Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.
On January 1, 2021, every hospital in the United States (with very few exceptions) will be required to post clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide. These “standard charges” must be provided in two ways: first, as a comprehensive list of all items and services offered by the hospital in a machine readable format; and second, as a display of “shoppable services” in a consumer friendly format. According to CMS, the stated goal of the new rule is to empower patients “with the necessary information to make informed health care decisions.”
With the first requirement, the list must include gross charges, discounted cash prices, payor-specific negotiated charges, and de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges. The items and services covered are basically anything for which the hospital has established a standard charge, regardless of location or whether the item or service is provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis. These include, but are not limited to, supplies, surgical implants, procedures, room and board, and professional charges.
The debate over the pro’s and con’s of physician-owned hospitals has been raging for decades. Physician-owners say their hospitals are more patient-focused, provide higher quality care, obtain better outcomes and therefore receive higher patient satisfaction scores. They also point out their convenience and efficiency.
Opponents argue that physician-ownership leads to overutilization and cherry-picking of only the best patients. The less-desirable patients (both clinically and financially) are then left to be taken care of by the community hospitals. For those reasons, both the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals remain strongly opposed to physician-owned hospitals.
Federally, the Stark Law includes an exception which allows a physician to refer patients to a hospital in which the physician has an ownership interest, so long as the ownership interest is in the entire hospital, and not just a subdivision of the hospital. However, in 2010, the federal government weighed in again on the issue, and passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes provisions which (i) restrict physician referrals to hospitals in which they hold an ownership interest; (ii) restrict any increases in physician-ownership of a hospital; and (iii) restrict expansion of physician-owned hospital facilities. CMS has granted exceptions to these restrictions, but those have been limited to rural hospitals and high Medicaid hospitals, and attempts to amend the law have failed. read more
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued proposed Self-Referral Disclosure Protocol (SRDP) forms and revisions to the regulations on May 6, 2016. This was an additional step in the move for providers to self-report violations of the Stark Law. Part of the revisions to the regulations came as a result of the final overpayment rule issued earlier this year on February 11, 2016 (60 Day Rule). CMS expects that the SRDP forms will facilitate faster review of a self-disclosure and make it easier for providers to report violations.
The SRDP was established as a result of the Affordable Care Act and is a tool for resolving Stark Law compliance issues. One of the problems with the SRDP is the time that self-disclosures worked their way through the system. Some self-disclosures have yet to be resolved and were initially made years ago. read more
While the False Claims Act (FCA) has been in existence for years, many providers do not know that the rule was extended in 2010. As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congress created the “60 Day Rule” and extended the False Claims Act liability to health care providers who fail to report and return overpayments within 60 days of identification if that overpayment came from a federal program (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid). United States ex rel. Kane et al. v. Healthfirst, Inc., et al (Case No. 1:11-cv-02325) (S.D.N.Y. August 3, 2015) is the first case in which the federal government intervened on an alleged violation of the 60 Day Rule. read more
The Affordable Care Act is heading back to the Supreme Court this Spring. The issue presented to the Supreme Court on this occasion is whether the IRS is authorized promulgate regulations to extend tax credit subsidies for coverage purchased through Federal Government’s Health Care Exchange.
The Affordable Care Act allows individuals who purchased health coverage through State-established Health Care Exchanges to subsidize a portion of that coverage through the form of refundable tax credits. The United States treasury directly pays each eligible taxpayer to offset the cost of the taxpayer’s insurance premium. However, a majority of States (including Florida) have elected not to establish their own Health Care Exchanges. In order to provide coverage to persons in these States, the Federal Government set up its own Health Care Exchange marketplace. read more
By now we are all too familiar with the commandment “Thou shaltneither pay nor receive, nor solicit the payment or receipt, of anything of value in exchange for referring an individual to a person for the furnishing of an item or service for which payment may be made by a Federal health care program.” Many of us have restructured, redefined, contorted and construed our arrangements so that they fit neatly within a statutory Safe Harbor to the anti-kickback legislation. Then, in the name of “Patient Protection,” comes the Open Payments Program (also known as the “Physician Payment Sunshine Act”).
Hospitals, particularly those heading ACO development efforts, are quick to say things like “One day, all physicians will be employed by hospitals.” Though there is clearly some wisdom under that statement, it’s also a remarkable leap of faith.
Three things are clear in this era of healthcare reform: (1) healthcare will be provided to more, but with less; (2) there will be a growing move over time to pass financial risk to providers; and (3) those businesses in a position to control both costs and quality (and some say patient satisfaction) are in a position to both survive and even do better than ever.
This leaves the door wide open as to the form of the business that can succeed. Is it a single specialty mega practice? Is it a multi specialty medical practice? How about a hospital? read more
More and more of our seasoned clients are opting out of Medicare, and the younger ones are simply not enrolling. The scale seems to have finally tipped so that the potential liability of being a Medicare provider outweighs the benefits. So many providers are avoiding Medicare participation, that the Affordable Care Act and CMS have implemented the issuance of “Ordering and Referring Provider Numbers” through CMS Form 855-O.
As of May 1, 2013, physicians and other providers (collectively “Providers”) who bill Medicare must list the NPI of the ordering/referring Provider on their claim forms in order to be paid for the technical component of imaging services, the technical component of clinical laboratory services, durable medical equipment and/or home health services. An issue arises when the referring/ordering Provider does not participate with Medicare, and does not have an active NPI.
The Affordable Care Act provides a solution by allowing Providers to enroll in Medicare for the sole purpose of ordering or referring covered services for their Medicare patients, even though the ordering/referring Provider cannot bill Medicare for the services (s)he provides. This limited enrollment is accomplished through CMS Form 855-O.
Providers who have opted-out of Medicare by filing the required affidavit and entering into acceptable patient contracts do not have to submit Form 855-O as they have NPIs, even though they are not allowed to bill under them during their opt-out period.
Has your practice implemented a compliance program or considered improving an existing one? Is it really necessary? Prior to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the necessity for physician practices to develop compliance plans was merely voluntary. However, the ACA will now require physician practices to have a fraud and abuse compliance plan in place as a condition of continuing to participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs. Because the government first published guidelines in the year 2000 for the voluntary use of compliance plans in physician practices and has subsequently enacted a mandate in the ACA for compliance plans, many physician practices are proactively implementing them. While this compliance plan mandate may be viewed by physicians as yet another administrative burden and expense to the practice, it can have many benefits as well. Implementing an effective compliance program can have the result of not only reducing liability risks, but can also allow a practice to reap monetary benefits. In fact, it could be more costly for the practice not to have one! read more
The popular conception in healthcare is that (1) a new law was passed, (2) it changed everything, and (3) in a bad way. Over time, however, it should get clearer that, while there was a law passed, the law alone is not driving changes to our healthcare system: it’s our own demographics and behavior. Most of the tax dollars currently fueling our healthcare system (and arguably our economy) are tied to an aging Boomer population that are soon to drop off the income producing cliff into the Medicare population. Bye bye income earners; hello ridiculous public healthcare expenditures. Though it is true that the timing for expanding public spending on healthcare (with the federal mandates aimed at employers and Medicaid eligibility expansion) could not be more poorly timed, the situation is more of a “Perfect Storm” than a surgical strike.
The financial stress of our changing population and of a historic utilization based healthcare system is causing our healthcare system to morph in every way. “Health insurance,” with increasing cost, copays and deductibles and reduced benefits, is quickly ceasing to look like your father’s 80/20 major medical plan and starting to look more like catastrophic coverage. Fee for service compensation is fast becoming “spoken” out of existence. There are more “pay for performance,” “case rate” and other outcome and risk based compensation models than you can shake a stick at. The simple truths are: payers have to deliver more with less; and patients have to bear more and more of their healthcare expenses. read more