Following closely after the clarifying independent dispute resolution process Final Rule, the four executive branch entities tasked with implementing the provisions of the No Surprises Act, the Office of Personnel Management, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service have issued a request for information to help the agencies craft the next stage of regulations for the surprise billing law.

The request is the latest effort by agencies to seek stakeholder input on the contours of the regulations implementing the No Surprises Act, this time with a focus on the requirements in the law for providers to issue a good faith estimate (GFE) to plans for services that their covered patients will submit for reimbursement and for insurers to issue an advanced explanation of benefits (AEOB) to their plan participants based on estimated charges relayed to them by providers.

Specifically, the entities are looking for information and recommendations on the process of transferring data from providers and facilities to plans, issuers and carriers to facilitate the GFE and AEOB processes, as well as the economic impacts of implementing these requirements. The notice was added to the Federal Register on Friday, Sept. 16 and comments are due to the agencies by November 15.

Continue Reading Agencies Look for Input on No Surprises Act Good Faith Estimate Rules

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued the first round of civil monetary penalties to two hospitals in Georgia for failure to comply with the requirements of the Hospital Price Transparency Final Rule (the “Rule”) on June 7, 2022.

According to the Notices of Imposition of a Civil Monetary Penalty published on the CMS Price Transparency Website, Northside Hospital Atlanta (“Northside Atlanta”) and Northside Hospital Cherokee (“Northside Cherokee”) failed to publish their standard charges and provide access to a machine-readable searchable tool, which would include standard prices for the hospitals’ items and services. CMS took this action after both hospitals failed to respond to the Warning Notices and Requests for Corrective Action Plans issued by CMS.

Effective January 1, 2021, hospitals must publish a machine-readable file that discloses the hospital’s negotiated rates with health plans, gross charges, discounted cash prices, and de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges for all items and services. Additionally, hospitals must publish a consumer-friendly, searchable tool that displays in plain language the prices of 300 shoppable medical services that a consumer can schedule in advance.

Continue Reading CMS levies penalties for non-compliance with Hospital Price Transparency Rule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a “price transparency” rule that requires hospitals to make detailed charge data – including payer-specific negotiated charges – available for all inpatient and outpatient services.  Additionally, the final rule mandates that hospitals make “consumer-friendly” charge information available for at least 300 “shoppable” services.  While CMS deferred

The House of Representatives has approved — without objection — a series of bills intended to promote prescription drug pricing transparency and invest in the health care workforce.

With regard to drug pricing transparency, the House approved HR 2115, the Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act, as amended to include HR 3415, the Real-Time Beneficiary Drug Cost Bill.  The legislation would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make public certain aggregate information regarding rebates, discounts, and price concessions that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate with prescription drug manufacturers, beginning January 1, 2020.  The stated purpose of the provision is “to allow the comparison of PBMs’ ability to negotiate rebates, discounts, direct and indirect remuneration fees, administrative fees, and price concessions and the amount of such rebates, discounts, direct and indirect remuneration fees, administrative fees, and price concessions that are passed through to plan sponsors.”  The information must be displayed in a manner (i.e., by drug class) that prevents the disclosure of proprietary or confidential information on rebates, discounts, direct and indirect remuneration fees, administrative fees, and price concessions with respect to an individual drug or an individual plan.

Furthermore, HR 2115 as approved would require the Medicare Part D program to implement by January 1, 2021 electronic, real-time benefit tools capable of integrating with prescribers’ electronic prescribing or electronic health record system and that transmit enrollee-specific, point-of-prescribing information.  Such information must include a list of any clinically-appropriate drug alternatives in the plan formulary; cost-sharing information for a drug and such alternatives; and formulary status, including any prior authorization or other utilization management requirements.  Additionally, the legislation expresses the “sense of Congress” that commercially available drug pricing comparison platforms that help patients find the lowest price for their medications at their local pharmacy “should be integrated, to the maximum extent possible, in the health care delivery ecosystem.”  Likewise, PBMs “should work to disclose generic and brand name drug prices to such platforms” so patients can benefit from the lowest available prices and “overall drug prices can be reduced as more educated purchasing decisions are made based on price transparency.”  The House approved the legislation by a vote of 403 – 0.
Continue Reading House Clears Prescription Drug Price Transparency, Health Workforce Legislation

On September 25, 2019, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing entitled “Making Prescription Drugs More Affordable: Legislation to Negotiate a Better Deal for Americans.”  A background memo and text of the bills are available here.  Likewise, a second House panel – the Education and Labor Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published its proposed Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) rates and policies for calendar year 2020.  In addition to making annual updates to the OPPS and ASC payment systems, CMS includes a controversial proposal to require all hospitals to disclose payer-specific pricing, including “consumer-friendly” information for hundreds of “shoppable” services.  CMS is accepting comments on the proposed rule through September 27, 2019.  The following are highlights of the proposed rule.

Hospital Outpatient Provisions

CMS proposes a 2.7% update to OPPS rates for 2020, with the update reduced by 2.0% for hospitals that fail to meet quality reporting requirements.  Payment changes for individual procedures vary.  CMS estimates total OPPS payments would increase by $6 billion in CY 2020 compared with 2019 under the rule.

Other OPPS policy proposals include the following, among many others:
Continue Reading CMS Proposes 2020 Medicare OPPS and ASC Update, Floats Plan for Hospital Disclosure of Payer-Specific Prices

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 June 24, 2019, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) intended to improve health care price and quality transparency, boost tax-preferred health savings accounts, and protect patients from surprise medical bills.  This is not the first time the Trump Administration has tacked health price disclosure.  For instance, new hospital price transparency rules went into

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published its proposed rule updating the Medicare acute inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS) and long-term care hospital (LTCH) prospective payment system (PPS) for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The proposed rule also includes a request for information (RFI) on ways CMS can enhance interoperability in the health care system, along with a comment solicitation on ways to improve price transparency.  The agency will accept comments on the proposed rule and RFI through June 25, 2018.  The following are highlights of the sweeping regulation.

1.75% Increase in Medicare Acute Hospital Rates. CMS projects that total IPPS payments will increase by about $4.1 billion in FY 2019 compared to FY 2018 levels under the proposed rule.  The IPPS national standardized amount would increase by 1.75%, based on a projected 2.8% market basket update that is reduced by a 0.8% multifactor productivity adjustment; further reduced by 0.75% as mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and increased by 0.5% as required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). CMS also proposes to boost uncompensated care payments, capital payments, and low-volume hospital payments.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes FY 2019 Medicare IPPS/LTCH Rates and Policy Changes