Photo of Matthew J. Westbrook

Matt is an associate in the Corporate Department and a member of the Health Care Group.  His practice focuses on providing regulatory compliance advice for the Firm’s health care clients, including service providers, health plans, operators, investors, and lenders, among others.  Matt specifically provides advice on fraud and abuse matters arising under the Federal False Claims Act (FCA), Civil Monetary Penalties Law (CMPL), Federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law), as well as on the regulations promulgated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Contingency management (CM) is a form of intervention treatment program that incentivizes patients with substance use disorders to observe certain conditions—such as non-use of drugs or alcohol confirmed via urine drug screening or breathalyzer test, or even drug therapy adherence—in exchange for something of monetary value.  Adherence is often tracked and confirmed by those that provide the incentive payment through digital health technologies—including apps that can be downloaded to the patient’s smart phone or that are already downloaded to a smart phone provided to the patient as part of a CM program.  While many contend that CM is an effective, evidence-based treatment, certain legal barriers limit, and often prevent, its widespread adoption and use.  When there is the potential for patients to receive items and services payable by Federal health care programs (FHCPs), CM incentives are subject to scrutiny under the Federal anti-kickback statute (AKS) and the Beneficiary Inducements CMP.  A recent advisory opinion issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), approved a digital health company’s offer to provide cash equivalents to patients participating in a CM program.  This favorable result continues to demonstrate OIG’s flexibility notwithstanding regulatory precedent or guidance appearing to the contrary.

Continue Reading OIG Approves Cash Equivalents Paid to Patients Participating in Contingency Management Program Offered Through Digital Health Technology

On February 24, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced the Accountable Care Organization Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (ACO REACH) Model, which will begin January 1, 2023, and replace the Global and Professional Direct Contracting (GPDC) Model.  The Request for Applications (RFA) has been posted on CMS’s website, and applications are due by April 22, 2022.  While the application is not binding, the failure to apply will foreclose any opportunity to participate.

This article discusses the termination of the GPDC Model, the establishment of the ACO REACH Model, and the differences between them.

Continue Reading CMS Responds to Industry Stakeholder Feedback, Redesigns and Renames the GPDC Model for DCEs as the ACO REACH Model

On January 11, 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued, without an opportunity for public notice and comment,[1] a Final Rule, amending its internal process for accepting and issuing advisory opinions.  87 Fed. Reg. 1367 (Jan. 11, 2022).  In response to the industry’s

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final rules for the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS Final Rule) and 2022 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System (OPPS Final Rule).  Both rules take effect January 1, 2022.  This post is the first in a series covering the myriad Medicare-related changes set forth in those rules.  We turn first to an area addressed extensively in the PFS Final Rule—the amendments to the Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law) regulations.

Those amendments correct inadvertent omissions in a previous CMS rulemaking and clarify the reach of the prohibition related to “indirect compensation arrangements.”  As the tale unfolded, within a matter of months of publishing its Modernizing and Clarifying the Physician Self-Referral Regulations Final Rule (MCR Final Rule), which went into effect January 19, 2021, and which made significant changes to the Stark Law, CMS identified certain crucial omissions related to the regulatory calculus for analyzing indirect compensation arrangements, and sought to correct those oversights through its 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule (PFS Proposed Rule).  85 Fed. Reg. 77492 (Dec. 2, 2020); 86 Fed. Reg. 39104 (July 23, 2021).  After a short notice-and-comment period, on November 2, 2021, CMS announced that it had taken care of the issues through the PFS Final Rule, which is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on November 19, 2021.

As explained in more detail below, the import of the PFS Final Rule for physicians, their immediate family members, and entities furnishing designated health services (DHS) is that, while indirect compensation arrangements still must satisfy the requirements of an applicable exception to avoid the Stark Law’s referral and billing prohibitions, the number of indirect compensation arrangements subject to those prohibitions, currently enforceable under the law set forth in the MCR Final Rule, is now reduced.  More specifically, CMS’s corrections to that rule ultimately reduce the number of arrangements that satisfy the definition of “indirect compensation arrangement” and, thus, decrease the number of arrangements that fall within the prohibitions’ purview.  To CMS’s credit, the changes appear to be consistent with its long-standing policy of ensuring program integrity against the risk of program or patient abuse.  To better understand the significance of CMS’s clarifications, we provide a chronological-based history of the amendments to the definition of “indirect compensation arrangement.”

Continue Reading CMS Corrects Inadvertent Omissions in Recent Stark Law Regulatory Amendments, Clarifies Reach of the Prohibition Related to Indirect Compensation Arrangements