Federal Healthcare Legislation

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

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 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

In its June 2021 physician supply and demand report, “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034” (the “Report”), the Association of American Medical Colleges (“AAMC”) highlights the ongoing concern of physician shortages in the United States.  According to the Report, the U.S. faces a potential physician shortage of between 37,800 to 124,000 doctors by 2034. While an improvement from AAMC’s June 2020 report, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the consequences of failing to address this problem, as medical schools and teaching hospitals were forced to graduate medical students early, and hospitals scrambled to call up retired physicians and to pay steep travel and relocation rates, all to address the public health emergency.
Continue Reading Congressional Action in the Face of Mounting Concerns Regarding Current and Future Physician Shortages

The Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319) (the “Act”) could present an opportunity for the growth of utilization of ambulatory surgery centers (“ASCs”), continuing the trend of migration of inpatient procedures to the outpatient setting.  This shift toward the outpatient setting initially began prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency, but was accelerated by the pandemic’s effect on hospitals, likely continuing the substantial increase in investment in the ASC marketplace.
Continue Reading Biden’s American Rescue Plan Follows Trend Toward Outpatient Setting, Increase in ASC Investment

On March 10, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “Act”). This $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package not only includes a whole host
Continue Reading The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: A New Lease on Life for the Affordable Care Act?

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