As reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-6) on April 22, 2021 after originally being introduced on September 19, 2019, H.R. 3, also known as known as the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, proposes to grant the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) the authority to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies in order to lower drug prices in Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D (the “Proposal”).  The Proposal would require that 125 brand-name drugs that cost Medicare the most to be subject to negotiation by Medicare, with a cap on the price for each drug set at 120% of the average price paid in six other countries.  The Proposal is part of a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that, as of this writing, faces an uncertain future in Congress.  While not a novel idea, the Proposal is controversial and faces strong opposition from pharmaceutical companies in particular.

Continue Reading Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act: The Long and Winding Road to Drug Pricing Reform

A major California-based health care system, Sutter Health, and several of its medical practice foundation affiliates have agreed to pay a total of $90 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”) by knowingly submitting inaccurate information about the health status of beneficiaries enrolled in Sutter Health’s contracted Medicare Advantage (“MA”) Plans.[1]  The Sutter Health settlement is the largest FCA settlement ever paid by a health care provider for alleged MA fraud.

Continue Reading Sutter Health Settles Medicare Fraud Case For $90 Million: The Largest Settlement For Medicare Advantage Fraud

On August 2, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued its hospital inpatient prospective payment system (“IPPS”) final rule (“Final Rule”) for fiscal year 2022. In addition to a number of other changes, the Final Rule repeals the price transparency requirement for hospitals, discussed in our September 2, 2020 blog post, obligating hospitals to report certain contract terms with Medicare Advantage (“MA”) plans for cost reporting periods ending on or after January 1, 2021.

Continue Reading CMS Backs Off Price Transparency for Providers and Plans

Health plans and issuers racing to implement overlapping price transparency and disclosure requirements in response to the Transparency in Coverage final rule (TiC Final Rule) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) received a welcome reprieve via guidance published August 20. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) announced that they would exercise enforcement discretion and defer enforcement of requirements that plans and issuers publish machine-readable files for in-network rates and out-of-network allowed amounts and billed charges until July 1, 2022 instead of January 1, 2022. The Departments also explained that they would reconsider whether the TiC Final Rule’s requirement to publish negotiated rates and historical net prices for covered prescription drugs in a machine-readable file remains appropriate given the subsequent enactment of the provisions in the Division BB, Title II—Transparency of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which requires plans and issuers to report similar prescription drug pricing information to the Departments by December 27, 2021.

Continue Reading Federal Government Announces Enforcement Discretion, Deferral For Certain Price Disclosures And Future Rulemakings

On August 10, 2021, the Senate passed H.R. 3684, a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill (the “Infrastructure Bill”) that authorizes funds for federal-aid highways, transit, broadband access and other infrastructure purposes.  Notably, the Infrastructure Bill is paid for in part through changes to several healthcare policies, including delaying a Medicare Part D rebate rule for an additional three years and reducing Medicare payment amounts to providers.  The Infrastructure Bill’s changes to healthcare policies provide a mixed impact to health care industry stakeholders, with both expected benefits and burdens to providers, payers, and drug manufacturers.

Continue Reading The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Potential Impact on Healthcare Policy and Spending

On August 10, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (“CMS”) published a proposed rule (“Proposed Rule”) to rescind the Most Favored Nation Model (“MFN Model”) interim final rule that was published on November 26, 2020 (“Interim Final Rule”).  As described in our December 2020 blog post, the Interim Final Rule established a seven-year nationwide, mandatory MFN Model that would test an alternative way for Medicare to pay for certain Medicare Part B single source drugs and biologicals.  The MFN Model, originally set to begin January 1, 2021, would have tied the prices for certain Part B single-source drugs and biologics to the average price paid by several overseas countries and remove incentives to use higher cost drugs, in order to determine whether this could “control unsustainable growth in Medicare Part B spending without adversely affecting quality of care for beneficiaries.”  Had the Interim Final Rule been implemented, Medicare Part B reimbursement would have been significantly reduced starting January 1, 2021.

Continue Reading Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy: The Biden Administration Considers Drug Pricing Strategies While Keeping the “Most Favored Nations” Drug Reimbursement Program on the Sidelines

On July 30, 2021, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (“SIGPR”), Brian D. Miller, submitted his quarterly report to Congress.  SIGPR was created as an independent watchdog of the Department of the Treasury under the CARES Act.  It is tasked with investigating fraud and abuse of federal stimulus funds in response to COVID-19, and works in collaboration with law enforcement and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country.  These investigative efforts have resulted in civil and criminal enforcement actions against recipients of federal funding throughout the country, and such enforcement action investigations are sure to continue.  The quarterly report showed that the federal government has been active in investigating fraud and abuse related to stimulus funds, and its call for additional funding signals an increase in future enforcement against recipients of federal stimulus funds.

Continue Reading The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Calls For Increased Funding and Expanded Jurisdiction In Its Quarterly Report To Congress

On August 13, 2021, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court opinion vacating CMS’ Overpayment Rule, 42 C.F.R. 422.326, for Medicare Advantage organizations (“MAOs”).  UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co. et al. v. Becerra et al., case number 18-5326.  As a result of this decision, CMS can once again rely on the Overpayment Rule to impose voluntary refund obligations for MAOs.  MAOs – already subject to significant government enforcement related to their risk adjustment coding practices – should carefully consider the implications of this decision for their coding and auditing practices.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Gives New Life to CMS Overpayment Rule

Introduction

CMS’ most recent Stark Law rulemaking includes important changes to the rules that allow physician practices to satisfy the definition of “Group Practice” while distributing designated health services (“DHS”) – based profit shares and productivity bonuses. 85 Fed. Reg. 77492 (Dec. 2, 2020) (the “Final Rule”).  As these changes go into effect January 1, 2022, and the ability to bill Medicare for DHS is often contingent on satisfying the definition of “Group Practice,” physician practices should take action now to assess their physician compensation arrangements and methodologies under the new rules.


Continue Reading Physician Group Practices Take Heed – January 1, 2022 Deadline Approaches for Compliance with CMS’ Recent Changes to Permissible “Group Practice” Compensation Methodologies

On July 1, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued new regulations[1] (the “Regulations”) effective immediately that more narrowly limit the circumstances under which instances of unauthorized access to medical information have to be reported to CDPH.  The new regulations also give CDPH more discretion to adjust penalties for violations.  The Regulations complement Section 1280.15 of the Health and Safety Code (“Section 1280.15”) requiring state-licensed clinics, health facilities, home health agencies, and hospices to prevent any unlawful or unauthorized access to, or use or disclosure of, a patient’s medical information, and to report any unauthorized access, use or disclosure to the Department no later than fifteen (15) business days after the breach was detected.

Continue Reading California Issues New Health Facility Breach Reporting Requirements

On July 13, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) unveiled a proposal to temporarily extend Medicare coverage for particular telehealth services granted during the COVID-19 public health emergency (the “Pandemic”), in order to evaluate which services should be covered permanently. Through the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule (“PFS”), CMS is allowing certain services to remain on the telehealth list until the end of December 31, 2023.

Continue Reading CMS’ Proposal to Expand Telehealth Coverage