Some very good news for the telehealth community can be found amidst the more than 1,400 pages of the proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2019 (“Proposed Rule”) issued by CMS yesterday.  Finally, CMS acknowledges just how far behind Medicare has lagged in recognizing and paying for physician services furnished via communications technology.    Continue Reading Telehealth Gets a Boost in Proposed Physician Fee Schedule

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

HHS’s Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) has long faced a backlog in Medicare appeals to Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). In an effort to address this backlog, OMHA established a Settlement Conference Facilitation (SCF) process. OMHA describes SCF as an alternative dispute resolution process that gives certain providers and suppliers the opportunity to resolve all eligible Part A and Part B appeals at once.

The SCF pilot began in June 2014 focusing on Medicare Part B appeals and has gradually been expanded, due in part to its success. Last week, OHMA announced a new plan to expand the SCF program even further and offer providers a quicker option to resolve eligible payment disputes: SCF Express.

Continue Reading HHS Announces a “Settlement Express” Option for Medicare Appeals

There are now multiple proposals in the House and Senate for substantive changes to the 340B Drug Discount Program. The odds of a legislative “fix” to 340B are increasing. But independent of congressional action, is CMS signaling that additional changes to 340B may be coming?

The most significant recent change to 340B came courtesy of CMS, not HRSA. Effective January 2018, CMS, relying on its authority over the Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS), effectively cut Medicare Part B reimbursement for 340B drugs in the hospital outpatient setting by almost 30%.  Most hospital and ambulatory surgical center reimbursement for Medicare Part B 340B drugs went from the standard ASP plus 6%, down to ASP minus 22%. Accompanying the new OPPS rule, CMS issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), discussing the mandatory use of modifiers when billing 340B drugs under the OPPS.  While the OPPS rule implementing the payment reduction is the subject of ongoing litigation, to date the Medicare Part B payment reduction remains in full force and effect.  Continue Reading Will CMS Drive Further Changes to 340B?

As we highlighted earlier this month, CMS released both the Contract Year 2019 Final Rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D (Final Rules) and the 2019 Call Letter. These documents are not typically released at the same time, so there is a lot of information for Medicare Advantage organizations and Part D plan sponsors to absorb. One major topic area that CMS focuses on in these documents is the prevention of opioid misuse and abuse.

As you know, we have been following this topic closely in the last few months: first, we discussed how the proposed rules set out a framework for plan sponsors to monitor and reduce the potential misuse of frequently abused prescription drugs. We then discussed the Advance Notice and Call Letter outlining utilization review controls for Part D plans to use to address opioid misuse and abuse.

The Final Rules and 2019 Call Letter work together to establish a number of new policies aimed at helping Medicare plan sponsors prevent and combat prescription opioid overuse. There is significant discussion, including CMS’s response to commenters, in the final documents linked above. Here, we provide a high-level overview of the new policies.

Continue Reading CMS Continues to Focus Medicare Plans on Preventing Opioid Abuse

On January 11, 2018, CMS released a Letter to Medicaid Directors outlining guidance that work requirements can be used as a basis for eligibility for certain adult Medicaid beneficiaries through 1115 waivers. Medicaid beneficiaries that can be subject to work requirements include non-elderly, non-pregnant adult Medicaid beneficiaries who are eligible for Medicaid on a basis other than disability. The guidance also outlines that exemptions/protections from work requirements must be made for individuals who are medically frail or have substance use disorders. It also details that states should outline how they would support beneficiaries with limited employment opportunities (economically depressed area, rural area, transportation limitations, etc.). The guidance suggests state could use good cause exemptions similar to those used in SNAP and TANF. Continue Reading CMS Guidance on Work Requirements for Medicaid Eligibility

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 U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposed rule last week regarding the cancellation of three bundled payment models and an incentive payment model while also reducing the scope of a third type of payment model. These models were mandatory for hospitals in certain geographic areas. The current administration had delayed the implementation of these models until January 1, 2018.   Continue Reading CMS Proposes to Cancel Bundled Payment and Incentive Models

In the recently published proposed rule related to the CY 2018 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is considering changes to the regulation governing the date of service (DOS) for clinical laboratory and pathology specimens.  The DOS rules are important to laboratories and hospitals because they dictate which party must bill Medicare for certain laboratory testing performed on stored specimens collected during a hospital procedure but ordered after the patient has left the hospital.  If revisions are ultimately finalized, the proposal could have significant business implications for independent laboratories and hospitals.

Continue Reading CMS May Decide to Permit Labs to Bill for Certain Tests Provided to Outpatients

In March, I posted about the Uncertain Future of the 340B Drug Discount Program.  When opining about What Could Happen Next I speculated about possible changes to government reimbursement for 340B drugs “so that government safety net programs share in 340B savings.”

I reasoned that CMS already knew that “Medicare pays more for 340B drugs than the covered entities’ acquisitions cost.”   Continue Reading Six Questions and Answers About CMS’ Recommended Changes to 340B Medicare Reimbursement