On September 30, 2021, the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (the “Board”) issued a revised set of rules that become effective November 1, 2021. These new and revised rules affect all new and some pending Medicare Part A provider appeals. These rules clarify several aspects of Board appeals and simplify some of the Board’s complex procedures.
CMS Proposes to Reverse Course and Repeal Its Final Rule Expediting Medicare Coverage of Breakthrough Devices and Defining the Medicare “Reasonable and Necessary” Coverage Standard
On September 15, 2021, CMS published a proposed rule that would repeal a final rule that created an expedited pathway for Medicare coverage of breakthrough devices and established formal criteria for applying the “reasonable and necessary” standard for coverage in Section 1862(a)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act, which has been the basic standard for coverage since the inception of the Medicare program. CMS has set a short period for comments, and interested parties must submit comments by October 15, 2021.
The new proposed rule reflects a significant policy change. Where the initial rule focused on expanding access to new innovations, the current approach focuses more on Medicare program goals and outcomes data.
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District Court Invalidates Medicare GME Regulation and Orders CMS to Recalculate Hospitals’ Medicare Reimbursement
Teaching hospitals should find that their Medicare reimbursement for training physicians will be a little sweeter thanks to a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, et al. v. Becerra, No. 19-2680 (D.D.C. May 17, 2021). The hospitals challenged a 1997 regulation that set out…
OIG Audits on Medicare Advantage Plans Continue
On April 19, 2021, the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Office of Audit Services (OAS) released the results of an audit conducted on the accuracy of diagnosis codes submitted to CMS by Humana, Inc. for 2015 dates of service. Based on the audit results, the OIG recommended Humana return a whopping $197.7 million in alleged…
NY Chiropractor Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison for Health Care Fraud Scheme
On April 13, 2021, a New York-based chiropractor, was sentenced to nine years in prison, and ordered to pay close to $20 million, for running what the federal government alleged was a large scale scheme to defraud Medicare and other third party insurers. The sentencing stems from a case originally filed under seal on August 29, 2018, in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York alleged that two New York chiropractors – James and Jeffery Spina – improperly owned and controlled multiple medical practices and engaged in submission of fraudulent health care claims from 2011 until September 2017.
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Be Aware Before You Share: Vetting Third Party Apps Prior to Data Transfer
As consumerism in healthcare increases, companies and the individuals they serve are increasingly sharing data with third-party application developers that provide innovative ways to manage health and wellness, among numerous other products that leverage individuals’ identifiable health data. As the third-party application space continues to expand and data sharing becomes more prevalent, it is critical that such data sharing is done in a responsible manner and in accordance with applicable privacy and security standards. Yet, complying with applicable standards requires striking the right balance between rules promoting interoperability vis-à-vis prohibiting information blocking vs. ensuring patient privacy is protected. This is especially difficult when data is sent to third party applications that remain largely unregulated from a privacy and security perspective. Navigating this policy ‘tug of war’ will be critical for organizations to comply with the rules, but also maintain consumer confidence.
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Appropriate Use of CARES Act Provider Relief Funds
To address the COVID-19 public health emergency fiscal burdens, Congress authorized and appropriated the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (“Relief Fund”) for healthcare providers and facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has begun to distribute several tranches of the Relief Funds. All totaled, Congress provided $175 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (“Relief Fund”) through the CARES Act and the Payroll Protection Program and Health Care Act.
As of May 7, 2020, HHS identified $50 billion for general distribution to Medicare providers. HHS distributed to Medicare providers the Relief Fund’s initial $45 billion tranche in April 2020, and is distributing the Relief Fund’s second $20 billion tranche. Also, HHS allocated Relief Funds to: hospitals in COVID-19 high impact areas ($10 billion); rural providers ($10 billion); Indian Health Services ($400 million), and skilled nursing facilities, dentists, and providers that take solely Medicaid (unidentified amounts).…
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CARES Act Temporarily Suspends Sequestration: How Will It Affect Provider Reimbursement?
One of the many relief efforts contained in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), signed into law on March 27th, 2020, is a hiatus of sequestration as it applies to Medicare payments. Section 4408 of the CARES Act exempts Medicare from the effects of sequestration from May 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. It also postpones the sunset of sequestration as it applies to Medicare from the end of 2029 to the end of 2030.
As background, on January 2, 2013, “sequestration,” automatic spending cuts applicable to all categories of the Federal budget, went into effect. Sequestration included a 2.0% reduction in most Medicare spending, and as a result of its implementation, many providers experienced reductions in their reimbursement. In addition to traditional fee-for-service Medicare payments, some Medicare Advantage plans reduced reimbursement under their contracts with providers to reflect the effect of sequestration, effectively passing on to providers the reductions in premiums recovered by such plans due to sequestration. Even non-Medicare reimbursement was affected for many providers whose participation agreements with plans contained fee schedules based off of Medicare reimbursement.
While this suspension of sequestration is certainly good news for providers participating in traditional fee-for-service Medicare, and plans offering Medicare Advantage products, the effect the suspension will have on reimbursement for providers participating in Medicare Advantage or commercial lines of business which rely on Medicare rates is slightly less clear.…
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Telehealth Flexibility: Key Regulatory Changes That Providers Should Know
While providers struggle to provide health care to their patients amid the coronavirus contagion concerns, recent regulatory and reimbursement changes will help ease the path to the provision of healthcare via telehealth.
On March 6, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) response funding package. In addition to providing funding for the development of treatments and public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, the bill authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar (referred to herein as the “Secretary”), to waive Medicare restrictions on the provision of services via telehealth during this public health emergency.
Greater utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak will reduce providers’ and patients’ exposure to the virus in health care facilities. Telehealth is especially useful for mild cases of illness that can be managed at the patient’s home, thereby decreasing the volume of individuals seeking care in facilities. To further facilitate the increased utilization of telehealth, the Centers for Disease Control’s interim guidance for healthcare facilities notes that healthcare providers can communicate with patients by telephone if formal telehealth systems are not available. This allows providers to have greater flexibility when telehealth technology providers lack the bandwidth to accommodate this increase in telehealth utilization or are otherwise unavailable.…
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Congress’s COVID-19 Funding Legislation Expands Access to Telehealth Services for Medicare Beneficiaries
While the world continues to respond to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Congress recently passed legislation that provides for more than $8 billion in emergency funding to combat COVID-19. Part of this supplemental funding package, signed into law on March 6, 2020, includes the Telehealth Services During Certain Emergency Periods Act of 2020 (the “Act”), which authorizes the Administration to loosen restrictions on telehealth in order to expand access to COVID-19 related telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries—many of whom are especially vulnerable to this virus and in the event of future emergencies. On March 17, 2020, the Administration announced the implementation of this waiver with a retroactive effective date of March 6, 2020.
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