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.
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…
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 March 22, 2019 CMS issued new guidance to State Medicaid Directors on implementation of the 2014 Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) rule. The 2014 HCBS rule required states to scrutinize facilities, including an assisted living facilities or group homes, receiving HCBS funding to make sure they met certain standards. The 2014 rule aimed to define the characteristic of “community based” to move these settings and facilities away from the qualities of an “institution.” In May of 2017, CMS delayed implementation of the rule and in response to concerns regarding the transition process, a three year extension was granted. The transition period for states to ensure provider compliance with the criteria for settings in which a transition period applies has now been extended to March 17, 2022 during which states may work with all existing HCBS providers to complete their remediation and be validated as fully complying with the settings criteria. Not meeting these standards could mean loss of Medicaid funding.
The new CMS guidance, issued as an FAQ, defines a setting that is isolating individuals as a facility that limits any opportunities for patients and residents to interact with the broader community. Certain settings are presumed under the regulations to have the qualities of an institution:…
Continue Reading CMS Issues New Guidance to States on Home and Community Based Services
In its recent notice of proposed rulemaking setting policy for Medicare Advantage (MA) and the Prescription Drug Program (PDP) for calendar year 2020, CMS announced that it would establish extrapolation as a method to be used in risk adjustment validation (RADV) audits, and further, that it would not make any adjustments to account for errors in Medicare fee for service data in determining recovery amounts.
CMS uses a risk adjustment process to modify MA plan payments to better reflect the relative risk of each plan’s enrollees. Payments to each MA plan are adjusted based on risk scores that reflect enrollees’ health status (categorized into Hierarchical Condition Categories (HCCs)) and demographic characteristics derived from member claims data. To counteract incentives that a plan might have to over-report enrollee diagnoses, CMS emphasizes that all diagnoses submitted to enhance risk must be documented in a medical record, and uses RADV audits to ensure that medical record documentation exists, and thus, that payments to MAOs accurately reflect the level of risk assumed.
Continue Reading CMS Announces and Solicits Comments on Expanded RADV Audit Methodology