On December 14, 2016, CMS issued an interim final rule with comment period to amend Medicare’s dialysis facility conditions for coverage to require certain disclosures to patients and health insurance issuers to address widespread concerns over inappropriate steerage of dialysis patients to individual market plans. After issuing an RFI about “inappropriate steering of people eligible

On November 2, 2016, the final rule with comment period (the “Final Rule”) implementing provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) relating to the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Alternative Payment Models (APMs) will be published in the Federal Register.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also

On August 18, 2016, CMS issued a request for information on “inappropriate steering of people eligible for Medicare or Medicaid into Marketplace plans” by third parties. CMS voiced concern over “anecdotal reports” that Medicaid or Medicare eligibles received premium and cost-sharing assistance from third parties so they could enroll in Marketplace plans, enabling providers to receive higher reimbursement rates. In November 2013, CMS had issued guidance discouraging third-party payment of premiums because it has the propensity to “skew the insurance risk pool and create an unlevel field in the Marketplaces.” Almost three years later, it appears that CMS has determined that more decisive action may be necessary.

In July, UnitedHealthcare filed suit against American Renal Associates LLC in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (complaint), alleging ARA violated Florida’s deceptive and unfair trade practices act, fraud, unjust enrichment, conspiracy, and other causes of action. The suit alleges that ARA coordinated with the American Kidney Foundation to pay premiums of low-income enrollees to switch from government health care programs to private insurance coverage. The suit alleges that by steering enrollees from Medicaid and Medicare to private insurance, ARA was able to increase billing from about $300 to $4,000 for the same services. The complaint also alleges that ARA did not collect copayments or deductibles from the enrollees after covering their premiums for private insurance and so committed negligent misrepresentation and tortious interference with a contract by misrepresenting the charges of claims submitted to UnitedHealthcare.


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Barsky

Yesterday, our colleague Troy A. Barsky testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee led by Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and provided recommendations for modernizing the Stark Law to regulate self-referrals without impeding the care coordination and value-based payment models promoted by health care reform legislation. Other witnesses before the Committee included Dr. Ronald A. Paulus

On June 23, Crowell & Moring and Accenture co-hosted the Fostering Innovative Digital Health Strategies Conference in Crowell’s D.C. office. The conference provided a broad analysis of the business and legal issues that must be addressed as health care organizations and technology companies consider innovative strategies to use digital health technologies. The conference covered several topics including trends in the health care economy’s Internet of Things, setting up digital health platforms, legislative activity related to telehealth, and the use of digital health technology to support new payment models.

The fifth session of the conference, “New Payment Models and New Sources of Data for Care Coordination and Quality Improvement” featured John Brennan (Partner, Crowell & Moring), Dr. Elizabeth Raitz-Cowboy (Southeast Medical Director, Aetna Life Insurance Company), Barbara Ryland (Senior Counsel, Crowell & Moring), and Soph Sophocles (Associate General Counsel, Biogen).

The discussion addressed changes and themes in the wake of digital health technology and growing use of data. Key takeaways from the session:


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On Tuesday July 12, 2016, the Senate Finance Committee (“Committee”) will hold a hearing on “Examining the Stark Law: Current Issues and Opportunities.” Crowell & Moring Partner Troy Barsky will be testifying before the Committee as a Stark Law subject matter authority.

In advance of this hearing, the Committee released last week the white paper “Why Stark, Why Now? Suggestions to Improve the Stark Law to Encourage Innovative Payment Models.”  Amid growing support for Stark law reform, the white paper deems the Stark law, as currently drafted, both an impediment to implementing health care reform, e.g., the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (“MACRA”), and of limited value given shifts from fee-for-service to alternative payment models that reward quality health care rather than the volume of services.

The white paper focuses predominantly on modifications to the Stark law that would remove obstacles to implementing health care reform. After a roundtable held in December, 2015, that was co-moderated by Troy Barsky, the Committee had solicited and received a range of stakeholder comments that proposed various Stark law reform solutions: repeal the law in its entirety; repeal the compensation arrangement prohibitions; implement new exceptions and modify existing exceptions; implement new or expand existing waivers; and expand CMS’s regulatory authority pertaining to waivers, exceptions, and advisory opinions. These comments are catalogued and discussed throughout the white paper. The white paper also examined the need to distinguish between technical, e.g. documentation requirements, and substantive violations of the Stark law.  Commenters generally agreed that a separate set of sanctions should apply to technical violations and that such violations should not give rise to False Claims Act exposure.


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On June 27, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a favorable Advisory Opinion, No. 16-07, relating to a savings card program under which individuals who have prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D receive discounts on a drug that is statutorily excluded from Part D coverage.

According to the Advisory Opinion, the Requestor markets and distributes a prescription drug that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (the “Drug”). While the Drug is covered by many private insurance plans and some Federal health care programs, including state Medicaid programs and TRICARE, the Drug is statutorily excluded from coverage under Medicare Part D.

Under the arrangement, the Requestor offers and provides coupons, in the form of a savings card, which Medicare Part D beneficiaries (“Beneficiaries”) may use to receive discounts on the purchase of the Drug. Specifically, Beneficiaries may receive reductions on out-of-pocket costs greater than $15, up to a maximum benefit of $75 per prescription, on up to 12 prescriptions for the Drug, when they present their savings card and Drug prescriptions to their pharmacist.


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The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) last week replaced a 20-year old policy statement, and issued guidance on the criteria the agency will use to evaluate whether to exclude certain individuals and entities from billing or “participation in” Federal health programs under its permissive exclusion authority. The new guidelines supersede and replace the OIG’s December 24, 1997 policy statement and set forth “non-binding” criteria that the OIG may consider in exercising this authority under circumstances involving fraud, kickbacks and other prohibited conduct. The newly-memorialized policy is yet another effort by the agency to encourage healthcare providers to implement robust compliance mechanisms that can timely identify and voluntarily self-disclose to the government any unlawful conduct.

Under Sections 1128(b)(1)-(b)(15) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), the Secretary, by delegation to the OIG, has discretion to exclude individuals and entities based on a number of grounds. This so-called “permissive exclusion” authority grants significant discretion to the OIG.  The new policy provides guidelines for permissive exclusions that are based on Section 1128(b)(7) of the Act, which permits the OIG to exclude persons from participation in any Federal health care program if the OIG determines that the individual or the entity has engages in fraud, kickbacks and other prohibited activities.


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Last month, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum announcing a change pertaining to the effect of intermediate sanctions on the calculation of Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) and Part D sponsors.  This is a significant change for plans.

The Star Rating program has continued to evolve since being introduced by CMS in 2006, and is a part of CMS’s efforts to define, measure, and reward quality health care and member services. The ratings incorporate data from Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set quality measures, Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys, the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey, and CMS administrative data.

Beginning in 2012, quality/Star Ratings directly affected the monthly payment amount MAOs receive from CMS. First, CMS is required to make quality bonus payments (QBPs) to MAOs that achieve at least 4 stars in a 5-star quality rating system. In addition, the percentage share of savings that MAOs must provide to enrollees as the beneficiary rebate is tied to the level of an MAO’s QBP rating.


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On January 28, 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would change the methodology used to evaluate and adjust the performance of Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The proposed rule is intended to improve long-term incentives for ACOs and create a path for long-term sustainability.

ACO performance is currently measured using a multi-step process that evaluates an ACO’s effectiveness in lowering expenditures for a group of assigned beneficiaries against a benchmark established based on an ACO’s historical costs. At the beginning of the ACO’s three-year agreement period, CMS sets an average per capita historical benchmark. CMS adjusts the historical benchmark on an annual basis based on projected growth in national per capita expenditures for Medicare Parts A and B services under the fee-for-service (FFS) program.


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