Updated on: June 22, 2012

Using RAC Facts to Weather Your Holiday Party

Original story posted on: December 19, 2008

Just in case you find yourself at your spouse’s office holiday party and dreading the fact that you might end up at the buffet table with a total stranger and at a loss of words, here are a few factoid morsels you can casually toss as you swirl your egg nog in a plastic cup.


When you’re asked what line of work you’re in and you say, “healthcare,” you just know you’re going to get that glazed over look. It’s almost as debilitating as seeing the eyes roll back into the forehead.


It’s All About the Money

But tarry on. You’ve got your talking points. Venture into the economy. That’s an easy one. The nation’s ailing economy is the lead story on almost every network news program ever since the outcome of the election was announced. If it isn’t the price of oil that’s been sliding faster than a tractor-trailer jack-knifing down the ice-slick expressway that is the top story, then it’s usually the one about the Fed’s $700 billion economic stimulus package.


So, you can start with an easy one. The national debt. Preface your remarks by saying that the nation’s outstanding debt is $10.7 or so trillion. You can fudge on the .7 or so figure since the debt is increasing at the rate of — here’s another morsel — $3.69 billion per day.


If he/she presses you on healthcare, you’re now on solid ground. Forget about discussing the revenue cycle, as you’ve probably done before, and for goodness sakes don’t mention your chargemaster. That’s a non-starter. And no one wants to hear about HAI or POA at a party around the buffet table. Go for the money topic again.


Take the RAC Tact

Start talking about the Recovery Audit Contractors — the RACs. Everyone knows about IRS auditors so you’re on familiar turf. Tell them about the demonstration but call it a “test market” — it has a more consumer ring. OK, tell them about the five states. Get this one right because many folks in healthcare still think there were three states: New York, Florida and California. Remember, Arizona, Massachusetts and South Carolina were added in the summer of ’07. Here’s a Jeopardy-type question you can weave into the conversation: March 2005. Answer: That’s when the RAC contracts were awarded. Most well-meaning folks will say March 2006.


OK. You’re feeling more at ease. How much money did they collect? Well, actually, CMS uses the term “corrected,” and so should you. The RACs corrected —ready—$1.03 billion in Medicare improper payments. Don’t get this figure mixed up with how much the Feds overpaid hospitals. That figure is $992.7 million. Now if your listener is really following your spiel, he/she might logically ask, “how much money did the Federal Government underpay hospitals like yours?” Nail them with this one: $37.8 million. Polish off your quick reply with some icing on the cake: “The $37.8 million was four percent of the total amount of improper payments.”


Now you’re on a roll and some other folks whom you’ve never seen before have gathered around the punch bowl…


Anticipate that they’ll want to know how much a program like the RACs would cost the taxpayers — people like you and your appreciative audience. Take a breath and lower your voice. Tell them it cost “us” (us is such an ecumenical term to use during the holidays) 20-cents for each dollar collected. Don’t worry about a further explanation. If, however, you get pressed with one of those irksome comments, like “really 20-cents, how did they arrive at that figure?” you can, at this very point, mentally thank the folks at www.racmonitor.com for doing the heavy lifting and poring deep into the CMS RAC Evaluation Report and say, with a certain savoir faire…


“Well, you simply take the program cost of $201.3 million and divide it by $992.7 million in total collections and violà, you have 20 cents.”


At this point, you best heed the instincts of truly good actors: they know when to exit. Take the cue and leave.


For more information on how to deal with RACs, spend some time with us at racmonitor.com





Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and is the program host and executive producer of Monitor Monday.

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