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Whitney Phelps provides practical and strategic counsel, solutions and analysis for healthcare stakeholders of all kinds. She has particular expertise in managed care and value-based contracting, including with various alternative payment arrangements between providers and payers. Her experience includes advising on a broad range of complex healthcare transactions and regulatory matters relating to long-term care, home care, behavioral health, risk contracting and ambulatory services.

Whitney has deep capabilities negotiating complex joint ventures and other transactions, with special attention to New York regulatory compliance. Whitney also has extensive experience representing health care entities before the New York State Executive Branch, including with respect to shaping health care policy and Medicaid redesign, as well as laws and regulations impacting regulated healthcare entities in New York.

Whitney also served as Director of Managed Care and Associate Counsel at the Healthcare Association of New York State.

On February 6, 2024, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) released “pre-proposed” consolidated rulemaking related to the business practices of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (“PBMs”) licensed to operate in New York.

The draft regulations represent DFS’s latest attempt to promulgate PBM market conduct rules following state PBM licensing legislation that was enacted in 2021. In August 2023, DFS issued proposed regulations addressing consumer protection, conflicts of interest, and transparency issues related to PBM industry practices, including a dispensing fee of $10.18 per drug claim to be paid to pharmacies, but the proposed regulations were later withdrawn by the agency in October 2023 following the public comment period.

DFS’s announcement of the draft regulations and pre-proposal comment period stated that the draft regulations were informed by DFS’s “extensive outreach to industry, health plans, pharmacy groups, state and federal regulators, and the general public.”

This year’s Health and Mental Hygiene Bill (“HMH Bill”) (part of the Governor’s FY 2025 Executive Budget, which proposes a $233 billion balanced budget), includes $35.5 billion to fund Medicaid, $4.8 billion to address serious mental illness and $6 billion in federal funding through the 1115 Waiver.

In addition to those provisions that look to extend current government programs, the HMH Bill proposes the following new initiatives:

On Tuesday, January 16, 2024, Governor Kathy Hochul released the SFY 2025 New York State Executive Budget (“Executive Budget”). While still subject to legislative approval, the Executive Budget incorporates the recently approved amendment (“Waiver Amendment”) to New York’s Medicaid Section 1115 Demonstration that includes $7.5 billion in Medicaid investments over

On April 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the 2024 Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Benefit Programs Final Rule (“Final Rule”), which will be codified at 42 C.F.R. Parts 417, 422, 423, 455, and 460. The Final Rule adopts a host of reforms aimed at improving health care access, quality, and equity for Medicare beneficiaries that receive coverage through Part C (“Medicare Advantage” or “MA”) and prescription drug benefits through Part D. As discussed below, the Final Rule also has some notable omissions compared to what CMS previously proposed in December (“Proposed Rule,” published at 87 Fed. Reg. 79452 (2022)). The Final Rule is effective June 5, 2023.

On Friday, March 31, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Calendar Year (CY) 2024 Medicare Advantage (MA) Capitation Rates and Part C and Part D Payment Policies (Rate Announcement). This Rate Announcement follows CMS’s February 1 notice of planned changes to rates and the risk adjustment methodology, which provided an opportunity for the public to submit comments during a 30-day period (Advance Notice), as required by Section 1853(b)(2) of the Social Security Act (the Act). The Rate Announcement — providing for 60 days prior to the bid submission deadline of June 5, 2023 — provides notice of the annual capitation for MA for CY2024 related to the benchmark, risk adjustment, and other factors to be used in adjusting rates and responds to all substantive comments received from the Advance Notice.

We summarize the key factors and adjustments to the overall expected average rate increase of 3.32% (which is about $13.8 billion more than CY2023, and an increase from the 1.03% in the Advance Notice), and comments from CMS. We also highlight other key developments affecting MA rates, notably relating to the MA risk adjustment methodology (the 2024 Risk Model). Major changes identified in the Rate Announcement include updates to the risk adjustment model that uses International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 codes instead of the ICD-9 system, using data from 2018 diagnoses and 2019 expenditures, and the removal or reclassification of codes disproportionately coded in MA compared to Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) that CMS does not consider to accurately reflect increased costs to care for beneficiaries.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) recently published the proposed 2023 Physician Fee Schedule (“PFS”), which contains several important changes affecting Accountable Care Organizations (“ACOs”) that participate in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (“MSSP”), including a new Advanced Incentive Program. See Proposed 2023 PFS, 82 Fed. Reg. 45,860 (July 29, 2022).

ACOs enable health care providers to provide coordinated patient care to Medicare beneficiaries, and to share in the savings resulting from improved care. According to CMS, as of January 1, 2022, over 11 million Medicare beneficiaries receive care from 483 ACOs across the country. Id. at 46,093.

The proposed changes are intended to advance “growth, alignment, and equity,” and to “increase the percentage of people with Medicare in accountable care arrangements.” Id. at 46,093-94. Of note, and as described in a publication preceding the PFS, CMS proposed the changes to increase (i)  the number of beneficiaries assigned to MSSP ACOs; (ii) the number of higher spending populations in the program, since the change to regionally-adjusted benchmarks; and (iii) the representation of Black (or African American), Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native beneficiaries assigned to MSSP ACOs, as compared to Non-Hispanic Whites.

This past week, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) denied UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company’s (UnitedHealthcare) petition for a writ of certiorari (Petition) challenging, in part, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s (CMS) Overpayment Rule, which requires Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, such as UnitedHealthcare, to return identified “overpayments” to CMS within 60 days.  With this denial, the Overpayment Rule remains in full force and effect, and UnitedHealthcare, among other MA plans, must comply or potentially face False Claims Act (FCA) liability.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2023 New York state Executive Budget legislation, $1.2 billion in funding has been allocated for the payment of bonuses for certain “frontline” healthcare workers.

With the stated goals to “recruit, retain, and reward health care and mental hygiene workers,” the provision – located within Part D of the Health and Mental Hygiene Bill, as amended – requires the state Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the state Commissioner of Labor and the Medicaid inspector general, to develop procedures to facilitate payment of claims to covered employers for the purpose of funding worker bonuses in accordance with the provision’s requirements.  Bonus amounts will be commensurate with the number of hours worked by covered workers during designated vesting periods up to a total of $3,000 per covered worker.

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.