Third Circuit Rejects State’s Bid for Attorney’s Fees in Hospital Merger Dispute

Category: Antitrust

On January 23, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (“Third Circuit”) issued an opinion denying the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the right to recover attorney’s fees after it had successfully blocked a hospital merger. The Third Circuit determined that the state had no federal statutory basis to be awarded attorney’s fees since the injunction had been granted under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”), which does not provide for attorneys’ fees, rather than Section 16 of the Clayton Act.

This case establishes binding precedent in the Third Circuit that state attorneys general will only have standing to seek attorneys’ fees in antitrust actions under the Clayton Act when the state actually litigates the case under that section. It also potentially has broader implications if other circuits decide to look to this decision as persuasive authority when deciding similar cases in their jurisdictions. Continue Reading

The Synaptic Health Alliance: A Look at how Blockchain Technology Could Improve Provider Data Quality

In 2018, five major healthcare companies – Humana, MultiPlan, Optum, Quest Diagnostics, and UnitedHealthcare – formed the Synaptic Health Alliance (the “Alliance”) to explore how blockchain technology could resolve current healthcare issues. The Alliance launched its first pilot program in April 2018 to focus on specific ways that “blockchain technology can help ensure the most current information about healthcare providers is available in the provider directories maintained by health insurers.”[1] Aetna and Ascension joined the Alliance in December 2018, thus adding additional resources and unique perspectives to the effort of streamlining provider data management.[2] Continue Reading

TRICARE: Defense Health Agency Issues Request for Information Regarding Formulary Management – Submission Deadline: February 5, 2019

The Defense Health Agency (DHA), which manages the TRICARE health care benefits, has issued a Request for Information (RFI) regarding inpatient-clinic administered pharmaceuticals formulary management.  In other words, responding vendors have the opportunity to shape the standard list of drugs prescribed across all military medical treatment facilities (MTFs), as well as the broader program administering the list.  Responses are due February 5, 2019.  The RFI seeks commercial best practices in formulary management focusing on inpatient and medical benefit drugs, but also opens the door for responding vendors to describe their capabilities to train a formulary management staff, to develop approaches to formulary management, to compare program results, to maximize acceptance of an implemented program, and to utilize pharmacists in an inpatient setting.

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California AG Aims to Block County’s Purchase of Two San Jose-Area Hospitals

On January 9, 2019, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California – Los Angeles Division (the “Court”), requesting that the court stay its December 27th Sale Order, which approved Santa Clara County’s $235 million bid to purchase two hospitals from Verity Health System of California (“Verity”).[1] The Sale Order authorized Santa Clara County’s (the “County”) acquisition of O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy (including the DePaul Health Center in Morgan Hill) as part of Verity’s ongoing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy reorganization.[2]

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340B Drug Pricing Program Litigation Update: Court Rejects CMS Drug Pricing Cuts

On December 27, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion that ruled against the Trump Administration in its plan to cut funding from the 340B Drug Pricing Program (“340B Program”).[1]

Background

As discussed in a November 17, 2018 posting on this blog, the reimbursement rates for the 340B Program were significantly reduced when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) promulgated the “Medicare Program: Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment Systems and Quality Reporting Programs” (the “Final Rule”). The Final Rule decreased the reimbursement rates for participating hospitals purchasing medicine through the 340B Program from 6% above the average sales price to 22.5% below the average sales price.[2]

After the Final Rule was published on November 13, 2017, the American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges (the “Plaintiffs”) sued the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and sought a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the Final Rule.[3] The motion for the preliminary injunction was denied, so the Final Rule’s reimbursement cuts went into effect on January 1, 2018. Continue Reading

Day 3 Notes from the 2019 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

The 2019 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference did not see multiple blockbuster announcements like in some earlier years but instead showcased an industry hard at work calmly and meaningfully trying to address and innovate to solve the industry’s structural, systemic and demographic challenges. We saw some companies trying to respond to the current fragmentation of healthcare delivery and financing through expansion of their vertical continuum, while others continued to strive to use technological solutions to shift behaviors and close gaps. There frankly was little question that the industry is continuing to move toward value-based and risk-based reimbursement – the challenge now is building or buying the necessary infrastructure, educating stakeholders and obtaining commitment and engagement, and structuring appropriate partnerships and relationships with other industry participants. We expect the pace of acquisitions and alliances to continue at current or higher levels as the industry repositions for this reimbursement shift. Similarly, the industry appears ready to innovate with artificial intelligence and machine learning, as incumbent technology providers develop new products and strategy and disruption is expected from new market entrants.

There also was no panic nor concerns voiced in the presentations we attended about the Affordable Care Act or the other possible results of the current political situation. Rather, several presenters noted that the exchange population relatively is minimal in size as compared to the commercial and Medicare/Medicaid markets. With exchange enrollment holding relatively steady and many plans reaching profitability with their exchange products, plans and providers are looking instead to the coming massive transformation of the commercial and federal products markets as risk further proliferates. Continue Reading

Day 2 Notes from the 2019 JPMorgan Healthcare Conference

What is Quality Anyways?: James Hinton, the CEO of Baylor Scott and White, got a good laugh from the audience when he said that he was proud to be one of the five or six hundred hospitals in the nation’s top 100 hospitals. And looking at the multiple “ego wall” slides we saw in day one and day two of the conference, all of which systems or companies were recognized for their outstanding quality and achievements, it brings to mind the old Lake Woebegon comment by Garrison Keillor that their town is a place where all of the children are above average. As some/many may ask, if everyone is doing so well per the awards, then how is it that we as a nation are not doing well with our health and our healthcare system? Is it just “those other guys” who are not winning those awards that are so far below average and dragging us all down in quality and exceeding in costs? Perhaps there is a place for some new thinking on measuring quality based on meeting patient goals, rather than third party quality organization goals. Put another way, healthcare today still is focusing more on process than results. Did you get your mammogram is the question, rather than did you make it another year without succumbing to a major disease. Continue Reading

The Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act: An Altered Landscape for Financial Relationships with Clinical Laboratories

Section 1822 of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act (the “SUPPORT Act”), passed at the end of October 2018, includes the “Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act of 2018” (“EKRA”). Although EKRA was created to address “patient brokering,” the practice by recovery homes and treatment facilities of engaging third parties, or “body brokers,” to recruit patients in exchange for kickbacks, EKRA’s language prohibits a much broader scope of conduct. Specifically, EKRA has significant implications for any financial relationship that any clinical laboratory has with any individual or legal entity that generates business for it, even for clinical laboratories not involved in addiction recovery programs – including ownership, investment, employment, lease, purchasing, and independent contractor arrangements. Continue Reading

Day 1 Notes on the 2019 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

Please Don’t Poke the Baby – Sharing a best practice and talking about taking a local hospital learning and turning it into a systemwide approach, Mark Harrison of Intermountain Healthcare shared the fact that taking fewer blood samples from neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) babies was shown to lead to less infections in the NICU and on average a two week earlier discharge from the NICU. Who knew?

Drug Pricing – Drug pricing was on many lips today. Intermountain Healthcare launched Civica to address generic drug pricing and reported that it had approximately 500 hospital members now. More than one-third of US hospitals (!!) have inquired about joining Civica, which provides an exclamation point on the issue of generic drug pricing and availability. Mark Harrison of Intermountain said that products would start being available in 2019. He also noted that Civica doesn’t have to produce pills if the generic manufacturers will engage appropriately. Teva predicted generic drug market stabilization in their presentation today, which was also noted in the Walgreens Boots presentation as well. Walgreens Boots thought that the pace of cost reduction has slowed though. Let’s see who wins this game of “chicken.” Also today, Northwell announced that they were launching their own pharmacy benefit management (PBM) operation. We expect to see a lot of realignment and new entries in the PBM space, given the recent mergers and other activity (CVS/Aetna, Cigna/ESI, Anthem/IngenioRx). Much of the PBM space is being rethought now as its scope can expand to chronic condition management (an objective highlighted by Cigna today) or to medical benefits management as ESI is hoping with its recent acquisition of eviCore. Continue Reading

“Pathways to Success” Update: CMS Issues Final Rule on Changes to the ACO Program

As discussed in our August 16, 2018 blog post, CMS Proposes Massive Changes to ACO Program – Pushing Providers to Accept Downside Risk, on August 9, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) published a proposed rule referred to as “Pathways to Success” (the “Proposed Rule”) to redesign the Medicare Shared Savings Program (“MSSP” ). As proposed, the redesign would require Accountable Care Organizations (“ACOs”) to accept downside risk or shared losses sooner than was originally scheduled under the then-current MSSP. Continue Reading

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