On September 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a much anticipated and contested proposed rule that seeks to establish minimum staffing level requirements for nursing homes. The proposed rule represents the first time the federal government has proposed comprehensive nationwide nursing home staffing requirements, although various states have already enacted their own staffing requirements.Continue Reading CMS Proposes Minimum Staffing Requirements and Enhanced Facility Assessments for Nursing Homes
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
On December 29, President Joe Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-164) (the “Act”)—an approximately $1.7 trillion spending package, which consists of all 12 fiscal year (FY) 2023 appropriations bills and funds the federal government through September 30, 2023, provides additional assistance to Ukraine, and makes numerous health care policy changes. Continue Reading President Biden Signs End-of-Year Legislation Including Telehealth, Medicare & Medicaid, Mental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Other Health Care Provisions
Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released data—for the first time—reporting on mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, and changes of ownership of Medicare enrolled hospitals and nursing homes over the past six years. This data, expected to be updated on a quarterly basis moving forward, has been lauded as an important step in improving transparency around nursing facility ownership and enhancing nursing home safety and quality of care. In conjunction with the release of CMS’ data, HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) released a related report analyzing the data and examining trends in changes of ownership over the past six years. In its report, ASPE also offers preliminary insights into how the data on ownership changes can support implementing policies bolstering competition in health care as well as ensuring program integrity in Medicare and Medicaid.Continue Reading Changing Hands, Not Washing Them: CMS’ First Report on Nursing Home M&A Data
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 May 14, 2021, CMS published FAQs addressing questions that have been raised regarding the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule published May 2020. CMS is careful to note that the FAQs “do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way, unless specifically incorporated into a contract, as directed by a program.” CMS has provided links and other guidance, including regarding technical standards, best practices, and privacy and security resources, and has directly addressed questions raised by trade associations and others.
We summarize some of the key points addressed in the FAQs. We encourage you to review the full CMS response where questions arise in your implementation.
Continue Reading CMS Issues First FAQs on the CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Rule
In part two of this two-part series on what providers should know about COVID-19, hosts Payal Nanavati and Joe Records talk with Brian McGovern about guidance from state and federal health care regulators. This episode touches on how state agencies, CMS, CDC, and other regulatory bodies have instructed providers—especially nursing homes—on how to handle this…
The past week has seen daily action at the state and federal level that seeks to ensure that health plans and insurers are providing unrestricted access to testing for COVID-19 and for related services. Health plans nationally have responded by adopting copayment and preauthorization waivers even where they have not been mandated.
Here are a few of the headlines:
On March 2, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would require state health insurers to waive fees related to coronavirus testing in the state in order to avoid cost as a barrier to testing. To implement his directive, Governor Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) will promulgate an emergency regulation that (i) prohibits health insurers from imposing cost-sharing on an in-network provider office visit or urgent care center when the purpose of the visit is to be tested for COVID-19 and (ii) prohibits health insurers from imposing cost-sharing on an emergency room visit when the purpose of the visit is to be tested for COVID-19. In addition, DFS issued other COVID-19 guidance to New York insurers, including: (a) directing insurers to develop robust telehealth programs with their participating providers, and (b) directing insurers to verify that their provider networks are adequately prepared to handle a potential increase in the need for health care services, including offering access to out-of-network services where appropriate and required.
Continue Reading Flurry of Regulatory Activity Driven by COVID-19 Anxiety Impacts Health Plan Requirements and Permissible Actions
As of October 3, 2019, the Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the proposed rules for “modernizing and clarifying” the Physician Self-Referral Regulations and revising the safe harbors under the Anti-Kickback Statute and rules regarding the Beneficiary Inducement Civil Monetary Penalties Law.
These regulations were the subject of two Requests for Information…