On February 6, 2023, a judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (“Texas District Court”) ruled in favor of the Texas Medical Association (“TMA”) and against the United States Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (the “Departments”) over a challenge to the continued special status given
Another Unique Integrity Agreement Signals a Trend towards HHS-OIG’s Comfort with a Belt and Suspenders
In recent years, there have been only a handful of corporate integrity agreements (“CIAs”) and integrity agreements (“IAs”) that have included a “conditional exclusion release” of the Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ (“HHS-OIG”) permissive exclusion authority under 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(7) (“Permissive Exclusion Authority”). Inclusion of a conditional exclusion release is atypical, as HHS-OIG’s historical practice has been to provide an outright release of its Permissive Exclusion Authority in exchange for a CIA or IA. It appears, based on an IA executed last month and the other recent CIAs and IAs, that a trend may be emerging.
Specifically, in December 2022, HHS-OIG entered into an IA with a Georgia-based physician, Aarti D. Pandya, M.D., and his practice, Aarti D. Pandya, M.D. P.C. (collectively, “Dr. Pandya”). In atypical fashion, however, HHS-OIG required the IA to be for five years (as opposed to three years) and held Dr. Pandya to a conditional exclusion release contingent upon Dr. Pandya’s satisfactory completion of the IA (as opposed to outright providing a release of its Permissive Exclusion Authority). This IA signals to the industry that HHS-OIG is not bound by precedent and that, perhaps, a belt and suspenders approach to resolving conduct allegedly violating the False Claims Act (“FCA”) may be emerging as HHS-OIG’s new norm.…
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The Saga of the No Surprises Act Continues to be … Surprising
We previously noted that the regulations implementing the No Surprises Act (“NSA”) appeared to be inconsistent with the NSA because they seemed to establish the qualifying payment amount (“QPA”) as the appropriate payment amount to be used in arbitrations by certified IDR entities (viz. the regulation-established independent dispute resolution (“IDR”) process) between plans and providers, and that the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (“Texas District Court”) vacated portions of the NSA regulations relating to the QPA for purposes of the IDR process. The Federal government recently responded to the Texas District Court—by removing such portions of the NSA regulations.
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CMS Aims to Grow ACO Participation
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.…
Fifty years of legal precedent established by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), were overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, holding that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion and leaving abortion laws to individual states…
CMS Responds to Industry Stakeholder Feedback, Redesigns and Renames the GPDC Model for DCEs as the ACO REACH Model
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.…
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No Surprises Act’s Regulation Establishing QPA as Presumptive Payment Amount Vacated by District Court
We previously noted that the No Surprises Act (NSA) regulation’s establishment of the presumption that the qualifying payment amount (QPA)—generally, the median payment by the plan to providers in the region—is the appropriate payment amount in arbitrations between plans and providers under the NSA did not appear to comport with the NSA.
In a recent…
CMS releases guidance on Expanded Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (“HHVBP”) Model
On November 2, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a final rule (“Final Rule”) that advances the shift from paying for Medicare home health services based on volume to a system that pays based on value. In addition to other matters, the Final Rule expands the HHVBP Model from 9 states…
OIG Publishes Favorable Advisory Opinion Related to the Employment Safe Harbor
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…
CMS Corrects Inadvertent Omissions in Recent Stark Law Regulatory Amendments, Clarifies Reach of the Prohibition Related to Indirect Compensation Arrangements
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.”…
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