At the end of July, CMS approved two Section 1332 State Innovation Waivers submitted by Wisconsin and Maine for the purpose of establishing state reinsurance programs. There has been a flurry of 1332 waiver activity recently as states have sought to stabilize their individual insurance markets through reinsurance programs. Currently, Maryland and New Jersey have pending reinsurance applications before CMS. For more on the Wisconsin, Maine, and Maryland waivers, click here.

New Jersey’s request, which was submitted on July 2nd, 2018, is summarized below. Continue Reading New Jersey’s Pending 1332 Reinsurance Waiver

States are increasingly looking for ways to improve stability in their individual insurance marketplaces. One way is through reinsurance programs – systems in which multiple insurance companies share risk by purchasing insurance policies from another party to limit the total loss the original insurer would experience in case of unusually high claims. To date, Alaska, Minnesota, and Oregon have established state reinsurance programs through Section 1332 State Innovation Waivers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More are on the way.

Recently, there has been significant activity on using Section 1332 waivers to implement reinsurance programs. On July 29, 2018, CMS approved Wisconsin’s 1332 waiver request to implement a reinsurance program for years 2019 through 2023. On July 30, Maine’s waiver request to reinstate its reinsurance waiver was approved. Maryland and New Jersey also have pending reinsurance applications before CMS (Maryland being the most recent state to submit an application). Continue Reading Recent 1332 Waiver and Reinsurance Activity

This week, the Senate is in session while the House is out on its August recess. The Senate could move the ball on opioids, but it is more likely that it focuses on nominations. Meanwhile, the Administration remains hard at work on the regulatory side, with the Short-Term, Limited Duration Insurance regulation expected in the near future. We cover this and more in this week’s preview, which you can find here.

Earlier this month, CMS proposed changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program with the goal of “modernizing Medicare and restoring the doctor-patient relationship.” The proposed changes achieve this goal by streamlining the billing process and reducing the amount of paperwork providers face, empowering providers to maximize use of electronic health record systems, and ultimately, enabling providers to spend more time with their patients.

There is a lot contained in the proposed rules. My colleague, Ellen Janos, highlighted how the proposed rules promote access to virtual care. Then, my colleagues Matt Mora and Ellyn Sternfield dove into how the proposal would reduce payments for new drugs under the Part B program. And now, here is a quick rundown of the other major changes contained in the proposed rules:

Continue Reading CMS Focuses on a Modern Medicare

This week, the House is looking at advancing several health care tax proposals, including permanent repeal of the medical device tax. They will also consider a proposal to delay the health insurance tax by two years. In the Senate, aside from a couple of health-related hearings, it should be a relatively normal week. Today, the Senate will consider the nomination of Robert Wilkie to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. On the Administration side, we are paying attention to the potential movement of various regulations sitting at the Office of Management and Budget. For our complete coverage, please click here.

In an attempt to lower drug prices, CMS released a proposed rule last week to reduce payments for new drugs under the Part B program. CMS has proposed that effective January 1, 2019, for new drugs and biologicals that are currently reimbursed utilizing the wholesale acquisition cost (“WAC”) of the drug or biological plus 6 percent, will instead receive a reduced add-on payment of 3 percent. Because the change is limited to new drugs that are largely expensive, physician-administered, and infused or injected, such as chemotherapy and rheumatoid arthritis treatments, the financial impact of the proposed reduction could be significant.

Continue Reading CMS Proposes to Reduce Payments for New Drugs under Medicare Part B

Congress is in session this week with six important health care hearings, including hearings on Medicare fraud, mental health, and Stark reform. Meanwhile, the Administration continues to put forth new proposed rules and guidance that will impact many stakeholders between now and the end of the year. We cover this and more in this week’s health care preview, which you can find by clicking here.

This week, Congress returns from recess to another four-week work period. The dynamics of the next four weeks might be in flux now that President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Other issues to monitor include the suspension of risk adjustment payments and the fall out from the Kentucky Medicaid waiver ruling. We cover all this and more in this week’s preview, which you can find here. 

The government is focusing on opioids.  Whether it be program policies, enforcement, or legislation, combating the opioid epidemic continues to be a major focus for government officials.  It is also a major piece of the health care legislation moving in both the House and the Senate.

In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee advanced five bills relating to the opioid crisis, and the HELP Committee advanced the “Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018,” which has over 40 measures relating to opioids. Most recently (6/12), the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the Helping To End Addiction And Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act Of 2018.  That Act includes the expansion of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act to include payments to mid-level providers, as we previously blogged about here.  Click here for a summary of all Senate bills.

On the House side, over the last two weeks, the House passed over 50 bills to combat the opioid crisis and have received bipartisan support. Additional opioid related bills have been introduced and passed out of committee. On June 20, the House voted and passed three additional opioid bills (HR 5925, HR 9797, and HR 6082). Two of these bills were considered controversial. H.R. 5797, The IMD CARE Act, repeals the Medicaid IMD exclusion for individuals with opioid use disorders. H.R. 6082, The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, amends 42 CFR Part 2 confidentiality protections pertaining to substance use disorder patient records.  Continue Reading Opioids Have Our Attention

Welcome to the third week of this four week stretch. This week, the House will continue to vote on a number of proposals to address the opioid crisis. Last week the House passed over 30 bills on opioids, most of which were non-controversial and reached bipartisan support. However, the bills considered this week are expected to have spending tied to them and could therefore be more controversial.  We cover this and more in this week’s health care preview, which you can find here.