Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Health care and health care-adjacent organizations are seeing a steep increase in risk arising from the frequently utilized third-party analytics and advertising services on their websites, mobile applications, patient portals, and other Internet-connected services. Those organizations should pay attention to new regulatory guidance, published settlements with regulators, and an onslaught of class action filings stemming

On June 7, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it would conduct an inquiry into the competitive impact of contracting and other business practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), including their effects on access to and affordability of prescription drugs.  As part of the inquiry, which is similar to FTC inquiries into other aspects of the health care industry, the FTC issued orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act requiring the six largest PBMs to provide information and records to the Commission. 

The five FTC commissioners voted unanimously on June 6, 2022 to conduct the study and issue the Section 6(b) orders.  According to the FTC mission statement, Section 6(b) “enables [the FTC] to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.” 

In February, an earlier proposed review of PBMs failed to receive approval on a 2-2 party-line vote, with the two Republican Commissioners, Noah J. Phillips and Christine S. Wilson, voting against the proposed study. Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya was confirmed by the Senate in May, giving Democrats three seats on the Commission. 

Commissioners Phillips and Wilson issued a statement indicating that they had voted to approve the current inquiry because it has a different scope than the previously proposed study, including relationships between PBMs and both pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers, “including, critically, how those practices might impact out-of-pocket costs for consumers.”

The FTC stated that its inquiry will examine PBMs’ role as middlemen who are hired by health plans to negotiate rebates and fees with drug manufacturers, create drug formularies and related policies, and reimburse pharmacies for patients’ prescriptions.  The Commission said that PBMs “often have enormous influence on which drugs are prescribed to patients, which pharmacies patients can use, and how much patients ultimately pay at the pharmacy counter.”  Chair Linda M. Khan stated that the FTC had received complaints about PBM practices from patients and professionals across the healthcare system, several of which the inquiry will examine.    Continue Reading FTC announces inquiry into PBM practices and orders PBMs to provide information

The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) have been fighting fraudulent and deceptive advertising of health care devices, household cleaners, nutrition supplements, and other health care products promising to protect or mitigate the effects of the virus for pandemic-wary consumers since March 2020. Despite these efforts, false and misleading

Prior to the 4th of July break, Senate and House Committees approved more than a dozen health policy bills, covering topics including:  surprise medical bills, health pricing transparency, drug prices and competition, various Medicare policies, and public health program reauthorization, among others.  The following are highlights of recent action.  Note that none of the bills has yet been considered by the full House or Senate, and all are subject to change during the legislative process.

Senate HELP Committee

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved S 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.  This high-profile, bipartisan legislation would hold patients harmless from “surprise” medical bills for out-of-network services provided at an in-network facility, with payment to out-of-network providers set at the median contracted rate for in-network providers in the geographic area (a controversial “benchmark rate” proposal).  The bill contains separate protections regarding costs for emergency room and air ambulance services.  Additionally, S 1895 seeks to improve health care transparency by, among other things, banning what are described as “anticompetitive” terms in contracts between insurers and providers; providing patients with additional information on out-of-pocket costs; and regulating certain pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) pricing practices.  The legislation also includes numerous provisions intended to promote generic drug and biosimilar biological product innovation; improve health information exchange and strengthen health entity cybersecurity practices; and authorize various public health programs.  The Committee approved the bill on June 26, 2019 on a vote of 20-3.  Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander expressed hope for full Senate consideration of the bill in July.

During the same markup, the HELP Committee also approved S 1173, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Reauthorization Act, and S 1199, the Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2019.

Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the following four bills that are intended to help reduce prescription drug prices:

  • S 1227, the Prescription Pricing for the People Act of 2019, which would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study the role of PBMs in the pharmaceutical supply chain and provide Congress with related policy recommendations.
  • S 440, the Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs Act, which would bar patent owners from asserting sovereign immunity, including the sovereign immunity accorded to an Indian tribe, in certain drug patent disputes.
  • S 1224, the “Stop STALLING Act,” to authorize the FTC to take action against entities that file “sham” citizen petitions to attempt to interfere with approval of a competing generic drug or biosimilar.
  • S 1416, Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2019, which would authorize the FTC to challenge certain brand manufacturer practices (e.g., “product hopping” and “patent thickets”) that could discourage generic drug and biological use.

House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee recently passed the following health policy bills:
Continue Reading Congressional Committees Advance Multiple Bills Addressing Surprise Medical Billing, Prescription Drug Policy, and Other Health Policy Issues

On February 24, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division will hold a public workshop on health care provider organization and payment model developments that may affect competition in the provision of health care services. Topics for discussion include: accountable care organizations; alternatives to traditional fee-for-service payment models; trends in

The OIG has issued a consumer alert warning consumers about potential fraud related to enrollment in ACA Health Insurance Marketplaces. Among other things, the OIG cautions individuals about people asking for money to enroll the individual in the Marketplace or “Obamacare”; high-pressure solicitations; or requests for personal information.  Likewise, HHS, the Department of Justice,

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report entitled “Federal Antitrust Policy: Stakeholders’ Perspectives Differed on the Adequacy of Guidance for Collaboration among Health Care Providers.” In response to a Congressional request, the GAO examined the perspectives of health care industry groups and antitrust law experts on how federal antitrust guidance may

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

Today the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its long-awaited final rule to implement the Medicare Shared Savings Program as authorized by Section 3022 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Shared Savings Program is intended to encourage physicians, hospitals, and certain other types of providers and suppliers to form accountable care organizations (ACOs) to provide cost-effective, coordinated care to Medicare beneficiaries. Under the final rule, an ACO that meets established quality and performance standards and surpasses a minimum savings target will be able to share a percentage of savings (in addition to traditional fee-for-service payments under Medicare Parts A and B).
Continue Reading CMS Releases Final Medicare Shared Savings Program/ACO Rule

On March 31, 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) proposed highly anticipated regulations setting forth the details of the implementation of new “accountable care organizations” under Section 3022 of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). Specifically, the proposed rule would establish a “Shared Savings Program” intended to encourage physicians, hospitals, and other providers and suppliers to ACOs to create accountable care organizations (“ACOs”) to provide cost-effective, coordinated patient care. The proposed rule will appear in the April 7, 2011 issue of the Federal Register. CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule until June 6, 2011, and will respond to comments and issue a final rule later this year. CMS anticipates that the Shared Savings Program will begin operating on January 1, 2012, as mandated by the ACA.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes Long-Awaited Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Regulations

On December 15, 2010, President Obama signed into law H.R. 4994, the “Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010.” The new law averts a 25% Medicare physician fee schedule cut previously scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011 under the statutory “sustainable growth rate” formula. The law also continues a variety of expiring

The House and Senate have approved legislation intended to clarify that health care providers and other non-financial businesses are not subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) “Red Flag” identity theft rule simply because they extend credit to patients who do not pay for all services at the time services are received. Specifically, S. 3987

On October 5, 2010, the FTC, CMS, and the OIG are holding a workshop on accountable care organizations (ACOs). These organizations, authorized by the ACA, are designed to deliver high-quality and efficient health care services to consumers. The workshop is intended to assess how the variety of possible ACO structures in different health care

The Federal Trade Commission has released a “staff study” entitled “Pay for Delay: How Drug Company Pay-Offs Cost Consumers Billions.” The report examines agreements in patent litigation settlements in which a brand-name pharmaceutical company compensates a generic pharmaceutical company for delays in generic entry. According to the study, over the past six years, such