The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently cited as “excessive” a 12% insurance rate increase proposed by Everest Insurance under a Pennsylvania insurance plan. HHS’ finding that the rate increase was excessive was the first such move under the Affordable Care Act, which gives HHS the authority to review insurance rate increases over 10% and cite them as excessive. Although the Affordable Care Act does not give HHS the authority to sanction insurers attempting to push through excessive rate increases, the hope is that publicizing the excessive rate increases will increase transparency and accountability.
Read HHS’ full news release here.
vIn a highly anticipated decision, on November 14, 2011 the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in three cases on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”): National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS, et al.; Florida, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services; and Department of Health & Human Services et al. v. Florida, et al. The Court’s review will address four fundamental questions: (1) whether the ACA’s individual mandate is constitutional, (2) whether the individual mandate may be severed from the ACA if it is unconstitutional, (3) whether the claim brought by the opponents to the mandate is barred by another federal statute, and (4) whether the ACA’s expansion to Medicaid coverage was valid. The Court has granted a total of four and a half hours of oral argument for the three issues, which is highly unusual. This decision will be monumental for the future of the ACA, and will be closely followed by Duane Morris attorneys.
View the United States Supreme Court’s order here.
On November 8, 2011, in the latest scrimmage regarding the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the mandate’s constitutionality. The Court found that Congress could create “national solutions to national problems, no matter how local–or seemingly passive–their individual origins,” and that the individual mandate was therefore constitutional because it was within Congress’ authority.
On November 10, 2011, the United States Supreme Court will hold a private conference to decide whether to hear the challenges to the ACA.
Read the entire decision here.
On November 1, 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the 2012 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System Final Rule with comment period (“Final Rule”). The Final Rule, effective January 1, 2012, addresses the 2012 hospital outpatient prospective payment system including payment policies, the process for physician-owned hospitals seeking an exemption on the prohibition on expansion, and changes to patient notification requirements.
Continue reading 2012 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System Final Rule Released by CMS
Yesterday afternoon the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the long anticipated final Accountable Care Organization (ACO) regulations, after considering the nearly 1200 comments submitted in response to the earlier proposed regulations. ACOs, created under the Affordable Care Act, are a model of health care that focuses on collaboration between providers across a continuum of care including different health care settings. The new regulations set forth the specifics for the program including payment mechanisms through which providers will be compensated for care provided through the integrated ACO model, as well as performance requirements for participating providers. The first ACOs will start operating in 2012.
Continue reading CMS Releases Final ACO Regulations
Pursuant to a mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently completed its review of the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which allows certain health care entities such as federal grantees and hospitals to receive discounted outpatient drugs. There are currently over 16,500 entities that participate in the 340B program.
Continue reading Government Accountability Office Reports that 340B Program Needs Greater Oversight
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently announced the launch of its new Primary Care initiative to provide bonuses to primary care doctors for improvement of care coordination and cost efficiency. The goal of the initiative, created under the Affordable Care Act, is to facilitate care that is focused on the patient, coordination, and higher quality. The bonuses will be offered through commercial and state health insurance plans, and will come in the form of monthly fees above and beyond Medicare fees received for patient care. HHS has identified five primary areas that the fees will support including personalized care plans for chronically ill patients, 24-hour access to care and health information, preventive care, patient and family participation in care, and coordination among providers.
Continue reading HHS Announces Launch of Primary Care Bonus Initiative
HHS recently announced its expectation that Medicare Advantage premiums will fall approximately four percent in 2012, with enrollment expected to increase by 10 percent. This drop in premiums has been supported by the Affordable Care Act, which allowed CMS to prevent substantial cost increases or program cuts through elimination of co-pays and deductibles for Medicare-covered preventive services and additional discounts for Medicare beneficiaries that reach the prescription coverage “donut hole.” CMS is also offering high-quality performance incentives, including financial rewards and continuous marketing and enrollment to Five-Star Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.
Continue reading Medicare Advantage Premiums Falling and Enrollment Up for 2012
Providers, including hospitals, physicians and non-physician practitioners still have time to contribute to the growing accountable care model by submitting to CMS a Letter of Intent to participate in the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative to CMS. CMS is seeking applicants who are willing to participate in one of the four models for episode-based payment for acute and post-acute care created under the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative. The initiative will start in 2012 and is geared toward aligning incentives between providers to improve coordination throughout episodes of care. The four models are described in detail here: http://innovations.cms.gov/documents/pdf/Fact-Sheet-Bundled-Payment-FINAL82311.pdf.
Continue reading CMS Asking Providers to Submit Letter of Intent to Participate in Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Initiative
On September 15, 2011, HHS awarded $10 million in Accountable Care Act funds to 129 organizations seeking to become community health centers, which are geared toward meeting the primary health needs in economically distressed or other vulnerable areas. The funds were specifically directed toward organizations that seek to provide primary healthcare services, or to expand existing services, to vulnerable populations. Likewise, the development of the community health centers will boost local economic growth and support local job markets. For more information on the community health centers program, see http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/index.html.