Now approaching a year-long battle, drug manufacturers and 340B covered entities, which include hospitals and community health centers, participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Discount Program (“340B Participants”) continue to dispute the issue of whether drug manufacturers are required to give 340B Participants discounts on drugs dispensed through contract pharmacies.  The most recent point of contention involves the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s (“HRSA”) May 17, 2021 letters sent to six drug manufacturers stating that the manufacturers’ actions to limit access to 340B Program pricing for 340B Participants who dispense drugs through contract pharmacies is in direct violation of Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act (also referred to as the “340B Statute”).  The letters also included HRSA’s demand that the manufacturers immediately begin offering their drugs at discounted prices to these 340B Participants as well as credit or refund all 340B Participants for overcharges that resulted from the limiting policies, or be subject to civil monetary penalties.  As anticipated, certain drug manufacturers, including Eli Lilly, have filed motions in federal court to stop the HRSA from placing monetary penalties based on their refusal to provide 340B discounts to contract pharmacies.

Continue Reading 340B Drug Pricing Discount Program Update: HRSA Now Demands That Drug Manufacturers Provide 340B Discounts To Contract Pharmacies Amid Ongoing Litigation

On April 27, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (“IPPS”) and Long-Term Care Hospital (“LTCH”) unpublished Proposed Rule for 2022 (“Proposed Rule”). The Proposed Rule, if enacted, would eliminate the requirement from the Hospital IPPS and LTCH Final Rule for 2021 (“IPPS Final Rule for 2021”), as discussed in our September 11, 2020 blog post, that hospitals report the median payer-specific negotiated charge with Medicare Advantage (“MA”) payers, by MS-DRG, on its Medicare cost reports for cost reporting periods ending on or after January 1, 2021. CMS estimates that this will reduce the administrative burden on hospitals by approximately 64,000 hours.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes Repeal of Certain Cost Reporting Requirements from the IPPS Final Rule for 2021

On December 11, 2020, five hospital groups, including the American Hospital Association (“AHA”), and an organization of hospital pharmacists representing participants in the 340B drug pricing program (“340B Program”), filed a federal lawsuit (the “340B Program Litigation”) against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) over HHS’ alleged failure to enforce 340B Program requirements that obligate pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide 340B Program prescription drug discounts to pharmacies contracted by 340B Program-participating hospitals to dispense 340B Program drugs.[1]
Continue Reading Contract Pharmacies and the 340B Drug Discount Program: New Litigation and an Advisory Opinion Point to Ongoing Skirmishes on the 340B Battlefield

In a December 12, 2017 Advisory Board article, “The 340B drug pricing controversy, explained,” Scott Orwig wrote, “the 340B Drug Pricing Program is one of the most contentious issues in health care: Its critics say it ‘hurts patients’ and is being ‘abused’ by hospitals. Its defenders say it’s ‘vital’ to the health of low-income patients and essential to helping safety net hospitals care for their communities.”
Continue Reading Maneuvers on the 340B Drug Pricing Program Battlefield: Duplicate Discounts and Contract Pharmacies

On November 15, 2019, CMS issued a final rule that requires hospitals to disclose to patients the hospital’s “standard charges,” which include the reimbursement rates the hospitals negotiate privately with insurers.  This rule is in line with President Trump’s Executive Order, dated June 24, 2019, which focused on increasing price and quality transparency for American healthcare consumers.  The Final Rule goes into effect as of January 1, 2021, at which time hospitals will have to post their standard charges online.  Any hospital that refuses to do so will be subject to a fine of up to $300 per day.  While CMS believes that the Final Rule will lower healthcare costs by allowing customers to compare prices and proactively shop for care, the Final Rule has been met with strong resistance from hospitals that claim that it is beyond the scope of CMS’ power to promulgate.
Continue Reading Balancing Provider Pricing Transparency and Anti-Competitive Behavior

On Friday, April 10, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) began distributing $30B of the $100B appropriated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (“PHSSEF”), also called the “CARES Act Provider Relief Fund”.  HHS distributed the funds to providers based on their 2019 Medicare fee-for-service (“FFS”) reimbursement.  We understand that $26B of this $30B have already been directly deposited into providers’ accounts. Many providers have questions about what happens next.  We address the top ten questions here.
Continue Reading HHS Distributes First $30B of CARES Act Provider Relief Fund – What Providers Need to Know and Do Next

Information Collection Request. On November 27, 2019, 340B Health, a nonprofit membership organization comprised of hospitals and health systems that participate in the federal 340B drug pricing program (“340B Program”), submitted comments (“340B Comments”) to Seema Verma, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), objecting to an announcement by CMS on September 30, 2019, which proposed an information collection request (“ICR”) to survey the drug acquisition cost data for hospitals participating in the 340B Program.
Continue Reading 340B Program-Participating Hospitals Object to CMS’s Proposed Cuts to 340B Program Reimbursement: CMS’s Recent Information Collection Request

On July 31, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment to hospital operator HCA and dismiss relator Thomas Bingham’s allegations. Bingham v. HCA (S.D. Fla. July 31, 2019) (“Op.”). In a well-reasoned opinion, the Court affirmed several key holdings:

  • There is no “remuneration”, for Federal health care program anti-kickback statute (“AKS”) purposes, unless a benefit is conferred for less than fair market value. In other words, as long as compensation to or from a referral source is consistent with fair market value, the AKS is not implicated.
  • With respect to the Stark Law, showing that a space lease arrangement effectuates an “indirect compensation arrangement” between a hospital and a referring physician requires a showing that the space, rental rates, or benefits under the lease correlate with the volume of the physician’s referrals to the hospital.
  • It may be appropriate for a court to strike allegations from an amended False Claims Act complaint if they are based on information uncovered by a relator during discovery.

These holdings should be welcomed by defendants of alleged AKS, Stark Law, and False Claims Act violations.
Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Affirms Key Kickback Statute, Stark Law, and False Claims Act Principles in Dismissing Allegations Against HCA

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court upheld a D.C. Circuit Court decision vacating a policy of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) that would have “dramatically – and retroactively – reduced payments to hospitals serving low-income patients.” Azar v. Allina Health Services, 587 U.S. __ at 1 (2019). The Supreme Court’s Allina opinion (“Op.” or the “Decision”) is critically important for hospitals that rely on Medicare disproportionate share (“DSH”) payments and has broader implications for the way that CMS issues the voluminous guidance that the agency applies to Medicare-participating providers and suppliers and other CMS-contracted entities.
Continue Reading SCOTUS Rejects CMS DSH Policy, Calls CMS Guidance Practices Into Question