On November 30, 2020, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a final rule (“Final Rule”) that makes significant changes to the federal Antikickback Statute (“AKS”) safe harbor regulations as such regulations relate to the cost of prescription drugs as covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  More specifically, the Final Rule amends the AKS discount safe harbor (“Discount Safe Harbor”) at 42 C.F.R. §1001.952(h) to eliminate safe harbor protection for drug discounts and rebates offered by pharmaceutical manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) and  Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (“Medicare Part D”) sponsors.  In addition to making significant changes to the Discount Safe Harbor, the Final Rule creates two new pharmaceutical-related safe harbors: (i) a safe harbor applicable to certain prescription drug point-of-sale discounts as offered to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to reduce their direct out-of-pocket prescription drug costs (the “Point-of-Sale Safe Harbor”) and (ii) a safe harbor applicable to flat fee arrangements paid by drug companies directly to PBMs for PBM services (the “PBM Service Fees Safe Harbor”).

Continue Reading Eleventh Hour Rulemaking: HHS Eliminates Safe Harbor Protections for PBM Drug Rebates and Creates Two New Safe Harbors for Point-of-Service Discounts and PBM Fixed-Fee Arrangements

On October 29, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) released the Transparency in Coverage Final Rules (the “Final Rules”), which require non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers offering non-grandfathered health insurance coverage in the individual and group markets to disclose certain information including negotiated rates with providers and estimated out-of-pocket expenses to enable consumers to make informed health care purchasing decisions.
Continue Reading Trump Administration Finalizes The Transparency in Coverage Rule

On September 3, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its Rural Action Plan (the “Plan”). The Plan: (i) details the challenges rural communities endure; (ii) provides an assessment of current and upcoming rural healthcare efforts; (iii) lays out a “Four Point Strategy” to address the disparities between rural and urban communities; and (iv) lays out an action plan featuring 71 action items for remediating the disparities consistent with the Four Point Strategy.

Continue Reading HHS Releases Rural Action Plan

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and alongside it the high probability of a conservative successor to the open seat she left behind, is likely to shift the Court substantially to the right. Among the most notable cases that will likely be presented before the newly constituted Court is the pending challenge to the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”).
Continue Reading The Death of RBG…and the ACA?

On Sunday, September 13, 2020, President Trump signed an Executive Order, the next in a series of Executive Orders targeting the pharmaceutical industry, which aims to lower prescription drug prices in the United States (the “Order”).  The order repealed and replaced a similar Executive Order, which was previously signed on July 24, 2020 but was held back from release by the Trump administration, and follows the signing of the Buy American Executive Order mandating the purchase of U.S.-manufactured drugs that we analyzed here.
Continue Reading The Next in the Series of Executive Orders Affecting the Pharmaceutical Industry

On September 2, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) filed the unpublished version of the forthcoming Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems (“IPPS”) Final Rule for 2021. One of the more controversial provisions in the IPPS Final Rule finalizes CMS’ proposal, with modification, to require hospitals to report certain market-based payment rate information on their Medicare cost report for cost reporting periods ending on or after January 1, 2021. Specifically, this includes requiring hospitals to report on the Medicare cost report, the median payer-specific charge that the hospital has negotiated with all of its Medicare Advantage organization (“MAO”) payers, by Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Groups (“MS-DRGs”) (the classification system by which hospitals are paid for patients’ hospital stays). The payer-specific negotiated charges used by hospitals to calculate these medians would be the payer-specific negotiated charges for service packages that hospitals are already required to make public under the requirements finalized in the Hospital Price Transparency Final Rule and, therefore, CMS argues that “the additional calculation and reporting of the median payer-specific negotiated charge will be less burdensome for hospitals.” In addition, CMS also finalized the market-based MS-DRG relative weight methodology, which incorporates this market-based rate information, to inform its calculations for inpatient hospital rates beginning in 2024.

Continue Reading CMS Finalizes Medicare Advantage Price Transparency Requirements, Despite Industry Criticism

On Thursday, August 6, 2020 President Trump signed an Executive Order, mandating that certain drugs and medical supplies purchased by federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, and Department of Veteran’s Affairs must be US-manufactured (the “Buy American Order” or the “Order”). The list of “essential medicines, medical countermeasures and critical input” that fall under this Order will be determined by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). The Order also calls on the FDA to conduct a greater amount of unannounced inspections of overseas drug plants to ensure that production of drugs is compliant with safety standards and to encourage more advanced drug manufacturing techniques.
Continue Reading President Trump’s Executive Order Mandating the Purchase of U.S. Drugs Evokes Criticism

On June 19, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a proposed rule, “Medicaid Program; Establishing Minimum Standards in Medicaid State Drug Utilization Review (DUR) and Supporting Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) for Drugs Covered in Medicaid, Revising Medicaid Drug Rebate and Third Party Liability (TPL) Requirements” (the “Proposed Rule”).  The Proposed Rule is designed to implement statutory amendments to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program (“MDRP”) statute, and add new regulatory provisions to encourage value-based purchasing (“VBP”) arrangements between drug manufacturers and state Medicaid programs and Medicaid-contracting payors.
Continue Reading CMS’ Proposed Rule Promoting Value-Based Purchasing for Medicaid-Covered Drugs: The Comments are In!

On July 17, 2020, in a blow to health care providers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a lower court’s more favorable ruling and held that the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) “site-neutral payment” policy may stand.
Continue Reading Site-Neutral Payments Stand: D.C. Court of Appeals Overturns Ruling and Allows Lower Payments to Off-Campus Provider-Based Departments

In a June 23, 2020 decision, Judge Nichol of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and against the plaintiff hospital associations challenging CMS’s transparency rule. As a result,  hospitals will (pending any appeals) have to post private negotiated rates with payors effective January 1, 2021.  We discussed the lawsuit brought by the American Hospital Association (“AHA”), the Federation of American Hospitals, the Children’s Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges against CMS in our previous article.
Continue Reading The Decision is in: Hospitals Will be Required to Disclose Rates in 2021

Last week, new legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require Medicare to reimburse certain telehealth services post the public health emergency period.  If passed, the bipartisan  Helping Ensure Access to Local TeleHealth Act of 2020 or HEALTH Act of 2020 (the “HEALTH Act of 2020”) would codify Medicare reimbursement and allow reimbursement for telehealth services provided by federally qualified health centers (“FQHCs”) and rural health clinics (“RHCs”).
Continue Reading Introducing the HEALTH ACT: Expanding Medicare Reimbursement