On May 21, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced that the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization (“ACO”) Model (“NGACO Model” or “Model”), set to end December 31, 2021, will not be extended after receiving a one-year extension due to COVID-19.  The decision comes as a surprise to NGACO participants and other industry groups who have been calling on CMS to revisit its decision and closely consider the Model’s merits and potential as a permanent program option.  Industry stakeholders, such as the National Association of ACOs (“NAACOS”), expressed initial disappointment with CMS’ decision to end the program, but were later able to find some reprieve with CMS’ decision to “allow Next Gen ACOs a limited opportunity to apply for Direct Contracting . . . . starting next year.”

Continue Reading CMS’ Next Generation Accountable Care Organization (NGACO) Model Set To End in December 2021

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

It’s Day 2 of the J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference at its finest – looking closely at healthcare inequities, strategic business shifts and killer robots, all in the same day! (Yes, we did say killer robots and it’s your reward for reading all the way to the end of this article).
Continue Reading Day 2 Notes for the 39th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, 2021

Sitting in the dark before 6 am in my Los Angeles house with my face lit up by yet another Zoom screen, wearing a stylish combination of sweatpants, dress shirt and last year’s JPM conference badge dangling around my neck for old times’ sake, I wonder at the fact that it’s J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference week again and we are where we are. Quite a year for all of us – the pandemic, the healthcare system’s response to the public health emergency, the ongoing fight for racial justice, the elections, the storming of the Capital – and the subject of healthcare winds its way through all of it – public health, our healthcare system’s stability, strengths and weaknesses, the highly noticeable healthcare inequities, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and vaccines, healthcare politics and what the new administration will bring as healthcare initiatives.
Continue Reading Day 1 Notes for the 39th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, 2021

In our December 7, 2020 Blog Post, “Permanent Expansion of Medicare Telehealth Services,” we discussed the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule (the “Final Rule”) and the regulatory changes made therein by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to expand Medicare telehealth coverage within the confines of existing Medicare statutory law.  The Final Rule was first posted on December 2, 2020 and was formally published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2020.
Continue Reading The Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act: A Matter of Healthcare Equity?

On December 2, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) finalized policies that “aim to increase choice, lower patients’ out-of-pocket costs, empower patients, and protect taxpayer dollars” with changes to the Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (“OPPS”) and the Ambulatory Surgical Center (“ASC”) Payment System in the Medicare OPPS and ASC Final Rule (“Final Rule”). These changes include: elimination of the “Inpatient Only List” and additions and revisions to the “ASC Covered Procedures List” – two key areas of “site neutrality”. Site neutrality is a move to diminish or eliminate the reimbursement differences between different sites of service.
Continue Reading Forthcoming Medicare Rule Furthers Push for Site Neutrality

On December 1, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the annual Physician Fee Schedule final rule (“Final Rule”) which, among other things, aimed to further President Trump’s October 3, 2019 Executive Order #13890 on “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors” (the “EO”) by expanding the use of proven alternatives like telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries even after the conclusion of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (the “Pandemic”).
Continue Reading Permanent Expansion of Medicare Telehealth Services

As highlighted in a May 2020 Milbank Memorial Fund white paper titled, “How Payment Reform Could Enable Primary Care to Respond to COVID-19,” the COVID-19 public health emergency has driven transformation in the provision of primary care services across the country.  Whether it’s the use of telehealth technology to facilitate “virtual visits” or the development of new treatment protocols to identify and treat patients who need behavioral health support to manage the emotional challenges endemic to the public health emergency, changes in primary care delivery have drawn increased attention to the need for concomitant changes in the way primary care is financed.
Continue Reading Primary Care First: CMS’s New Value-Based Approach to Primary Care

As the pandemic rages on, and the United States has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent days, many healthcare providers are still struggling to care for patients and remain afloat. In response, HHS is continuing support and extending flexibility.
Continue Reading More Relief on the Way for Healthcare Providers: Provider Relief Fund Payment Opportunities and Flexibility in Repayment Requirements

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