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.
The 340B Discount Drug Program allows manufacturers participating in Medicaid to agree to provide outpatient drugs to certain designated clinics and hospitals at significantly reduced prices. The typical discount ranges from 30% to 50% off the drug’s list price. In turn those clinics/hospitals are able to reach more high-risk, high-need patients and provide more comprehensive services. Each designated clinic/hospital involved in the program is called a “covered entity.”
Covered entities may provide drugs purchased through the 340B Discount Drug Program to all eligible patients of that covered entity, regardless of a patient’s payer status. In order to be a “patient” of a specific covered entity, an individual (1) must have an established relationship with the covered entity such that the covered entity maintains records of the individual’s care; and (2) must receive care from a professional employed by or contracted with the covered entity such that responsibility for the care remains with the covered entity. Under the guidelines, an individual is not considered a patient of the covered entity if the individual only is dispensed a drug for the patient to take at home. read more
The indictments and regulatory activities that took place on April 9th were just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the crackdown on DME fraud, telemarketing and telemedicine operations.
In the weeks and months that have followed ‘Operation Brace Yourself’, healthcare providers (such as DME suppliers and telehealth physicians) and telemarketers allegedly involved in these activities have been subjected to a wide range of penalties from suspension of Medicare billing privileges to civil penalties and/or criminal charges. Here are some of the more serious recent DME, telemarketing and telemedicine related civil and criminal regulatory enforcement actions: read more
Not tomorrow, but relatively soon. And with a vengeance! We knew the current Competitive Bidding Program moratorium wouldn’t last forever, and that the floodgates that opened as of the first of this year would eventually be reined in.
Indeed, on March 7, 2019 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced a new round of Competitive Bidding, which will commence on January 1, 2021 and last through December 31, 2023.
The largest changes from previous rounds of Competitive Bidding that immediately stand out are: read more
Pharmacies using automated dialers for prescription refill reminders and relying on the statutory prescription refill reminder exemption to the TCPA’s prohibition on the use of automated dialing equipment as an impenetrable blanket against liability need to think again.
The case of Smith v. Rite Aid Corporation, 2018 WL 5828693 (W.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2018), revolves around a Rite Aid pharmacy’s use of a prescription refill reminder program to contact a patient to pick up a prescription. The pharmacy placed several calls per week intended to remind the patient to come into the store to pick up their prescription. However, an innocent bystander instead of the intended recipient of the mediation received the calls; either due to error in taking the phone number down or a due to the number being reassigned (which happens to thousands of numbers on a daily basis!). The unintended recipient of the multiple prescription refill reminder calls filed a class action lawsuit under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), which provides for statutory penalties of $500-$1,500, per call. read more
Regulatory compliance is a mandatory investment for any healthcare business owner looking to stay out of serious and personal legal peril, let alone one hoping to keep their company viable.
Yet there is seemingly an onslaught of providers that blatantly run afoul of many of these regulations, knowingly or not, or those that believe they may have found a loophole.
Concerning the latter, there is an important mantra that such DME and pharmacy providers should remember and live by: “[W]hat a provider cannot do directly, it cannot do indirectly through an intermediary.”
Marketing for DME – What exactly am I talking about?
DME providers enrolled with CMS (should) know they cannot solicit or ‘cold call’ Medicare Part B beneficiaries, per the Federal Anti-Solicitation Statute, and that they cannot offer anything of value to a potential patient that could induce them to utilize them as a provider, in accordance with the Beneficiary Inducement Statute. read more
In giving consideration to whether healthcare regulations apply to a proposed course of conduct it’s absolutely vital for a pharmacy to know its payor! This is especially so in the context of patient marketing and the various regulatory prohibitions on paying for healthcare referrals. Unfortunately, some pharmacy owners remain a bit mixed up about who the ultimate payor is for the medications they dispense, and, depending on that pharmacy’s billing operations, such mistakes can have devastating consequences.
A large part of this confusion might be attributed to the fact that in most instances, a pharmacy is not billing the ultimate payor directly (unlike a DMEPOS provider that may be directly submitting claims to Medicare Part B), but rather, the pharmacy is billing an intermediary entity called a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (“PBM”), which is usually a commercially run entity (non-government owned) that manages and adjudicates claims on behalf of health insurance plans that cover pharmacy benefits. read more
President Trump has stated that one of his greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. Alex Azar II, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), believes that while the United States’ system enabled it to become a world leader in the development of cutting edge drugs is also one that has not prioritized the needs of its own citizens.
On May 11, 2018 Trump directed his Administration to fix the injustice of high drug prices to ensure they come down, and unveiled his “blueprint” to put “American Patients First” though a 44 page document released on HHS’ website.
Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), previously largely unknown ‘middlemen’ in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, whose impact on our healthcare system is just slowly beginning to emerge from the shadows, have been taking a lot of flak from independent pharmacy owners, politicians, and the media for being a cause of the high drug costs that the Trump Administration has vowed will be reduced.
Like many entrepreneurial endeavors, owning a pharmacy requires careful planning and an astute risk versus reward analysis. However, unlike other industries, venturing into a healthcare business brings with it an entire new world of regulations, and rightly so. Pharmacies don’t sell widgets they sell prescription drugs, and to people whose well-being depends on it being done correctly. As such, there’s a host of state and federal laws a pharmacy must abide by, intended to safeguard patients and the healthcare system as a whole. Don’t let regulatory hurdles alone serve as an insurmountable deterrent from entering into what can be a profitable and fulfilling profession; proactive compliance is the key to success! Here’s an overview of the general steps necessary to become a pharmacy owner, be it from scratch or by acquiring an existing practice. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume it’s a community/retail pharmacy that will be located in Florida.
So what’s better – building from scratch or buying something that’s already out there? Typical lawyer answer – it depends! But I won’t stop there; here are some considerations that must be taken into account to make a proper decision: (1) how quickly does the business need to be up and running? It’s typically a faster process to commence business by acquiring an existing pharmacy rather than buying one, but that depends on (2) what is out there in the current marketplace? If a stock acquisition, all of the known and unknown liabilities will be inherited by the new owner; proper due diligence on the pharmacy’s past is essential. read more
Pharmacy Benefit Managers (“PBMs”) act as the intermediary between insurance companies and pharmacies. PBMs contract with insurance companies on one hand and with pharmacies on the other, connecting the two so that an insured’s pharmaceutical claims may be processed at the rates set forth in the agreement between the PBM and supplying pharmacy. PBMs are paid on both sides of this transaction – by the insurance company for managing their insureds’ benefits – and by the pharmacy for processing the claims that are submitted. Processing claims for private, state, and federally funded insurance programs, PBMs play an integral role in vast majority of prescription drugs dispensed in the United States.
Part of a PBMs function is to audit a pharmacy’s claims to ensure that the claims submitted are in compliance with the PBM and insurance companies’ requirements.
Typical audits come primarily in two forms (1) desktop audit; and (2) field/on-site audit. A selected pharmacy usually will receive a letter or fax from the PBM informing an audit will be taking place. read more