Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

On November 2, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued its Calendar Year (CY) 2022 Physician Fee Schedule (“PFS”) Final Rule. In this post, we sample some key highlights from the Final Rule.
Continue Reading Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule for Calendar Year 2022 – CMS Cuts Rates and Extends Telehealth

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

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still active worldwide, health care industry leaders and regulators have already begun to think about how to implement post-pandemic changes to health care delivery based on lessons learned during the global emergency of the past year and a half. We have reported on some such post-pandemic changes to the health care industry in previous blog posts. For instance, some temporary solutions to challenges presented by COVID-19 are being made permanent due to their proven efficiency or effectiveness. The expansion of telehealth is a primary example of this. We have seen the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), as well as state governors and legislators, expand and extend certain regulatory waivers that were initially designed as temporary solutions to allow for greater access to patient care during the pandemic, but that are becoming permanent fixtures due to their usefulness in innovative patient care delivery generally.

Other post-pandemic changes to the health care delivery landscape will be borne out of sheer necessity rather than innovation.
Continue Reading Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic: Planning for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management in Hospitals

Many forces have been driving the growth of telehealth over the past decade, including value-based reimbursement models, population health management trends, and technology advancements. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, the COVID-19 pandemic was the jet fuel that propelled telemedicine utilization into the stratosphere. This growth was, in large part, due to the necessity of limiting in-person contact to avoid widespread COVID-19 transmission. In fact, as COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) advised health care providers to offer care via telemedicine technologies wherever appropriate. However, not all of this growth in the telehealth space can be attributed to the necessity of social distancing during the pandemic; even as transmission of COVID-19 has slowed in many areas, providers continue to offer telehealth for patient care, and patients continue to utilize it.
Continue Reading Where Are We Now? Trends in Telehealth Utilization

Many of us have been waiting to hear the final word about what’s next from CMS for the Next Generation ACO Model. On May 21, 2021, CMS’s Innovation Center (“CMMI”) confirmed that the Next Generation ACO Model would not be extended and will conclude at the end of this year as planned. The Next Generation ACO Model has been the most advanced value-based contracting model offered by CMS with participating risk-bearing entities taking between 80%-100% upside and downside risk.  However, according to reports, the model didn’t achieve sufficient savings to justify making it a permanent CMMI program.
Continue Reading CMS to Discontinue Next Generation ACO Model as Expected but Allows Program Participants to Apply For Direct Contracting

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a wave of telehealth policy changes across the nation at both federal and state levels. Such changes have expanded access to health care and addressed underutilization in chronic disease management while minimizing the risk of exposure for individuals seeking care. One such policy change in particular has received widespread attention and support from industry stakeholders and lawmakers alike: expansion of telehealth to include audio-only telephonic communications. However, the longevity of telehealth’s expansion to audio-only services remains uncertain as states and the federal government each pursue revisions to pandemic-era policies and flexibilities.
Continue Reading Hold the Phone: Audio-Only Telehealth Expanding in New York and other States, but National Policies May Lag

In a prior blog post, we discussed CMS’ Hospital Price Transparency Rule at 45 C.F.R. § 180.10 et. seq., effective January 1, 2021 (the “Rule”), which requires hospitals to make public “a machine-readable file containing a list of all standard charges for all items and services.” Specifically, the Rule requires hospitals to post (1) a description of each item or service provided by the hospital; (2) the gross charge that applies to each individual item or service; (3) payer-specific negotiated rates that apply to each item or service for which a payer negotiated rate has been established. Each payer negotiated price must be clearly associated with the name of the applicable third-party payer and plan; (4) de-identified minimum negotiated rates that apply to each item or service; (5) de-identified maximum negotiated rates that apply to each item or service; (6) discounted cash prices that apply to each item or service; and (7) CPT, HCPCS, or other billing codes used by the hospital for purposes of accounting or billing for the item or service.

In a study published on March 16, 2021, Health Affairs found that out of the largest 100 hospitals in the U.S. (by certified bed count), 65 were “unambiguously noncompliant.” 12 of these 65 (18%) did not post any files or provided links to searchable databases that were not downloadable and 53 (82%) either did not include the payer-specific negotiated rates with the name of payer and plan clearly associated with the charges or were in some other way noncompliant. The data informing this study was pulled from late January 2021 to early February 2021.
Continue Reading Recent Study Shows Lack of Compliance With CMS’ Hospital Price Transparency Rule

As is the case with most new technologies or significant industry innovations, companies embracing and driving the disruptions often move very fast in a legal and political landscape that is always playing catch-up. This is very true for the fast-growing telemedicine and digital health industries. However, likely motivated by COVID-19, state governments are moving faster than they traditionally do to pass new regulations and to extend certain regulatory waivers.

COVID-19 required a shift in the delivery of medical care with the state and local lockdowns. During the pandemic, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued guidance on various compliance waivers and enhanced flexibility. Governors across the country issued executive orders to help address the requirements of providing ongoing medical care while maintaining proper social distancing (e.g., New Mexico, Texas, etc.). The result was more people receiving medical care remotely. Similar to the realization by many that working from home was not only feasible but in some cases preferable, many also came to the conclusion that a trip to the doctors’ office was not necessary for the treatment of certain conditions.
Continue Reading Propelled by COVID-19, State Governments Attempt to Keep Up With Telemedicine Innovation and Digital Health Platforms

This post is part one of two in a series on new transparency requirements impacting both health plans and health care providers.

In an effort to assist patients in understanding the cost of hospital services, the Hospital Price Transparency rule at 45 C.F.R. § 180.10 et. seq., effective January 1, 2021, requires all hospitals to make public the following pricing information:
Continue Reading The Hospital Price Transparency Rule: Is it Worth the Cost of Compliance?