Health Care Is Not One Word Or One Person0

This articleHealth Care Is Not One Word Or One Person, first appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal on February 24, 2016.

Health care is not one word or one person

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde

With the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court has lost a brilliant legal scholar and formidable protector of the U.S. Constitution. Scalia both earned respect and instilled fear during his 30-year tenure supervising America’s political climate. While his legacy ought to take precedence during this time of mourning, widespread panic over the future of health care reform threatens to overshadow the passing of Scalia the individual in favor of highlighting the ways in which his unexpected death may advance partisan agendas.

History has shown that a single justice can have a dramatic effect on the formation and defense of policy. In 1896, Justice John Marshall Harlan disagreed with those Supreme Court justices who believed that the Constitution allowed “equal but separate” public transportation accommodations for black and white citizens. His solitary dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson argued otherwise, stating that the Constitution did not create a “superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens” in the United States, and that the Constitution was itself color-blind. Fifty-eight years later, a unified Supreme Court made history with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in holding that “separate but equal” had no place in public education.Read more →

Health Care’s Adventures in Wonderland0

This article by Craig B. Garner[1] and Jessica Weizenbluth[2], Health Care’s Adventures in Wonderland: Provider Agreements for Electronic Records, was first published in February 2016 in California Health Law News.

iStock_000068974059_Large“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”[3]

I.  INTRODUCTION

Y93.J1: Activity, piano playing[4]

Today’s health care provides its own spin on the word “complex,”[5] while at the same time forging possible paths to what may be “unwinnable” scenarios.[6] For the modern physician[7], the universe within which he or she exists requires updated definitions for words such as “complex” and “challenging,” especially as that “perfect storm”[8] also known as health care reform continues to age. Somewhere in between the 2015 Physician Quality Reporting System (“PQRS”)[9], the Physician Value Based Payment Modifying Policies (“VBP”)[10] and tenth revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (also known as ICD-10),[11] physicians find themselves still struggling to adopt electronic health records (“EHR”) in practice.[12]

As technology continues to evolve, there remains a general landscape with which those in the health care field must familiarize themselves. Even from this challenging vantage point, providers still have opportunities to bolster their position and practice their craft as they continue down the digital path and adopt an EHR system for which the Federal Government established incentive payments.[13]Read more →

Killing HIPAA0

This article, Killing HIPAA, first appeared in California Healthcare News on February 8, 2016.

iStock_000012752406_Large“When truth is buried, it grows. It chokes. It gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.” -Emile Zola

The issue of confidentiality when applied to modern American healthcare is fraught with differing objectives, creating myriad complications as the needs of each attempt to merge together in their search for common ground and compromise. To arrive at a sense of clarity, we must look to those exceptions that define the fundamental system of rules at the heart of our nation’s health care structure, as the conflicting areas to be found within shed light on the vulnerabilities of the concept as a whole. The demands of federal statutes aside, gray areas abound, since attorneys can breach the duty of confidentiality in response to threats against life or to prevent substantial bodily harm, physicians must answer to certain matters of public health before protecting the secrets of the patient, and spouses can freely tell all when it comes to the actions of their partner, even if the words between them remain protected. … Read more →

The Abyss of Managed Care0

This article, the Abyss of Managed Care[1]. was first published on June 24 2015, in the State Bar of California Business Law News, Issue 2 (2015).

iStock_000006020673Large“God hates violence. He has ordained that all men fairly possess their property, not seize it.”[2]

Modern American health care affords every hospital patient the inalienable right to emergency treatment,[3] although this same system has yet to create any parallel infrastructure beyond the clinical delivery of such care. While today’s emergency department physicians across the nation have access to cutting-edge, integrated technology-based tools[4] designed to improve patient outcomes by combining advances in medicine with evidence-based clinical guidelines,[5] the science of overseeing managed care patients often appears to be light years removed from the era in which it was born.[6] As a result, American health care has become a system of fundamental brilliance that finds itself limited by gross inefficiencies,[7] a combination that has led to a symbolic, if not actual, nationwide revolution.[8]

At their core, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act[9] and the amendments set forth in the 2010 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act[10] address the concept of patient access, one of health care’s greatest challenges in recent years.[11] Notwithstanding the 961[12] regulatory pages known as the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,”[13] the relationship between the patient and the entity responsible for covering the cost of care has received surprisingly less attention in comparison.[14]

In California, the recent decision in Children’s Hospital Central California v. Blue Cross of California[15] has been seen by many as the culmination, and by some as the resolution, of conflict between providers and payers within the managed care system.[16] This article focuses on events preceding the Children’s Hospital Central California decision, how the managed care system of private payers has evolved over the past 40 years, and the challenges faced by payers and providers simply trying to coexist.Read more →

HIPAA: Society’s Modern Day Prohibition0

This article, HIPAA: Society’s Modern Day Prohibition, was first published in California Healthcare News on May 4, 2015.

HIPAA: Society’s Modern Day Prohibition
HIPAA: Society’s Modern Day Prohibition

Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

Codified in American Law through Article Three of the United States Constitution and evolving through changing times by way of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, the right to trial by jury remains a sacrosanct keystone of our nation’s legal system. Even so, there exists a degree of delicacy with which the judicial system evaluates the facts of any given case, and all involved must remain mindful that at times pertinent information may not be available for consideration. Significant violations of judicial filtering may result in the end of deliberations, known more abrasively as a “mistrial.”

The judicial system understands all too well that information cannot be honestly disregarded or ignored once heard, and does its best to account for the imperfections of the human mind. To enforce the Constitutional tenets of trust and truth upon which the faith of a jury must rest, today’s health care providers find themselves held to a unique standard of scrutiny when dealing with issues of privacy.Read more →

CMS Quality Measures0

iStock_000016711099Small-300x225This Health Law e-Bulletin, published on March 20, 2015, summarizes the 2015 National Impact Assessment of CMS Quality Measures Report (the “2015 Impact Report”) (as mandated by section 3014(b), as amended by section 10304, of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”)).

What if one day the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) changed the ways in which the Federal Government taxed individuals? For example, rather than assessing tax liability on the basis of income, what if the IRS assessed taxes on the basis of an individual’s contribution to society, or on his or her general demeanor or overall perception as “good” or “bad”? Under the ACA, Medicare has started to transform in such an historical manner, reimbursing hospitals now (and physicians soon) on the basis of performance, efficiency, and patient satisfaction, gradually replacing the previous system that structured reimbursement on the costs involved in the delivery of health care. The 2015 Impact Report represents the second assessment by CMS since the ACA became the law in 2010, this time focusing on 25 CMS reporting programs and nearly 700 quality measures (using data from 2006 to 2013).

The ACA mandated a push toward high-quality, evidence-based care for patients, with top priorities including (1) making care safer, (2) ensuring that each person and family are engaged, (3) promoting effective communication and coordination of care, (4) promoting the most effective prevention and treatment practices, (5) working with communities to promote wide use of best practices to enable healthy living and (6) making quality care affordable. The 2015 Impact Report provides a 262-page scorecard for those who may be interested in the ACA’s success during its first few years.

CMS is committed to quality measurement as it transforms the very nature of modern American health care. The 2015 Impact Report illustrates how providers, private payers, and communities can work together to achieve the greatest impact on quality. As stated in the 2015 Impact Report: “Everyone receiving healthcare in the nation is likely to benefit from CMS programs and initiatives, as healthcare professionals engage in delivery system reform to achieve better care for patients, better health for the U.S. population and lower costs through quality improvement.” The complete 2015 Impact Report can be found here.

OIG Report on Medicare and CAHs0

The following E-Bulletin discussing a recent OIG Report on Medicare and CAHs was published on March 18, 2015, by the State Bar of California, Business Law Section’s Health Law Committee.

iStock_000009499779SmallThe following summarizes a recent report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that found Medicare could have saved billions over a 6-year period at Critical Access Hospitals if swing-bed services were reimbursed using the skilled nursing facility prospective payment system rate.

To ensure that beneficiaries in rural areas have access to a range of hospital services, Congress established the Rural Flexibility Program, which created Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs). CAHs have broad latitude in the types of inpatient and outpatient services they provide, including “swing-bed” services, which are the equivalent of services performed at a skilled nursing facility (SNF). Medicare reimburses CAHs at 101 percent of their reasonable costs for providing services to beneficiaries rather than at rates set by Medicare’s prospective payment system (PPS) or Medicare’s fee schedules.

For a hospital to be designated as a CAH, it must meet certain Conditions of Participation (CoPs). Some of these CoP requirements include: (1) being located in a rural area; (2) either being at a certain distance from other hospitals or being grandfathered as a State-designated necessary provider; (3) having 25 or fewer beds used for inpatient care or swing-bed services; and (4) having an annual average length of stay for a patient that does not exceed 96 hours.Read more →

Cadillac Tax Coming Soon0

This E-Bulletin was first published by the Business Law Section of the California State Bar on March 2, 2015.

iStock_000004290636LargeAdded to the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), Section 4980I begins after December 17, 2017, and the new regulation imposes a 40 percent excise tax (the “Cadillac Tax”) on employer-sponsored coverage that has an aggregate cost in excess of a statutory dollar limit (revised annually). The excise tax applies to “the excess, if any, of the aggregate cost of the applicable coverage of the employee for the month over the applicable dollars limit for the employee for the month.” Under Section 4980I(d)(3), the term “employee” includes “a former employee, surviving spouse, or other primary insured individual.” The 2018-baseline dollar limit per-employee in 2018 for self-only coverage is $10,200 and for other-than-self-only coverage is $27,500. [§ 4980I(b)(3)(C)]

Other adjustments to increase the applicable dollar limits include a “health cost adjustment percentage,” such as cost-of-living adjustment, agent and gender adjustments, if applicable, an adjustment for a “qualified retiree” or for someone “who participates in a plan sponsored by an employer the majority of whose employees covered by the plan are engaged in a high-risk profession or employed to repair or install electrical or telecommunication lines.” The entity obligated to pay the excise tax includes (1) the “health insurance issuer” under an insured plan, (2) “the employer” if the applicable coverage “consists of coverage under which the employer makes contributions to” an HAS or Archer MSA, and (3) “the person that administers the plan” in the case of any other applicable coverage. In each instance, the employer must prepare the calculations for the excise tax and notify the responsible entity.

Pursuant to Section 4980I(f)(10), the excise tax is not deductible for federal tax purposes. Certain types of coverage excluded from applicable coverage include accident or disability income insurance, liability insurance (such as automobile liability insurance), worker’ compensation insurance, dental and vision insurance (if provided under a separate policy) and credit-only insurance, among others.

The IRS has invited comments on the issues no later than May 15, 2015. Additional information can be found here.

Advancing Health Care The Old-Fashioned Way0

This article, Advancing Health Care the Old-Fashioned Way, was first published by Healthcare Innovation News on February 8, 2015.


Stethoscope and hourglass with book.“Nothing recedes like progress.”
— Edward Estlin (e.e.) Cummings

Though cutting-edge technology serves as the foundation for modern American healthcare, an accurate measure of progress must consider the occasional conflict between society and science. Even as yesterday’s medical miracles give way to what are now considered “state of the art” practices, it is the duty of health care providers to remain mindful of both sides of the equation, balancing the capabilities of today’s technologies with the needs of today’s patient. If society and science are not in sync, patient care will suffer, and sometimes we can only advance healthcare through old-fashioned methods. For example, radiology information systems (RIS) and picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) collaborate to deliver dynamic and brilliant medical images to any healthcare provider around the globe with access to a desktop computer or mobile device. And yet, if these technologically advanced tools of the trade fail to employ the appropriate methods of encryption as they transmit digital health information to a doctor’s iPad as he or she vacations on the island of Tristan da Cunha, or worse, send this sensitive information to the hard drive of any one of the island’s 297 permanent residents living in the recesses of the Atlantic Ocean, a data breach occurs. This is no small matter for the hospital of today, and could easily result in a series of fines that could force the shutting of its doors for a single infraction.

Read more →