, nor have ever been, excluded from Medicare, Medicaid or other Health Care Program in any state!
 Unlike the LEIE and some State databases, SAM has only one designated field for the provider’s “name,” instead of parsed “first,” “last,” and “middle” name field options.
 As of this posting, there are thirty-seven separate state listings.
 California and Florida do not verify by SSN.
 42 U.S.C. 1396(a) (2012). Whether an exclusion by one state actually “excludes” an individual from all states or makes him “excludable” from all states is an open question at present, but why take the chance of hiring a person who has been excluded in another State if you don’t have to?