Yesterday the Department of Health (DOH) released the much anticipated proposed temporary regulations for physicians that among other items, set forth requirements regarding: the physician registry, the completion by physicians of a four-hour training course, and issuing patient certifications, as well as prohibitions, including for example, a prohibition against advertising a physician’s ability to prescribe cannabis under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16). As the proposed regulations are not yet effective, DOH will accept comments on them until April 20, 2017. More information about these draft regulations appears on the DOH website, and they are available here.
With the House GOP pulling the American Health Care Act (AHCA) due to lack of sufficient support even within its own party, Obamacare is not out of the woods.
The ACA’s two pillars, the individual marketplaces and Medicaid expansion, remain vulnerable and could be used as political bargaining chips in Washington as the battle over “health care reform” plays out in the coming months and years.
In response to the House’s failure to pass the AHCA, the President and House Speaker have expressly said that Obamacare will “implode” and the administration has many ways to see to it that it does sooner rather than later. On the other hand, the administration and Congress could also move on to on tax reform and other items while changes to the marketplaces are implemented by regulation. The administration already has proposed regulations on the table that has been characterized as a “good faith” effort to implement minor changes to prop up the marketplaces. Reportedly, however, many insurers will want more in the form of funding for cost sharing reductions and reinsurance to keep sufficient numbers of insurers in the marketplaces long term. Continue reading…
Hours after taking the oath of office President Donald Trump signed a broadly worded executive order (“Order”) intended to minimize if not eliminate the impact of the ACA’s least popular provisions. With the Order President Trump can claim immediate action towards fulfilling a major campaign pledge while giving his administration and the Republican led Congress time to come up with a replacement plan.
The Order directs the secretary of HHS and other agency heads to, among other directives:
[E]xercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the [ACA] that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications. [And] [t]o . . . exercise all authority and discretion available to them to provide greater flexibility to States and cooperate with them in implementing healthcare programs. [And] [t]o . . . encourage the development of a free and open market in interstate commerce for the offering of healthcare services and health insurance, with the goal of achieving and preserving maximum options for patients and consumers.
The Order makes it clear that any agency actions under the order must be within the confines of the law and its existing regulations, both of which remain in place at least for now. The agencies still have the option of amending or repealing ACA regulations but the Order gives them the authority to take some action before going through the regulatory approval process.
Apparently, the agencies will decide which stakeholders’ costs and “burdens” under the ACA will be reduced. This presents them with an interesting challenge given the opposing interests inherent in the broad group of stakeholders expressly targeted for relief under the Order. For example, if the scope of the individual mandate (likely the prime target of the Order) were reduced relieving some individuals of the cost of buying health insurance, it would likely skew the risk pool of the exchange plans to less healthy participants increasing the cost and burden on the exchange’s insurers and those individuals who want to purchase insurance through the exchanges. That action could also end up reducing overall insurance coverage increasing the uncompensated care hospitals and other providers would be required to deliver.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect to watch, however, will be whether the Order ultimately has any significant substantive effect or simply ends up being a symbolic gesture. Some observers have contended that significant delays to, or gutting of, a portion of the ACA’s tightly woven and inter-related pieces mid-year 2017 would create chaos in the affected programs, like the health insurance exchanges, which are already underway this year. Therefore, there has been speculation that actions under the Order are not likely to be effective until 2018. The question is whether any actions under the Order, which are expressly limited to those that are permissible under the ACA, will mean anything in 2018 when it is almost certain that the ACA will have already been repealed.
Whether substantive or symbolic, clearly the first step in the ACA’s dismantling has been taken and we will be watching very closely as the administration and Congress take many more.
PA Medical Marijuana Program, Pennsylvania Department of Health / No Comments
On January 17, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“DOH”) released grower/processor and dispensary permit applications (“Applications”), which can be found on Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program website. DOH will accept Applications from February 20 – March 20, 2017, and will begin taking questions about the Applications on February 8, 2017. Other highlights regarding the application process are set forth below.
- 12 grower/processor permits will be issued.
- 27 dispensary permits will be issued.
- Two grower/process permits will be issued in each of the six regions in the Commonwealth.
- The maximum number of dispensary locations in each region (by county) is set forth in the Applications’ instructions on page two.
- Each applicant will receive a weighted score out of a maximum number of 1,000 points.
- The Applications require information regarding, among other items, an applicant’s diversity plan, background information about principals, financial backers, operators and employees, capital sufficiency, an applicant’s plan of operation and an operational timetable, and an applicant’s anticipated community impact.
- Principals means “an officer, director or person who directly or beneficially owns securities of an applicant or permittee, or a person who has a controlling interest in an applicant or permittee or who has the ability to elect the majority of the board of directors of an applicant or permittee or otherwise control an applicant or permittee, other than a financial institution.”
- Financial backers means “an investor, mortgagee, bondholder, note holder, or other source of equity, capital or other assets other than a financial institution.”
- Financial institution means “a bank, a National banking association, a bank and trust company, a trust company, a savings and loan association, a building and loan association, a mutual savings bank, a credit union or a savings bank.”
- The non-refundable application fee for growers/processors is $10,000, and the initial permit fee for growers/processors is $200,000 (both payable with the Application).
- The non-refundable application fee for dispensaries is $5,000, and the initial permit fee for dispensaries is $30,000 per dispensary location, for up to $90,000 (both payable with the Application).
- A rejected Application would be returned to an applicant with the initial permit fee.
- DOH may reject an Application that is received after March 20, 2017 or without a U.S. Postal Form 3817, which is required as proof of an applicant’s mailing date.
- The DOH will post FAQs regarding the Applications on its website.
Word spread quickly Monday (December 20, 2016) about CMS’ issuance of final regulations (to be published in the Federal Register on January 3, 2017) rolling out new mandatory bundled payments models for Acute Miocardial Infarction (AMI), Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG), Surgical Hip and Fracture Treatment (SHFFT), a Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) incentive model and Track 1+ Accountable Care Organizations. Speculation that President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for HHS secretary, Rep. Tom Price, would move to roll the regulations back spread just as quickly.
The new regulations mandate bundled payment models (covering the period from admission to ninety days post-discharge) for AMI and CABG in 98 geographies covering 1,120 hospitals; for SHFFT in the 67 geographies where the Comprehensive Joint Replacement (CJR) has already been mandated covering 850 hospitals and for CR in 90 geographies covering 1,320 hospitals. CMS’ chart of geographies covered by each program is set forth here. The AMI, CABG and SHFFT programs give participant clinicians the opportunity to be excluded from Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015’s (MACRA) Medicare Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and to qualify under MACRA’s Advanced Alternative Payment Model (AAPM). Continue reading…
On November 30, 2016, the House overwhelmingly passed (392-26) the 21st Century Cures Act (“Bill”). The Bill moves on to the Senate next week and it is projected to pass in the Senate as well. Notably, the Bill seeks to improve upon the federal regulatory structure regarding Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval and expediting the development of new drugs. Under the Bill, FDA funding would increase by $500 million. The Bill also provides for the authorization of new National Institutes of Health research grant funding, in the billions, including funding for Vice President Biden’s “moonshot” to cure cancer. Importantly, a proposed provision regarding reporting under the Sunshine Act was removed from the Bill. Specifically, the proposed provision would have exempted from the reporting requirements of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act payments from drug and device manufacturers to physicians for speaking at continuing medical education events and for contributing to medical textbooks, or medical journals.
In a final rule published today in the federal register (“Final Rule”), CMS announced numerous changes to the consolidated Medicare and Medicaid requirements for participation for long term care (LTC) facilities (42 CFR part 483, subpart B), which take effect on November 28, 2016 (see the March 7, 2016 blog for information about the July 16, 2015 proposed rule (“Proposed Rule”)). Much to the satisfaction of elder care advocates, the Final Rule provides that nursing homes may no longer require prospective nursing home residents to agree to binding arbitration. This strikes a blow at LTC facilities, which generally used arbitration as a tool to avoid incurring the onerous costs associated with litigation.
CMS’ position in the final rule isn’t shocking as it had expressed concern about the use of arbitration agreements in nursing homes in its Proposed Rule. Although no longer permissible for LTC facilities to use as a condition of admission, according to Andy Slavitt, CMS’ Acting Administrator, and Kate Goodrich, Director of the Center for Clinical Standards & Quality, “facilities and residents will still be able to use arbitration on a voluntary basis at the time a dispute arises.” However, such agreements will still need to be “clearly explained” to residents.
Nursing homes that have traditionally asked residents to sign binding arbitration agreements should revisit their admissions processes and implement revised policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Final Rule, so that, beginning November 28, 2016, residents at such LTC facilities are no longer required to agree to binding arbitration. LTC facilities may also consider revising their policies and procedures to incorporate recommending the use of arbitration to residents following disputes that may arise, and to ensure that any such recommendations are clearly explained to their residents.
For more information regarding the voluntary use of arbitration agreements in the nursing home context, contact J. Nicole Martin, Dana Petrillo or any member of Cozen O’Connor’s health care law team.
Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that the merger between Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System, the two largest hospitals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, may not move forward at this time. The Court of Appeals overturned the District Court’s (Middle District of PA) denial of the FTC’s and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s request for a preliminary injunction, directing the District Court to enter a preliminary injunction blocking the merger “pending the outcome of the FTC’s administrative adjudication.”
In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals held that the critical determination of the relevant market for a proper antitrust analysis should be defined primarily “through the lens of the insurers” and that it “was error for the District court to completely disregard the role insurers play in the healthcare market.” The Court of Appeals ruled that the relevant market was the four- county Harrisburg area. It found that the market was highly concentrated and that the combined hospitals would control 76% percent of the market. As a result the plaintiffs were found to have established a prima facie case that the merger “is presumptively anticompetitive.”
In rebuttal, the hospitals alleged, among other things, that, the merger would result in efficiencies leading to capital savings and enhance the hospitals’ efforts to engage in risk-based contracting, but the Court of Appeals found that these arguments failed to demonstrate tangible, verifiable benefits to consumers, and only constituted “speculative assurances.” It remains to be seen whether the hospitals will continue their pursuit of merger through the FTC’s administrative review process or abandon it.
This decision, like others involving hospitals that have preceded it, underscores the unique nature of the markets in which hospitals and other healthcare providers operate. These markets are not primarily defined by the direct impact of market consolidation upon the behavior of the ultimate consumers, the patients. Instead, the markets are defined by the patients’ purchasing surrogates, their health insurers.
For more information about this decision, contact Chris Raphaely, Nicole Martin or a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Health Law team
Accountable Care Organizations, CMS, HHS, Medicare / No Comments
On September 8, 2016, CMS announced in its blog that it will allow physicians to select their level of participation for the first performance year of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (“MACRA”) Quality Payment Program, which begins January 1, 2017. Importantly, during the first performance year (2017), “[c]hoosing one of these options would ensure [physicians] do not receive a negative payment adjustment” under MACRA in 2019.
Under the Quality Payment Program physicians will fall under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (“MIPS”) if they do not qualify under the Advanced Alternative Payment Model (“Advanced APM”) option. In 2019, physicians who are in the MIPS default option could face Medicare rate adjustments of up to 5% based on their performance under four weighted performance categories: quality (50%); resource use (10%); advancing care information (25%); and clinical practice improvement (15%). Advanced APMs include, for example, Track 2 and 3 MSSP ACOs; next generation ACOs; and bundled payment models, and physicians who qualify under the Advanced APM option earn a 5% incentive, are excluded from MIPS adjustments and receive higher fee schedule updates after 2024.
Recognizing that many physicians may face negative payment adjustments under MIPS as a result of participating under the Quality Payment Program, CMS is going to allow eligible physicians to “pick their pace of participation” and ensure they do not receive such negative payment adjustments in 2019 by choosing one of four options for the first performance year:
- Test the Quality Payment Program;
- Participate for part of the calendar year;
- Participate for the full calendar year; or
- Participate in an Advanced APM in 2017.
The first three options fall under MIPS, while the fourth option falls under the Advanced APM. In the first option, physicians could “submit some data to the Quality Payment Program”, avoid negative payment adjustments and test the waters before broader participation in subsequent years. Under option two, the performance year could begin later than January 1, 2017, a physician practice “could qualify for a small positive payment adjustment”, and a physician would submit Quality Payment Program information for fewer days. The third option is ideal for those physician practices that are ready to participate beginning January 1, 2017 and who are able to submit a full year of quality data. Additionally, physicians “could qualify for a modest positive payment adjustment.” The fourth option would be viable for those physicians or physicians groups who treat enough Medicare beneficiaries and who receive enough of their Medicare payments through an Advanced APM (e.g., MSSP ACOs). Through the Advanced APM option, physicians/physician groups would “qualify for a 5 percent payment in 2019.” It remains unclear what the difference is between a “small” and “modest” payment adjustment. However, CMS may address this in the final rule along with how it will implement MIPS and the Advanced APM. CMS will release the final rule by November 1, 2016.
For more information about MACRA, contact Chris Raphaely, Nicole Martin or a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Health Law team.
On August 18, 2016, the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health (“DOH”), Dr. Karen Murphy, announced that the DOH has posted draft temporary regulations (“Regulations”) focusing on the 25 medical marijuana grower/processor permits that will become available under Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (“Act”) that was passed last April.
The Regulations state the general application requirements for medical marijuana organizations, which requirements include detailed information about principals and financial backers of such organizations. Medical marijuana organizations include not just grower/processors, but also clinical registrants and dispensaries. The application requirements also contain a clear commitment to foster diversity. The Regulations establish procedures for promoting and ensuring that medical organizations foster diversity through participation of diverse groups in all aspects of the medical organization’s operations. This includes but is not limited to requiring each organization to have a diversity plan. Diverse groups are defined under the Regulations as “disadvantaged business[es], minority-owned business[es], women-owned business[es], service-disabled veteran-owned small business[es] or veteran-owned small business[es] that ha[ve] been certified by a third-party certifying organization.”
The Regulations also contain specific requirements for grower/processor permits. Application forms for permits will be posted on the DOH website in the future. Among the requirements is that a grower/processor notify DOH within six months of being issued an initial permit that it is ready, willing and able to begin production.
The Regulations prohibit executive level employees of the Commonwealth and their immediate family members from being employed by or holding an interest in medical marijuana organizations while employed by the Commonwealth and for one year thereafter.
The Regulations are not final and are open for public comment until August 26, 2016.
Although Pennsylvania joins 23 other states and the District of Columbia to legalize medical marijuana, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and as such it remains a crime under federal law to grow, sell and/or use marijuana. Any content contained herein is not intended to provide legal advice in connection with the violation of any state or federal law. Although the Act provides for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, one should obtain legal advice with respect to any such compliance issues.
Stay tuned for details regarding an upcoming Cozen O’Connor webinar on these Regulations.
For more information about the Regulations or the Act, contact Chris Raphaely, J. Nicole Martin or another member of Cozen O’Connor’s Cannabis Industry Team.