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HHS Court Filings Indicate that Agency Intends to Preserve Copay Accumulators

December 4, 2023 | Blog | By Theresa Carnegie, Xavier Hardy, David Gilboa

As we wrote about in our prior blog post, on September 29, 2023, John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a federal rule that permitted health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to exclude drug manufacturer copayment (copay) assistance from a patient’s cost sharing limits. In two separate filings this week, HHS signaled that it intends to support the continued use of copay accumulator programs as the industry has been using them since 2021.
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Public Act No. 23-171: An Act Protecting Patients and Prohibiting Unnecessary Health Care Costs (Act) took effect in Connecticut on October 1, 2023. Under the Act, a pharmaceutical manufacturer (PM) that employs pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs) is required to register with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (Department) as a so-called “pharmaceutical marketing firm” (PMF). As discussed in our previous blog post, there are few jurisdictions in the United States that require registration or licensure of PSRs, and up until now, these obligations were placed on PSRs at the individual level. However, this new Connecticut law deviates from the typical regulatory scheme. In this post, we will provide an overview of the affirmative obligations that the Act imposes on PMs, PMFs, and PSRs and compare them to the laws, regulations, and ordinances of other United States jurisdictions.
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California Health Care Legislative Update: Fall 2023

November 7, 2023 | Blog | By Lara Compton, Pat Ouellette, Kathryn Edgerton

Governor Newsom signed 890 bills and vetoed 156 bills in 2023. Every year, California passes multiple laws that impact health care practitioners and health facilities and, as further described below, 2023 is no exception. From physician assistant supervision to nursing facility informed consent requirements, these laws will present various new compliance considerations for health care practitioners and health facilities as soon as January 1, 2024.
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In coordination with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed a much-anticipated framework to establish and manage “appropriate disincentives” for health care providers under the Information Blocking Rules. As described in more detail in the blog post, the proposed rule (Appropriate Disincentives Proposed Rule) includes proposed disincentives for (i) hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) participating in the Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program; health care providers eligible for Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) adjustments; and health care providers participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).
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U.S. health care attorneys, investors, and industry stakeholders are very familiar with the well-worn mantra that prescription drug and medical device companies are not allowed to “market” or “promote” their otherwise-authorized medical products for unapproved uses, also known as “off-label” uses. Over the past decade or so, this strict rule has been the subject of significant litigation and administrative proceedings seeking to disrupt and ultimately soften the government’s position in this long-standing, complex balancing of competing interests. What has been emerging is a more nuanced modern regime in which a drug or device sponsor’s First Amendment rights to speak responsibly and in a non-promotional way about its own products – as well as health care providers’ interests in gaining access to such information directly from the product sponsor to enhance patient care – are gaining greater recognition than ever before.
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Court Strikes Down HHS Rule on Copay Accumulators: Implications for Health Plans and PBMs

October 9, 2023 | Blog | By Theresa Carnegie, Xavier Hardy, David Gilboa

In a significant development with far-reaching implications for health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”), Justice John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has recently struck down a federal rule that allowed health plans to use copay accumulator programs to exclude drug manufacturer copay assistance from a patient’s out-of-pocket costs. This ruling has significant implications for the way health plans and PBMs operate and interact with patients and copay assistance programs.
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CMS Announces Drug List for Inflation Reduction Act Price Negotiations

August 29, 2023 | Alert | By Theresa Carnegie, Lauren Moldawer

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On August 15, 2023, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) issued a negative Advisory Opinion regarding a turnkey physician-owned entity (Newco) operated by an existing provider of intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) services. In reaching its determination, the OIG stated that Newco and its arrangements with the IONM Company would present a significant risk under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) primarily because it exhibits many indicia of a suspect contractual joint venture.
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January 1, 2024 is rapidly approaching, which is when California’s new Office of Health Care Affordability (OHCA) is set to begin advance regulatory review of certain health care mergers, acquisitions, affiliations, and other arrangements that result in material changes of assets, control, or governance. The law establishing OHCA left many details regarding the types of transactions that would be subject to review to be established by emergency regulations, which have been proposed and are available here. A public workshop will be held on August 15, 2023 (more information here), allowing for public comment and the written comment period will be open until August 31, 2023. The final emergency rulemaking package is expected to be submitted in October 2023.
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Health care providers furnishing dementia care should take note of a new payment model announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on July 31, 2023, called Guiding an Improved Dementia Experience (GUIDE). GUIDE is designed to improve dementia care, reduce strain on unpaid caregivers, and help people with dementia remain in their homes and communities. Providers participating in GUIDE receive monthly per-beneficiary per-month payments, can bill for respite care services, and are eligible for one-time payments to support infrastructure.
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Though there has been much speculation and commentary among industry stakeholders, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) have not yet begun enforcing statutory penalties associated with violations of the Information Blocking Rules. On July 3, 2023, OIG and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took a significant step toward enforcement of these penalties when they published long-awaited civil monetary penalty (CMP) final rule (CMP Final Rule) for certain Information Blocking Actors in the Federal Register.
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Homeopathic drugs have an unusual status in the United States. On the one hand, they are incorporated into the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) within the definition of “drug,” which specifically includes articles recognized in the official Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (a historical perspective can be found in this ScienceInsider article from 2015, when government scrutiny was beginning to increase). But on the other hand, there is growing consensus that the effectiveness of such products is not supported by scientific evidence and that they are, in many cases, mere placebos that do not actually treat the patient’s medical conditions; in the worst cases, they contain harmful ingredients that may cause serious injury.
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New California Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Laws

May 4, 2023 | Blog | By Lara Compton, Kathryn Edgerton, Ryan Rasdall

Governor Gavin Newsom signed multiple pieces of mental health treatment-related legislation into law in 2022 that have or will begin to go into effect this year. These laws address mental health commitment timing and hearing rights, involuntary mental health treatment, the CARE program, and substance use disorder treatment client rights. This is a good time for relevant facilities and groups to audit the effectiveness of updated policies and evaluate and address any operational issues that may have cropped up during implementation.
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Supreme Court Justices Agree to Hear Second FCA Issue This Term

January 19, 2023 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury, Kevin McGinty

As many of our readers are likely aware, last week the Supreme Court agreed to hear a second False Claims Act (FCA) issue this term. Having previously accepted and heard argument on a case concerning the government’s authority to dismiss an FCA whistleblower case after declining to intervene, the Court has now granted certiorari to hear two cases addressing what constitutes a “knowing” violation of the FCA. Hanging in the balance is the fate of two lower court decisions that endorsed a powerful defense to FCA liability.
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule late last year to harmonize the standard it would apply for providers to identify and refund overpayments with the “knowledge” standard under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law. Though this proposal purportedly ensures that a lack of “reasonable diligence” cannot create civil liability, it would create significant confusion as to how CMS expects providers and Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) to “identify” and quantify potential overpayments before triggering the 60-day period to refund them. The proposed rule, if adopted, would likely become part of the framework for the Department of Justice and Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General when evaluating potential liability for the alleged failure to return overpayments.
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) designed to improve equity within the MSSP and increase the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries in accountable care arrangements. The changes are included in the Calendar Year 2023 Physician Fee Schedule final rule (Final Rule), which is scheduled for publication on November 18, 2022.
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The health omnibus trailer SB-184, which created the Office of Health Care Affordability (OHCA), is set to usher in a significant change in California’s health care regulatory landscape. In this post, we provide a preliminary review of the material changes that are set to begin in 2024.
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This blog highlights a recently unsealed qui tam case brought by relator GNGH2, Inc against 15 entities that allegedly operated nursing homes in the Bronx, New York and in Florida and various health care staffing agencies.
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Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on False Claims Act Pleading Requirements

October 25, 2022 | Blog | By Brian Dunphy, Laurence Freedman, Ashley Markson

The Supreme Court recently denied petitions for writs of certiorari in three closely watched cases where parties asked the Court to clarify the heightened pleading standard governing fraud allegations under the False Claims Act (FCA). The heightened pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) require that, for allegations of fraud (which include FCA claims), “a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Among other things, a cause of action for “false claims” must allege the defendants submitted false claims, or caused false claims to be submitted, to the government. The crux of the issue petitioners asked the Court to address is whether, to meet Rule 9(b)’s requirements for FCA causes of action, relators must allege in the complaint specific details of false claims allegedly submitted to the government for payment. This issue typically arises in qui tam cases under the FCA after the government declines to intervene.  
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In a significant win for False Claims Act (FCA) defendants, the Eighth Circuit recently reversed a district court decision that defendants violated the FCA premised on violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). The Eighth Circuit adopted a stricter but-for causation standard for FCA claims based on AKS violations, holding that, in order to prevail on these claims, the government must prove that FCA defendants would not have submitted claims for particular items or services to Medicare or Medicaid absent the illegal kickbacks.
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