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.

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A Brave New Medicare0

This article, A Brave New Medicare, was first published in California Healthcare News on February 4, 2015. 

Caduceus background“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.” —Aldous Huxley

Next month the Affordable Care Act turns five, and by all accounts the influence of this historic legislation will forever change the landscape of health care in the United States, regardless of its ultimate fate. As each passing year introduces thousands of new regulatory pages to an already expansive body of federal and state law, praise for what has come to be known as health care reform is only rivaled by the relentless partisan calls for its repeal.

Recognition of the Affordable Care Act’s more laudable accomplishments should not be overlooked, especially the elimination of preexisting conditions, an overall reduction in the number of uninsured, and, according to some experts, findings that point to an actual slowing in health care spending at a national level. On the other hand, we as a nation must also be mindful of any collateral damage caused by reform, especially when considering that the immediate statistical data used to document the success of reform tends to present itself easily, while the longer-term, potentially less favorable information upon which the Affordable Care Act can also be judged may take decades to unfold.Read more →

Revisions to Certain Patient’s Rights, Conditions of Participation and Conditions of Coverage0

iStock_000017988429SmallThis State Bar of California Health Law E-Bulletin was published on December 16, 2014.

Medicare and Medicaid Program; Revisions to Certain Patient’s Rights Conditions of Participation and Conditions of Coverage

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment. United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675, 2695 (2013).  Section 3 defined the word “marriage” to mean only a legal union between one man and one woman, and so “spouse” could only refer to a person of the opposite sex who was a husband or wife.  1 U.S.C.  § 7.  The Supreme Court argued that the federal prohibition of same-sex marriages that states had lawfully recognized “undermined both the public and private significance of state sanctioned same-sex marriages,” and that Section 3’s ‘‘purpose and effect [was] to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect’’ 133 S. Ct. at 2694-95. … Read more →

The Poor Get Poorer: the Fate of California’s Hospitals Under the Affordable Care Act0

iStock_000013550840SmallThis article appeared in California Health Law News, Volume XXXII, Issue 3, Fall 2014/Winter 2015

[1] By Samuel R. Maizel[2] and Craig B. Garner[3]

Introduction

Distressed hospitals in California operate on small or non-existent profit margins.[4] For many of these hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) are the largest payors.[5] The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the “Affordable Care Act”)[6] was designed in part to increase the number of insured nation-wide,[7] the result of which logically should have been positive for California hospitals. Any cause for celebration, however, must first prevail over the cost containment provisions firmly entrenched in the Affordable Care Act, as these regulations created new concerns for California’s financially distressed hospitals.[8] Included among the multitude of threatening provisions in the Affordable Care Act are:

  1. A complete recalibration of Medicare disproportionate share payments (“DSH”) to hospitals[9];
  2. A reduction in Medicare revenue up to 1.5% during Fiscal Year 2015 (and 2.0% by Fiscal Year 2017) for hospitals which perform poorly under the Hospital Value Based Purchasing (“VBP”) Program[10]; and
  3. A penalty of as much as 3.0% for the hospitals which fail to meet the standards set forth in the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (“RRP”).[11]

In addition to a penalty up to 2% for lapses in inpatient quality reporting and similar penalty relating to outpatient quality reporting, [12] a 2% cut in Medicare due to sequestration[13] as well as a penalty for those hospitals which fail to attest for “Meaningful Use”,[14] collectively the potential for any hospital to lose more than 10% of its Medicare revenue creates daunting challenges, especially with those institutions in California already struggling financially not to mention lacking the resources to establish the necessary infrastructure to compete in this era of change.[15]Read more →

Just As Fragile As A Patient0

This article was first published on October 30, 2014 in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

iStock_000036113648Large“Where there is a why, there is a how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

The American hospital has evolved greatly over the past 100 years, from the almshouse once visited mainly by the desolate and poor as a last resort to that enigmatic, cutting edge institution which today forms the foundation of modern American health care. Advances in technology and medical science have transformed what were once terminal illnesses into minor health inconveniences, with the real battles against serious health threats typically occurring inside the four walls of a patient’s local hospital. The modern hospital has become such a beacon of hope that in 1986 Congress passed laws granting nearly everyone an unrestricted entitlement to emergency medical treatment at most acute care facilities.

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Medicare: The Perpetual Balance Between Performance and Preservation0

This article was first published in the Journal of Contemporary Health law & Policy on August 1, 2014.

iStock_000039923254Medium“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.” — Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

Passed by Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson into law in 1965, Medicare has weathered storms from all directions, growing to be the preeminent standard for health insurance in the United States.  The idea of losing Medicare as a vital public benefit still remains the single greatest fear with which each passing generation of Americans must contend, and yet, these challenges over the past fifty years, designed to fortify Medicare’s foundation and ensure its longevity, continue to take a toll on the program.

The most recent climate of reform includes changes implemented by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”).  The PPACA is designed to expand coverage for a broader group of people, yet it adds unprecedented layers of complexity such that it may be but a matter of time before the confusion experienced by today’s providers proves to be Medicare’s undoing altogether.  The decades of trial and error upon which health care in the United States have been built, at least from the point of view of both physicians and lawmakers who watch from the sidelines, may give way to confusion and disruption industry-wide as a result of newly enacted regulations.

Today, Medicare is the preeminent standard for health insurance in the United States, expanding despite fluctuations in the economic, political and social climate since its initial passage.  However, in its struggle toward sustainability, the Medicare Program must understand the resulting consequences as it distances itself further and further from its original simplicity in 1965.

Medicare’s original cost-based system gave way in the 1980s to the Prospective Payment System (“PPS”), an event noted by many with great concern.  Under PPACA, the Medicare system takes another monumental step as it incorporates elements of performance into the PPS.  Formulaic and confusing, Medicare’s recent approach to provider reimbursement has been likened to Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce, a book that some critics warn requires “skeleton keys” to understand.  In many ways, the need for hospitals and physicians to understand these performance-based measures may seem less important when fear of Medicare insolvency looms in the distance,13 especially as it relates to Medicare Part A (hospital insurance benefits for inpatient services) and Medicare Part B (supplemental insurance for outpatient services, among other things).  Irrespective of the fleeting grasp providers may have over PPACA’s new Medicare system, hospitals and physicians alike are mindful that the PPS as they once knew it is gone, replaced in part with the beginnings of a performance-based Medicare in which they may lose precious revenue, one percentage point at a time.

The entire article can be viewed here.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel . . . or Cliff0

 This article was published on June 5, 2014, in Corporate Compliance Insights.

iStock_000000261863Small“Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion.”  — Francis Bacon

With each passing day health care reform in America gains momentum, even as the chasm between successful and unsuccessful providers continues to expand. Earlier this month, the Federal Government tested the fortitude of the system when it released thousands of regulatory pages explaining the many ways in which Medicare providers will get paid and penalized over the next few years.  Eagerly awaited by those in the field, the 2015 Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System regulations for acute care hospitals lives up to all expectations as it journeys through the labyrinth created by such diffuse entities as the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, and the Hospital-Acquired Conditions Reduction Program.  Not to disappoint its devoted readers, the Powers That Be issued regulations the same week for skilled nursing facilities, inpatient psychiatric facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, hospices, and federally qualified health centers. … Read more →