Header graphic for print

Health Law & Policy Matters

Health Care Attorneys | Mintz Levin Law Firm

Your Input, Please: ABA Blawg 100 Amici Nominations Due August 16

Posted in Uncategorized

As the co-editors of Health Law & Policy Matters, we are pleased to report that our blog was recently ranked as the No. 1 Health Law Blog in LexBlog’s AmLaw 200 Blog Benchmark Report based on overall traffic.  We could not have achieved this ranking without our readers so we would like to thank you for your continued support.  We will continue to work toward generating content that will help you stay abreast of legal and policy developments affecting the health care industry.

If you’ve enjoyed reading our blog, please note that nominations are now open for the Blawg 100 Amici, the American Bar Association’s list of top 100 best legal blogs.  These rankings are based on nominations (both the quantity and quality thereof), and we would greatly appreciate your support by nominating us via the ABA’s nomination form.  Nominations are due by Sunday, August 16.  You will have to provide some information, including your name and email address.  You will also have to input the Health Law and Policy Matters URL (which is http://www.healthlawpolicymatters.com/) and a link to a recent blog post (you can use this one: http://www.healthlawpolicymatters.com/2015/07/28/emerging-state-biosimilar-laws-reference-chart-and-five-issues-to-watch/, or any other post of your choosing).  You will also be asked to state why you are a “fan” of the blog in 500 words or less, and we have no problem if you opt for the “less” as long as you say something!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We thank you in advance for any support you can provide here.

ML Strategies: CMS Releases Final Payment Rules and Lawmakers target CMS’ Mandatory Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Pilot

Posted in Home Health & Hospice, Hospitals & Health Systems, Physicians, Reimbursement

Earlier this week, ML Strategies posted its weekly Health Care Update. This publication provides timely information on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Congressional initiatives affecting the health care industry, and federal and state health regulatory developments.

This week’s top story focuses on the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) release of final 2016 payment rules impacting acute care and long-term care hospitals.  Overall, the rule would increase operating payment by 0.9%; however it includes a $1.2 billion dollar cut in Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) uncompensated care funds for FY 2016.  One of the most controversial provisions in the final rule is that CMS did not extend the delay of the partial enforcement of the two-midnight rule, which is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The update also covers Congresses introduction of the Medicare Post-Acute Care Value-Based Purchasing Act of 2015 (H.R. 3298).  This bill would create a single value-based purchasing (VBP) system for post-acute care that would replace CMS’ mandatory home health VBP pilot that was proposed in the 2016 Home Health proposed rule.

* Lauren is admitted in New Jersey only.  Practicing under the supervision and guidance of Members of the Washington, D.C. office.

Drug Pumps Are Vulnerable to Hacking, FDA Warns

Posted in Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Hospitals & Health Systems, Privacy & Security/HIPAA/HITECH

Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement warning that certain drug infusion pumps that administer medication to patients are vulnerable to being hacked.  The statement focused on the Symbiq Infusion System (Symbiq) manufactured by Hospira, Inc. Infusion pumps such as Symbiq are used by hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities to continuously administer drugs over extended periods.

This is not the first security issue for the Lake Forest, Illinois, company that is set to be acquired by Pfizer later this year for roughly $17 billion. In June of this year, the FDA and DHS alerted health care facilities of similar security concerns related to a separate Hospira fusion pump system called LifeCare PCA.

Hospira and an independent researcher confirmed that Symbiq could be accessed remotely through a hospital’s network. Remote access could allow an unauthorized user to control the device and change the dosage the pump delivers, which could lead to over- or under-infusion of critical patient therapies. Continue Reading

OIG Issues Favorable Advisory Opinion of Hospital Leasing Arrangement

Posted in Fraud & Abuse, Hospitals & Health Systems, State & Federal Audits, Investigations & Litigation

Last week, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services published Advisory Opinion 15-10 (Opinion). The Opinion addressed a hospital system’s proposal to lease non-clinician employees and provide operational and management services to a related psychiatric hospital. While finding that the Proposed Arrangement could potentially generate prohibited remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), the OIG stated that it would not impose administrative sanctions in connection with the arrangement because it was sufficiently low-risk.

The hospital system (System) that requested the Advisory Opinion is a non-profit system that owns multiple hospitals and other health care providers.  The System and a non-profit corporation are the sole members of a non-profit psychiatric hospital (Center), which in turn is part of the System’s integrated health network. The Center is paid by Medicare under the inpatient psychiatric facility prospective payment system and the Center (and certain parts of the System) file cost reports with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The System and Center are possible referral sources for each other.

Prior to requesting the Advisory Opinion, the System and Center were already parties to a Master Services Agreement and an Employee Lease Agreement under which the System: (1) leased non-clinician employees to the Center for an amount equal to the System’s fully loaded costs (i.e., salary, benefits and overhead expenses for those employees) plus a two percent administrative fee; and (2) provided operational and management services to the Center for a fee equal to the System’s fully loaded costs to provide those services plus a two percent administrative fee (the Existing Arrangement).  Under the arrangement proposed to OIG (Proposed Arrangement), the parties would retain the Existing Arrangement except that the Center would no longer pay a two percent administrative fee for either the leased employees or the operational and management services. Continue Reading

The Corporate Practice Prohibition in New York: What We Can Learn From the ADMI Settlement

Posted in Fraud & Abuse, Hospitals & Health Systems, Payors & PBMs, Physicians, State & Federal Audits, Investigations & Litigation

One of the most frequently asked questions posed to healthcare lawyers is whether State X has a prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine, nursing or other profession, and if so, whether the prohibition is enforced.  As demonstrated by last month’s well-publicized settlement between Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (ADMI) and the New York State Attorney General’s Office (AG), the answer to that question in New York is a resounding “yes.”

Although most states with corporate practice and fee-splitting prohibitions focus on medicine, some, like New York, have broad prohibitions that encompass virtually all of the licensed professions, including nursing, clinical social work, and dentistry. While there are professionals who may run afoul of the corporate practice prohibition because they inadvertently render services through a business corporation rather than a professional corporation, more significant risks arise when third party vendors are hired to manage a professional’s back-office matters, and the line between ownership and management becomes blurred.  In the case of ADMI, the AG believed that line was crossed. Continue Reading

Emerging State Biosimilar Laws – Reference Chart and Five Issues to Watch

Posted in Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Care Reform, Payors & PBMs, Pharma & Medical Devices, Pharmacies, Physicians

As we’ve previously discussed, states have begun to actively regulate the substitution of interchangeable biosimilars before any FDA-approved biosimilar has even hit the market.  State biosimilar legislation passed to date has focused on the circumstances under which biosimilar substitution is permitted, notice requirements, and record retention time periods.

We have been tracking state biosimilar legislation and have prepared a chart that summarizes enacted legislation. The chart can be downloaded here and will be updated periodically as state developments warrant.

Below we summarize common requirements across the enacted state biosimilar legislation and identify five issues to watch as states continue to legislate and regulate in this area.

State Legislation Trends

As of July 1, 2015, 16 states have enacted legislation or promulgated administrative rules governing biosimilar substitution by pharmacists. Additionally, 4 states currently have pending legislation that could pass before the end of the current legislative session.

  • 14 of the 16 state laws require the pharmacist to notify the prescriber of the substitution.
    • In one of these states, Virginia, the statutory provision requiring prescriber notification expired on July 1, 2015.
    • Similarly, an amendment to Oregon’s law will end the prescriber notification requirement on January 1, 2016.
  • 10 state laws require the pharmacist to notify the patient of the biosimilar substitution.
  • 3 state laws require the pharmacist to obtain the patient’s affirmative consent prior to dispensing a biosimilar as a substitute for the prescribed biological product.
  • 10 state laws require that pharmacies maintain written records of biosimilar substitution for a set period of time, typically 2 years.
  • 2 states require that the interchangeable biosimilar must cost less than the prescribed biological product in order for the pharmacist to dispense the biosimilar.
  • 3 states require the pharmacist to substitute the biosimilar product unless certain criteria are met.
    • For example, in Tennessee, the prescriber must satisfy fairly strict standards to demonstrate that the prescribed biological product is medically necessary for the particular patient in order to prevent biosimilar substitution.

5 Issues to Watch

  1. Biosimilar “Name”: 9 of the 16 state laws require that the pharmacist communicate the name and manufacturer of the dispensed biological product to the prescriber. These laws do not address whether the “name” is referring to the product’s brand name or non-proprietary name. We are still waiting for FDA’s policy decision on whether biosimilar non-proprietary names will be the same as or different from the reference biological product. This decision from FDA will likely have a significant impact on what is considered to be the biosimilar’s “name” for purposes of compliance with state-imposed prescriber notification rules.
  1. Orange Book vs. Purple Book: In defining the “interchangeability” of a biosimilar or determining permitted substitutions, 4 state laws refer to FDA’s “Orange Book” and 2 state laws refer to the “Purple Book.” References to the Orange Book may lead to unnecessary confusion down the road, because the Orange Book lists drug products approved under a New Drug Application (NDA) along with the generic drug therapeutic equivalence information. The Orange Book will not contain biosimilar information because those products are approved pursuant to a Biologics License Application (BLA). Instead, the Purple Book – FDA’s “Lists of Licensed Biological Products with Reference Product Exclusivity and Biosimilarity or Interchangeability Evaluations” – will be the relevant source for referencing approved interchangeable biosimilars. This inaccuracy in the state laws may create interpretation issues for Boards of Pharmacy and pharmacists who will have to implement regulations and comply with these new rules.
  1. Application to Provider-Administered Products: Most of the recent state laws impose requirements on pharmacists dispensing biosimilar products directly to patients, even though the initial round of biosimilar applications being reviewed by FDA are for biological products that are more commonly (or even solely) provider-administered. We have not seen similar patient notification requirements imposed on prescribers that might be “substituting” an interchangeable biosimilar for its reference biological product in the context of a hospital, clinic, or other health care setting.
  1. Medical Necessity Requirements: It will be interesting to see whether any other states take a similar approach to Tennessee’s unique requirement that the prescriber demonstrate medical necessity in order to prevent substitution of the biosimilar.
  1. Expiration of Notification Requirements: As noted above, the Virginia prescriber notification provision already expired on July 1st. Despite an effort to extend it by Delegate John O’Bannon, who introduced the original 2013 biosimilar substitution bill, the Virginia legislature was unable to pass an extension of the prescriber notification requirement. Oregon’s law was also amended to terminate this requirement on January 1, 2016. Stay tuned for whether this issue reemerges as interchangeable biosimilars come closer to entering the market.

We will be hosting a webinar with Bloomberg BNA titled “Will State Action on Biosimilars Thwart Anticipated Savings for Health Care Programs?” on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 at 1 pm. For more information or to register for the webinar, click here. Use the promotion code FIRMDISC25 to receive 25% off your registration fees.

FCC Ruling Addresses Robocalls by Health Care Providers

Posted in Hospitals & Health Systems, Payors & PBMs, Pharma & Medical Devices, Pharmacies, Physicians

Mintz Levin’s Communications Practice recently released a Communications Advisory discussing a Declaratory Ruling and Order released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The ruling clarified and expanded the reach of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  While the ruling is broad in its subject matter, part of the ruling specifically addresses so-called “robocalls” made by health care providers.

The portions of the ruling related to health care were the result of a petition filed by the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM). AAHAM’s petition primarily related to the TCPA’s consent requirements. FCC rules generally require that callers obtain the prior express consent of the called party before calls or text messages are made to wireless phones using autodialing equipment or an artificial or prerecorded voice.

In response to the petition, the FCC ruling clarifies that an individual’s act of providing their phone number to a health care provider constitutes prior express consent under the TCPA. AAHAM also asked the FCC to clarify that consent would be properly obtained if it was given by a third party on behalf of an incapacitated patient. The FCC agreed and clarified that such consent would be sufficient. Continue Reading

Class Action Suit Filed Against UCLA After It Suffers Massive Data Breach Affecting 4.5 Million Individuals

Posted in Hospitals & Health Systems, Privacy & Security/HIPAA/HITECH

In yet another data breach affecting millions of individuals, UCLA Health System (“UCLA”) reported on July 17, 2015, that hackers had accessed portions of its health network that contained personal information, including names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, medical record numbers, Medicare or health plan ID numbers, and some medical information (including medical conditions, medications, procedures, and test results).  Affected individuals include UCLA’s patients as well as providers that sought privileges at the health system.

On July 21, 2015, UCLA became a defendant in a class action lawsuit after plaintiff Michael Allen filed the action in California federal court. The complaint alleges a number of violations related to the breach, including violation of California’s Confidential Medical Information Act.

According to its press release, UCLA determined on May 1, 2015, that the attackers had accessed UCLA’s network. Interestingly, UCLA notes that it had detected suspicious activity on its network in October of 2014, at which time it began working with the FBI to investigate the breach. At the time, UCLA did not believe that the attackers had access to the part of its network that contained personal information. However, as of May 5, 2015, UCLA concluded that the hackers may have had access to personal information as far back as September of 2014.  UCLA has made identity protection and credit monitoring services available to potentially impacted individuals.

The class action claims that the breach was a direct result of UCLA’s failure to take “basic steps” to safeguard the sensitive information. One of these “basic steps”, the plaintiff argues, is the encryption of UCLA’s patient information. Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Issues a Key Decision About Biosimilars and the BPCIA

Posted in Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Care Reform, Payors & PBMs, Pharma & Medical Devices, Pharmacies

Biosimilars continue to be a topic to watch in 2015 as the law around biosimilar products evolves. In March 2015, CMS released guidance addressing Medicare and Medicaid coverage for biosimilar drug products, shortly after the FDA’s approval of a biosimilar version of Amgen’s drug Neupogen®. Then, in April 2015, FDA released final versions of three key biosimilar guidance documents under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA).

Most recently, as my colleague Thomas Wintner discussed in an Intellectual Property Alert (“Article”), the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key decision regarding the meaning of various provisions of the BPCIA. See Amgen Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., Fed. Cir. Case No. 2015-1499. The appeal had been fast-tracked because of the potentially imminent marketing of Sandoz’s biosimilar version of Neupogen®. Continue Reading

Qui Tam Update Highlights Failed Compliance Program and Dermatology Sweetheart Deals

Posted in ACGME, Fraud & Abuse, Hospitals & Health Systems, Physicians, State & Federal Audits, Investigations & Litigation

Mintz Levin’s Health Care Enforcement Defense Practice has published its most recent Qui Tam Update, analyzing overall trends in 36 recently unsealed health care related whistleblower cases.

In this issue, the team highlights a case that was filed back in 2006, with allegations that focus on a hospital’s failure to maintain a culture of compliance.

  • United States Of America ex rel. Dan Bisk, State Of New York ex rel. Dan Bisk v. Westchester Medical Center, 1:06cv15296 (S.D.N.Y) – the defendant’s former compliance officer alleged a variety of FCA and Stark Law violations involving the New York hospital, and claimed the defendant retaliated against him; the government focused its investigation on a particular physician practice group.

The team also reviews a trio of cases against the same defendant, alleging dermatology sweetheart deals.

  • United States ex rel. Ross v. Family Dermatology of Penn., P.C., No. 1:11-cv-2413 (N.D. Ga.); United States ex rel. Baucom v. Family Dermatology of Penn., P.C., No. 1:11-cv-4260 (N.D. Ga.); and United States ex rel. Milstein v. Family Dermatology, P.C., 1:13-cv-01027 (N.D. Ga.) – the relators had different levels of involvement with the defendants, but each is a physician who alleged that the multi-state dermatology practice, and its husband and wife owners, would buy dermatology practices, then enter into independent contractor agreements with the remaining physicians, and require them to refer their pathology specimens to a lab owned by the defendants, in violation of FCA, Stark Law and AKS.

Read the full Qui Tam Update for more information about these cases, and the trends we’ve observed in all of the recently unsealed cases. In our Qui Tam Update series, we monitor recently unsealed FCA cases, identify trends in health care enforcement, and discuss noteworthy cases and developments. To receive the Qui Tam Update by email, subscribe here.