Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a number of waivers and flexibilities to help healthcare providers manage the influx of patients during the Public Health Emergency (PHE). The implementation of the Acute Hospital Care at Home (AHCaH) individual waiver in 2020 allowed qualifying hospitals to provide hospital at home (H@H) programs. These programs provide similar services as those administered during inpatient visits, such as physician visits and monitoring, drug prescription, nursing services, diagnostics, etc. Since its employment, 144 systems including 260 hospitals across 37 states have utilized the AHCaH waiver, rapidly increasing the number of H@H programs in the United States. While the initiative was originally set to expire with the end of the PHE, the AHCaH waiver program was extended until December 31, 2024, with the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (CAA 2023). The extension of this program sends a strong message about the importance of permanently integrating home-based care delivery models into our healthcare system. Despite the lengthy extension, the nature of this waiver program remains temporary and the concerns about the expiration effects on relevant stakeholders continue to be pertinent.Continue Reading Hospital at Home Programs Extended, But Final Push Is Needed

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure and CMS Innovation Center Director Elizabeth Fowler continue to forge ahead with the Biden-Harris Administration’s plans to evaluate and streamline the alternative payment models being tested at the Innovation Center. The most recent example, announced late last month, includes the redesign and renaming of the controversial Global and Professional Direct Contracting (GPDC) model that aims to introduce value-based payment arrangements in traditional Medicare. The newly announced model, renamed the Accountable Care Organization Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (ACO REACH) Model, aligns with CMS’s restated goals for the Innovation Center—as outlined in its October 2021 “strategic refresh” white paper—to drive accountable care, advance health equity, support care innovations, improve access by addressing affordability, and partner to achieve system transformation.
Continue Reading CMS Innovation Center Redesigns Direct Contracting Entity Model, Launches ACO REACH

Today, CMS released its strategy for the CMS Innovation Center (the “Strategy”) in a White Paper, Innovation Center Strategy Refresh. This Strategy and the connection to broader CMS priorities was outlined by CMS Administrator Brooks-LaSure and CMS Innovation Center Director, Liz Fowler, in a webinar and is intended as a blueprint for the next 10 years.  While the Innovation Center’s overarching goal continues to be expansion of successful models that reduce program costs and improve quality and outcomes for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, CMS highlights five strategic objectives: Drive Accountable Care, Advance Health Equity, Support Innovation, Address Affordability, and Partner to Achieve System Transformation and created a new vision: “A health system that achieves equitable outcomes through high-quality, affordable, and person-centered care.”
Continue Reading CMS Innovation Center Announces New Strategic Direction Under the Biden Administration

On November 28, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued an unfavorable advisory opinion (No. 16-12) that addresses the permissibility, under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), of a laboratory’s proposal to label test tubes and collect specimen containers at no cost to, and for

Last Thursday, state-based health insurance exchange executives gathered in Chicago to reflect on their experiences establishing their respective exchanges. While these executives were meeting, the full D.C. Circuit Court announced it would rehear the Halbig premium subsidy case and the Oregon exchange board met to discuss dismantling Cover Oregon and moving remaining functions to existing state agencies. As these recent events reflect, this is a period of great uncertainly on the state-based exchange front. As a result, state exchanges, the contractors that built those exchanges and plans participating in them need to be vigilant as to the risks and opportunities that lay ahead.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management convened a day-long symposium last week on state-based exchanges to discuss year one of operations, what went well, what did not, and lessons learned. During the panel presentations, exchange executives talked about revisiting previous discussions about how exchanges can drive delivery system reform. Some indicated that after focusing on the basics in the first year or two of operations, they are ready to revisit conversations about standardizing benefit packages and using the exchange to impact the health care delivery system. There was specific mention of modifying QHP standards to drive changes in the products offered on the exchange so those products advance ACOs and other delivery system reforms. Insurers participating in state-based exchanges should be on the lookout for future changes including exchanges selectively contracting with a limited number of health plans or using additional criteria to select plans offered on the exchange based on factors such as affordability, prevention and wellness efforts, provider contracting methods, efforts to reduce health disparities, patient access to health care, and other criteria aimed at improving the health delivery system.Continue Reading State-Based Health Insurance Exchanges: What Does The Future Hold?