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GAO Studies Use of PBMs in Medicare Part D

August 27, 2019 | Blog | By Bridgette Keller

GAO recently released a report analyzing the use of pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) and efforts to manage drug spending and use in the Medicare Part D program. Importantly, the report found that use of PBMs reduced Part D spending in 2016 by 20%, from $145 billion to $116 billon, through drug price rebates.
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The proposed 2020 Outpatient Prospective Payment (OPPS) rule was published on August 9, 2019.  Buried in the 819 pages of proposed changes and justifications, CMS took another swing at cutting Medicare Part B reimbursement rates for 340B drugs.   CMS opened its discussion of 340B provisions in the 2020 OPPS proposed rule by first stating it was keeping in effect the 340B reimbursement cut first implemented though the 2018 OPPS rule. The 2018 OPPS rule slashed most hospitals’ Part B reimbursement for 340B drugs from Average Sales Price (ASP) plus 6% down to ASP less 22.5%, a reduction of almost 30%.
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Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued its 2019 “Solutions to Reduce Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in HHS Programs: Top Unimplemented Recommendations.” The OIG releases a version of this report each year outlining its top 25 unimplemented recommendations to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse (“FWA”) among HHS programs. This blog post focuses on those recommendations specific to Medicare Part C and Part D for 2019.
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Senate Finance Committee Passes Drug Pricing Bill

July 30, 2019 | Blog | By Theresa Carnegie, Ellyn Sternfield, Matt Mora, Michelle Caton, Eli Greenspan

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman and Ranking Member (respectively) of the Senate Finance Committee, have fired the latest shot in Congress’s ongoing battle against high drug prices. Last week, the Senators introduced their much-anticipated proposal to lower drug prices: a chairman’s mark called the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) of 2019.

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OIG Reports Focus on Hospice Quality of Care

July 25, 2019 | Blog | By Sarah Beth Kuyers

Earlier this month, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) released two reports regarding its concerns and recommendations related to quality of care at hospice facilities. These reports follow a portfolio report that the OIG released last summer regarding significant vulnerabilities in the Medicare hospice benefit. In these reports, the OIG outlines several quality of care issues and recommends several ways that CMS should strengthen safeguards, all of which may further increase enforcement in an already heavily scrutinized area.
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On July 11, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its Home Health Prospective Payment System proposed rule for 2020. The proposed rule implements a previously finalized reimbursement methodology for Home Health Agencies (HHAs) called the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM). The proposal reflects CMS’s continued efforts to shift towards value-based payment models in the Medicare program.
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Trump Administration Withdraws Proposed Rebate Rule

July 11, 2019 | Blog | By Susan Berson, Theresa Carnegie, Matt Mora

In an unexpected turn of events, the Trump administration has apparently reversed course and has withdrawn the proposed rule that would have amended the discount safe harbor under the Anti-Kickback Statute to eliminate protections for certain drug rebates paid by pharmaceutical manufacturers. “Based on careful analysis and thorough consideration, the president has decided to withdraw the rebate rule. The Trump administration is encouraged by continuing bipartisan conversations about legislation to reduce outrageous drug costs imposed on the American people, and President Trump will consider using any and all tools to ensure that prescription drug costs will continue to decline," White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
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On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Azar v. Allina Health Services. The case involved a challenge by hospitals over whether the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) was required to proceed through notice-and-comment rulemaking before promulgating a retroactive Medicare rate calculation methodology for Disproportionate Share (DSH) payments to hospitals. In a 7-1 decision by Justice Gorsuch, the Court ruled in favor of the hospitals, holding that the new rate calculation established a substantive legal standard, and therefore notice-and-comment was required under the Medicare Act.
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CMS’s New Part D Policies Address the Opioid Epidemic

April 3, 2019 | Blog | By Daryl Berke

In recent months, we’ve highlighted several changes that CMS is implementing to combat opioid misuse. In this post, we focus on CMS’s new Medicare Part D Opioid Overutilization Policies.


Last year, CMS published a road map outlining the agency’s approach to addressing the nation’s opioid epidemic. CMS’s strategy has three prongs: (1) prevent new cases of opioid use disorder (OUD); (2) expand treatment for individuals with OUDs; and (3) leverage data to improve the agency’s prevention and treatment options.


In line with that strategy, the agency published an article detailing its Medicare Part D Opioid Overutilization Policies for 2019. The policies focus on improving communication between and among Part D plans (PDPs) and providers to better coordinate efforts to prevent opioid misuse. As CMS points out, “Providers are in the best position to identify and manage potential opioid overutilization in the Medicare Part D population. Medicare prescription drug plans can assist providers by alerting them about unusual utilization patterns in prescription claims.”
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CMS Continues to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

February 21, 2019 | Blog | By Bridgette Keller

Last month, we highlighted a few of the changes CMS proposes in Parts I and II of the Advance Notice and Draft Call Letter. Here, we take a look at CMS’s next steps to combat opioid misuse. CMS is rolling out several new initiatives in this space this year and next.
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As of January 30, 2019, CMS lifted its temporary provider enrollment moratoria for home health agencies in Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Texas. The Enrollment Moratorium had prevented new home health agencies in these states from enrolling in Medicare and Medicaid.
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CMS Proposes Changes to Medicare Advantage Program for CY 2020

February 6, 2019 | Blog | By Xavier Hardy, Bridgette Keller

CMS recently proposed several important changes for the Medicare Advantage (MA) program that relate to payment, benefit design, and new actions to combat the opioid crisis. Here, we take a look at the proposed changes to risk adjustment payments, supplemental benefits, and a value-based insurance design model; all working toward CMS’s goal of maximizing coverage and competition. In a prior post we discussed CMS’s Part D Payment Modernization Model and stay tuned for our upcoming discussion of CMS’s next steps to combat opioid misuse.
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On January 15, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Azar v. Allina Health Services, a prominent case involving a challenge by hospitals over when Medicare’s instructions to its contractors impact a “substantive legal standard” and thus must be issued through formal rulemaking. As discussed in our prior post, the Court is reviewing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision that threw out a Medicare rate calculation methodology for Disproportionate Share Payments (DSH) to hospitals adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its failure to undergo notice and comment rulemaking. During oral arguments, the Court grappled with a broader question: what is the legal standard for when HHS must use formal rulemaking and not “interpretative” instructions to its contractors in the administration of the Medicare program?
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HHS Proposes to Remove Drug Rebate Protections

February 1, 2019 | Blog | By Susan Berson, Theresa Carnegie, Tara E. Dwyer, Matt Mora

On January 31, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule that would amend the discount safe harbor under the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) to eliminate protection for certain drug discounts paid by manufacturers to plan sponsors or their pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) under Medicare Part D, and Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs). Additionally, the proposed rule would create two new safe harbors to protect: (i) certain point-of-sale discounts on prescription pharmaceutical products; and (ii) certain fixed fee service arrangements between manufacturers and PBMs.
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On January 18, 2019, CMS announced the Part D Payment Modernization Model, aimed at incentivizing Part D sponsors to reduce catastrophic phase federal reinsurance subsidy spending.  The model, which will begin January 2020, is a voluntary, five-year model open to eligible standalone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) and Medicare Advantage-Prescription Drug Plans (MA-PDs) that are approved to participate. 
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Arizona 1115 Medicaid Waiver Update

January 22, 2019 | Blog | By Emma Zimmerman

In 2014, Arizona expanded Medicaid to the new adult group. Following the expansion, Arizona submitted, and CMS approved, an 1115 waiver extension to create the Choice, Accountability, Responsibility, Engagement (CARE) program. CARE adds premiums and cost sharing, healthy behavior incentive programs, and flexible spending accounts, called CARE Accounts, for certain adults in the expansion population. The program is approved to run through September 30, 2021.
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OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Routine Waiver of Federal Cost-Sharing Obligations

January 18, 2019 | Blog | By Karen Lovitch, Cassandra Paolillo

In an Advisory Opinion posted earlier this week, the OIG gave the green light to a charitable pediatric clinic’s routine waiver of patient cost-sharing amounts on the basis.  The OIG’s analysis hinged on several factors that, taken together, led the OIG to refrain from exercising its enforcement discretion.
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Over the last few weeks, we published a number of posts examining important developments and trends in 2018 as well as what we expect to see in 2019. Our posts cover a range of topics, including enforcement and litigation, HIPAA and the FDA. In case you missed one, below are links to all of our Year In Review posts.
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The Buzz About Block Grants

January 16, 2019 | Blog

With the recent scoop from Politico that the Trump Administration is considering giving states the ability to implement Medicaid block grants, there has been considerable speculation on what the Administration is planning. Although we don’t know exactly what the Administration has in mind, there increasing skepticism on the legality of this move. So we are laying out the fundamentals and past history as we await the final guidance.
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ML Strategies Health Care Preview - January 14, 2019

January 15, 2019 | Blog | By Eli Greenspan

While Congress and the Administration are dug in entering the third week of a partial government shutdown, both branches of government are looking to shape other policy areas in 2019. The Administration is reportedly looking at reforming the Medicaid program and Congress is ramping up its oversight of prescription drug prices.

We cover this and what it will mean for this Congress in this week's preview.
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