CMS has released the 2016 Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D Rate Announcement and Call Letter. According to a CMS fact sheet, the final policies increase Medicare Advantage rates by 1.25% (compared to an earlier forecast of a 0.95% reduction), although considering coding trends the agency expects revenues to increase by 3.25%. In addition, CMS also, among other things, finalized proposed updates to the Part D risk adjustment model, required more public information on preferred cost sharing pharmacies, addressed plan requirements to maintain accurate provider directories, and discussed promoting valued-based payment models among health plans.
On April 2-3, 2015, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) is meeting to discuss various Medicare policy issues, including: hospital short stay policy; polypharmacy/multiple drug use (focusing on Part D opioid use); Medicare Part D risk sharing; measuring low-value care; using episode bundles to improve care efficiency (including potential refinements to the Medicare spending per beneficiary measure); bundling oncology services; and synchronizing Medicare policy across payment models.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report examining the extent to which antipsychotic drugs are prescribed for older adults with dementia in nursing homes and other settings. The GAO found that, according to Medicare Part D data, about one-third of older adults with dementia who spent more than 100 days in a nursing home in 2012 were prescribed an antipsychotic, compared to about 14% of Medicare Part D enrollees with dementia living outside of a nursing home were prescribed an antipsychotic that year. While several agencies within HHS have taken steps to address antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes as part of the National Alzheimer's Plan, these efforts have not applied to older adults in other settings, such as assisted living facilities or individuals' homes. The GAO therefore recommends that HHS update its National Alzheimer's Plan to expand outreach and educational efforts to reduce antipsychotic drug use among older adults with dementia residing outside of nursing homes; HHS concurred. For details, see the full report, “Antipsychotic Drug Use: HHS Has Initiatives to Reduce Use among Older Adults in Nursing Homes, but Should Expand Efforts to Other Settings.”
Ways and Means Committee to Markup Medicare Fraud, Competitive Bidding, and other Medicare Policy Bills
On February 26, 2015, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on the following bills:
- H.R. 1021, “Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act of 2015” – a sweeping bill to promote Medicare program integrity and efficiency. Among many other things, the bill would: eliminate civil money penalties for inducements to physicians to limit services that are not medically necessary; create a Part D drug management program for beneficiaries at risk of prescription drug abuse; require MACs to establish improper payment outreach and education programs for providers; expand the Senior Medicare Patrol program; require the HHS Secretary to issue guidance on the application of the “Common Rule” protecting individuals involved in research; and require the Secretary to issue a report on how to establish a permanent physician-hospital gainsharing program.
- H.R. 284, “Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Improvement Act of 2015” -- which would require Medicare suppliers that bid under a durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program to submit binding bids or risk forfeiture of a surety bond.
- H.R. 876, “NOTICE Act” – which would require hospitals to provide certain notifications to individuals classified as being under observation status rather than admitted as inpatients.
- H.R. 887, “Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015” -- which addresses the treatment of patient encounters in ambulatory surgical centers in determining meaningful electronic health record use.
** These bills were approved with amendments
CMS has published a final rule revising Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D prescription drug benefit regulations for CY 2016. Among other things, the final rule:
- Implements a statutory provision requiring MA and Part D contracts to provide the right to “timely”’ inspection and audit and allowing CMS to require MA organizations or Part D prescription drug plan (PDP) sponsors to hire an independent auditor to validate correction of CMS audit findings.
- Establishes U.S. citizenship and lawful presence as an eligibility requirement for enrollment in MA and Part D plans (effective June 1, 2015).
- Makes several policy changes intended to promote efficient dispensing of drugs in long-term care (LTC) facilities, including prohibiting payment arrangements that penalize the adoption of more efficient LTC dispensing techniques by prorating dispensing fees based on days’ supply or quantity dispensed, and requiring that any difference in payment methodology among LTC pharmacies incentivizes more efficient dispensing techniques.
- Requires MA Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plans to establish and maintain a process with network pharmacies to ensure timely and accurate point-of-sale transactions and coordinate Part A, Part B, and Part D drug benefits administered by the MA PD plan.
- Requires a sponsor’s Pharmacy & Therapeutics committee to document its process for an objective party to determine whether disclosed financial interests are conflicts of interest and management of any recusals due to conflicts.
Other provisions of the rule address, among other things, business continuity for MA organizations and PDP sponsors; codification of recent quality improvement program policies; and notification requirements related to changes to Part D plans. CMS is not finalizing a number of proposals included in the January 2014 proposed rule, including provisions that would have: lifted the protected class designation on three drug classes; required Medicare Part D sponsors to include in preferred networks any pharmacy willing to accept the sponsor’s terms and conditions; reduced the number of Part D plans a sponsor may offer; and codified CMS interpretation of the Part D non-interference clause.
A recent GAO report, “Medicare Program Integrity: CMS Pursues Many Practices to Address Prescription Drug Fraud, Waste, and Abuse,” lists current and planned CMS prevention, detection, and monitoring policies intended to promote program integrity in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. The report does not include new recommendations.
Based on a review of Prescription Drug Event (PDE) records for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs and other beneficiary records, the OIG determined that Medicare Part D paid for HIV drugs for over 150 deceased beneficiaries in 2012, most of which were dispensed by retail pharmacies. The OIG identified shortcomings in CMS claims edits that reject PDE records for drugs with dates of service more than 32 days after death that allowed payment for drugs that do not meet Medicare Part D coverage requirements. The OIG recommends that CMS eliminate or, if necessary for administrative processing, shorten the window in which it accepts PDE records for drugs dispensed after a beneficiary's death; CMS concurred. The OIG also observes that while its report focuses on HIV drugs, the issues raised are relevant to all Part D drugs.
CMS has announced that it is delaying a provision of its 2015 Medicare Advantage/Medicare Part D final rule, published on May 23, 2014, that requires physicians and other eligible professionals who prescribe Part D drugs to be enrolled in Medicare (or have a valid opt-out affidavit on file) for their prescriptions to be covered under Medicare Part D. While the final rule stated that the effective date for this requirement would be June 1, 2015, CMS has announced that it is delaying enforcement of this provision until December 1, 2015. CMS notes that Part D drug prescribers must submit their Medicare enrollment applications or opt-out affidavits to their Medicare Administrative Contractors by June 1, 2015 to provide sufficient processing time and prevent prescription drug claims from being denied beginning December 1, 2015.
OIG: Compendia Publishers Comply with Transparency Rules for Evaluating Anticancer Drugs, Identifying Potential Conflicts
Under current law, Medicare Parts B and D cover anticancer drugs for indications not approved by the FDA only if the drugs are supported by one or more of four authorized compendia. Publishers of these compendia must comply with statutory requirements to maintain transparent processes for evaluating anticancer drug therapies and identifying potential conflicts of interest. In a recent report, the OIG concludes that each of the four authorized compendia publishers complied with these requirements, although the number and nature of disclosures of potential conflicts of interest varied across publishers.
CMS has posted the 2015 Medicare Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs). According to a CMS fact sheet, there are increases in the number of Medicare beneficiaries in high-performing MA plans and PDPs for 2015, while CMS notes “dramatic improvement” among plans that had received the low performing icon in 2014. CMS also is interested in receiving information from the public regarding potential data differences in MA and Part D quality measurements for dual-eligible versus non-dual-eligible enrollees. Information is due November 3, 2014. Finally, CMS has released the MA and PDP annual audit and enforcement report for 2013. According to the report, CMS imposed 43 CMPs totaling almost $8.4 million on 39 different organizations and 5 cases of immediate suspension of enrollment and marketing activities for issues identified in 2012 and 2013. Most violations cited in enforcement actions related to inappropriate delays or denials of access to health services and medications for enrollees.
Reed Smith Client Alert: Analysis of HHS OIG Proposed Rule to Amend the Anti-Kickback Safe Harbors, CMP Rules on Beneficiary Inducements & Gainsharing Regulations
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published a major proposed rule that would amend the safe harbors to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Civil Monetary Penalty rules to protect certain payment practices and business arrangements from criminal prosecution or civil sanctions under the AKS. Reed Smith has prepared a Client Alert analyzing the proposed rule, highlighting areas where the OIG is seeking public comment. Overall, the OIG appears to recognize that new health care delivery mechanisms demand a more flexible approach to fraud and abuse enforcement than has been the case in the past, as discussed in our analysis.
The Client Alert is available here.
In a recent report, the OIG concluded that Medicare would have saved millions of dollars in 2011 if Medicare Part B prescription drug dispensing and supplying fees had been aligned with the rates paid by Medicare Part D plans or state Medicaid programs. Specifically, if Part B dispensing and supplying fees had been the same as average Part D rates in 2011, Part B would have saved $110.9 million, while use of average state Medicaid rates would have saved $106.3 million. The OIG recommended that CMS issue regulations to decrease Part B dispensing and supplying fees to rates similar to those of other payers, such as Part D and Medicaid. CMS did not concur with the OIG’s recommendation, and requested that the OIG study actual costs associated with dispensing these Part B drugs. For additionl information, see the full report, “Medicare Part B Prescription Drug Dispensing and Supplying Fee Payment Rates Are Considerably Higher than the Rates Paid by Other Government Programs."
MedPAC is meeting on October 9 and 10, 2014 to discuss a variety of Medicare policy issues, including: international comparison of rates paid to hospitals; sharing risk in Medicare Part D; potentially inappropriate opioid use in Medicare Part D; the next generation of Medicare beneficiaries; private-sector initiatives to manage post-acute care; and validating relative value units in Medicare’s fee schedule for physicians and other health professionals.
CMS Seeks Input on Potential Delivery Innovations in Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage, & Other Programs
CMS is seeking input on initiatives to test care delivery innovations in the Medicare Part D program, Medicare and Medicaid managed care plans, and other government programs. CMS notes that while “[h]ealth plans increasingly have responded to market developments and fiscal pressures with innovations in care delivery, plan design, beneficiary and provider incentives, and network design,” adoption of such innovations has been more limited in stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (PDP), Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans (MA-PD), Medicaid managed care plans, Medigap plans, and Retiree Supplemental health plans. CMS therefore is seeking responses to a request for information (RFI) on potential of models to test innovations in these plans related to: (1) plan design, (2) care delivery, (3) beneficiary and provider incentives; and/or (4) network design.
For instance, with respect to drug plans, CMS is considering a PDP model that will test the impact of “robust medication therapy management programs and cost sharing differentials that effectively target Part D beneficiaries and will better coordinate care, manage health care costs, and improve outcomes.” CMS is likewise exploring potential initiatives to collaborate with Medigap and Retiree Supplemental plans on models to manage the care of complex, high-cost beneficiaries. CMS also may explore innovations in MA and MA-PD health plan design for Medicare beneficiaries, including:
- Value-based insurance design to incentivize beneficiaries with specific health conditions to use high-value health care services and/or providers;
- Inclusion of remote access technologies beyond what is covered by original Medicare; and
- Integration of hospice care benefits concurrently with curative care in the basic benefit package.
CMS points out that testing such models will require collaboration with health plans, states, and other stakeholders. Comments will be accepted on the RFI until November 3, 2014. The RFI does not commit CMS to contracting or making a grant award in this area.
OIG Releases Proposed Revisions to Anti-Kickback Safe Harbors, CMP Rules on Beneficiary Inducements & Gainsharing
The OIG has just released a major proposed rule to amend the safe harbors to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) rule to protect certain payment practices and business arrangements from criminal prosecution or civil sanctions under the anti-kickback statute. In particular, with regard to the AKS, the OIG proposes:
- a technical correction to the existing safe harbor for referral services;
- protection for certain cost-sharing waivers, including: pharmacy waivers of cost-sharing for financially needy Medicare Part D beneficiaries, and waivers of cost-sharing for emergency ambulance services furnished by state- or municipality-owned ambulance services;
- protection for certain remuneration between Medicare Advantage organizations and federally qualified health centers;
- protection for discounts by manufacturers on drugs furnished to beneficiaries under the Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program; and
- protection for free or discounted local transportation services that meet specified criteria.
The OIG also proposes to amend the definition of “remuneration” in the CMP regulations at 42 CFR 1003 by adding certain statutory exceptions for:
- copayment reductions for certain hospital outpatient department services;
- certain remuneration that poses a low risk of harm and promotes access to care;
- coupons, rebates, or other retailer reward programs that meet specified requirements;
- certain remuneration to financially needy individuals; and
- copayment waivers for the first fill of generic drugs.
The OIG also proposes to codify the gainsharing CMP rule set forth in section 1128A(b) of the Social Security Act. The official version will be published tomorrow; Reed Smith is preparing an analysis of this proposed rule.
In its September 19, 2014 Special Advisory Bulletin (SAB), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) noted the potential risks to federal health care programs presented by pharmaceutical manufacturers’ coupon programs designed to reduce or eliminate patient copayment requirements for brand-name drugs, and emphasized that coupon program sponsors and pharmacies are at risk of sanctions if they fail to take appropriate steps to carve out federal health care program beneficiaries from using the coupons. The OIG points out these coupon programs – which may take different forms, such as print coupons, electronic coupons, debit cards, and direct reimbursements – are remuneration offered to consumers to induce the purchase of specific items, and therefore implicate the criminal federal anti-kickback statute, 42 U.S.C § 1320a-7b(b). Where remuneration is knowingly and willfully paid with the intent to induce or reward referrals of items or services payable by a federal health care program, the anti-kickback statute is violated. The OIG goes on to observe that a claim that includes items or services resulting from a kickback violation would also constitute a false or fraudulent claim under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, and grounds for civil money penalties for beneficiary inducement if offer or acceptance of copayment coupons may induce a beneficiary to use a particular practitioner or pharmacy, 42 U.S.C § 1320a-7a(a)(5). While the SAB’s focus is on manufacturer coupon practices, in a footnote, the OIG states that pharmacies accepting coupons for Part D copayments may also be subject to these sanctions.
Notwithstanding the potential benefits of coupon programs to provide access to brand-name drugs and adherence to drug regimens, the OIG claims that such coupon programs may interfere with federal health care program cost-sharing requirements to promote prudent prescribing and purchasing choices by physicians and patients based on the “true costs” of drug and price competition in the market. As a result, the OIG writes, “[w]hile copayment coupons provide an immediate financial benefit to beneficiaries, they ultimately can harm both Federal health care programs and their beneficiaries.”
In the SAB, the OIG acknowledges that the pharmaceutical industry is aware of the potential anti-kickback concerns and generally has implemented a variety of controls to exclude federal health care program beneficiaries from these programs. The OIG’s concern seems to be that these controls don’t go far enough or don’t always work. In other words, the OIG sees the glass as “half empty.” The OIG does not seem to acknowledge that the glass may actually be half-full – i.e., the industry's attempt to have some controls (even if imperfect) evidences manufacturers’ intent to comply with the statute, making it difficult to show criminal liability.
In fact, the OIG’s report, “Manufacturer Safeguards May Not Prevent Copayment Coupon Use for Part D Drugs” (OEI-05-12-00540) http://go.usa.gov/pdYQ, issued concurrently with the SAB, describes in detail mechanisms used by various manufacturers, most notably through claims processing and “switches,” to prevent use of the coupons for drugs paid for by Medicare Part D. The report identifies the principal shortcomings identified with these mechanisms as stemming from the fact that CMS does not permit manufacturers to submit Part D enrollment verification requests (“E1 transactions”) to the Part D Transaction Facilitator because of privacy concerns, so that manufacturers must use various “proxies” to attempt to determine whether the individual using the coupon is enrolled in a Part D plan. The report finds that these proxies, which may include elements as inexact as beneficiary age, may not be accurate enough to guarantee exclusion of Part D claims. Consequently, the OIG appears to be asserting that manufacturers may have liability for having imperfect controls, even though the current claims-processing system does not make a perfect solution available to them. The report did not identify any specific Part D claims for which coupons had in fact been used contrary to coupon terms and conditions.
The OIG recommends that CMS cooperate with industry stakeholders to improve the reliability of pharmacy claims edits, and make coupons transparent. CMS concurred with the recommendation.
The OIG attributes $32 million in Medicare Part D spending on HIV drugs in 2012 to claims associated with “questionable utilization patterns.” Specifically, nearly 1,600 Part D beneficiaries with HIV drug claims had no indication of HIV in their Medicare histories, received an excessive dose or supply of HIV drugs, received HIV drugs from a high number of pharmacies or prescribers, or received contraindicated drugs. The OIG observes that while some of this utilization may be legitimate, these patterns warrant further scrutiny, since they could indicate that a beneficiary is receiving inappropriate drugs or diverting drugs, a pharmacy is billing for drugs that the beneficiary did not receive, or a beneficiary’s identification number was stolen. The OIG recommend that CMS: expand sponsors’ drug utilization review programs and use of beneficiary-specific controls; expand the Overutilization Monitoring System to additional drugs; restrict certain beneficiaries to a limited number of pharmacies or prescribers and limit their ability to switch plans; increase monitoring of beneficiaries’ utilization patterns; and follow up on questionable utilization patterns.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released data comparing retail prescription drug prices paid by the Department of Defense (DOD), Medicaid, and Medicare Part D for a sample of 78 high-utilization/high-expenditure drugs. In general, the GAO determined that Medicaid paid the lowest average net prices for both brand-name and generic drugs in the sample based on data for the third quarter of 2010. For the entire sample, Medicare Part D paid an estimated 32% higher average net price than Medicaid, while DOD paid 60% more than Medicaid (although Medicare Part D paid more for brand-name drugs than did DOD). Key factors affecting net prices paid by each program included the amount of any post-purchase price adjustments (e.g., refunds, rebates, or price concessions received by each program from drug manufacturers), which equaled approximately 15% of the gross price for Medicare Part D, 31% for DOD, and almost 53% for Medicaid across the entire sample.
The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health is seeking comments on a draft bill, the Protecting Integrity in Medicare Act of 2014, that is “aimed at combating fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare program.” The bill covers a range of Medicare and Medicaid policies, from establishing new alternative sanctions for technical physician self-referral violations to providing more flexibility in meeting durable medical equipment (DME) documentation requirements. Among other things, the bill would:
- Establish an alternative fixed financial penalty for individuals and entities that voluntarily disclose a technical Stark violation (e.g., an arrangement that is not in writing or that is not signed by one or more parties) through the Self-Referral Disclosure Protocol; the per-arrangement penalty would be capped at $5,000 if submitted within the year of the noncompliance and $10,000 thereafter;
- Require a study on how to establish a permanent physician-hospital gainsharing program;
- Expand the professionals who can document DME face-to-face encounters beyond physicians to align with the professionals who can furnish such encounters;
- Establish claims processing edits to prevent Medicare payments for incarcerated, unlawfully present, and deceased individuals;
- Require Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) to establish improper payment outreach and education programs, and modify how MACs prioritize efforts to reduce improper payment or error rates;
- Allow Medicaid fraud control units to investigate abuse and neglect in home and community based facilities;
- Provide the HHS OIG with up to 1.5% of all amounts collected from Medicare false claim and fraud cases;
- Give the Secretary greater flexibility to protect Medicaid from fraud, waste, and abuse;
- Improve incentives for individuals to report Medicare fraud and abuse under the Senior Medicare Patrol;
- Require valid prescriber National Provider Identifiers to be included on pharmacy claims;
- Revise the process for renewing MAC contracts;
- Create a high-risk beneficiary drug management program under the supervision of a Part D plan sponsor;
- Require the Secretary to issue guidance on the application of the “Common Rule” to clinical data registries;
- Revoke eligibility for Medicare benefits for providers convicted of defrauding the Medicare program under certain circumstances;
- Require home health agencies to obtain a surety bond in the amount of at least $50,000 as a condition of Medicare participation;
- Require prior authorization (PA) for certain chiropractic visits, blepharoplasty, and browplasty surgeries and expand a PA demonstration for non-emergent ambulance services;
- Require Social Security numbers to be removed from beneficiary Medicare cards; and
- Require the Secretary to include vacuum erection systems in the DME competitive bidding program by 2016.
Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) will accept comments on the discussion draft until September 1, 2014.
CMS has revised its earlier policy on Medicare Part D payments for drugs used by beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare hospice. In a July 18, 2014 memo, CMS is modifying its March 10, 2014 guidance to Part D sponsors that imposed a prior authorization (PA) requirement for all drugs for hospice beneficiaries in light of operational issues and access concerns. The revised guidance narrows the Part D hospice PA provision to four categories of drugs that the OIG, in consultation with hospice providers, has identified as nearly always covered under the hospice benefit. Specifically, CMS will now “strongly encourage” Part D sponsors to place beneficiary-level PA requirements only on: analgesics, antinauseants (antiemetics), laxatives, and antianxiety drugs (anxiolytics). Part D sponsors are not expected to place hospice PA requirements on other categories of drugs or take special measures beyond normal compliance and utilization review activities to retrospectively review paid claims to determine whether drugs in the other categories were unrelated to the hospice beneficiary’s terminal illness and related conditions or payment recovery.