CMS Releases Final Stark Rules To Promote Value-Based Care

Posted by Chris Raphaely on November 23, 2020
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On Friday, November 20, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released final regulations to remove certain barriers to the implementation of physician compensation arrangements under value-based payment arrangements posed by the “Stark” Physician Self-Referral law. The new regulations are the first substantive changes to the regulations in two years and the first attempt by CMS to update the regulations specifically to address value-based payment arrangements that have proliferated since the regulations were initially implemented in the early 2000s.

The new rules contain three new exceptions to the Stark law’s general prohibition on physician referrals for designated health services to entities with which the physician has a financial relationship that are specifically targeted at value-based arrangements; one for value-based arrangements involving full financial risk, one for value-based arrangements with meaningful downside risk for physicians, and one for value-based arrangements that involve neither full financial for physicians or meaningful downside risk.

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A Week After Pharma Price Disclosure Is Rule Struck Down, D.C. Judge Upholds Hospital Price Transparency Rule

Posted by Chris Raphaely on June 24, 2020
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As we indicated in last week’s blog post , the D.C. Circuit Court’s refusal to uphold HHS’ pharmaceutical price disclosure rule (“RX Rule”) was not a predictor of how the trial court might rule in the closely watched challenge to HHS’ hospital price transparency rule (“Hospital Rule”). In a June 23, 2020 ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, American Hospital Association, et. al. v. Azar, D.C. District Court Judge, Carl Nichols, ruled that HHS did not overstep its authority under Section 2718 of the Public Health Services Act (“Section 2718”) by requiring hospitals to publish their “gross charges”, payer-specific negotiated rates, discounted cash prices, and de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges.  

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Pharma Price Disclosure Rule Struck Down: Will Hospital Price Transparency Rule Meet the Same Fate?

Posted by Chris Raphaely on June 19, 2020
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On June 16, the D.C. Circuit Court struck down the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (“CMS”) rule issued in May 2019 requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose the wholesale acquisition cost of drugs over $35 in their direct-to-consumer television advertisements (“RX Rule”). Similar to the RX Rule, the Hospital Price Transparency Rule, issued on November 27, 2019, requires hospitals to publish, among other information, payor-specific rates for certain services on their websites beginning on Jan 1, 2021 (“Hospital Rule”). Both rules stem from the Trump administration’s stated efforts to improve the nation’s health care quality and transparency, and both were met with swift legal opposition. The Hospital Rule litigation, American Hospital Association et al v. Azar, is currently before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. While the D.C. Circuit Court’s RX Rule decision could be viewed as a predictor of the outcome of the Hospital Rule litigation, the alleged statutory authority underlying the Hospital Rule is different than the statutory authority underlying the RX Rule.  Therefore, the Circuit Court’s ruling in the RX Rule litigation may not be an accurate barometer of the likely outcome in the Hospital Rule litigation.

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Texas v. U.S.: 5th Circuit Holds Individual Mandate is Unconstitutional, but Remands to District Court to Decide Severability

Posted by Chris Raphaely on December 19, 2019
ACA / No Comments

In a 2-1 decision published on December 18, 2019, a 5th Circuit panel upheld the Texas District Court’s decision ruling that the ACA individual mandate tax which, since January 2019, has had no monetary consequence, is unconstitutional. Citing the Supreme Court’s 2012 NFIB v. Sebelius opinion, the panel explained that the key feature of the individual mandate –the critical tax attributes that once saved the mandate from unconstitutionality- no longer exist, and therefore it can no longer be classed under Congress’ taxing power. Despite definitively ruling on this key issue, the panel remanded the case to the District Court to take a closer look at whether the individual mandate’s unconstitutionality is severable, or whether the entire ACA now must be struck down.

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CMS Releases Final ACO Regulations

Posted by Chris Raphaely on December 21, 2018
CMS / No Comments

This morning CMS released a final rule regarding its most popular program for accountable care organizations (ACOs), the Medicare Shared Savings Programs. The final rule is based on the proposed rule for the program that was published in August.  The final rule adopts the major structural overhaul contained in the proposed rule, the reduction of the program to two tracks, Basic and Enhanced, the 1 year limitation for most established (ACOs) to remain in an “upside only” risk model and the 2 year limitation for most new ACOs to remain in an “upside only” risk model. The final rule increased the percentage of savings that will be shared with an ACO in an “upside only” model from 25% as proposed to 40%.  The rule also gives approved ACOs the ability to operate patient incentive programs which include cash payments up to $20 from certain ACO professionals and federally qualified health centers for qualifying primary care services,  provides some ACOs with more flexibility with respect to reimbursement for telehealth services, and includes numerous other detailed changes to the program’s operations. Continue reading…

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Governor Wolf Signs Amendment to PA Medical Marijuana Act

Posted by J. Nicole Martin on July 05, 2018
DOH, Medical Marijuana, Pennsylvania / No Comments

On June 22, 2018 Governor Wolf signed HB 2477 (“Amendment”) into law breathing new life into Chapter 20 of the Medical Marijuana Act (“Act”), the country’s first-of-its-kind law for cannabis research. This follows Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough’s May 22, 2018 issuance of a preliminary injunction halting the Department of Health’s (“DOH”) implementation of the Act’s Chapter 20 regulations. Chapter 20 of the Act governs the registration and operation of clinical registrants, the certification of academic clinical research centers (“ACRC”), and partnerships between clinical registrants and ACRCs for research purposes. A clinical registrant is a grower/processor and dispensary that will have a contractual relationship with an ACRC. An ACRC is an accredited medical school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that “operates or partners with an acute care hospital licensed within this Commonwealth.” As of May this year, DOH had already certified eight medical schools as ACRCs under the Act. Continue reading…

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Hospital Tier Status in Payor Network Agreements

Posted by J. Nicole Martin on March 21, 2018
Healthcare / No Comments

gavel and bookBergen County Superior Court Judge Robert Contillo issued a recent decision deemed favorable by Horizon Healthcare Services Inc. (“Horizon”) in a case involving three healthcare providers (“Providers”) that challenged Horizon’s newer tiered health coverage plan for hospitals: OMNIA. The Providers alleged that Horizon unfairly designated them as Tier 2 Providers, a tier in which OMNIA Members access providers while incurring higher out-of-pocket costs than they would when accessing those providers in Tier 1. Although certain other claims may proceed, Judge Contillo dismissed the breach of contract claim because he determined that Horizon did not breach the network hospital agreements by “failing to include [the Providers] in Tier 1” because “[t]he plain and unambiguous language [under the agreement] does not guarantee that [the Providers] be included in Horizon’s new products, networks or subnetworks.”

This decision illustrates that tiered designation disputes between hospitals and payors may hinge on the language of the applicable network hospital agreements. Hospitals and other providers are encouraged to review their existing contracts and address this issue in future contracts to determine the level of discretion payors may have in including them in tiered and limited network products. As insurers continue to develop new products designed to lower costs, this will continue to be an important consideration for most providers.

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DOH Finalizes Temporary Regulations for Clinical Registrants and Academic Clinical Research Centers

Posted by J. Nicole Martin on March 16, 2018
PA Medical Marijuana Program / No Comments

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) published the much anticipated final version of the temporary regulations under the Medical Marijuana Act applicable to Clinical Registrants and Academic Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) in Pennsylvania (“Temporary Regulations”). The Clinical Registrant/ACRC relationship was first developed in Pennsylvania with a specific focus on research.  A Clinical Registrant is a unique category of Medical Marijuana Organization under Pennsylvania law that is granted a permit to act as both a grower/processor and dispensary. An ACRC is “an accredited medical school” in Pennsylvania that “operates or partners with an acute care hospital licensed and operating” in Pennsylvania. The Temporary Regulations require Clinical Registrants and ACRCs to enter into Research Contracts together and provide some broad guidance about the content of those written agreements. Additionally, the Temporary Regulations address certification of ACRCs, capital requirements, approvals for clinical registrants, and the process for Clinical Registrant applicants who wish to convert their already issued grower/processor or dispensary permits to Clinical Registrant permits.

For more information about the Temporary Regulations or the Medical Marijuana Act, contact Chris Raphaely, J. Nicole Martin or another member of Cozen O’Connor’s Cannabis Industry Team.

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The White House’s One-Two Punch to Obamacare: A Knockout Blow to the ACA?

Posted by Robert A. Chu on October 16, 2017
ACA, Affordable Care Act / No Comments

Health insurance application form with money and stethoscopeIn moves that stunned and alarmed insurers, providers, and consumers alike, on October 12, the White House issued an announcement and an Executive Order that appear to be purposefully designed to decimate the Exchanges under the ACA:

  1. The White House announced that the government will stop making cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.  According to the White House, there is no appropriation for such payments.  As the Exchange plans will still be obligated to bear the costs of the cost-sharing reductions, premiums for Exchange plans that remain in the market would be expected to rise dramatically.  Many Exchange plans have termination provisions which allow them to terminate their 2018 contracts if the cost-sharing subsidies stop.  On October 13, eighteen states and the District of Columbia sued the administration to restore the funding.
  2. The President also issued an Executive Order requiring the relevant agencies to consider regulations or guidance (1) allowing more employers to form association health plans (AHPs) and (2) expanding the availability of short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI).  If the regulations come to fruition, younger and healthier people are expected to be siphoned from Exchange products and into cheaper AHPs and STLDI plans (that potentially offer skimpier coverage), creating adverse selection.  Premiums will rise for those left in the Exchanges.

Is the ultimate goal of these moves the total destruction of the Exchanges?  Are they bargaining chips designed to bring Congress back to the table to fix the “problems” with the ACA?  If the latter, will Medicaid spending cuts sought by many Republicans be part of that discussion?  Stay tuned.

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Repeal Efforts Fail (for now): Can Obamacare Survive?

Posted by Chris Raphaely on March 28, 2017
ACA / No Comments

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…

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