CMS has slowly but surely been providing additional guidance to Medicare Plans (Medicare Advantage and Part D plans) regarding steps they can and should take to address the opioid epidemic as it relates to their beneficiaries. CMS’s most recent guidance to Plans regarding the opioid epidemic was included in the Advance Notice and Call Letter.

In November of 2017, in the proposed Medicare Advantage and Part D regulations for CY 2019 CMS set out a framework for Part D plans to monitor and reduce the potential misuse of prescription opioids. Continue Reading CMS’s Advance Notice and Call Letter: How Medicare Plans Can Report, Identify, and Address the Opioid Epidemic

Today, the White House released its FY 2019 budget proposal, outlining its policy priorities for the fiscal year. In health care, the President’s budget focuses on prescription drug pricing and opioid funding. It included a number of legislation proposals relating to Medicare Part D, as well as the creation of a Medicaid demonstration allowing states to test new financing structures to cover prescription drugs. The proposal also discusses the future of the Affordable Care Act, including the Medicaid expansion, as well as appropriating cost-sharing reduction payments for FY 2018 through the end of calendar year 2019. Proposals in the budget that are regulatory in nature are certainly items worth monitoring since its likely they would be approved and implemented under this Administration.

We cover this and more in the budget analysis, which can be found here.



Based on the most up-to-date information on the budget deal, we have developed a new timeline for the major health care extenders. This new timeline is important because these provisions were once all tied together and now, they are not.

Click here for the health care extender timeline.

*Note this post assumes the budget deal will pass tonight and is based on information as of 4:00pm on February 8, 2018.

**Emma Zimmerman of ML Strategies contributed to this post.

Late last week, CMS released the Advance Notice of Methodological Changes for Calendar Year (CY) 2019 for Medicare Advantage (MA) Capitation Rates, Part C and Part D Payment Policies and 2019 draft Call Letter (Advance Notice and Call Letter). The Advance Notice and Call Letter should be read hand-in-hand with the Advance Notice of Methodological Changes for Calendar Year (CY) 2019 for the Medicare Advantage (MA) CMS-HCC Risk Adjustment Model (2019 MA Risk Adjustment Changes) that CMS released on December 27, 2017.  Both documents request comments from interested parties and have a submission deadline of March 5, 2018. Continue Reading CMS Releases Advance Notice and Call Letter for Medicare Advantage and Part D

Late Monday night (February 5, 2018), the House of Representatives released a continuing resolution to keep the government funded and running until March 23, 2018. This CR includes many health care related provisions, specifically many of the health care “minibus” riders. In the chart below we summarize major health care provisions in this CR specific to the health care minibus. Note, the entire CHRONIC Care Act is included in this CR. Additionally, two key health care provisions are not included in this CR – the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) and the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. Please click here to see our chart summarizing key health care provisions of the February 5 CR.


On January 9th, the Senate Committee on Finance conducted its nomination hearing of Alex Michael Azar II, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Under President George W. Bush, Mr. Azar served in HHS, first as general counsel to HHS and then as deputy secretary. Mr. Azar was more recently an executive at Eli Lilly and Company. As summarized here, Mr. Azar received many questions regarding Medicaid, CHIP, the Affordable Care Act, and most notably and often, drug prices. Continue Reading Azar’s Nomination Hearing Highlights Medicare Negotiation of Part B Drug Prices

Americans today are facing an opioid epidemic that stems in part from the misuse of prescription drugs. CMS takes aim at this crisis in its CY 2019 Medicare Advantage and Part D  Proposed Rule (Proposed Rules) by setting out a framework for Part D plans to monitor and reduce the potential misuse of frequently abused prescription drugs. (Those interested in a high-level overview of the Proposed Rules should see our post from last month). Continue Reading Proposed Medicare Advantage and Part D Regulations for CY 2019 – CMS Takes on the Opioid Epidemic

The rising cost of drugs in the U.S. is frequently in the news. So it is not surprising that in its contract year 2019 Proposed Medicare Advantage and Part D Regulations (Proposed Rule), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) seeks to address Part D drug prices. CMS proposes making certain changes that might lower drug costs (for Plan Sponsors and beneficiaries) and requests information regarding avenues to potentially lower Medicare beneficiaries’ point-of-sale drug costs. The three provisions in the Proposed Rule that most directly relate to drug pricing address: (1) generic drug formulary placement, (2) cost-sharing for follow-on biological products, and (3) whether and how to reduce point-of-sale drug prices based on manufacturer rebates and pharmacy price concessions that a Plan Sponsor might receive months after the beneficiary receives the drugs. We will concentrate on the first two provision in this post. The third provision, which is a request for information, will be discussed in a later post.  Continue Reading Proposed Medicare Advantage and Part D Regulations for CY 2019 – CMS Takes Aim at Drug Prices

Congress has its work cut out for itself between now and the end of the year. Between addressing the programs that constitute the Health Care Minibus, funding the government, and tax reform, there are also questions related to a market stabilization package (Alexander-Murray), the 340B program, the opioid epidemic, and another hurricane relief package. For the complete December preview, please click here.

Last Thursday, November 17, 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its proposed contract year 2019 Medicare Advantage and Part D regulations. The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2017.

The proposed rule focuses on many issues including but not limited to:

  • Implementing certain parts of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, aimed at establishing additional methods that Part D plans can use to reduce abuse or misuse of frequently abused drugs;
  • Changes to certain Medicare Advantage provisions relating to marketing and delivery of information;
  • Establishing “preclusion lists” under Medicare Advantage and Part D to limit when a Medicare Advantage organization and Part D plan sponsor may pay for a service or drug based on the provider who prescribed or furnished the service or drug;
  • Part D Network requirements relating to any willing provider, including defining mail-order pharmacy;
  • Part D beneficiaries’ access to generic drugs and follow-on biological products;
  • Changes to medical loss ratio calculation and reporting; and
  • Updates to the Medicare Advantage and Part D Star Rating System.

Within the proposed rule, CMS also included a request for information regarding the application of manufacturer rebates and pharmacy price concessions to drug prices at the point of sale. CMS has been gathering information regarding this topic for a number of years but appears to be seeking more detailed information in this request.

In the coming weeks we will be issuing detailed posts on these topics as well as others.

Based on the significance and number of the changes proposed, we anticipate that CMS will receive many comments from all segments of industry and beneficiary groups that may be affected by the proposed changes.  Comments are due to CMS before 5:00 pm on January 16, 2018.