- Posts by Alexis BoazAssociate
Attorney Alexis Boaz brings her analytical skills and client-focused approach to represent and advise a diverse group of health care clients, including health plans, clinical laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy ...
On August 29, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the ten (10) Medicare Part D drugs selected for the first round of negotiations of the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program (Program)—a few days before the September 1, 2023, statutory deadline imposed by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The negotiated pricing will go into effect in 2026.
In its announcement, CMS included details about upcoming opportunities for public input regarding the Program, including a series of patient-focused listening sessions CMS plans to hold for each ...
On August 24, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued an opinion and order in Texas Medical Association, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services(“HHS”)(“TMA III”). TMA III challenged certain portions of the July 2021 No Surprises Act (“NSA”) interim final rules proposed by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, along with the Office of Personnel Management (the “Departments”). In a decision that significantly levels the field for providers, the District Court ruled in part ...
On August 3, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”), the Department of Labor, and the Department of Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) temporarily suspended the federal Independent Dispute Resolution (“IDR”) process immediately following the issuance of a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (the “Court”) that vacated certain regulations and guidance the Departments issued to implement the No Surprises Act (“NSA”).
The Court’s ruling in Texas Medical Association, et al. v. HHS (“TMA IV”)—which addressed claim “batching” and the $350 administrative fee required to initiate the IDR process—represents the Department’s third significant loss in legal challenges against the Departments’ implementation of the NSA’s IDR process that providers, facilities, air ambulance providers, and plans may use to determine the correct payment amounts for certain out-of-network services. On August 11, 2023, the Departments issued a “Frequently Asked Questions” guidance document to detail their intended approach to address the administrative fee. The Departments plan to issue additional updates on the NSA IDR process after further analysis of the TMA IV decision.
On June 22, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its proposed “Transitional Coverage for Technologies” (TCET) pathway—the Biden administration’s highly anticipated take on a mechanism to expedite coverage for certain devices designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as breakthrough devices.
As described in the notice with comment period (the “Procedural Notice”), the voluntary TCET pathway aims to streamline efforts between CMS, the FDA, and manufacturers of certain FDA-designated breakthrough devices to more efficiently advance breakthrough devices through the CMS coverage determination processes using a “coverage with evidence development” (CED) approach.
Under the proposed three-phase framework, manufacturers of breakthrough devices accepted into the TCET pathway would enter a period of transitional coverage through a TCET national coverage determination (NCD), during which the device’s manufacturer would be able to generate evidence for CMS to use to determine the breakthrough devices’ post-TCET final coverage status.
Notably, CMS stated that the agency only anticipates accepting five candidates to participate in the TCET pathway each year. Stakeholders must submit comments on the TCET pathway by August 28, 2023.
On May 11, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the “HELP Committee” or the “Committee”) passed a bipartisan bill to expand federal regulation of pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) for group health plans. As a compromise by Health Sub-Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and ranking Republican Bill Cassidy (LA), the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Act (S. 1339) reflects the overarching legislative push by members from both sides of the aisle and chambers of Congress to address drug pricing issues through federal fixes to the PBM framework . Further, Congress’ efforts build on the momentum from the enactment of the high-profile Medicare prescription drug pricing provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (the “IRA”) in 2022. 
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) is using its annual rulemaking process to update the CMS payment system rules for fiscal year (“FY”) 2024 as a mechanism to advance health equity systematically across various CMS payment programs. Specifically, CMS is incorporating proposals to advance health equity in its proposed payment rules for inpatient hospitals and long-term care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, inpatient psychiatric facilities, and hospices, and in the final rate announcement for the Medicare Part C and Part D programs for FY 2024. Significantly, in several instances, CMS is requesting comments, which opens the door for providers to share their input about relevant considerations. This CMS initiative is consistent with key components that were detailed in CMS’s “Framework for Health Equity,” the agency’s 10-year plan to “remedy systemic barriers to equity so that every one [CMS] serve[s] has a fair and just opportunity to attain their optimal health regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, preferred language, or other factors that affect access to care and health outcomes.” This post outlines the changes being proposed by CMS, as well as highlights opportunities where providers should consider preparing and submitting comments.
On February 9, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a fact sheet and its initial guidance documents addressing the Medicare Prescription Drug Inflation Rebate Program for Medicare Parts B and D (the “Inflation Rebates”)—a critical component of the sweeping prescription drug pricing changes enacted through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (the “IRA”). In addition to providing substantial detail regarding CMS’s intended implementation of the Inflation Rebates, the initial program guidance documents (the “Initial Inflation Rebate Guidances” highlight areas where CMS seeks specific feedback. This feedback must be submitted to CMS by March 11, 2023 via email (IRARebateandNegotiation@cms.hhs.gov).
On February 23, 2022, in the case captioned Texas Med. Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., No. 6:21-cv-00425-JDK (E.D. Tex.), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued the first major judicial decision addressing implementation of the new federal No Surprises Act, which went into effect nationally on January 1, 2022. The Court’s decision significantly alters the landscape for claims qualifying for the No Surprises Act’s Federal Independent Dispute Resolution Process (IDRP), an arbitration process designed to resolve certain reimbursement disputes between commercial payors and out-of-network health care providers or emergency facilities.
During a National Stakeholder Call on January 18, 2022, Ellen Montz—Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)—announced that CMS had begun publishing state-specific letters (the “Enforcement Letters”) detailing anticipated Federal and state responsibilities with respect to enforcement of the No Surprises Act (NSA) on the CCIIO website. Although CCIIO has yet to publish Enforcement Letters for a minority of states, the Enforcement Letters that have been published provide critical details regarding how the NSA intersects with existing state laws and CMS’s expectations regarding NSA enforcement in each state.
Earlier this summer, Ethan P. Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) delivered remarks addressing DOJ’s top priorities for enforcement actions related to COVID-19 and indicating that DOJ plans to “vigorously pursue fraud and other illegal activity.” As discussed below, Davis’s remarks not only highlighted principles that will guide enforcement efforts of the Civil Fraud Section under the False Claims Act (FCA) and of the Consumer Protection Branch (CPB) under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), they also provide an indication of how DOJ might approach enforcement over the next few years.
DOJ'S KEY CONSIDERATIONS & ENFORCEMENT STRATEGY FOR COVID-19
Davis highlighted two key principles that would drive DOJ’s COVID-related enforcement efforts: the energetic use of “every enforcement tool available to prevent wrongdoers from exploiting the COVID-19 crisis” and a respect of the private sector’s critical role in ending the pandemic and restarting the economy. Under that framework, DOJ plans to pursue fraud and other illegal activity under the FCA, which Davis characterizes as “one of the most effective weapons in [DOJ’s] arsenal.”
However, as DOJ pursues FCA cases, it will also seek to affirmatively dismiss qui tam claims that DOJ finds meritless or that interfere with agency policy and programs. DOJ also plans to collect certain information from qui tam relators regarding third-party litigation funders during relator interviews. DOJ’s emphasis on qui tam cases—cases brought under the FCA by relators or whistleblowers—for COVID-related enforcement highlights the impact such matters have on DOJ’s enforcement agenda.
- DOJ will consider dismissing cases that involve regulatory overreach and are not otherwise in the interest of the United States.
Although Davis emphasized that the majority of qui tam cases would be allowed to proceed, in order to “weed out” cases that lack merit or that DOJ believes should not proceed, DOJ will consider dismissing cases that “involve regulatory overreach or are otherwise not in the interest of the United States.” This is consistent with the principles reflected in the 2018 Granston Memo that instructed DOJ attorneys to consider “whether the government’s interests are served” when considering whether cases should proceed and listed considerations for seeking alternative grounds for dismissal of FCA cases. Davis gave examples throughout his speech of actions DOJ might consider dismissing:
- Cases based on immaterial or inadvertent mistakes, such as technical mistakes with paperwork
- Cases based on honest misunderstandings of rules, terms, and conditions
- Cases based on alleged deviations from non-binding guidance documents
- Cases against entities that reasonably attempted to comply with guidance and “in good faith took advantage of the regulatory flexibilities granted by federal agencies in the time of crisis.”
DOJ litigators have been advised to inform relators of the possibility of dismissal. Additionally, qui tam suits based on behaviors temporarily permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in circumstances in which agencies exercised discretion to waive or not enforce certain requirements, might
“fail as a matter of law for lack of materiality and knowledge.”
- DOJ will now include a series of questions during relator interviews to identify third-party litigation funders.
During each relator interview, DOJ has instructed line attorneys to ask a series of questions to identify whether the relator or their counsel has a third-party litigation funding agreement, which is an agreement in which a third party—such as a commercial lender or a hedge fund—finances the cost of litigation in return for a portion of recoveries. Under the new policy detailed in Davis’s speech, if a third-party funder is disclosed, DOJ will ask for the following:
- the identity of the third-party litigation funder,
- information regarding whether information of the allegations has been shared with the third party,
- whether the relator or their counsel has a written agreement with the third party, and
- whether the agreement between the relator or their counsel and the third party includes terms that entitles the third-party funder to exercise direct or indirect control over the relator’s litigation or settlement decisions.
Relators must inform DOJ of changes as the case proceeds through the course of litigation. While Davis characterizes these changes as a “purely information-gathering exercise for the purpose of studying the issues,” the questions are in furtherance of DOJ’s ongoing efforts to uncover the potential negative impacts third-party litigation financing may have in qui tam actions.  The questions Davis referenced in his remarks reflect DOJ’s concerns with third-party litigation funding as expressed by Deputy Associate Attorney General Stephen Cox in a January 2020 speech. Davis emphasized that DOJ particularly sought to evaluate the extent to which third-party litigation funders were behind qui tam cases DOJ investigates, litigates, and monitors; the extent of information sharing with third-party funders; and the amount of control third-party funders exercised over the litigation and settlement decisions. While the Litigation Funding Transparency Act of 2019 has remained inactive since its introduction in February 2019 by Senator Grassley and the 2018 proposal by the U.S. Court’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rights’ Multidistrict Litigation Subcommittee to require disclosure of third-party litigation funding remains under consideration, DOJ’s plans to include this line of questioning potentially signals DOJ’s intention to take more concrete and significant steps to address third-party litigation funding in the future.
Through a January 9, 2020, press release, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) reported more than $3 billion in total recoveries from settlements and judgments from fraud-related civil matters brought under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) for fiscal year (“FY”) 2019. An increase over the $2.9 billion recovered in FY 2018, FY 2019 reflected the ninth highest amount of recoveries in the past 30 years. The accompanying statistics released by DOJ reflect several themes related to FCA enforcement concerning the health care and life sciences industry.
The Health Care and Life Sciences Industry Accounted for Approximately 87 Percent of FY 2019 Recoveries
Consistent with previous years, fraud actions involving the health care and life sciences industries continue to drive DOJ’s FCA recoveries. Health care-related fraud recoveries alone have now exceeded $2 billion for 10 consecutive years. In FY 2019, health care-related matters generated approximately $2.6 billion in recoveries, or 85 percent of recoveries from all sectors combined, which does not include recoveries from state-based Medicaid actions with which DOJ may have assisted. The $71 million increase in recoveries from health care-related matters between FY 2018 and FY 2019 marks the third consecutive year of increasing health care-related recoveries. Notably, recoveries from health care-related cases brought directly by DOJ increased from $568 million to $695 million between FY 2018 and FY 2019, the second highest amount recovered in 30 years.
Today, a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) establishing new enforcement initiatives aimed at removing and excluding previously sanctioned entities from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) goes into effect. Published September 10 with a comment period that also closed today, the new rule expands CMS’s “program integrity enhancement” capabilities by introducing new revocation and denial authorities and increasing reapplication and enrollment bars as part of the Trump Administration’s efforts to reduce spending. While CMS suggests that only “bad actors” will face additional burdens from the regulation, the new policies will have significant impacts on all providers and suppliers participating in Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE NEW RULE
The New “Affiliations” Revocation Authority
The new “affiliations” enforcement framework—the regulation’s most significant expansion of CMS’s revocation authority—permits CMS to revoke or deny a provider’s or supplier’s enrollment in Medicare if CMS determines an “affiliation” with a problematic entity presents undue risk of fraud, waste, or abuse. Generally to bill Medicare, providers and suppliers not only must submit an enrollment application to CMS for initial enrollment, but also must recertify enrollment, reactivate enrollment, change ownership, and to change certain information. In the rule’s current form, providers or suppliers submitting an enrollment application or recertification to CMS (“applicants”) will be required to submit affiliation disclosures upon CMS’s request if the agency determines the entity likely has an affiliation with a problematic entity as described below. CMS will base its request on a review of various data, including Medicare Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System data and other CMS and external databases that might indicate problematic behavior, such as patterns of improper billing. Upon CMS’s request, applicants identified as having at least one affiliation with a problematic entity would be required to report any current or previous direct or indirect “affiliations” to CMS.
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