The New Year started out with a bang in the healthcare antitrust circles with ProMedica Health Systems Inc.’s (“ProMedica”) well-publicized petition to the US Supreme Court and the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) amicus brief in support of ProMedica. ProMedica hopes that the Supreme Court will hear the case and overturn a Sixth Circuit ruling requiring ProMedica to divest St. Luke’s Hospital, a non-profit hospital in Toledo, Ohio. As evidence of the complexity and the lengthy litigation challenges between ProMedica and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) this merger occurred almost five years ago in 2010. The FTC and the Ohio Attorney General had sued to dissolve the deal because they considered it anti-competitive; arguing that ProMedica would control 60% of the hospitals in the greater Toledo area. The FTC ordered ProMedica to divest St. Luke’s (21 HLR 467, 3/29/12). The Sixth Circuit agreed with the FTC on the grounds that the merger would likely result in higher prices for payors and consumers and lead to unintended precedent for future hospital mergers.
ProMedica’s petition argues that this case is “a rare and uniquely apt vehicle for consideration of the [merger law] issues based on a fully-developed record.” Hospital merger cases rarely are litigated through appeal and this case is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to clarify fundamental aspects of merger law nearly 40 years after the United States v. General Dynamics Corp., 415 U.S. 486 (1974) decision. ProMedica argues that over the last 40 years confusion has developed over the FTC’s unilateral-effects theory and consolidation pressures have increased with the passage of the Affordable Care Act and other federal regulations.
ProMedica’s petition focuses on three merger law questions that the lower courts are divided on as the primary reasons why the Supreme Court should hear the case:
- How the FTC defines relevant market product for a merger analysis and whether the FTC can base it on supply-side considerations. ProMedica argued that the FTC should have either analyzed hospital services market by market because one kind of surgery is not a substitute for another or the FTC should have considered all four levels of hospital services as a package-deal market.
- Where the FTC relies exclusively on a unilateral-effects theory in challenging a merger may a court adopt a strong presumption of anti-competitive harm based solely on market-share statistics?
- Can the FTC rely on market-share statistics to preclude consideration of the merger target’s financial weakness to rebut a presumption of harm based on market-share statistics in unilateral-effects cases?
The unilateral effects analysis is the degree to which the merging hospitals are substitutes for each other. The higher the substitutability between two merging hospitals, the greater the competition among them and the greater the power. Here, ProMedica argues that Mercy Hospital, not St. Luke’s, is the closest substitute in the Toledo area.
ProMedica received support from the American Hospital Association (“AHA”) on the third issue, the “weakened competitor” doctrine. On January 21, 2015, AHA filed an amicus brief asking the US Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit decision and the lower court’s characterization that the “weakened competitor” argument is a “Hail Mary” that deserves credence only in rare situations. AHA argues that the Sixth Circuit’s erosion of the “weakened competitor” doctrine leaves the “viability of many small and stand-alone hospitals in jeopardy.” AHA also argues that there are conflicting interpretations by the lower courts on how to read the General Dynamics decision. Clarity is needed from the Supreme Court especially in the context of health care mergers. Hospitals should not have to wait until they are on the edge of bankruptcy to merge. AHA believes that the Sixth Circuit errored when it did not apply the General Dynamics weakened competitor analysis to the ProMedica acquisition.
The case is ProMedica Health System Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, case number 14-762, in the Supreme Court of the United States. The FTC has until March 2, 2015 to file a response. It is unknown when the Supreme Court will decide about hearing the case.
For further information contact Ryan P. Blaney, Washington, DC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tags: ACA, Affordable Care Act, Antitrust, Consolidation, contracting, hospitals, Merger
Posted by Ryan Blaney
on January 26, 2015
Justice Clarence Thomas and a unanimous US Supreme Court decided to vacate a Sixth Circuit decision and hold that the federal courts cannot assume from silence in a union’s collective bargain agreement that retiree group health insurance benefits continue indefinitely. The Supreme Court found that collective bargain agreements should be treated the same as other contracts when the principles are consistent with federal labor policy.
The Court rejected the UAW-Yard Man decision and accompanying long standing principle called the Yard-Man Rule which provided that in the absence of clear contractual language a collective bargain agreement vested retirees with lifetime benefits. The Supreme Court’s M&G Polymers v. Tackett USA decision is attached here.
Check back for more in-depth analysis and coverage on this decision and its impact on employee benefits litigation or feel free to contact Cozen O’Connor’s Health Law and Employee Benefits Teams.
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Tags: Collective-Bargaining, contracting, ERISA, Health Employee Benefits, Justice Thomas, Retirees, Unions
It has been a busy summer so far for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with respect to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), as the agency has proposed altering the quality reporting measures under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (“MSSP”) for 2015 and beyond. Expect an even busier fall as other, potentially broader, proposed rule changes for ACOs are analyzed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and both sets of proposals wind their way through the public comment process.
The proposed changes concerning quality reporting would revise and update the measures used to evaluate MSSP ACOs’ performance. Overall, the CMS says it would like to focus more on outcome-based measures (as opposed to process-based measures), reduce duplicative measures, and reflect current clinical practices without increasing ACO’s reporting burden.
More specifically, the CMS proposes to add 12 new measures and remove eight, which would increase the total number of quality measures from 33 to 37. The new measures relate to “avoidable” admissions for patients with multiple chronic conditions, heart failure, and diabetes; depression readmission; readmissions to skilled nursing facilities; patient discussion of prescription costs; and updated composite measures for diabetes and coronary artery disease.
The CMS would like to modify the scoring system to award bonus points toward shared savings to ACOs that make year-over-year improvements on individual measures. Moreover, the agency would like to modify its benchmarking methodology to use flat percentages to establish the benchmark for a measure when the national FSS data results in the 90th percentile being greater than or equal to 95 percent. And, finally, the CMS proposes several ways to align MSSP reporting requirements with other reporting programs, including Medicare’s Electronic Health Records Incentive Program and the Physician Quality Reporting System.
Fewer details are available about the next set of proposed rules changes, which were submitted to OMB on June 26 and will be printed in the Federal Register after review. It is expected that these regulations will include changes to the MSSP’s payment provisions. The proposed changes would apply to existing ACOs and approved ACO applicants starting January 1, 2016. As soon as the text of the rule becomes publicly available, the Health Law Informer will provide more information.
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Tags: ACO, contracting, Health reform, HIPAA, indemnification, reimbursement
It has been over three years since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its proposed rule and guidance on the development and implementation of Accountable Care Organizations. About four million Medicare beneficiaries are now in an ACO, and over 400 provider groups are participating in ACOs. See February 19, 2013 Health Affairs Blog. An estimated 14% of the U.S. population is being treated within an ACO. See April 16, 2014 Kaiser Health News.
By all indications, these numbers will continue to grow as the US health system moves away from the fee-for-service model to pay for value models that reward quality and cost savings and require clinical coordination among different types of providers, in many cases providers who are unrelated other than through an ACO or other similar arrangement. The seamless sharing of data, patient information and collaboration among large, medium and small physician practices, hospitals, post-acute providers, and even private companies like pharmacy chains is critical to the success of these organizations. Continue reading…
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Tags: ACO, contracting, Health reform, HIPAA, indemnification, reimbursement, risk