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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.…

DOJ Enters Into Largest-Ever Civil Settlement with Hospital for Drug Diversion

On May 16, 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia announced that it had entered into the “largest hospital drug diversion civil penalty settlement in U.S. History” in the amount of $4.1 million dollars.  The settlement with a Georgia hospital resolves allegations that the hospital “failed to provide effective controls and procedures to guard against theft and loss of controlled substances” that resulted in tens of thousands of 30mg oxycodone tablets being unaccounted for and believed to have been diverted for illegal uses over a four …

DOJ Intervenes in False Claims Act Case Against Insys Therapeutics

The Department of Justice (DOJ), recently intervened in a civil False Claims Act (FCA) case filed against Insys Therapeutics, Inc. (Insys) in the Central District of California that alleges FCA violations arising from the payment of kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) as well as other fraudulent activities. Insys is an embattled Arizona-based pharmaceutical manufacturer of a highly-addictive sublingual opioid spray known as Subsys, and is currently the subject of a number of criminal and civil suits ongoing across the country (certain of which were consolidated into this …

DOJ Announces Criminal Conviction of Physician for HIPAA Violation

On April 30, 2018 a Massachusetts physician was convicted of a criminal violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as well as one count of obstruction of a criminal health care investigation, in a Massachusetts federal court. The convictions relate to the purported sharing of confidential patient information by the physician with pharmaceutical sales representatives that allowed the pharmaceutical company to target patients with specific conditions (and to correspondingly facilitate the receipt of prior authorizations for the company’s drugs from patients’ insurers).…

OIG Reports That CMS Paid Practitioners For Telehealth Services That Failed To Meet Medicare Requirements

On April 5, 2018, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced its findings that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) paid practitioners for telehealth services that did not meet Medicare requirements. Certain telehealth services are reimbursable by Medicare as Part B services. According to the OIG, it engaged in a review of telehealth services after finding that Medicare paid a total of $17.6 million in telehealth payments in 2015, compared to just $61,302 in 2001.…

Supreme Court Order Indicates Interest in Reviewing Campie, the False Claims Act Outlier of the Ninth Circuit

In an order issued on April 16, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file a brief “expressing the views of the United States” concerning the 2017 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the False Claims Act (FCA) case U.S. ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (see our previous analysis of the case here). The Campie case is noteworthy because it created a split among the circuit courts as to the scope of the “government knowledge” defense to materiality …

Private Equity Firm Named as Defendant in False Claims Act Case Targeting A Portfolio Company

A recent complaint filed by the United States Department of Justice against a private equity firms regarding an alleged kickback further illustrates new concerns private equity should be aware of in the healthcare arena and working with counsel to mitigate such concerns.  A February 23, 2018 press release from the DOJ regarding United States ex rel. Medrano and Lopez v. Diabetic Care Rx, LLC dba Patient Care America, et al., No. 15-CV-62617 (S.D. Fla.), available here, describes how the complaint was made against a pharmacy, several of its executives …

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Provider’s Collateral Challenge to the Medicare Appeal Process

On March 27, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a health care provider can seek an injunction in federal court against recoupment by Medicare of alleged overpayments despite not exhausting its administrative appeal remedies, in part because the current delay in scheduling of hearings before an Administrative Law Judge could cause the provider to go out of business before it has an opportunity to exhaust its administrative challenge of the recoupment. This decision could provide a template for other providers facing significant …

CMS Updates Medicare Advantage and Part D (Prescription Drug Benefit)

On April 2, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Final Rule, updating Medicare Advantage (MA) and the prescription drug benefit program (Part D).  The Final Rule includes, among other provisions:

  • Preclusion List Requirements for Prescribers in Part D and Individuals and Entities in Medicare Advantage, Cost Plans, and PACE: The Final Rule eliminates the MA and Part D prescriber and provider enrollment requirement.  Instead, CMS is compiling a “Preclusion List” of prescribers, individuals, and entities that: (1) are currently revoked from Medicare, under
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