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Workers Compensation , MSA

Since You Asked: Synergy’s Workers’ Compensation Medicare Secondary Payer Advice Column

February 14, 2023

Rasa Fumagalli, JD, MSCC, CMSP-F

Oftentimes an attorney representing an injured worker may simply scan the defense’s Medicare Set-Aside and assume all the future medical issues have been addressed in the MSA. This month’s “Since You Asked” column addresses the need to understand the projections in a Medicare Set-Aside report and the importance of considering the non-Medicare covered injury-related expenses the injured worker may incur post settlement.


My client has been receiving workers’ compensation benefits for years. He is now on Medicare and the carrier wants to settle out future medical rights by funding a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA). I haven’t seen many WCMSA proposals and am wondering what I should be looking for in the WCMSA. Can you help?


In order to evaluate a WCMSA proposal, you first need to identify all of the medical conditions that are related to the industrial accident. Since your file may not necessarily have all the current medical and pharmacy information, it is important to have a discussion with your client about the nature of his ongoing injury-related treatment. A decision may then be made as to the need for obtaining updated medical and pharmacy records.

Once you have identified the injury-related conditions and are aware of the current medical and drug treatment, you should make sure that the WCMSA report correctly identifies the injury-related conditions as accepted conditions. The conditions will also have corresponding ICD-10 diagnosis codes associated with them. It may be beneficial to confirm their accuracy since these codes will likely be used for the Section 111 reporting of the settlement. If a condition was initially accepted, but was then subsequently disputed, the WCMSA report may also reflect this.

The WCMSA medical treatment projections should be reviewed to ensure that they include projections for the recommended future procedures or treatments that are reflected by the last two years of injury-related medical records. If a procedure is missing because it is not covered by Medicare, it may be funded outside of the WCMSA proposal for non-Medicare covered expenses. The drug projections should be scrutinized in the same way. If a drug is missing because it is not covered by Medicare, it should be funded outside of the WCMSA proposal for non-Medicare covered expenses. Since a workers’ compensation carrier’s responsibility for future medical costs in a workers’ compensation case is not limited to treatment that is covered by Medicare, the injury-related non-Medicare treatments should be accounted for in the settlement as well and you should obtain a non-Medicare expense report to detail the expenses that will not be covered for the injured worker as part of the WCMSA. Treatment projections are priced based on the state’s workers’ compensation medical fee schedule. Drugs are priced based on the Average Wholesale Price (AWP) listed in the current Red Book Drug Reference, with generic drugs priced at the lowest non-repackaged AWP.

When parties are discussing a settlement figure that is inclusive of the WCMSA, the injured worker may want to take steps to mitigate the WCMSA projections. For example, a physician’s switch from a brand name drug to a generic version of the drug may result in significant cost savings, thereby leaving more of the settlement funds as unrestricted.

It is also important to consider whether the WCMSA proposal will be submitted to CMS for review. Although CMS review is voluntary, CMS recommends this review in order for Medicare to become the primary payer after proper exhaustion of the CMS-determined WCMSA. The most recent version of the WCMSA Reference Guide (Guide) (Version 3.8, November 14, 2022) includes Section 4.3 that again cautions parties of the risks associated with a non-submitted WCMSA. It states as follows:

“As a matter of policy and practice, CMS may at its sole discretion deny payment for medical services related to the WC injuries or illness, requiring attestation of appropriate exhaustion equal to the total settlement as defined in Section 10.5.3 of this reference guide, less procurement costs and paid conditional payments, before CMS will resume primary payment obligation for settled injuries or illnesses, unless it is shown, at the time of exhaustion of the MSA funds, that both the initial funding of the MSA was sufficient and utilization of MSA funds was appropriate. This will result in the claimant needing to demonstrate complete exhaustion of the net settlement amount, rather than a CMS approved WCMSA amount.”

A note was added to this section as well. It states:

“Notes: This official policy shall apply to all notifications of settlement that include the use of a non-CMS-approved product received on, or after, January 11, 2022; however, flags in the Common Working File for notifications received prior to that date will be set to ensure Medicare does not make payment during the spend-down period.

CMS does not intend for this policy to affect any settlement that would not otherwise meet review thresholds. This comment does not relieve the settling parties of an obligation to consider Medicare’s interests as part of the settlement; however, CMS does not expect notification or submission where thresholds are not met.”

The review of a WCMSA proposal should be more than cursory since it will impact the injured worker’s post settlement medical issues. A detailed analysis of the WCMSA and non-Medicare covered expenses is the gold standard to protect your practice and the injured worker. 

Synergy Settlement Services team of MSP compliance attorneys can assist you with this type of analysis and guide you through the MSP compliance process. Don’t ever rely upon the carrier to do the necessary work to protect your client, engage your own MSP compliance experts like Synergy here!

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