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On September 28, 2023, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) issued Advisory Opinion 23-06, involving a proposed services arrangement between a pathology laboratory (the Requestor) and third-party referring pathology laboratories. 

The OIG determined that, if the requisite intent were present, the proposed purchase of the technical component of anatomic pathology services from certain laboratories would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). In doing so, the OIG highlighted the proposal’s lack of commercial reasonableness and reaffirmed its longstanding suspicion over arrangements that “carve out” federal health care program business.Continue Reading OIG Issues Unfavorable Advisory Opinion Concerning Pathology Lab’s Proposed Purchased Services Arrangements

On August 28, 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final payment rule for inpatient and long-term care hospitals (“LTCH”) that builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to provide support to historically underserved and under-resourced communities and to promote the highest quality outcomes and safest care for all individuals. 

The fiscal year 2024 Inpatient Prospective Payment System (FY 2024 IPPS) and LTCH Prospective Payment System (LTCH PPS) final rule updates Medicare payments and policies for hospitals as required by statute. The rule adopts hospital quality measures to foster safety, equity, and reduce preventable harm in the hospital setting.

Under the rule, acute care hospitals and long-term care hospitals will see total payment increases of $2.2 billion and $6 million respectively. Additionally, the rule focuses on health equity and rural hospital access by recognizing higher costs to treat underserved populations.Continue Reading CMS Updates Medicare Rates and Policies for Inpatient and LTC Hospitals, Promoting Health Equity and Patient Safety

On June 6, 2023, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released a Quality Safety & Oversight memorandum (“QSO Memo”) reminding state survey agencies, accrediting organizations, and hospitals of the requirements for discharges and transfers to post-acute care (“PAC”) providers. 

The standard for hospital discharge planning is set forth in 42 CFR 482.43, which requires a hospital to have “an effective discharge planning process that focuses on the patient’s goals and treatment preferences and includes the patient and his or her caregivers/support person(s) as active partners in the discharge planning for post-discharge care.”  Moreover, the hospital “must discharge the patient, and also transfer or refer the patient where applicable, along with all necessary medical information pertaining to the patient’s current course of illness and treatment, post-discharge goals of care, and treatment preferences, at the time of discharge, to the appropriate post-acute care service providers and suppliers, facilities, agencies, and other outpatient service providers and practitioners responsible for the patient’s follow-up or ancillary care.”  42 C.F.R. 482.43(b). Continue Reading CMS Issues Requirements for Hospital Discharges to Post-Acute Care Providers

On April 24, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a modification to advisory opinion 20-04, from July 2020, where the OIG opined favorably on the proposal to purchase or receive donations of unpaid medical debt owed by qualifying patients from certain types of health care providers, including hospitals, and then forgive that debt.  Now, the OIG has been asked to modify certain conditions related to the public disclosure of hospitals’ donation or sale of medical debt. The requestor of the modification is a charitable organization that locates, buys, and forgives individual patents’ medical debt.Continue Reading OIG Approves Charity’s Modifications to Plan to Purchase and Forgive Medical Debt

On December 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a favorable advisory opinion on a proposal by a drug manufacturer to enter into an arrangement with certain hospitals to provide up to a specified number of free samples of a long-acting antipsychotic drug for inpatient use.

The OIG indicated it would not impose administrative sanctions, despite the fact that there is no safe harbor available under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) to protect the proposed arrangement.Continue Reading OIG approves arrangement involving free drug samples for inpatient hospital use

The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has proposed a rule that updates retail pharmacy standards for electronic transactions adopted under the Administrative Simplification subtitle of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).  There is a 60-day public comment period for this rule, which closes on January 9, 2023.  This proposed rule, if finalized, would modify the currently adopted National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (“NCPDP”) Telecommunications Standard Implementation Guide (“TSIG”) and its equivalent batch standards. 

Specifically, the proposed rule would adopt TSIG version F6, and its equivalent batch standards NCPDP Batch Standard Implementation Guide, Version 15, and Batch Standard Pharmacy Subrogation Implementation Guide Version 10 (for non-Medicaid health plans).

The new standards will allow retail pharmacies with multiple locations to send one batch mode transaction that meets the F6 standard.  Among the changes from version to version are new data fields, new data segments, and new functionality.Continue Reading HHS Proposes Rule to Update Retail Pharmacy Standards for Electronic Transactions under HIPAA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has reopened the comment period on its June 2021 interim final rule establishing an Emergency Temporary Standard governing occupational exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare settings, codified at 29 C.F.R. § 1910 Subpart U (“Healthcare ETS”).

While this reopening reaches certain questions and issues presented by OSHA and not the entire rule, the reopening of the comment period signals the beginning of the effort to finalize a permanent standard by OSHA only three months after the agency withdrew the Healthcare ETS. The Healthcare ETS required healthcare organizations to develop a COVID-19 plan for its workplace that included health screening and management, masking, distancing, and support for vaccination. The Healthcare ETS was withdrawn in December 2021 because OSHA determined that its efforts to establish a permanent standard would exceed the six-month time period allowed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The notice reopening the comment period gives stakeholders both an early view into potential regulatory outcomes of the final rule as well as a series of information requests.
Continue Reading OSHA reopens comments on COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard

The House Energy and Commerce Committee seems poised to make substantial changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) Accelerated Approval Program. The committee’s Democratic chairman, Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Republican ranking member, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) have proposed competing bills that were featured prominently in the Health Subcommittee’s legislative hearing on March 17, 2022.

The Accelerated Approval Program was developed in 1982, largely in response to the HIV/AIDs epidemic, to expedite approval of novel drugs that treat serious conditions with unmet medical needs based on a surrogate endpoint.  Drugs that receive accelerated approval must undergo post-approval (Phase IV) studies to confirm the intended clinical benefit.  If the clinical testing does not demonstrate the intended clinical benefit, FDA has mechanisms to remove the drug from the market.

However, concerns have mounted regarding FDA’s ability to remove ineffective drugs from the market, and those concerns were punctuated during a February 3, 2022 Health Subcommittee hearing on the reauthorization of FDA User Fees. Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, the Director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA testified that the program’s existing mechanism to withdraw accelerated approvals is cumbersome, resource intensive, and seldom used.Continue Reading Competing bills propose amendments to FDA’s accelerated approval program