CMS's long-awaited fingerprint-based background check screening process is underway for certain “high-risk” providers and suppliers participating in federal health care programs (specifically, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program). Under CMS regulations, individuals who maintain a 5 percent or greater direct or indirect ownership interest in a provider or supplier in the high risk category -- including newly-enrolling home health agencies (HHAs) and newly-enrolling durable medical equipment, orthotics, prosthetics, and supplies (DMEPOS) suppliers -- are subject to a fingerprint-based criminal history report check of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

This week CMS announced that the fingerprint-based background check process was launched on August 6, 2014. CMS confirmed that not all providers and suppliers in the “high” screening category will be included in the first phase of the background checks. Fingerprint-based background checks eventually will be required, however, “for all individuals with a 5 percent or greater ownership interest in a provider or supplier that falls into the high risk category and is currently enrolled in Medicare or has submitted an initial enrollment application.”

Medicare Administrative Contractors will send letters to the applicable providers or suppliers listing all 5 percent or greater owners who are required to be fingerprinted, and applicable individuals will have 30 days from the date of the notification letter to be fingerprinted at one of at least three specified locations. Fingerprints will be forwarded to the FBI, which will compile the background history and share results with the Fingerprint-based Background Check (FBBC) contractor (Accurate Biometrics). The FBBC will provide CMS with a "fitness recommendation" for the individual indicating whether the criminal history record information contains enrollment violations or otherwise fails to meet CMS enrollment requirements; CMS will then make the final determination about the provider or supplier.