On January 5, 2022, we discussed the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2023 proposed rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). On April 28, 2022, CMS issued the NBPP 2023 Final Rule. CMS published a Fact Sheet and other resources on April 28, 2022. The rule will take effect on January 1, 2023, but the optional early bird application deadline is May 18, 2022 and the final deadline for issuers to submit changes to their QHP Application is August 17, 2022.
Continue Reading 2023 Payment Rule’s Nondiscrimination Provisions and Anticipation of New Section 1557 Rules

On April 29, 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), issued the final rule on Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs (the “Final Rule”).  CMS promotes the Final Rule as advancing “CMS’ strategic vision of expanding access to affordable health care and improving health equity in Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D through lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and improved consumer protections.”  With a few exceptions, the Final Rule is a wholesale codification of the proposed rule. Except as noted below, the requirements of the Final Rule are effective January 1, 2024.
Continue Reading CMS Issues Contract Year 2023 Final Rule for Medicare Advantage Organizations and Prescription Drug Sponsors

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector (“OIG”) released a report that studied prior authorization denials and payment denials by Medicare Advantage Organizations (“MAOs”) (the “Report”). While the Report found that the “vast majority” of prior authorizations and payment requests were approved, the Report focused on the finding that MAOs “sometimes” denied prior authorization and payment requests that met Medicare coverage rules claiming that the denials delayed or denied beneficiaries’ access to medically necessary services.
Continue Reading HHS OIG Report On Prior Authorizations Under Medicare Advantage

On January 6, 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued the proposed rule on Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs (the “Proposed Rule”). Per CMS, the Proposed Rule will reduce out-of-pocket prescription drug costs, improve price transparency and market competition under the Part D program, strengthen consumer protections to ensure Medicare Advantage (“MA”) and Part D beneficiaries have accurate and accessible information about their health plan choices and benefits, strengthen CMS oversight of MA and Part D plans, and improve the integration of Medicare and Medicaid programs for individuals enrolled in dual eligible special needs plans (“D-SNPs”). CMS failed to mention that the Proposed Rule will also result in additional administrative burdens and increased costs for MA organizations (“MAOs”) and Part D sponsors.

Continue Reading CMS’s Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs

Physicians and other providers can take a deep breath as Congress has acted to prevent the trio of Medicare payment cuts that were set to take effect at the beginning of 2022—a 3.75% cut due to scheduled changes in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (“PFS”), a 2% cut for Medicare sequestration, and a 4% Statutory Pay-As-You-Go (“PAYGO”) Act cut would have slashed Medicare payments by nearly 10% during a tumultuous time for healthcare. The Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act (S. 610) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 7 and passed the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2021.  The bill has been sent to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

Continue Reading News Flash: Last Minute Congressional Action Saves Physicians from a Nearly 10% Cut to Medicare Payments

On November 12, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) revised and finalized draft guidance first issued on May 3, 2019, for co-location of hospitals with other hospitals or healthcare providers[1] (the “Finalized Guidance”). The Finalized Guidance is intended to guide CMS Surveyors in evaluation of such hospitals’ compliance with Medicare Conditions of Participation related to shared space, services, and staff.

Continue Reading CMS Loosens Restrictions on Co-Located Healthcare Providers; Enforcement Interpretation Still to Be Determined

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

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