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Department of Justice Intervenes in False Claims Act Suit, Adding Reimbursement Consultant Defendant

On February 19, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had intervened in a False Claims Act (FCA) whistleblower suit filed against Arriva Medical LLC (Arriva) and its parent that allegedly involves the submission of false claims for medically unnecessary glucometers, and alleged kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries in the form of free glucometers and copayment waivers.  This intervention is particularly noteworthy for the fact that in addition to joining the suit, DOJ announced that it was adding a reimbursement consultant used by Arriva as a defendant to the …

Department of Justice Announces Significant False Claims Act Settlements Tied to Electronic Health Records Arrangements

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced two high-dollar False Claims Act (FCA) enforcement actions involving allegedly fraudulent arrangements tied to the implementation and use of electronic health record systems (EHRs). The respective settlements enable recovery by DOJ of over $100 million, and immediately precede the government’s recent proposal of new rules to promote the interoperability of EHRs. The settlements thus serve as an important reminder of the importance of adhering to federal fraud and abuse laws and regulations as hospitals and other health care providers continue to implement EHR …

HHS Proposes to Amend AKS Safe Harbors to Exclude PBM Rebates and Incentivize Consumer Drug Discounts

On February 6, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a proposed rule (Proposed Rule) that would amend the safe harbor regulations under the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The Proposed Rule is intended to “address the modern prescription drug distribution model” and make sure that the safe harbors “extend only to arrangements that present a low risk of harm to the Federal health care programs and beneficiaries.” Specifically, in the Proposed Rule OIG proposes to alter the definition of  “discounts” under the so-called …

OIG Advisory Opinion No. 19-02 Allows Pharmaceutical Manufacturer to Temporarily Loan Smartphones to Financially Needy Patients to Receive Data from a Digestible Medication Sensor

On January 24, 2019, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a favorable advisory opinion allowing a pharmaceutical manufacturer (“Manufacturer”) to temporarily loan limited-functionality smartphones to financially needy patients who lack the required technology to receive adherence data from a sensor embedded in a prescribed antipsychotic medication (“the Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Arrangement did not constitute grounds for penalties under the Civil Monetary Penalties law (“CMP”) and that although the Arrangement could potentially cause remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), the OIG would not impose sanctions on the …

CMS Finalizes Overhaul of the Medicare Shared Savings Program in “Pathways to Success” Final Rule

On December 31, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule (Final Rule) establishing the “Pathways to Success” program that overhauls the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). The Final Rule largely mirrors CMS’ proposed rule (see our summary here), but with several modifications in response to public comments. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) may participate in the Pathways to Success program beginning July 1, 2019, and those ACOs interested in beginning participation in July must submit to CMS a notice of intent to apply by …

OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Charitable Pediatric Clinic to Provide Routine Cost-Sharing Waivers

On January 14, 2019, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) published the favorable Advisory Opinion 19-01 allowing a charitable pediatric clinic (“Clinic”) to routinely waive cost-sharing amounts for patients in financial need (“Arrangement”). OIG noted that the Arrangement did not meet the regulatory exception for permitted waivers of cost sharing amounts under the Civil Monetary Penalties Law (CMP), but ultimately decided not to impose administrative sanctions in connection with the Arrangement.…

DOJ Enters Into $12.5 Million Settlement with For-Profit Health System and its CEO in Connection with Improper Unbundled Billing

On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (DOJ) announced that it had entered into a $12.5 million dollar settlement with Pennsylvania-based health system Coordinated Health Holding Company, LLC and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), to resolve allegations of improper billing for orthopedic procedures. Under the terms of the settlement, the CEO (who is also the founder and principal owner of the for-profit system) agreed to pay $1.25 million dollars personally, and the health system entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with DOJ …

In Amicus Brief, Government Discourages Supreme Court Review of Pro-Relator Ninth Circuit FCA Decision, but Pledges to Seek Dismissal of Case Upon Remand

On November 30, 2018, the Solicitor General of the United States filed a long-awaited amicus brief in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s request for the government’s view of the False Claims Act (FCA) case U.S. ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (see here for previous analysis of the Ninth Circuit decision in the case, and here for discussion of the Supreme Court’s request).

In its brief, the Solicitor General states that the conclusion of the Ninth Circuit – that “the fact of continued government payments did not by …

CMS Proposes Revised Prescription Drug Regulations to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out of Pocket Expenses

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a Proposed Rule to amend Medicare Advantage (MA) regulations and Prescription Drug Benefit program (Part D) regulations.  The Proposed Rule was published on November 30, 2018. The Proposed Rule is intended to help lower drug prices for health and drug plans and reduce out-of-pocket costs for MA and Part D enrollees. Major provisions include: Providing Plans with increased flexibility in managing drug formularies. Current policy requires Part D formularies to include all drugs in the following categories: (1) antidepressants; (2) antipsychotics; …

OIG Disapproves of Drug Company’s Plan to Provide Hospitals Free Medications in Advisory Opinion

On November 16, 2018, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) posted an unfavorable Advisory Opinion No. 18-14 regarding an arrangement where a vendor (Requestor) of a commonly used drug would supply free doses of the drug to hospitals for treatment of inpatients with a rare and serious form of epilepsy (Proposed Arrangement). The drug is not separately reimbursable in the inpatient setting. As a result, and according to the Requestor, many hospitals do not stock sufficient quantities of the drug and …

2019 Physician Fee Schedule Rule Review: Off-Campus Provider-Based Hospital Departments

On November 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a final rule (Rule), which includes modifications to Medicare payment policies and rates.

One area that is discussed in the rule is with regards to the payment of certain items and services when provided by certain off campus provider based hospital departments. As per Section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, certain items and services, when provided by certain off-campus provider-based hospital departments, are not to be paid under the Hospital Outpatient Prospective …

2019 Physician Fee Schedule Rule Review: CMS Recognizes “Virtual Check-Ins” and “Store and Forward” Remote Service Offerings

On November 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a final rule that updated payment policies and rates under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS). This rule also formalized two types of remote service offerings known as “virtual check-ins” and “store and forwards.” In an effort to increase access for Medicare beneficiaries, CMS has recognized and finalized a code to provide separate payment for communication technology “virtual check-in” service. The purpose of these services are “brief check-ins” using communication technology to evaluate whether or not an office …

2019 Physician Fee Schedule Rule Review: Supervision Requirements for Radiologist Assistants Reduced

In its 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule (PFS Rule), CMS finalized a regulatory change that updates supervision requirements for Registered Radiologist Assistants and Radiology Practitioner Assistants (collectively, RAs) to reduce the level of supervision necessary to perform diagnostic tests reimbursable by Medicare. Specifically, the PFS Rule revises 42 C.F.R. § 410.32(b) to provide that RAs may perform certain diagnostic tests that would otherwise require a personal level of supervision under direct supervision instead, to the extent permitted by state law and regulations.…

2019 Physician Fee Schedule Rule Review: Use of Telehealth Expanded

Telehealth for Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

As part of the CY 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule with comment period to expand the use of telehealth for the treatment of substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. Existing law provides for reimbursement of telehealth services only if the originating site is located in a rural health professional shortage area, is not in a metropolitan statistical area or is an entity that participates in a federal …

2019 Physician Fee Schedule Rule Review: Option to Extend MSSP Agreements for Currently-Expiring ACOs Finalized

On November 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its 2019 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule (PFS Rule), which contains a number of significant substantive changes to Medicare payment practices and policies. The PFS Rule will be officially published in the Federal Register on November 23, 2018. The PFS Rule also includes an interim final rule implementing amendments to federal telehealth regulations to maintain consistency with recent changes to the Social Security Act to address the opioid crisis enacted in October 2018 through the …

OIG Issues Favorable Advisory Opinion Regarding Health Plan’s Incentive Payment Program

On October 18, 2018, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services published a favorable Advisory Opinion regarding a Medicaid managed care organization’s (Requestor) proposal to pay incentives to its network providers who meet benchmarks for increasing the amount of early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment (EPSDT) services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries (Proposed Arrangement).…

CMS Revises Hospital Inpatient Admission Order Documentation Requirements

On August 17, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems final rule for Fiscal Year 2019 (Final Rule). The Final Rule contains a number of important updates to Medicare Part A that take effect October 1, 2018.

Among other provisions  in the Final Rule, CMS finalized its proposed update of the regulations that govern hospital admissions under Medicare Part A (42 C.F.R. § 412.3). Specifically, the Final Rule revises language in 42 C.F.R. § 412.3(a) to remove the current requirement that …

OIG Advisory Opinion Approves Surgical Device Warranty Program Intended to Reduce Readmissions

On September 17, 2018, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services published a favorable Advisory Opinion allowing a manufacturer of surgical devices and wound care products to offer a warranty program to hospital customers covering three joint replacement products (“Proposed Arrangement”).

Under the Proposed Arrangement, the manufacturer would refund hospitals for the combined purchase price of three of its products if a patient who received them as part of a joint replacement surgery was readmitted to the hospital within 90 days following the …

Medicare Proposes Revised Telehealth Services and Payments

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published a Proposed Rule, primarily intended to modify certain Medicare payment policies.  The Proposed Rule contains several provisions that address the growing use of telehealth. CMS noted that it had received many suggestions regarding the expansion of access to telehealth as well as appropriate pay for the same, in response to its call for comments in the CY 2018 Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) proposed rule.…

OIG Advisory Opinion Allows PHO Network Hospitals to Give 100% Discount on Medigap-Covered Inpatient Deductibles, with Savings Shared as a Premium Credit to Patients

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Health and Human Services, issued an Advisory Opinion allowing an arrangement between a licensed offeror of Medicare Supplemental Health Insurance policies (Medigap Offeror) and a preferred hospital organization (PHO) having network hospitals across the U.S. (the “Arrangement”).  Under the Arrangement, the PHO’s network hospitals would provide discounts of up to 100% on Medicare Part A inpatient deductibles incurred by patients who are Medigap policyholders (the “Arrangement”). Normally, these deductibles would have been covered by the Medigap Offeror. Each time a network hospital provides a …

CMS Identifies “Pathway to Success” for Accountable Care in Proposed Rule that Would Significantly Change Shared Savings Program

On August 17, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposed rule (Proposed Rule) that proposes a comprehensive overhaul of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).  Among other changes, CMS proposes to:

  • replace the current three-track program with two options (Basic and Enhanced),
  • establish a ‘glide path’ that propels accountable care organizations (ACOs) towards acceptance of performance-based down-side risk,
  • update the benchmarking methodology to incorporate regional trends from the start of an ACO’s participation in the MSSP,
  • expand the use of telehealth services by ACOs, and

One-Two Punch: On Consecutive Days, DOJ Announces High Dollar Fraud and Abuse Settlements with Hospitals

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two significant False Claims Act (FCA) settlements in recent days that signal continued close government scrutiny of billing, coding and referral practices at hospitals.

On August 2, DOJ announced an $84.5 million dollar settlement with Michigan-based health system William Beaumont Hospital. The settlement resolves allegations of non-compliance with the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and Stark Law arising from “improper relationships with eight referring physicians” that led to the submission of false claims to government health care programs.

DOJ alleged that the defendant provided compensation substantially …

Connecticut Enacts Law Revising Various Department of Public Health Statutes

On June 13, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 18-168 “An Act Concerning the Department of Public Health’s Recommendations Regarding Various Revisions to the Public Health Statutes” (PA 18-168). This legislation makes a number of changes to state laws concerning public health and the responsibilities of the Department of Public Health (DPH), including laws affecting advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), advance directives, the scope of practice for podiatry, respiratory care, reportable events at nursing homes, and the supervision of physician assistants. …

Medicare Appeals Settlement Program Expanded

The Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) has announced the expansion of their Settlement Conference Facilitation (SCF) program.  SCF is a dispute resolution process for Medicare appeals that provides for payments as percentage of the Medicare approved amount.  The percentage is negotiated during a telephone settlement conference utilizing a mediation facilitator.  Utilizing dispute resolution processes such as SCF will be very important in helping to reduce a very significant backlog of Medicare appeals, which the government estimates would take OMHA at least eleven years to process.…

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