On September 14, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) published a proposed rule updating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”). The new rule entitled Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities(the “Proposed Rule”) is the first major regulatory update to Section 504 in nearly 50 years. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance (“FFA”) or are conducted by a Federal agency. Section 504 covers all health care and human services programs and activities funded by HHS, from providers, like hospitals and doctors that accept Medicare or Medicare, to state child welfare programs, as well as Medicare Advantage Plans, and Medicaid Managed Care Plans.Continue Reading HHS Aims to Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Rules for Disabled Patients in New Proposed Rule
Alice Hall-Partyka is a counsel at Crowell & Moring’s Los Angeles office, where she is a member of the firm’s Health Care Group. She counsels payers, providers, and technology companies on a broad range of health care regulatory, corporate, and policy matters. Alice uses her industry experience to help clients identify practical solutions and navigate complex regulatory frameworks.
Alice advises health care companies that are adapting to evolving laws and regulations, developing new products or services, or seeking to improve their regulatory compliance. She also strategizes with and represents clients that are responding to governmental inquiries and investigations. Alice’s areas of focus include Medicaid and Medicare program requirements, mental health parity, health reform, state regulation of payers and providers, digital health and innovative technologies, and health care fraud and abuse.
On July 21, 2023, the Department of Health Care Access and Information of the California Health and Human Services Agency released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the “Proposed Rule”) with regulations that would implement new financial and ownership transparency requirements for skilled nursing facilities (“SNFs”) in California.Continue Reading New Transparency Requirements for Skilled Nursing Facilities in California
On July 25, 2023, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services (the “Tri-Agencies”) released long awaited proposed regulations (the “Proposed Rule”) and a Technical Release, which together propose new requirements for comparative analyses of nonquantitative treatment limitations (“NQTL”) under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“MHPAEA”). On the same day, the Tri-Agencies released their annual report to Congress on implementation of MHPAEA, as required under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“CAA 2021”). Continue Reading New Proposed MHPAEA Rule Builds on NQTL Comparative Analysis Standards
On July 17th, the California Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) approved an emergency regulation (effective until January 14, 2021) from the California Department of Managed Health Care (“DMHC”) that specifies COVID-19 diagnostic testing coverage requirements for California health care service plans. Medi-Cal managed care plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and specialized health plans are not subject to the regulation. The DMHC provided additional context to the emergency regulation in an all plan letter issued on July 23rd.
The regulation deems COVID-19 testing to be an urgent health care service during the California state of emergency. It also states that COVID-19 diagnostic testing is a medically necessary basic health care service for enrollees who are essential workers, regardless of whether the enrollee has symptoms of COVID-19 or a known or suspected exposure to a person with COVID-19. Essential workers are defined in the regulation to include a broad range of individuals working in the health care, emergency services, public transportation, congregate care, correctional, food service, and education sectors. Additionally, they include individuals who work in retail, manufacturing, agriculture, and food manufacturing that either have frequent interactions with the public or cannot regularly maintain at least six feet of space from other workers.
Between the regulation, all plan letter, and other applicable federal law, California health plans will need to comply with the following requirements for enrollees seeking COVID-19 testing:Continue Reading Required Coverage of COVID-19 Testing for Essential Workers in California
On March 23, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Section 1135 waiver requests submitted by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver requests were submitted by DHCS on March 16 and March 19, 2020.
As discussed in a previous blog post, Section 1135 authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to waive federal Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements in order to respond to a public health or national emergency. As of March 24, CMS had approved Section 1135 waivers related to the COVID-19 pandemic from 13 different states.
With the approval granted by CMS, DHCS is permitted to take the following actions in regards to its Medicaid program (Medi-Cal), effective retroactively to March 1 and to extend until the end of the public health emergency:Continue Reading CMS Approves Medi-Cal Section 1135 Waivers
Many states are looking to adapt their Medicaid programs to address new challenges related to COVID-19, including by increasing coverage and protection for Medicaid enrollees. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued guidance on the types of measures that states can take to change their Medicaid programs.
In an FAQ addressed to state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program agencies, CMS addressed questions from states, saying that states may have flexibility to cover telehealth services, accelerate or relax prior authorization requirements, expand provider networks, extend Medicaid eligibility, and suspend copayments, although some of these measures may require CMS’ waiver of federal requirements or approval of changes to the state Medicaid plan.
On March 22, CMS released checklists and tools that guide Medicaid programs through the processes of seeking expedited approval of such changes and waivers, including section 1115 demonstration waivers, section 1135 waivers, Appendix K of section 1915(c) home and community-based services waivers, and disaster amendments to the state plan. In the associated press release, the Trump Administration indicated that the tools could be used by states to “access emergency administrative relief, make temporary modifications to Medicaid eligibility and benefit requirements, relax rules to ensure that individuals with disabilities and the elderly can be effectively served in their homes, and modify payment rules to support health care providers impacted by the outbreak.” CMS is providing states the options to request waivers effective retroactively to March 1.Continue Reading CMS & State Medicaid Agencies Seek to Expand Enrollee Protections During COVID-19 Pandemic
On December 31, 2019, in New Mexico Health Connections v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the methodology adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to administer the Risk Adjustment Program under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). In doing…
Last week, Tennessee proposed to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) the first of its kind Medicaid block grant program, which would constitute a fundamental restructuring of the Tennessee Medicaid program. The proposal is intended to implement Tennessee House Bill 1280, enacted in May of 2019, which directed the governor to request CMS to approve the block grant through a Section 1115 waiver amendment.
Tennessee currently operates its Medicaid program (“TennCare”) through a Section 1115 waiver approved by CMS. Under the proposed amendment, the state would receive a block grant in an amount calculated using the federal government’s projections for the state’s Medicaid program costs, calculated as if the state were not currently participating under a 1115 demonstration waiver. In years in which the state spends less than the block grant, the state and the federal government would evenly share in the resulting savings.
As part of the proposal, Tennessee has asked for significant exemptions from federal Medicaid managed care laws. Among other things, the state has asked for flexibility to spend block grant funds on items and services not otherwise covered under Medicaid; to adopt a commercial-style closed formulary; to make changes to its benefit packages without CMS approval; to vary benefit packages for members based on medical factors or other considerations; and to be relieved from compliance with Part 438 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, including provisions requiring federal approval for pursuit of healthcare delivery system reform initiatives, managed care contracts, and actuarially certified capitation rates paid to managed care contractors. The state believes that the proposal would “appropriately recognize the state’s efforts to contain costs and improve program quality, while providing a meaningful incentive to continue building on those efforts to make TennCare a stronger and more effective program.”
Continue Reading Tennessee Proposes First of Its Kind Block Grant Program for Medicaid
On August 26, North Carolina passed a law allowing small businesses to band together to offer group health insurance through association health plans (“AHPs”). The Small Business Health Care Act, passed without the governor’s signature, authorizes the formation of large group health plans for association members, including small businesses and sole proprietors. However, these plans can be implemented only if they do not violate federal law, and the federal regulations authorizing this form of AHPs were struck down at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this year. While this decision is currently on appeal at the D.C. Circuit, North Carolina has included in its legislation a back-up plan that the state can pursue expansion of AHPs in case the federal regulations remain struck down.
The U.S. Department of Labor issued regulations last June expanding the situations under which AHPs could be formed. These regulations were created in response to a push by the Trump administration to provide greater choice in health care coverage. Proponents of the regulations believed that the expansion of AHPs could make coverage more affordable and accessible for small business employees and sole proprietors. The regulations, however, were met with significant criticism on the grounds that AHPs would undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), create instability in the ACA marketplaces, and lead to gaps in patient protection and coverage. This March, as noted in a prior C&M alert, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down these regulations.Continue Reading North Carolina Enacts Association Health Plan Law
In the latest episode of Payers, Providers, and Patients – Oh My!, Troy Barsky and Alice Hall-Partyka talk with Joe Records and Payal Nanavati about how recent litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act may impact providers and payers. The discussion focuses on the authority for innovative health care models and…