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Last week, the Third Circuit joined several other appellate courts in finding that medical opinions related to medical necessity of hospice services can be subject to scrutiny and found to be “false” for purposes of proving a violation of the False Claims Act (FCA) in U.S. ex rel. Druding v. Care Alternatives. Our Health Care Enforcement Defense Group has been closely tracking recent qui tam cases brought under the FCA based on allegations that health care services or procedures lacked the requisite medical necessity, including the conclusion of the landmark AseraCare case last week.  As we’ve previously discussed on the blog, several district courts across the country have determined that differences of opinions between physicians and medical experts alone cannot be used to prove the FCA’s falsity requirement. However, some appellate courts have reached different conclusions. The Third Circuit’s decision last week in Care Alternatives joins those appellate courts in rejecting this argument and finding that “a difference of medical opinion is enough evidence to create a triable dispute of fact regarding FCA falsity.”
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Following years of discussion, on March 5, 2020, U.S. Representatives Larry Buchson (R-IN) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) and U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced identical versions of the Verifying Accurate and Leading-edge IVCT Development (VALID) Act in both chambers of Congress. The bipartisan legislation closely tracks existing medical device laws, with some notable exceptions, discussed below and in a prior post. If enacted, many regulatory elements familiar to in vitro diagnostic (IVD) and other medical device manufacturers would be applied to clinical laboratories that develop their own tests, commonly known as laboratory developed tests (LDTs). The bill also includes elements that are priorities for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including a program conceptually similar to pre-certification, third-party review, and Collaborative Communities. Unlike previously-circulated discussion drafts, the introduced bills include specific language designed to address public health emergencies, including COVID-19.
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Some clinical trial sponsors and principal investigators will be digging through their archives soon as a result of a recent ruling in the case of Seife v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, case number 1:18-cv-11462 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). In Seife, the plaintiffs – an investigative journalist and a former Associate Commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – challenged a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) final rule that implemented clinical trial reporting requirements mandated by the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA).
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FDA’s Evolving Response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak

March 4, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson, Joanne Hawana

Within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), many agencies have responsibility for responding to public health emergencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as its name implies, is at the forefront of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak as the government seeks to control and prevent the spread of the virus in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), particularly the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are also involved, primarily conducting research into the sources, cause, and means of transmission of the new virus and coordinating vaccine development efforts. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for assuring the safety and effectiveness of medical products and therefore has oversight over any clinical trials for promising coronavirus treatments (drugs, vaccines, devices), as well as authority to authorize the marketing of any such product. The agency oversees the drug supply chain and monitors drug and device shortages. This blog post covers steps that FDA has taken to mitigate potential drug and device shortages related to coronavirus and to otherwise respond to the coronavirus situation.
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Landmark AseraCare Case Finally Ends in Settlement

March 2, 2020 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury, Brian Dunphy, Laurence Freedman

As many of our readers know, the AseraCare case was closely watched over the last several years because of its significance to efforts by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to allege that submission of claims for services lacking “medical necessity” violate the False Claims Act (FCA) as well as to efforts by providers to defend such cases. On Wednesday, we learned that the AseraCare case has reached its dramatic conclusion with an agreement to resolve $200 million in alleged damages for the agreed amount, as reported by AseraCare, of $1 million.
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As a continuation of our series on the Contract Year 2021 and 2022 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program, Medicaid Program (the “Proposed Rule”) released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) earlier this month, this blog focuses on CMS’s codification of its recent guidance on supplemental benefits, including guidance on Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (“SSBCI”). It also discusses CMS’s proposed changes to the medical loss ratio (“MLR”) to account for changes in supplemental benefits.
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As regular readers of our blog know, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) intensified its push for drug pricing transparency in 2019. In 2020, we see a continuation of those efforts, and their impacts on the 340B program are now starting to reveal themselves. On January 1, 2019, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) finally implemented the ceiling price and manufacturer civil monetary penalties (CMPs) regulations that the agency proposed in 2017. The regulations implement certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act and were initially scheduled to go into effect on February 28, 2017, but were repeatedly delayed.
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Health Care Data Breaches Are Increasing Both in Number and Cost

February 20, 2020 | Blog | By Sarah Beth Kuyers

It feels like we’ve been seeing a lot more health care breaches caused by hackers and other IT security incidents recently, and there’s a good reason why: a recent report by cloud security company Bitglass confirms that both the number of breaches and individuals affected by breaches caused by hackers and IT incidents grew significantly last year.  Bitglass analyzed data from the breach portal, affectionately known as the “Wall of Shame,” published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  Pursuant to the HITECH Act, HHS is required to post a list of all reported breaches that affect 500 or more individuals. OCR classifies the types of breaches reported on the Wall of Shame, and the "Hacking/IT Incident" category includes a variety of breaches, including malicious intrusion, malware, ransomware, phishing, and general IT security failures.
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Closing the Orphan Drug Act Loophole

February 18, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation to eliminate the “orphan drug loophole.” Current law allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant seven years of market exclusivity to a drug manufacturer if the drug is intended to treat a disease or condition affecting fewer than 200,000 patients in the U.S., or less commonly, if the manufacturer cannot expect to recover the costs of developing and marketing a drug. In some cases, even if the drug developer meets the orphan drug criterion of having no hope of recovering the costs, the drug does actually become profitable—some significantly so—but competitors are still barred from entering the market with a lower-cost alternative during the 7-year exclusivity period that exists by operation of law. To combat this issue, the recently introduced Senate bill (as well as a nearly-identical House bill introduced in October 2019) targets a loophole that allows market exclusivity under the Orphan Drug Act to be extended for future versions of the same drug without the drug's manufacturer having to show that the drug remains unprofitable.
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In CMS’s recently released proposed rule (the Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Contract Year 2021 and 2022 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program, Medicaid Program, Medicare Cost Plan Program and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) (the “Proposed Rule”) and supplemental HPMS memos, CMS is proposing several significant changes to its star rating system and to its methodology for reviewing plan past performance. This blog post highlights the key details of the proposed changes to the star rating system and past performance methodology and their potential impact on Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.
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As the coronavirus remains to be an active outbreak with cases increasing within the United States, this is a good time to review how HIPAA applies in a public health emergency, including its restrictions and flexibility in these types of situations. Accordingly, last week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a helpful bulletin on how the HIPAA Privacy Rule comes into play with the coronavirus outbreak and other public health emergencies.
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Massachusetts Considers Drug Pricing Transparency Laws

February 10, 2020 | Blog | By David Chorney

Like many states, Massachusetts is considering drug pricing transparency legislation. The legislation would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose certain pricing information.  Governor Charlie Baker has proposed legislation which would expand upon current reporting requirements for drug manufacturers in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation which includes drug price transparency requirements and increased regulatory oversight of the pharmaceutical industry in Massachusetts. 
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This week, the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule (the Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Contract Year 2021 and 2022 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program, Medicaid Program, Medicare Cost Plan Program and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), the 2021 Medicare Advantage and Part D Advance Notice of Methodological Changes for Medicare Advantage Capitation Rates and Part C and Part D Payment Policies (Part II), and multiple Health Plan Management System (HPMS) memos and notices covering topics including Medicare Advantage (MA) benefits, Medicare Part D bidding, and suspension of its Past Performance Review Methodology.  
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Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

February 5, 2020 | Blog | By Rachel Irving Pitts

Artificial Intelligence is a growing part of our day-to-day life. And AI promises to improve our health care system. ML Strategies Vice President Christian Tomatsu Fjeld recently sat down with other experts for a panel discussion hosted by the San Francisco Business Times to discuss AI and some business and policy considerations across multiple industries. This viewpoint considers some of the impacts on health care specifically, and links out to the panel's discussion.
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Continuing progress on the initiatives announced in its Biosimilars Action Plan in July 2018 (see our prior post here), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released information about several important biosimilar-related actions on February 3, 2020. These recent moves make clear that FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who was confirmed and sworn in to his new role at the tail end of 2019, is continuing to focus agency resources on the Biosimilars and Drug Competition Action Plans developed under the leadership of his predecessor, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
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As discussed in an earlier blog post, the process for reauthorizing human medical product user fee programs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for another 5-year period is getting started this year. Below we highlight some changes made to the programs when they were last reauthorized through the 2017 Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act (FDARA) (P.L. 115-52) and consider what could be included in the upcoming user fee reauthorization package.
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The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) recently issued a favorable Advisory Opinion regarding a proposal by a pharmaceutical manufacturer (Requestor) to provide financial assistance for travel, lodging, and other expenses to certain patients receiving a cell therapy that it offers (the Arrangement). The OIG concluded that the Arrangement could potentially violate the Anti-Kickback Statute as well as the prohibition on beneficiary inducement in the Civil Monetary Penalties Law (the Beneficiary Inducement CMP) but ultimately declined to impose administrative sanctions.
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Health Plan Transparency Rule: Comment Period Ends This Week

January 29, 2020 | Blog | By Lauren Moldawer

In November 2019, the Department of Health, along with the Department of Treasury and Department of Labor (“Departments”) released a proposed rule requiring group health plans and health insurance issuers in the individual and group markets to disclose cost-sharing information to enrollees (“Proposed Rule”). Earlier this month, the Departments extended the deadline for comments on Proposed Rule to January 29, 2020. To date and with one day remaining in the comment period, the Departments have already received over 20,000 comments on the Proposed Rule.
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FDA User Fees: How Do They Work?

January 28, 2020 | Blog | By Aaron Josephson

A history of FDA human medical product user fee programs, including those for prescription drugs (PDUFA), generic drugs (GDUFA), biosimilars (BsUFA), and medical devices (MDUFA), their negotiation and reauthorization, and how manufacturers and patients can participate and get involved in the negotiations.
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Recap of Our Health Law and Policy Year-in-Review Posts for 2019

January 27, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana

Over the past month or so, our Health Care Team has published a number of posts examining important developments and trends in health law and policy during 2019, as well as providing some thoughts on what we expect to see in 2020. Our posts cover a range of topics, including health care enforcement trends, HIPAA updates, priorities from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and drug pricing initiatives. In case you missed one, below are links to all of our annual review posts (plus a few extras).
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