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After a long line of opinions scrutinizing the use of rewards programs offered by providers, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued Advisory Opinion 22-16 on August 19, 2022– a favorable opinion for the provision of gift cards to Medicare Advantage (“MA’) plan enrollees who complete educational modules as part of an online surgical treatment learning tool.

The opinion adds flexibility to existing opinions on gift cards and patient engagement programs and, while binding only on the requestor, provides insight into the OIG’s evolving view of these programs.

Continue Reading OIG Approves Rewards Program for Medicare Advantage Organizations

Shortly after President Trump declared a national emergency related to COVID-19, CMS issued blanket waivers under section 1135 of the Social Security Act that are intended to ensure there are sufficient health care items and services available to meet the increased need, as well as reduce related administrative burdens on health care providers.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released official diagnosis coding guidance for health care encounters and deaths related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), potentially in anticipation of more frequent cases in the United States. The guidance identifies specific ICD-10-CM codes to be used to code encounters.

CDC advises that patients presenting

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although there have been imported cases of Covid-19 detected in the United States, “at this time, the virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.”[1]  However, on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, Nancy Messonier, the CDC’s Director of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, urged American businesses and families to start preparing for the possibility of a large outbreak, noting that the virus spread quickly once it appeared in other countries.[2]  Although the World Health Organization (WHO) still has not called Covid-19 a pandemic, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, suggests that countries need to be doing everything they can to contain the virus, at least in order to buy some time.[3]

To that end, the CDC has been tapping some of its quarantine powers.  CDC has authority to oversee quarantine and isolation of persons who carry communicable diseases, derived from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and codified in section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 264).[4]  The CDC’s authority, however, is limited to persons arriving in the United States or traveling between states.  Each state has its own laws regarding quarantine powers, and the CDC also relies on state authorities to implement and enforce quarantine orders.  There is some risk that state health authorities could act in a manner that is inconsistent with the intentions of the CDC (to be more or less restrictive).  The CDC has not issued a large-scale isolation and quarantine since the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.[5]

Continue Reading Potential Tensions Lie Ahead Between Federal and State Authorities Over the Application of CDC Quarantine Powers

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV, also known as “SARS-CoV-2”) has been declared a public health emergency (PHE) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This designation authorizes HHS to direct funding to: (1) enable the dissemination of information about the virus; (2) encourage research and development of diagnostic and treatment techniques; (3) improve

A top Department of Justice (DOJ) official has recently issued a much-anticipated memo explaining the factors DOJ will consider when deciding whether to dismiss FCA suits brought by relators in qui tam cases. Specifically, the memo by Michael Granston, Director of the Commercial Litigation Branch within the DOJ Fraud Section sets forth seven non-exhaustive factors

Medicare providers with pending cases at the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) level received positive news last week as a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the “Court”) granted summary judgment in favor of the American Hospital Association (“AHA”) in its case against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”).1

Since 2014, AHA has been litigating with HHS regarding HHS’ failure to meet statutorily-imposed deadlines for Medicare administrative appeals.2 On remand from the D.C. Circuit3 with instructions for further proceedings, the Court determined that there were equitable grounds to issue a writ of mandamus. The Court reasoned that even with certain good faith efforts made by HHS to reduce the backlog (such as a Proposed Rule4 issued this past summer), the appeals backlog was “still unacceptably high.”5 In its decision, the Court found that HHS did not “point to any categorically new administrative actions” and continues “to promise the elimination of the backlog only ‘with legislative action’ — a significant caveat.”6

Continue Reading Court Orders HHS to Fix the Medicare Appeals Backlog by the End of 2020

Observers are digesting what the Trump Administration will mean for the health care and life sciences industry.  Forecasting is more challenging for this incoming Administration than most given the relatively sparse policy details released during the campaign and the lack of a government service record to examine for clues.  Today President-elect Trump’s transition team released a one-page statement on health care policy, but many questions remain.  Nevertheless, we offer below our initial observations and issues to watch in the months to come.

  • Potential Sea Change. Uncertainty is, as some like to say, the “obvious comment” that characterizes the whole prospective Trump Administration.  Other than an intended “repeal and replacement” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President-elect Trump has provided relatively few details on a proposed health care agenda.  Until these policies are fleshed-out, expect an environment where some business decisions and investments may be delayed, with a resulting impact on merger and acquisition activity. That said, other transactions may become more likely, as the threat of new restrictions under a Clinton administration are removed, along with the prospect of potential regulatory relief under a Republican-controlled federal government.
  • Affordable Care Act Repeal and Replacement.  Trump has repeatedly indicated his desire to repeal and replace the ACA, including a vow to summon Congress into a special session for this task.  If the law is repealed, however, what would take its place, and how would Congress address the roughly 20 million Americans currently covered in some way under the ACA (and the potential rise in uncompensated care costs that also would result)?  Despite the call for repeal, certain parts of the law are popular. For instance, President-elect Trump noted on the campaign trail that he was in support of the ACA’s prohibition against the use of pre-existing health conditions to deny coverage (or as a basis for premium-setting).  Other proposals offered by Trump as candidate include allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines as long as plans comply with state requirements, various tax benefits, and more transparency in health care pricing.  In today’s policy statement, President-elect Trump added support for high-risk pools, which he characterizes as “a proven approach to ensuring access to health insurance coverage for individuals who have significant medical expenses and who have not maintained continuous coverage.”  Congressional Republicans have offered a number of alternatives that are likely to be a springboard for reform, most notably the “Better Way” plan proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.  In fact, according to the Speaker’s office, “in the 114th Congress alone, House Republicans have introduced more than 400 individual bills that would improve our nation’s health care system” – demonstrating that Congress is not reticent about legislating on health care issues.  The new Senate’s Republican majority will not have the 60 votes required to override a potential Democratic filibuster of legislation to fully repeal the law. While Congress could use budget reconciliation authority (which requires only 50 votes in the Senate) to make significant changes, the drawn-out pace of the budget process may not satisfy those who want quick action in this area.  Regardless of the legislative vehicle, after years of calling for Obamacare repeal while President Obama was in office, the Republican Congress will be under tremendous pressure to act quickly – even if it is a “down-payment” on reform — now that Republicans will control the presidency and the Congress.


Continue Reading Looking Ahead to a Trump Administration: Health Care and Life Sciences Industry Perspectives

Today the Department of Justice published an interim final rule with request for comments that applies an inflation adjustment to civil monetary penalty (CMP) amounts assessed by the Department, as mandated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.  Notably, the new maximum CMP for False Claims Act (FCA) violations under 31 U.S.C. 3729(a) is

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released today the long awaited final rule clarifying the statutory requirement under the Affordable Care Act for providers and suppliers to report and return Medicare overpayments within 60 days (the “Overpayment Final Rule”).  The Rule only applies to Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers and will be effective 30 days after publication, which will occur tomorrow. Noteworthy provisions of the Overpayment Final Rule include:
Continue Reading CMS Eases 60-Day Overpayment Requirement in Final Rule While Raising New Questions

While attention has been focused on Medicare physician payment data released by CMS yesterday, upcoming Sunshine Act data will shine a new spotlight on financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical and medical device companies – with potential False Claims Act (FCA) implications.

Specifically, last week marked the deadline for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) to register with and submit aggregate 2013 payment and investment interest data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on certain financial relationships between themselves and physicians and teaching hospitals, as required by the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. In May, manufacturers and GPOs will be required to submit to CMS detailed 2013 payment data. With some exceptions, CMS will be making these data public by September 1, 2014. While the publicly-available data are intended to provide more transparency for patients, to allow them to have a better understanding of the financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical and medical device companies, patients will certainly not be the only group interested in this public information. It is likely that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, and relators’ attorneys will utilize these data to initiate investigations and support complaints under the federal FCA.
Continue Reading Will Physician Payment Sunshine Act Data Usher in a New Era of False Claims Act Litigation?

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an updated “Special Advisory Bulletin on the Effect of Exclusion from Participation in Federal Health Care Programs ” (Updated Bulletin) on May 8, 2013, answering certain questions the OIG has received from providers and suppliers regarding exclusions and addressing other issues related to exclusions. The Updated Bulletin follows on a Special Advisory Bulletin regarding the same topic published by the OIG in September 1999. Since the OIG issued the 1999 Special Advisory Bulletin, Congress has enacted various statutory provisions that have strengthened the OIG’s authority to exclude individuals from federal health care programs and impose civil monetary penalties (CMPs) related to exclusion. The OIG states that in the development of the Updated Bulletin, it also relied on comments it received in response to a 2010 solicitation of comments on this topic.

The Updated Bulletin reflects a continuation of the OIG’s expansive view of the scope of the federal exclusion authorities, particularly relating to the prohibition against employing or contracting with excluded individuals and entities. The bulletin explains the statutory background of the exclusion and CMP authorities; describes the effect of exclusion; emphasizes the implications of violations of exclusion by an excluded individual and the implications for violating the prohibition against employment or contracting with an excluded individual for the furnishing of items or services paid for by a federal health care program; explains the scope of what conduct involving excluded individuals may lead to overpayment liability and CMPs; and provides guidance to providers and suppliers regarding how to screen for excluded individuals.

Continue Reading Updated OIG Bulletin on the Effect of Exclusion from Participation in Federal Health Care Programs

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a revised version of its Provider Self-Disclosure Protocol (Updated SDP), dated April 17, 2013, which established a process for health care providers to voluntarily identify, disclose, and resolve instances of potential fraud involving federal health care programs.  Specifically,

This post was also written by Andrew C. Bernasconi.

Yesterday the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would dramatically increase the potential reward to an individual who provides a tip leading to the recovery of Medicare funds from a current maximum of $1,000 to a maximum of $9.9 million under the Medicare Incentive Reward Program.  Since 1998, an individual providing information regarding potential Medicare fraud and abuse to the Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of  Inspector General or the Medicare contractor with jurisdiction over the suspected fraudulent provider or supplier may be eligible to receive 10 percent of the Medicare funds ultimately collected from the tip, or $1,000, whichever is less.  Pursuant to the proposed rule CMS issued yesterday, an individual furnishing information that otherwise satisfies the requirements set forth in 42 C.F.R. § 420.405 would be eligible to receive 15 percent of a recovery up to $66 million.  Therefore, a tipster could receive up to a $9.9 million reward for any information provided regarding suspected Medicare fraud and abuse.

Continue Reading Proposed Rule Would Reward Medicare Fraud Tipsters up to $9.9 Million, Revise Medicare Provider Enrollment Regulations

In a letter to five major hospital associations on September 24, 2012, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., made sweeping generalizations about the improper utilization of electronic health record (EHR) technology to “game the system” to increase reimbursement. In a letter to the associations, Sebelius and Holder tout the benefits

This post was also written by Tillman J. Breckenridge. As has been widely reported, today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual health insurance mandate does not violate the Constitution because it may be viewed as a permissible tax on individuals who do not obtain health insurance.  The only provision of the law that the Court invalidated is a Medicaid provision that threatened states with the loss of existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the ACA’s Medicaid coverage extension. By preserving the vast majority of the landmark health reform law, the Court avoided the policy chaos that would have resulted from striking down the ACA in its entirety. There is now legal certainty for state and federal governments, health care providers and suppliers, drug and device manufacturers, employers and individuals.  As discussed below, the focus in Washington will return to continuing implementation of the law. Nevertheless, although the legal battle is over, the political fight will continue and likely reverberate through the coming Presidential and Congressional election campaigns.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Upholds ACA Insurance Mandate, Limits Withholding of Medicaid Funds to States

Providers and suppliers have until April 16, 2012 to comment on the proposed rule to implement provisions of Section 6402(a) of the Affordable Care Act that require “persons” receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds to report and return overpayments no later than 60 days after the date on which the overpayment was identified or, if applicable,

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (“CMS”) Medicare Shared Savings Program final rule offers potential opportunities as well as risks to health care providers and suppliers interested in forming accountable care organizations (“ACOs”). While the core principle of the Medicare Shared Savings Program is simple—reward improvements in quality and cost containment through a share

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), enacted in March 2010, requires that the Secretary (“Secretary”) of the Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) establish a Medicare “Shared Savings Program” by January 1, 2012.  The Shared Savings Program is intended to encourage physicians, hospitals, and certain other types of providers and suppliers to