In an advisory opinion posted November 10, 2021 (AO 21-15), the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) appeared to soften a disturbing position that it had taken in 2012 regarding the employment safe harbor.

The issue is the breadth of the employment safe

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

This post reviews Part II of the federal No Surprises Act regulations.  In previous publications, we have commented upon the No Surprises Act, and Part I of the regulations.

The “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part II” (the “Part II Rule”), published on October 7, 2021, is the second interim final rule (IFR) implementing the No Surprises Act, following a prior No Surprises Act IFR (the “Part I Rule”) published on July 13, 2021.  Both of these regulations are generally set to take effect on January 1, 2022.

In this post, we outline how the Part II Rule addresses: (A) the independent dispute resolution (IDR) and open negotiation processes for health plans and other payers (“Plans”), (B) patient-provider dispute resolution processes for uninsured individuals, and (C) the expansion of the federal external review provisions of the Affordable Care Act to cover disputes regarding the application of the No Surprises Act.


Continue Reading The Devil may be in the Details of the Part II No Surprises Act IFR

In a FAQ published on August 20, 2021, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) significantly delayed implementation of statutory requirements on surprise billing and price transparency, which we had previously summarized in a series of blog posts throughout this past year:

Specifically, the FAQs focus on the implementation of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act’s (the “ACA’s”) Transparency in Coverage Final Rules (the “TiC Final Rules”) and certain provisions of title I (the No Surprises Act) and title II (Transparency) of Division BB of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “CAA”).
Continue Reading The Surprises Continue: The Biden Administration Delays Implementation of Certain Provisions of the No Surprises Act and Transparency in Coverage Final Rules Applicable to Providers and Insurers

As demand, coverage and investment are all on the rise and transactions proliferate, we explore certain attributes of the fertility services industry.

Driving Factors

In 2019, there were 58.3 births for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S., down from 59.1 in 2018.[1]  This marked the fifth consecutive year in which the fertility rate declined.  Many factors may be driving down the rate, including the lingering effects of the Great Recession, delays in marriage and an emphasis on career and educational objectives prior to having children. As women wait longer to have children, there is increasing interest in assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization (IVF). Other demands for fertility services are driven by LGBTQ couples as well as people who wish to better understand their genetic makeup.
Continue Reading The State of the Fertility Industry

Given the current political dynamic within Congress, the chances of the Biden Administration enacting significant, substantive health care legislation appear slim in the short-term. Thus, the Biden Administration has sought alternative routes to advance its policy priorities, mainly through budget reconciliation (see here for a comprehensive explainer from the Congressional Research Service) and agency regulation. For example, we have previously written here and here about the “No Surprises Act”, enacted through the legislative short-cut of budget reconciliation as part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and the Biden Administration’s new regulations implementing consumer protections against surprise medical bills. In this mold, President Biden’s July 9 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (the “Order”) appears to lay out an aspirational, yet somewhat more practical agenda to implementing reforms in the health care sector, as compared to relying on new legislation coming through Congress.

The Order tasks federal agencies across the “whole-of-government” to “protect competition in the American economy” by acting on 72 regulatory initiatives, to be coordinated by a newly established “White House Competition Council” with representatives from key federal agencies. While the “whole-of-government” is involved and the entirety of the U.S. economy is targeted, there is a distinct focus among these initiatives on “improving health care” by addressing “overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition” in the sector. The Order specifically cites four areas in the health care sector ripe for renewed enforcement and regulatory attention with the goal of lowering prices, promoting competition, and benefiting consumers.
Continue Reading Pass Go and Collect Regulatory Scrutiny: The Biden Administration Takes Aim at Consolidation & Anti-Competitive Business Practices in Health Care

This post provides an update to our previous publication summarizing the federal No Surprises Act and is part two of two in a series on new interim regulations implementing certain requirements of the No Surprises Act.

In part one of this series, we discussed the recently issued interim final rule implementing the No Surprises Act and the protections afforded to patients in connection with emergency services furnished by out-of-network (OON) facilities and providers or in connection with non-emergency services performed by OON providers at certain in-network facilities.

Here, in part two of the series, we address the interim final rule’s plan coverage requirements, the methodology a health plan offering group or individual health insurance coverage must use to determine a patient’s cost-sharing responsibility, and communications between insurers and providers detailing payment amounts.
Continue Reading No Surprises Act Regulations – Insurer Requirements

Cardiology procedures in the ambulatory surgery center (“ASC”) setting are growing rapidly.  According to MedPAC’s March 2021 report to Congress, there were 88 single-specialty cardiology ASCs billing Medicare in 2019 (the latest year with reportable data), which is a significant uptick from just 18 such ASCs in 2017.[1]  Despite demonstrable growth, it is important to note that this growth is occurring from a smaller base relative to other single-specialty ASCs.  For example, there were more than 1,000 gastroenterology ASCs in 2019.[2]  However, while ASCs accounted for an estimated 10% of all cardiology procedures in 2018, Bain & Company expects that they will account for 30-35% of such procedures by the mid-2020s as lower costs and favorable outcomes drive change.[3]
Continue Reading Key Considerations for Cardiology Procedures in the ASC Setting

This post provides an update to our previous publication summarizing the federal No Surprises Act and is part one of two in a series on new interim regulations implementing certain requirements of the No Surprises Act.

The recently issued interim final rule governing one aspect of the No Surprises Act—the treatment of out-of-network (OON) and uninsured patients during emergencies and where services are provided at in-network facilities regardless of emergent status—largely reflects the statute but commits the adopting federal agencies (HHS, Labor and the Treasury) to expansive readings in favor of limiting patient liability where possible.
Continue Reading No Surprises in Initial No Surprises Act Regulations

On June 24, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 210, which officially declared the end of the New York State of Emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic effective June 25, 2021. The issuance of the Executive Order marked an important milestone for life post-pandemic and a welcome result for small businesses barely treading water trying to comply with the COVID-19 restrictions. However, the abruptness of the announcement, the limited carve-outs for health care professionals and the organizations that employ or contract with them, and the lack of permanent alternative solutions will create a tumultuous few weeks for those parties.
Continue Reading Abrupt End to New York State of Emergency Creates Uncertain Future for Out-of-State Licensed Health Care Professionals