Over the past month, we provided additional details on the structure, funding, and evaluation of the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood, Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and Medicare Therapy Caps. In this post we will go into detail on the structure, funding, and outlook of the “primary care cliff,” and specifically the three programs relating to community health centers. This is part of an ongoing series we are doing on the potential riders of a health care minibus. The “minibus” refers to a handful of policy provisions tied together in one piece of legislation. This minibus will carry a number of provisions into law, although the number of riders onboard the minibus, and when the minibus leaves the station, remains to be seen.  Continue Reading Community Health Center Fund: A Minibus Rider

Our colleagues on the Employment Matters blog have been following Massachusetts’ efforts to make up a funding shortfall in the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program and its Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Back in May, they blogged on the two options introduced by the Senate to offset these rising costs: (1) a “play-or-pay” option that would impose a per employee assessment on companies that do not offer their workers’ health plans, or (2) an across the board increase in the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (or “EMAC”).

Last week, they provided an update on the Commonwealth’s effort. On August 1, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law H. 3822, “An Act Further Regulating Employer Contributions to Health Care” (the “Act”). This Act (i) increases the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (“EMAC”) from an annual maximum fee of $51 per employee to $77 per employee; and (ii) imposes a penalty on employers of up to $750 for each non-disabled worker who receives health insurance coverage through MassHealth or the Massachusetts Health Connector (i.e., the Commonwealth’s Affordable Care Act marketplace).

Read their full update here.

Our colleagues at ML Strategies have provided their Health Care Weekly Preview for the week of July 31, 2017.  This week’s preview focuses on the fallout from the failed vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the issue of whether the federal government will continue to pay cost-sharing reduction subsidies (CSRs), as well a new proposal by Senators Lindsey Graham (SC), Bill Cassidy (LA) and Dean Heller (NV).

Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess to four full weeks of legislative activity. The drama of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) now hangs over the Senate. The House will return to its regular work once they advance the FDA User Fee Reauthorization, with the Senate also having to schedule floor time for the package. Also on our radar this month will be the date June 21st– the date in which insurers decide if they will participate in the Obamacare Marketplace for 2018. This could play a role in the Administration’s ongoing discussions regarding cost-sharing reductions, as well as how the Senate approaches its version of the AHCA. Continue Reading Congress Returns for June Session to Face AHCA, User Fees and More

Our ML Strategies colleagues, Eli GreenspanKatie Weider, and Rodney Whitlock, have published a new edition of the Health Care Weekly Preview.

This edition covers upcoming hearings in the House, including one before the House Ways & Means Committee regarding expiring Medicare programs, as well as changes to Medicare’s payment system.  It also covers an upcoming hearing before the Senate Finance Committee regarding The (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017, which has been co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans.

The ML Strategies team also comments on the possibility of a bipartisan bill designed to fix the Affordable Care Act.

Click HERE to read this week’s edition and stay tuned for additional Previews!

ML Strategies has provided a Spring Cheat Sheet previewing the coming months in health care policy in the 115th Congress.  The Cheat Sheet addresses attempts to amend the American Health Care Act, funding for the federal government, the heath insurance marketplace, FDA user fee acts, and the health care minibus.  The full Cheat Sheet is available here.  Stay tuned for upcoming coverage of the health care policy actions (and inactions) in Washington, D.C.

This week, in their “Future of the Affordable Care Act” series on our Employment Matters blog, my colleagues Alden Bianchi and Edward Lenz provided an analysis of the major provisions of the American Health Care Act (“AHCA”).

Introduced on March 6, 2017, the AHCA is the first concrete legislative proposal detailing the initial provisions designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  As Alden and Ed discuss, the bill currently is the subject of widespread media scrutiny and intense criticism.  The bill is not final and will likely face numerous changes, including the last minute proposals changes of the past 48 hours.  The March 6th version offers an outline of Republican priorities in the regulation of health and health care financing, which include a strong bias in favor of market-based solutions and aversion to most (but not all) government intervention in the health care markets.

Check out their full analysis on The Future of the Affordable Care Act Week 7: The American Health Care Act, here. Continue Reading Future of the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act

ML Strategies has published its Washington Outlook for 2017, with a collection of materials covering what to expect from the 115th Congress, spanning multiple issues and industries.

For Health Care stakeholders, ML Strategies considers priorities that have been identified by the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, and forecasts possible legislative and administrative actions to move their agendas along. We all know that the ACA is a target, and whether the chosen path forward is repeal and replace, or repair and rebuild, there are some key components of the law that are vital to a healthy marketplace.  ML Strategies outlines some strategies and tactics we might see in the coming weeks.

In addition to ACA repeal, the Health Care Outlook also discusses key Administration appointees for HHS, CMS and FDA, as well as potential policy advisors. There are also a number of Congressional acts up for reauthorization – the “UFAs” for FDA, CHIP and Medicare outpatient therapy caps – each important in its own right, but which also creates opportunities for ‘ride-along’ policy initiatives.

Finally, ML Strategies looks to what may happen to the ACA cost-sharing reductions with the House v. Burwell litigation, and considers whether Telemedicine might provide an opportunity for this new Congress to work together, across party lines.

Access the ML Strategies 2017 Outlook: Health Care here.

Access the comprehensive ML Strategies Washington Outlook for 2017 here.

 

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?