Alternative Payment Models

The Stark Law has caused angst for many a physician and many a health care lawyer over the years. The Stark Law has also troubled hospital and health system CEOs looking for ways to align incentives with physicians. Some stakeholders say Congress should do away with the myriad statutes and regulations that comprise the strict liability federal law banning physician self-referral. Those stakeholders suggest either repealing it altogether and letting other fraud and abuse laws do the work, or – as its namesake former-Representative Pete Stark has suggested – replace it with a much simpler prohibition on soliciting referrals for kickbacks or other special treatment.

My colleague, Tom Crane, suggests another approach – revamp the Stark Law’s advisory opinion process so the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) can protect arrangements from sanctions, similar to the Office of the Attorney General’s (“OIG’s)  Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) advisory opinion process. Continue Reading Changes Needed to Stark Law Advisory Opinion Process

As the healthcare industry moves towards value-based purchasing, pay-for-performance, and other payment reform models, industry leaders have identified federal fraud and abuse laws as a barrier to full implementation of such models.  Last month, the Health Care Leadership Council released a White Paper entitled “Health System Transformation: Revisiting the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute and Physician Self-Referral (“Stark”) Law to Foster Integrated Care Delivery and Payment Models” (“HCL White Paper”), identifying current fraud and abuse laws as impeding transformation of the healthcare system.  Pharmaceutical and device manufacturers have also taken advantage of the OIG’s Solicitation of New Safe Harbors and Special Fraud Alerts (“OIG Solicitation”) to advocate for more flexible fraud and abuse laws with respect to value-based arrangements. Continue Reading Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Healthcare Leaders cite Fraud and Abuse Laws as Obstacle to Value-Based Arrangements

Last week, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (the “Commission”) debated a package of policy reforms that would change the way Medicare reimburses physicians for Medicare Part B drugs. In the midst of calls to lower drug prices, the Commission has been developing its Part B reform package over the last two years and now, finally, appears poised to move forward with a vote at next month’s meeting.

Medicare Part B drugs are a multi-billion dollar benefit and typically include higher cost specialty drugs that are administered in a physician’s office on an outpatient basis. Drugs covered under Medicare Part B are reimbursed through a so-called “buy and bill” approach. That is, the physician buys the drugs and bills Medicare for their use. Medicare pays the provider the average sales price (“ASP”) of the drug plus a markup of 6% of the ASP.  The 6% markup is generally considered compensation to physicians for the storage, handling, and other administrative costs associated with these specialty drugs. Continue Reading Medicare Advisors Debate Part B Drug Payment Reforms

Last week, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report analyzing CMS’ readiness to implement major parts of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act  of 2015 (MACRA). The report provides an inside look at the steps CMS is taking to implement MACRA’s Quality Payment Program (QPP), which is an ambitious transformation of the way in which the federal government reimbursements health care providers. The report highlights two key vulnerabilities for the MACRA transition, a process that will hopefully be smoother than the troubled roll out of HealthCare.gov.

Continue Reading OIG Report Offers Glimpse into CMS Progress Towards MACRA Implementation

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has withdrawn its controversial rule implementing the Medicare Part B payment demonstration. The agency stated that after consideration of the comments, it will not move forward with the demo.

The demonstration was intended to test new reimbursement methods for Medicare Part B drugs and to promote value-based and cost-effective drug purchasing.  Despite its intentions, major patient, pharmaceutical, and physician groups criticized the scope of the rule and the speed in which CMS was implementing it.  Many worried it would restrict or limit access to certain drugs.  It also drew sharp criticism from several members of Congress, including President-elect’s nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price. Continue Reading The Medicare Part B Demo May be Dead, but Drug Pricing Concerns Still Linger

There has been much controversy over the Medicare Part B payment demonstration proposed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) in March 2016.  As we await the release of the final rule, the fate of this demonstration will be in the hands of a Republican-held Congress and President-Elect Trump.  To move forward, not only will CMMI need to finalize the implementing regulations, but the Part B payment demonstration will also need to survive review under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Continue Reading The Future of the Medicare Part B Payment Demo under a Republican-held Congress

Most of the post-election discussion of the ACA has focused on how promises to repeal the law could impact the newly insured. But one priority area of the ACA that has received very little discussion is the federal government’s strategy to try to reign in health care costs by reducing volume and promoting quality.  Complicating the push to fully repeal the ACA is the fact that key elements of the ACA’s cost control strategy have found their way into the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) passed by Congress in 2015.

MACRA was passed on a bipartisan, bicameral basis, creating a two-track system for Medicare provider reimbursement incentive payments. On one track is the more traditional fee-for-service reimbursement structure that will be subject to payment adjustments under a consolidated quality reporting system called the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). The second track, which entails greater incentive payments, addresses reimbursement for providers participating in alternative payment models (APMs) like accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other demonstration programs that have been created under CMS’s Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). We discussed these changes at length in our post last month.

While the sweeping Republican election victory portends extensive changes in many areas of health care, MACRA is not likely to see extensive changes–at least not directly.  Moving payment policy away from volume and towards quality was a goal for all the Congressional offices participating in the construction of MACRA. However, the implementation of MACRA could still face challenges if Congressional Republicans decide to repeal or constrain the ACA sections that give CMS the authority to operate the CMMI. Such a move would not be outside the realm of possibility; as we previously discussed, the CMMI has been a frequent target of criticism by Congressional Republicans. A full repeal of the ACA, or even limitations to the CMMI’s authority or budget, could cripple the government’s ability to operate the demonstration projects that are the cornerstones of MACRA.

Stakeholders need to engage with CMS moving forward, albeit a CMS under new management, to ensure that changes to the ACA do not have unintended consequences on MACRA’s implementation.  CMS may seek to streamline the numerous payment policies that have been proposed under the current Administration. Alternatively, it is possible that CMS will be active in creating its own versions of alternative payment models. One area of potential focus for further reform might be the so-called ACO Track 2 and 3 under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), participation in which will now make providers eligible to receive APM incentive payments. Yet CMMI to date has struggled to find the right mix of payment reform, such as requiring two-sided risk, with payment incentives to show significant MSSP savings. In either case, the provider community will be closely watching the developments related to this already complex and daunting transition.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) provided the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the newly created Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) tremendous authority.  With Republicans set to take control of both the White House and Congress, the future of that authority is very much in question.

The ACA created CMMI to test innovative payment and service delivery models to reduce program expenditures and improve care.  To carry out this goal, the ACA allows CMMI to waive any Medicare provision of the Social Security Act, as well as select Medicaid provisions, that may be necessary to carry out and evaluate demonstration policies.  If the demonstrations prove effective, CMS may implement the program nationally.

Over the past few years, CMS has implemented numerous demonstration projects under CMMI’s authority.  These include delivery reform demonstrations such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program and Pioneer ACO program, as well as the Financial Alignment Initiative, which integrates care for dual-eligible individuals in select states. Demonstrations such as the Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design Model have focused on encouraging the use of high-value clinical services, while others, such as the Diabetes Prevention Program, have focused on preventive service models.  In July of this year, CMS proposed expanding the Diabetes Prevention Program nationally.

While there have been successes, CMS’s use of this authority has not been without controversy and criticism.  Continue Reading Will Republicans Embrace CMMI’s Authority?

Last week, the OIG posted its Work Plan for 2017.  In it, the OIG announced many goals touching on programs including, but not limited to, Medicare, Medicaid, Insurance Marketplace (Health Exchanges), Indian Health Service, TANF and Head Start.  Below are some of the OIG’s action items that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans should be aware of.  As in years past, most of the OIG’s goals relating to the Medicare program focus on whether CMS is properly administering and monitoring the programs. Although the OIG often targets CMS, this focus can result in increased OIG and CMS scrutiny for plans and plans’ first tier, downstream, and related entities. Continue Reading 2017 OIG Work Plan: For Medicare Plans

Continuing our current coverage of health policy issues and trends, Mintz Levin’s Health Law Practice and ML Strategies have issued a joint Alert regarding the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission’s Annual Cost Trends Hearings.  The hearings, which took place on October 17 and 18, provided an opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion of the Commonwealth’s health care system and its rising costs.  The Alert highlights the topics covered over the course of the hearing, and summarizes the points made by the academic, industry, and political leaders who participated. Many of these topics, including pharmaceutical spending, behavioral health, and alternative payment models, are at the core of emerging health policy discussions across the country.  You can read the full alert here.