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 July 17, 2020, in a 2-1 decision, the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a Trump Administration rule that expands the scope of short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans, affirming the lower court’s opinion that STLDI plans do not violate the Affordable Care Act. Ass’n for Cmty. Affiliated Plans v. U.S. Dep’t of Treasury , D.C. Cir. App., No. 19-05212 (July 17, 2020).

The rule’s genesis can be traced to an Executive Order issued in October 2017, which aimed to expand the availability of STLDI plans, seen by the Administration as more “appealing and affordable” than plans mandated by the ACA. The order tasked the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services with expanding the duration of STLDI plans from three months to twelve. The changes also provide for renewals of those plans, which can amount to continuous coverage for up to three years.


Continue Reading Appeals Court Upholds Trump Administration’s Short-term, Limited Duration Insurance Policy Rule

Potentially overlooked between the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA) on March 18 and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) on March 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral argument via teleconference on March 20 in Ass’n for Cmty. Affiliated Plans v. U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, No. 19-05212 (D.C. Cir. July 30, 2019). At issue in that case is the fate of a Trump Administration rulemaking expanding the scope of non-ACA compliant short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans. Already controversial—with some arguing that STLDI plans increase access to health care, while others decry them as misleading consumers and destabilizing the individual insurance market—STLDI plans are of particular import given the COVID-19 pandemic.

As millions face unemployment, lose access to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, and qualify to seek coverage via a special enrollment period, others may look to STLDI policies to obtain at least some coverage in the wake of COVID-19. But, as with ACA requirements such as essential health benefits and community rating, STLDI plans are not subject to the recently enacted zero-dollar cost-sharing and other coverage requirements for COVID-19 diagnostic testing.


Continue Reading Appeals Court Hears Argument on Short-term, Limited Duration Insurance Plan Rule; STLDI Plans are not Required to Provide $0 Cost-share of COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing

This week CMS continued its rapid response—average approval takes less than a week—to review and approve Social Security Act Section 1115(c) Appendix K and Section 1135 waivers to facilitate state Medicaid programs’ efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS approved waiver applications from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts,

New York State is now considered the nation’s epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, far surpassing all other states in confirmed COVID-19 cases.  Managed long-term care plans (“MLTCPs”) and other Medicaid managed care organizations (“MCOs”) are facing unprecedented financial and other challenges addressing the care needs of their members as COVID-19 continues to ravage more and more New Yorkers.  Earlier this week, the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) acted to secure regulatory relief from the federal government for MLTCPs and MCOs as well as Programs of All-Inclusive Care to the Elderly (“PACE”) Organizations from the growing financial stress brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.

In recognition of the challenges faced by health care providers and payors alike, on March 13, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, invoking Section 1135 of the Social Security Act authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to waive application of certain federal laws to ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of Medicaid patients and plan members during the coronavirus public health emergency.  On March 23, 2020, DOH requested additional waivers from federal regulations under Section 1135 that impact among others, MCOs and MLTCPs, including:


Continue Reading New York State Department of Health Seeks Additional 1135 Waivers From CMS To Alleviate Strain On Medicaid Managed Long-Term Care Plans and Other MCOs As Well As PACE Organizations Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

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

On March 23, 2020 CMS approved 11 more Section 1135 state Medicaid waiver requests for the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia. As with the prior waivers, CMS approved the requests in

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 January 31, 2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared COVID-19 a public health emergency under Public Health Service Act Section 319. Subsequently, on March 13, 2020, President Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency under Sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act. Doing so empowered Sec.

In early February, two federal bills targeting surprise billing in healthcare advanced out of committee.  On February 11, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Ban Surprise Billing Act (H.R. 5800), which was introduced by Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D. – Virginia) and Ranking Member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R. – North Carolina).  One day later, the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously advanced the Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act (H.R. 5826), led by Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D. – Massachusetts) and Ranking Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R. – Texas).  Both bills would prohibit providers from balance billing patients for surprise medical bills and would limit patients’ cost-sharing to in-network amounts.  The two competing bills must be reconciled before the full House can vote on the issue.  Leaders hope to include the final product in a spending bill that must pass Congress by May 22.

Similar scopes of coverage

The competing bills are substantively similar in several ways.  Each bill applies to out-of-network emergency claims, to post-stabilization inpatient services provided to patients who are admitted to the hospital through the emergency room, and to non-emergency services provided at in-network facilities by out-of-network providers.  The Ban Surprise Billing Act also covers air ambulance services.  Additionally, both bills apply to all individual and group health plans (both fully- and self-insured) in the group and individual markets, but do not apply to federal programs such as Medicaid or the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.  The Ban Surprise Billing Act also extends to grandfathered health plans.

Notice requirements
Continue Reading Competing Surprise Billing Proposals Set to Collide in the U.S. House; States Test Different Solutions