Five Things Providers Need To Know About The New Interim Final Rule Under The “No Surprises” Act

Posted by Chris Raphaely on October 05, 2021
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On Thursday, September 30, 2021, The United States departments of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), Labor and Treasury released an interim final rule (“Rule”) that completes most of the regulatory framework under the federal No Surprises Act (“Act”). The Act largely bars balance billing of patients who receive emergency services or hospital-based provider services (at an in-network facility) on an out-of-network basis. This is the second part of the agencies’ rulemaking under the Act. The first part was released in July 2021. This second part deals primarily with the independent dispute resolution (“IDR”) process, which will determine the “appropriate out of network rate” to be paid to the provider by the health plan for a particular emergency or hospital-based provider service and a portion of the provider price transparency requirements under the Act.   

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US and Tyler Texas Chambers of Commerce Sue Feds to Block Portions of the Health Plan Transparency Rule

Posted by Chris Raphaely on August 12, 2021
HHS / No Comments

Two chambers of commerce, the Chamber of Commerce the United States of America and the Tyler (TX) Area Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit on August 10, 2021, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against the United States departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury to block the implementation of two provisions contained in the federal regulations entitled Transparency in Coverage (“Rule”). 

The first challenged provision requires health plans to post on a website internal pricing data, including allowed amounts, in-network rates, and the negotiated rates for all services and the “historical net price” of prescription drugs, in “machine-readable” (searchable) files. The second provision being challenged requires the inclusion of the “historical net price” of prescription drugs in the machine-readable files. The provisions are set to go into effect for “plan years” beginning after January 11, 2022. Another major provision of the Rule, the one requiring insurers to provide “cost-sharing information” to individuals upon request via a website or in paper form, is not being challenged in the lawsuit.    

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HHS, Treasury and Labor Release First Set of Surprise Billing Rules

Posted by Chris Raphaely on July 02, 2021
HHS / No Comments

The United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor released interim final rules (“Rules”) regarding the “No Surprises Act” (“Act”) yesterday. The Rules are effective beginning on January 1, 2022. They cover the requirements for the billing and payment of emergency and air ambulance services by non-participating providers and non-emergency services performed by non-participating providers at participating health care facilities.  The Rules do not detail the independent dispute process between plans and providers (“IDR”), transparency requirements, or price comparison tools that are outlined in the Act. The agencies intend to issue rules covering those aspects of the Act later this year.

While we, along with the plans, providers and patient advocacy groups sift through over 400 pages of preamble and regulations in the coming days and weeks, there are a few items worth noting initially:

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CMS Releases Final Stark Rules To Promote Value-Based Care

Posted by Chris Raphaely on November 23, 2020
CMS / No Comments

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 Chris Raphaely 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 Chris Raphaely 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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