Effective January 17, 2012, the Office of Medicare Hearing and Appeals (OMHA) implemented a centralized docketing system requiring ALJ hearing requests related to Qualified Independent Contractor (QIC) decisions nationwide to be submitted to a Centralized Docketing Office in Cleveland, rather than OMHA field offices. According to the recently released HHS Annual Performance Report and Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2013, OMHA is over capacity for the number of manageable claims each ALJ can adjudicate while still maintaining program integrity. Establishing the centralized docketing division will assist in addressing OMHA's workload by providing a standardized process for the equitable distribution of case assignments across OMHA's four field offices.

According to sources at the Centralized Docketing Office in Cleveland and other field offices, ALJs generally will be assigned cases on a rotating basis regardless of the provider's geographic location. That being said, because three of the four field offices are located on the east coast, some consideration may be given to filtering west coast appeals to the west coast office to minimize time difference issues.

Reconsideration instructions now should include directions to submit the ALJ hearing requests to Centralized Docketing. Forwarding the appeal requests to individual field offices can result in a delay; our understanding is that the field office mail room will forward those hearing requests back to Ohio for official assignment and docketing. Providers should be aware of these new directions, instruct staff accordingly and update procedures as necessary.