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

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.


Continue Reading OIG Updates Policy on Permissive Exclusions Based On Fraud and Kickbacks

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.


Continue Reading CMS Proposes New ACO Performance Measures

Our Health Care Group attorneys have authored a new alert explaining the implications of the final rule on the reporting and return of overpayments (the “Overpayment Rule”) the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued earlier this month.  CMS promulgated the Overpayment Rule nearly two years after the agency issued its final rules governing

On January 11, 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that 100 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) began participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). CMS also announced that 21 new providers and hospitals have signed up to participate in other ACO-focused shared savings programs, including the Pioneer ACO Model,

On November 2, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. As an offset for near-term increases in federal spending, the new law extends by one year – to 2025 – two-percent sequestration reductions in federal spending for mandatory federal programs including Medicare.  The end result is that Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) can expect their capitated payments from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to continue to be reduced, and Medicare fee-for-service providers can also expect to have sequestration reductions on their CMS reimbursements until at least 2025.

First established by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (BBEDCA), “sequestration” is a process of automatic, largely across-the-board reductions enacted to constrain federal spending. Sequestration in its current form began on March 1, 2013, when President Obama, pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011, ordered cuts to federal spending effective April 1, 2013, after Congress and the President failed to reach a budget compromise.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the size of reductions to the Medicare program is limited to two-percent. As required by President Obama’s sequestration executive order, on March 8, 2013, CMS notified providers that a “2 percent reduction in Medicare payment[s]” would apply to “Medicare FFS claims with dates-of-service or dates-of-discharge on or after April 1, 2013.” In other words, due to sequestration, as of April 1, 2013, CMS reduced the amount it pays to providers for fee-for-service Medicare claims by two-percent.


Continue Reading Sequestration Extended to 2025 in Federal Budget Deal

Medicare Advantage (“MA”) plans may want to think twice before modifying their provider networks.  In an August 27, 2015 letter, CMS announced that MA plan enrollees may elect to change plans if their current plan makes a significant provider network change with substantial beneficiary impact.

The letter provides an overview of how CMS will implement

Citing concerns about transparency and timing, on August 13, 2015, CMS issued a memorandum to clarify guidance to Medicare Part D sponsors regarding the any willing pharmacy requirement.

Medicare Part D sponsors are required to contract with any pharmacy that meets the Part D sponsor’s standard terms and conditions.  CMS requires that the standard terms

On July 8, 2015, CMS issued proposed regulations that would modify the “two-midnight rule” that governs payments by Medicare Part A for short inpatient hospital stays.  The proposed changes are contained in the CY 2016 proposed regulations for the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS).  Stakeholders may submit comments on the proposal by August 31, 2015.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Status

The distinction between inpatient and outpatient classification is important under Medicare.  Medicare reimbursement rates for identical services differ dramatically if the care is provided in an inpatient or outpatient setting.[1]

The admission status also has important implications for the patient.  Under Medicare Part A, a beneficiary admitted as an inpatient is required to pay a one-time deductible for the first sixty days in the hospital.[2]  For outpatient services under Medicare Part B, the beneficiary must make a co-payment for every individual service rendered by the provider.[3]

Background on the Two-Midnight Rule

In 2013, CMS created the “two-midnight rule” to determine whether Medicare Part A payment for inpatient stay is appropriate.  The “two-midnight rule” is based on the physician’s expectation of the patient’s length-of-stay at the time of admission.  It included two medical review policies:

  • Under the “two-midnight benchmark,” CMS considered an inpatient admission to be appropriate when the admitting physician had a reasonable and supportable expectation that a patient would need to receive care at the hospital for a period spanning two-midnights; and
  • Under the “two-midnight presumption,” auditors were directed not to select claims for review if the inpatient stay spanned two-midnights from the time of admission, absent evidence of gaming or abuse.


Continue Reading CMS Proposes To Modify “Two-Midnight Benchmark” To Broaden Exceptions for Part A Payments for Short Inpatient Stays