Trump Administration Pulls the Plug on CSR Payments

After months of veiled threats, President Trump formally announced that his Administration will cease funding Cost-Sharing Reduction (“CSR”) payments, a key component of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) intended to help subsidize insurance coverage for low income individuals. As we have eluded to in prior articles, various industry stakeholders and interest groups have expressed anxiety over the past few months regarding the future of these payments under the Trump Administration. Not surprisingly, the President’s formal announcement was met with a rash of fierce condemnation by many of these stakeholders and interest groups, who maintain that this action will lead to increased premiums, the exit of insurers from ACA healthcare exchanges, and general insurance market instability. Meanwhile, others, including the Attorneys General of New York and California, have pledged to sue to defend CSRs.

As the effects of this maneuver continue to be felt, we will be publishing additional blog posts on various elements of this decision.

Trump Administration Takes Aim at ACA With AHP Executive Order

Yesterday, Thursday, October 12th, on the heels of the recent and repeated failures to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), President Donald Trump signed an executive order nominally aimed at increasing competition in the healthcare marketplace, but widely believed to be driven by a desire to undermine the ACA. The executive order broadly tasks the Labor Department with changing the current policies on the accessibility of certain healthcare plans. The coming policy changes are speculated to expand the market for healthcare plans that are exempt from many of the regulations under the ACA. Such healthcare plans are known as Association Health Plans (“AHPs”). Continue Reading

Nine Days and Counting – The Fate of CHIP Remains Uncertain Amid Congressional Deadlock

While congressional Republicans spent much of September pushing for passage of the Graham-Cassidy “repeal and replace” bill, other time-sensitive legislative tasks were left to languish, including a September 30 deadline to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) that has since come and gone. The failure to timely reauthorize the program has put the fate of CHIP in limbo, at least in the short term. Continue Reading

Alert: In a Surprise Decision Issued on October 5, 2017, Honorable John Walter, United States District Judge, Dismissed a Medicare Advantage Risk Adjustment Fraud Suit Against UnitedHealthcare

On October 5, 2017, the Honorable Judge John Walter of the United States District Court, Central District of California, granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Medicare Advantage (“MA”) Federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) case of United States of America ex rel. Swoben v. Scan Health Plan, et al. (CV 09-5013-JFW (JEMx)) (the “Swoben Case”) (brought by qui tam relator James M. Swoben and joined by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”)). [1]

Although the ruling was undoubtedly well received by UnitedHealthcare (“UHC”), its parent company, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (“UHG”), and the other Swoben Case defendants, the defendants’ happiness with the dismissal may have been tempered because the ruling gives the DOJ an opportunity to amend and refile its complaint with the Court. Given the DOJ’s recent history of aggressively pursuing cases of potential fraud in the MA space, it is very likely that the DOJ will amend and refile its complaint in the near future. Continue Reading

Finding Common Ground in the Healthcare Debate: Federal, State, and Local Governments Respond to the Opioid Epidemic

As stories and statistics of the opioid crisis become increasingly prevalent in our national discourse, we are seeing a stronger, more innovative, and more aligned push for interventions across communities, government agencies, and the public, social, and health services sectors. Continue Reading

Disproportionate Share Hospitals Facing Steep Payment Cuts

While September 30, 2017 has been an important procedural deadline for purposes of the GOP’s most recent legislative push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it also serves a critical funding deadline for purposes of the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment program. Absent legislative action, DSH payments are set to be reduced by $2 billion starting October 1, 2017. Continue Reading

Effects of Insurance Marketplace Uncertainty

Even as Senators continue to consider “Graham-Cassidy,” the latest Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal legislation, insurance markets are already reacting to uncertainty and instability brought about by persistent GOP efforts to upend the post-ACA insurance landscape. Between the Trump Administration’s ongoing refusal to commit to long-term funding of the ACA’s cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) and legislative overtures to repeal key portions of the ACA, premiums have increased, insurers have exited state exchanges, and access to health care coverage has been compromised. Continue Reading

MACRA Update: How to Prepare for Changes in MIPS

As we reported last month, CMS’ proposed rule updating MACRA’s Quality Payment Program (“QPP”) for CY 2018 would extend and expand exceptions that would allow many practitioners to avoid participating in its Merit-based Incentive Payment System (“MIPS”) during next year’s performance period. In particular, the proposed rule would increase the low-volume threshold for MIPS-participation from $30,000 to $90,000 and present additional opportunities for advanced alternative payment model participation. In 2017, approximately 800,000 practitioners were exempted from MIPS-participation and CMS estimates that an additional 134,000 would be exempted under the proposed rule, leaving less than 40% of eligible practitioners subject to MIPS participation in 2018. Continue Reading

CMS Aims to Nix Obama-Era Payment Models

In a proposed rule published Tuesday, August 15, 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its intention to roll back a handful of payment models introduced under the Obama Administration. If implemented, the rule would cancel the Episode Payment Models (EPMs) and Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) Incentive Payment Model, each currently set to begin next year. The rule would also cut the number of mandatory participation locations in the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) Model from 67 to 34. Continue Reading

ACA Cost-Sharing Reductions– A Momentary Reprieve and Ongoing Doubts

The Future of CSRs – A Tale Told in Tweets. In follow-up to our May 5, 2017 blog post, “ACA Cost-Sharing Reductions: An Uncertain Future,” on August 16, 2017, the Trump Administration made an announcement (Announcement) that it will continue to fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers in accordance with the CSR provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the month of August. The Announcement did not include any commitments to fund CSR payments in September or anytime thereafter. Continue Reading

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