Federal Healthcare Legislation

The Sheppard Mullin Healthcare Law Blog has included many blog articles over the last weeks and months regarding telehealth.  As our most recent blog articles show, telehealth is playing an important role in the COVID-19 pandemic – telehealth is a natural-born solution to the problem of providing healthcare while meeting the challenges of social distancing.
Continue Reading Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act Of 2020: Telehealth Front and Center

On July 10 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPR”) entitled, “Medicare Program; Specialty Care Models to Improve Quality of Care and Reduce Expenditures.” In the NPR, CMS proposes to implement two new mandatory specialty care payment models – one of which, the Radiation Oncology Model (“RO Model”), applies to selected radiation therapy (“RT”) services[1] as provided by physician group practices, hospital outpatient departments, and freestanding radiation therapy centers, all located within randomly selected geographic areas throughout the country.

Although the proposed RO Model is consistent with broader trends in the healthcare industry to cut healthcare costs and increase quality through the use of bundled and other alternative (i.e., not fee-for-service) payment methodologies, the RO Model has garnered its fair share of detractors within the RT community.

In this article, we will focus on the concerns of such detractors, including those voiced by proton therapy providers who consider the RO Model’s payment reductions – which apply to all RT providers regardless of the treatment modality at issue – as a CMS-intended financial hit against proton beam therapy. Proton beam therapy is a form of radiation treatment that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (“MedPAC”), in its “June 2018 Report to the Congress: Medicare and the Health Care Delivery System,” (the “MedPac Report”) once referred to as a “potentially low value” treatment modality and an example of why CMS should consider the development and implementation of new RT payment models to create, “incentives for organizations to reduce low-value services.”
Continue Reading CMS’s Mandatory Radiation Oncology Payment Model: Negative Reactions in the Radiation Oncology Treatment Community

Access to healthcare information (or lack thereof) has always been touted as one of the key factors/necessities to realizing the promise of technology in the delivery of healthcare. Despite various legislative, judicial, patient and industry initiatives, access continues to be a challenge due to a variety of competitive practices and lack of capabilities. Consider the following events and whether they signal real progress:

  1. In a September 9, 2019 Press Release issued by the United States Department of Health & Human Services – Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”), the OCR announced that it had taken action against Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (“Bayfront”), an academic medical center in St. Petersburg, Florida, to enforce the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) protections that guarantee every patient the right to receive copies of his/her medical records promptly and without being overcharged. The enforcement action against Bayfront (which includes the assessment of an $85,000 fine against Bayfront and the imposition of a “Resolution Agreement” between OCR and Bayfront) is notable as the OCR’s first enforcement action under the OCR’s “Right of Access Initiative” – a program designed to focus OCR resources on the enforcement of HIPAA’s right of access guarantees.
  2. On February 11, 2019, two offices of the US Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) — the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) – each released a proposed rule (ONC Proposed Rule; CMS Proposed Rule) (collectively, the “Proposed Rules”) aimed at enhancing the interoperability of electronic health record (“EHR”) systems and increasing patient access to electronic health information (“EHI”) as required by the 21st Century Cures Act.
  3. On September 23, 2019, seven major healthcare leadership groups, including the American Health Information Management Association (“AHIMA”) and the American Medical Association (AMA), sent a letter to Congress (the “AHIMA Letter”) critiquing the ONC Proposed Rule.

What is the link between the Bayfront case, the Proposed Rules, and the AHIMA letter? The link is commonly referred to as “Information Blocking.”
Continue Reading INFORMATION BLOCKING AND THE RIGHT TO ACCESS INITIATIVE: Why Patients Struggle to Obtain their Medical Records and what the Office of Civil Rights Intends to Do About It

On October 9, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) released proposed rules in conjunction with HHS’ “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care.” The Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care “aims to remove potential regulatory barriers to care coordination and value-based care created by four key Federal health care laws and associated regulations: (1) the physician self-referral law [(“Stark Law”)]; (2) the anti-kickback statute [(“AKS”)]; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 [(“HIPAA”)]; and (4) the rules… related to opioid and substance use disorder treatment.”
Continue Reading CMS and OIG Propose Regulatory Changes Impacting the Scope of the Stark Law and the Federal Health Care Program Anti-Kickback Statute

One of the most controversial taxes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in danger of repeal. The tax colloquially known as the “Cadillac Tax” was supposed to take effect in 2018, but Congress has delayed it twice. With the tax now slated to take effect in 2022, opponents of the tax have taken the opportunity to attempt to repeal it for good. On July 17, 2019, the House of Representatives overwhelming voted, 419-6, to approve the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019, which would abolish the Cadillac Tax. A Senate companion bill with 61 co-sponsors, including 32 Republicans and 28 Democrats, shows that the bill is unlikely to encounter much resistance if it is brought to a vote.
Continue Reading Bipartisan Push To Repeal ACA’s Cadillac Tax

On July 29, 2019, CMS released its proposed outpatient prospective payment system (“OPPS”) rule outlining a variety of changes it may implement for calendar year 2020. One proposal that has inspired immediate reactions from industry members would require hospitals to disclose certain additional pricing information, including some prices negotiated with third party payors, to the public.
Continue Reading Proposed and Expanded Disclosure Obligations for Hospitals Regarding not Only Gross Charges, but Third Party Payor Pricing as Well

The U.S. Department of Defense (“DOD”) claims that fraud and abuse is inhibiting the ability of the Defense Health Agency (“DHA”), the agency responsible for administering TRICARE, to support and deliver “integrated, affordable, and high quality health service to all DOD beneficiaries” and to be “a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars.” Noting that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has limited resources to prosecute those who commit fraud and abuse against the TRICARE program, the DOD now seeks to step in and ramp up enforcement.
Continue Reading The Military Health Care Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program: The Department of Defense Issues Proposed Regulations regarding TRICARE and Civil Monetary Penalties

On April 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced the CMS Primary Cares Initiative (the “Initiative”), which consists of new payment models that seek to transform primary care in order to deliver better value for patients. The Initiative aims to improve quality and patient experience of care while reducing administrative burdens and lowering overall healthcare costs. The Initiative consists of five (5) payment model options in two broad paths: (1) Primary Care First and (2) Direct Contracting.
Continue Reading CMS Announces New Initiative for Value-Based Transformation of Primary Care

On March 4, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) published a wide-ranging proposed rule (“Proposed Rule”)[1] with the intent to “move the health care ecosystem in the direction of interoperability” in alignment with the objectives set out in the 21st Century Cures Act (“Cures Act”)[2] and Executive Order 13813.[3] According to CMS, this Proposed Rule is a key step in putting patients at the center of their health care and ensuring that they have access to their health information – attempting to solve the problem of accessing complete health information from different providers and payors. CMS believes patients should have the “ability to move from health plan to health plan, provider to provider, and have both their clinical and administrative information travel with them throughout their journey.”[4] A twin goal is that health IT should not “detract from the clinician-patient relationship… or from the quality of work life for physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals.”[5]
Continue Reading Overview of Proposed Rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Regarding Interoperability and Patient Access to Data

On Friday, April 5, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced that it had finalized policies allowing Medicare Advantage plans (“MA Plans”) to include additional telehealth benefits in their basic benefit packages starting in 2020.  The final rule implementing the changes (the “Final Rule”) will be published in the Federal Register on April 16, 2019. An advance copy of the Final Rule is available here.
Continue Reading CMS Expands Telehealth Benefits under Medicare Advantage