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The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that its False Claims Act (FCA) recoveries for civil cases raked in approximately $2.7 billion for fiscal year 2023, representing a $450 million jump from 2022 recoveries.  Of the $2.7 billion recovered by the DOJ for 2023, approximately $1.8 billion (67%) came from the health care sector.

The real headline, however, may be the record-setting number of new FCA cases initiated in 2023 ­–– 500 initiated by the government and 712 initiated by private relators, for a total 1,212 new cases, over 250 more than the next-highest year (2022). Previous trends aside, this signals busy times ahead for the FCA.Continue Reading DOJ Announces $2.7 Billion in FCA Recoveries and Enforcement Priorities

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Labor, and Department of the Treasury (collectively, “the departments”) recently confirmed that they will hold firm to the March 14, 2024 extended deadlines for initiating both new and previously initiated batched disputes or single disputes involving air ambulance services in the No Surprises Act Independent

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has issued a final rule governing the use of medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). In the rule, the first major update in 20 years, the agency made permanent some of the telehealth flexibilities that were put into place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and made a number of other changes similarly aimed at improving patient access to and reducing stigma of OUD treatment.

Additionally, with this rule, SAMHSA updated accreditation and certification requirements for opioid treatment programs (OTPs) as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (CAA). The rule, which was printed in the Federal Register on February 2, 2024, takes effect April 2, 2024, and has a compliance date of October 2, 2024.Continue Reading SAMHSA Finalizes Major Update to Rules Governing Opioid Treatment Program Requirements

Building on prior requests for information and an increased focus on Medicare Advantage oversight, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued another request for information (RFI) seeking input on data needed for Medicare Part C, also known as the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. The goal of this RFI, which was published in the Federal Register on January 30, 2024, is to provide CMS with feedback on both the format and types of data that will allow CMS to have better insight into MA organizations and their operations and to consider future rulemaking. Responses to the RFI are due by May 29, 2024.

This RFI is an extension of CMS’s General MA RFI published in August 2022, which generated over 4,000 responses from various stakeholders. The 2024 RFI broadly seeks input on “all aspects of data related to the MA program—both data not currently collected as well as data currently collected.” The eventual goal is to make MA data commensurate with data available from Medicare Parts A and B to ensure appropriate transparency into MA organizations and to address perceived shortcomings through additional rulemaking.Continue Reading CMS Issues RFI for Medicare Advantage Data

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has published its first final rule on Health Data, Technology and Interoperability. The rule, known as the HTI-1 rule, takes effect on February 8, and governs updates to the ONC’s Health IT Certification Program, as well as regulations on information blocking.

Among the program criteria that the rule addresses include those related to decision support, electronic case reporting and standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs). To address the question of information blocking, the rule provides refined definitions of statutory terms and identifies practices that cannot constitute information blocking as they are considered by ONC to be “reasonable and necessary.”Continue Reading ONC Finalizes Information Sharing and Algorithm Transparency Rule

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a final rule today governing federal protections for health care workers exercising their right to nondiscrimination on the basis of conscience objections.

The rule, entitled, Safeguarding the Rights of Conscience as Protected by Federal Statutes, is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, January 11 and will take effect on March 11, 2024. The rule effectively repeals the majority of a Trump-era rule that was blocked by federal court orders before it even went into effect.

The new rule reinstates provisions of an Obama-era rule that placed the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the HHS office that handles nondiscrimination enforcement, in charge of coordinating complaints for violations of the conscience protections of various federal laws. The rule also implements a voluntary notice provision that establishes an industry best practice to alert employees to their rights under the laws.Continue Reading HHS Repeals Most of 2019 Health Care Conscience Protection Rule

On Nov. 8, 2023, the Senate Finance Committee voted 26-0 to approve the Better Mental Health, Lower Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act. Among its other provisions, the bill, for which final legislative text has not yet been released, would, for the first time, mandate minimum prices that Medicare Part D plans, and the pharmacy

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published its final rule that requires nursing homes enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid to disclose additional ownership and management information to CMS and state Medicaid agencies. The rule finalizes CMS’s proposed rule from February, with just two differences, as we describe further below.

The rule implements Section 1124(c) of the Social Security Act, which was added by the Affordable Care Act to require the disclosure of additional information about ownership and oversight of nursing facilities. Medicare-enrolled skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and Medicaid-enrolled nursing facilities (NFs) will soon be required to report many detailed aspects of their ownership and management structure, including both the executive leadership and any members of the facilities’ governing bodies.

CMS plans to gather the information in 2024, beginning when the revisions to the Form CMS-855A is completed, regardless of where a facility is on its current five-year revalidation schedule. The information will then be made publicly available within one year.

Of note in the final rule is that CMS declined to finalize a broad definition of “real estate investment trust” (also known an “REIT”) from its February proposed rule and instead has finalized a definition that it finds more consistent with current federal law and industry practice.Continue Reading CMS Finalizes Nursing Home Ownership Rule

As promised back in April in an announcement of its plans to modernize compliance program guidance, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued the first of its new guidance documents for the health care industry on November 6, 2023. The first release is a general compliance program guidance (GCPG) designed to serve as a resource to all segments of the health care industry, regardless of the particular items or services offered.

In its newest release, OIG reiterates its view that the GCPG is by its very nature a voluntary guidebook that can act as a roadmap for a compliance program to follow, but that it is not binding on any individual or entity in the health care industry. This updated GCPG includes the following information for health care compliance programs, which we summarize further below: (1) key Federal authorities for entities engaged in health care business; (2) the seven elements of a compliance program; (3) adaptations for small and large entities; (4) other compliance considerations; and (6) OIG processes and resources.

Additional industry specific compliance guidance documents will be forthcoming, according to OIG, with its first updated guidance setting the stage for those to follow.Continue Reading HHS OIG Issues General Guidance as First Step in Effort to Modernize Compliance Guidance

In an advisory opinion released on October 13, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) approved a plan by a muti-specialty practice to pay its employed physicians bonuses related to outpatient procedures performed by those physicians at ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) operated by the physician practice entity requesting the opinion (the Requestor).

According to the facts as presented by the Requestor, the practice employs a group of physicians across a range of specialties. The Requestor also operates two ASCs as corporate divisions of the practice’s legal entity and not as subsidiaries or affiliates. The Requestor plans to pay each employed physician who performs a procedure at either of the ASCs a quarterly bonus equal to 30% of the net profits generated by the facility fees that are directly attributed to that physician’s procedures performed at the ASCs during the preceding quarter.

Notably, there is no indication in the request that the bonus payments would be based solely on the professional component of services personally performed by the physicians; the measurement of profit per physician would be expected to include the technical component of the procedures.Continue Reading OIG Permits Multi-Specialty Practice to Pay Doctors Bonuses for Outpatient Procedures

On October 31, FDA will be offering a webinar on its proposed rule ”Medical Devices; Laboratory Developed Tests.”

This webinar comes about a month after FDA issued a proposed rule revising 21 C.F.R. Part 809 (specifically, 21 C.F.R, § 809.3) to state, explicitly, that in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) are medical devices, even if they are developed and manufactured in a laboratory setting.

This category of tests is generally referred to as “laboratory developed tests” (LDTs) and FDA has historically extended enforcement discretion, accepting the availability of certain LDTs outside of the FDA device clearance and approval pathway.

Of course this has not been a straightforward situation: we have seen decades of debate among FDA and industry stakeholders about the exact boundaries of FDA’s expressed enforcement discretion—where those boundaries should lie, and even interpretation (gleaned from enforcement action) of more precisely where they do, in FDA practice, actually lie.Continue Reading The Latest Episode of the LDT Drama: FDA Issues Long-Awaited Proposed Rule for Laboratory Developed Tests

UPDATE: Late in the evening of September 28, the House defeated H.R. 4368 by a vote of 191-237, with 27 Republicans voting against the bill. It was the only one of the four appropriations bills to fail.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published at 11:15 PM EST on September 27, 2023 while the House of Representatives was still voting on amendments to other appropriations bills.

A group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives’ proposed Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024 (H.R. 4368) would rescind the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s January 2023 change to the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program to allow certified retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone as part of a medication abortion regimen. The proposal would effectively limit retail pharmacy dispensing of the only medication that is labeled for medication abortion.Continue Reading GOP House Bill Proposes Repeal of Retail Pharmacy Dispensing of Mifepristone

In a proposed rule sent to the federal register public inspection list on Sept. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a long-awaited minimum staffing requirement for Long Term Care (LTC) facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The proposed rule, set for publication in the Federal Register on Sept. 6, would create a floor for staffing in Medicare and Medicaid participating LTC facilities for both registered nurses (RN) and nurse aides (NA). Additionally, CMS is also seeking input on need to add on a minimum total nurse staffing requirement with the rule.

The staffing levels that the rule proposes exceed the current minimum staffing requirements of nearly every state. In the rule, CMS indicated that its proposed staffing requirement is merely a floor that could be adjusted upward based on acuity of resident need and that it may revisit the levels in later rulemaking with an eye toward increasing the staffing requirement even further.Continue Reading CMS Proposes National Minimum Nursing Staff Requirements for LTC Facilities

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has released an advisory opinion permitting a technology company to charge health care providers “per booking” fees to participate in its online provider directory and to allow the same providers to bid on advertising that appears as specialized search results or banner ads within its digital “marketplace.” This is the second time that the OIG has opined on this particular arrangement, having approved an earlier, although slightly different, version of the arrangement by the same company in Advisory Opinion 19-04, which was issued in 2019.

In the most recent opinion, the OIG determined that, although the arrangement might violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Beneficiary Inducement Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) law, the office would not enforce those statutes against the company because the nature of the revised fees and search functionality presents a sufficiently low risk of fraud and abuse. Important to the OIG’s decision was the requestor’s certification that the fees do not exceed fair market value of the requesting company’s services to providers related to its marketplace nor do they take into account the user’s insurance status or the volume or value of referrals to the providers.

The OIG’s opinion letter protects only the current arrangement described to it by the requestor, and the agency declined to opine on any continuing contracts under an older version of the program.Continue Reading OIG again approves online health directory’s use of appointment and advertising fees

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has published a new final rule regarding reporting of theft or significant loss of controlled substances. Through the final rule, the DEA amended the existing regulations governing the form and timing used to formally report these thefts or losses.

The rule, which goes into effect on July 24, 2023, adds a follow-up requirement to the initial requirement of all registrants to report the theft or loss in writing to the DEA field office within one business day of discovery. Under the new rule, the formal follow-up notice must be electronically filed with DEA within 45 calendar days of the discovery.Continue Reading DEA Adds Second Step to Reporting Procedure for Controlled Substance Theft or Loss

On May 3, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law provisions that will require health care entities to submit a notification to the state Department of Health (DOH) providing information about any material transaction involving that health care entity.

The law, passed as part of the state’s budget, was originally crafted to give the DOH authority to review and approve those transactions. Ultimately, following several iterations during the legislative process, that approval power was stripped out by the state general assembly and replaced with the current notice requirement.

The law will take effect on August 1, 2023 and states on its face that it will apply to all “material transactions” involving health care entities that close on or after that date. That said, the requirements for transactions that close between August 1 and August 31 are a somewhat open question, given the 30-day notice requirement in the law. The DOH is tasked by the law with creating regulations that may address this situation.Continue Reading New York Passes Health Care Transaction Notice Requirements

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a pair of proposed rules on April 27, 2023 that make substantial changes to the structure of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), both in the traditional fee-for-service setting and for services provided through managed care organizations (MCOs), and incorporate feedback from stakeholders in

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that removes an exception to the definition of “lawfully present” that would then serve to include in that term individuals who have obtained temporary immigration status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The expansion of the the definition of “lawfully present” would allow DACA recipients as of November 1, 2023 to enroll in a qualified health plan (QHP) from a health insurance exchange as established by the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the definition change would open up eligibility for DACA recipients to enroll in a Basic Health Program, or Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in states that have elected to cover “lawfully residing” pregnant individuals and children.Continue Reading DACA Recipients Can Enroll in Qualified Health Plans under Proposed HHS Rule