By Ryan Wesley Brown
In December, several members of the House and Senate expanded a bipartisan investigation into what is commonly referred to as “surprise billing.” Their investigation focuses on the practice of billing patients for medical services when patients receive care by out-of-network physicians at an in-network facility. The legislators sent letters to several of the largest insurers and physician staffing companies in order to gather more information about this practice.
In these letters, legislators sought further information about the reasons for surprise bills as well as “the current incentives behind the negotiations between providers and insurers.” The letters focus particularly on those services that are “outsourced” by hospitals to physician staffing companies. Generally, these physician staffing companies and hospitals will have negotiated separately with insurers, resulting in a discrepancy between insurance coverage for the facility versus the provider.
These letters follow earlier efforts by legislators to investigate private equity firms with ownership interests in physician staffing and emergency transportation companies.
At the time of this investigation, several states have implemented laws to prohibit or regulate this practice, and congressional debate on the topic is ongoing. The bipartisan support for these investigations suggests that there is some momentum in Congress for passing federal legislation, but it is not yet clear what form that will take and where partisan lines may be drawn.
Federal legislation in this area may ultimately regulate ERISA plans. This is significant because state laws are generally preempted by ERISA with respect to surprise billing and only some states have allowed ERISA plans to “opt in” to their surprise billing schemes.
We will continue to closely follow these developments at the federal level along with our ongoing analysis of state-level efforts to regulate surprise billing practices.
On November 15, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (“CMS”) published the 2020 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule in the Federal Register. Among the several changes outlined in the rule, this post specifically focuses on the changes to documentation requirements for Evaluation and Management (“E/M”) Visits. The first important note is the CMS will maintain the existing documentation requirements for all E/M codes for the year 2020.
However, in an effort to update the currently applicable guidelines (published in 1995 and 1997), the E/M documentation requirements will be revamped in 2021 for office visits only. In other words, the emergency department E/M code documentation will remain unchanged. But the focus of the E/M code documentation for office visits will be based solely on Medical Decision-Making (“MDM”) or E/M visit time with patient. Continue reading Insurers Preempting Upcoming Changes for E/M Visit Documentation
The relationship between privacy and mobile applications is coming into focus. On February 27, 2012, the California Attorney General entered into a Joint Statement of Principles with the six largest mobile application companies – Apple, Google, H-P, Microsoft, Amazon and RIM – regarding consumer privacy and transparency issues when data is collected through an app. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/press/pdfs/n2647_agreement.pdf. The Five Principles set parameters for good practice. Although not legally binding, the AG promises to review compliance in the fall, and may use California laws on privacy, false advertising, unfair business practices and others as enforcement tools. Since California often leads the way in privacy enforcement it is likely that other states will follow suit.
Continue reading California Spotlights Mobile Applications and Privacy: The Impact on the App (Including the mHealth) Industry
In a bold and seemingly unprecedented move, Aetna recently sued several California surgery centers for an alleged “fraudulent billing scheme”. The lawsuit alleges that the surgery centers induced physicians to refer patients to the surgery centers with promises that the patients would not have any financial responsibility for their coinsurance and deductibles. Aetna claims that the surgery centers then turned around and submitted charges for reimbursement that were artificially inflated driving up the cost of health insurance coverage.
Continue reading Aetna Sues Surgery Centers Over Billing Practices