Insurance and Managed Care

 

The Broadest Impact:  2018-19 NYS Managed Care Budget Highlights

This, the last of our posts on the 2018-19 New York State Health Budget (the “Enacted Budget”), focuses on an area of healthcare that has perhaps the broadest impact of the sector as a whole — managed care.  A prior post in the series (here) discussed the central role that hospitals have traditionally played in healthcare reform efforts, but even they have less influence (at least, as a matter of policy) than managed care, which controls the funding that fuels virtually every other part of the healthcare system.  For purposes of this article, “managed care” really means Medicaid managed care in all its various guises, since that is the funding most directly controlled by the State – while the various forms of Medicare managed care (Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, etc.) and commercial managed care are important, and even critical, to the healthcare system in New York, they are generally not a focus of State budgeting (at least directly).  So this post will focus on the various forms of Medicaid managed care, including managed long term care (MLTC) that provide long term care services, fiscal intermediaries for consumer-directed consumer assistance, mainstream managed care plans that provide acute and primary care services, health homes that coordinate care for people with chronic illnesses, and others.  Note that one species of Medicaid managed care, Development Disabilities Individual Support and Care Coordination Organizations, are not addressed in this post, but were addressed in a prior one (here).

Just a quick word before examining the key provisions impacting managed care:  this series has not pretended to be a comprehensive analysis of all the healthcare provisions in the 2018-19 New York State Health Budget.  It has merely provided a survey of the highlights of certain key areas in the healthcare space.  Inevitably, some areas have not been directly addressed; particular ones that come to mind include primary care, professional practice, life science research and others.  In part, this was due to the lack of significant reforms in those areas; however, it was also true that the sectors we did address often included references to those other sectors.  Nowhere is this truer than in regard to managed care, which, as noted, touches on every other area of healthcare.  Key provisions in the managed care space are summarized below.

Managed Long Term Care & Fiscal Intermediaries

Managed Long Term Care (MLTC) Eligibility.  Since 2012, adults have been eligible for MLTC enrollment if they require community-based care for more than 120 days.  The Enacted Budget provides that, effective April 1, such individuals are only eligible if that 120 days is a continuous, not aggregate, period.

Changing MLTC Plans.  Effective October 1, 2018, the Enacted Budget allows MLTC enrollees to switch plans without cause anytime within 90 days of notification or the effective date of enrollment (whichever is later), but thereafter, the Department of Health (DOH) is authorized to prohibit changing plans more than once every 12 months, except for good cause.  “Good cause” includes poor quality of care, lack of access to covered services, and lack of access to providers “experienced in dealing with the enrollee’s care needs,” and may include other categories identified by the Commissioner of Health.

Nursing Home Resident Eligibility.  Effective April 1, 2018, the Enacted Budget provides that individuals who are permanently placed in a nursing home for a consecutive period of three months or more will not be eligible for MLTC, but instead will receive services on a fee-for-service basis.  In a side letter, DOH has promised to provide guidance highlighting information about an individual’s rights as a nursing home resident, nursing home and MLTC plan responsibilities, and supports for individuals who wish to return to the community.

Plan Mergers.  Effective April 1, 2018, surviving plans in a plan merger, acquisition or similar arrangement must submit a report to DOH within 12 months providing information about the enrollees transferred, a summary of which DOH will make available to the public.

Licensed Home Care Services Agency (LHCSA) Contracting.  As discussed in a prior post (here), beginning October 1, 2018, the Commissioner of Health may limit the number of LHCSAs with which an MLTC plan may contract, according to a formula tied to region, number of enrollees and timing (before or after October 1, 2019), with some exceptions.  In a side letter, DOH has indicated that it will issue guidance to assist both MLTC programs and LHCSAs in minimizing the disruption of care for Medicaid members and the impacted workforce from this initiative.

Fiscal Intermediary Advertising.  The Enacted Budget includes provisions that limit the advertising practices of fiscal intermediaries under the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP).  CDPAP provides chronically ill and/or physically disabled Medicaid enrollees receiving home care services with more flexibility and freedom of choice to obtain such services.  Fiscal intermediaries help consumers facilitate their role as employers by: providing wage and benefit processing for consumer directed personal assistants; processing income tax and other required wage withholdings; complying with workers’ compensation, disability and unemployment requirements; maintaining personnel records; ensuring health status of assistants prior to service delivery; maintaining records of service authorizations or reauthorizations; and monitoring the consumer’s/designated representative’s ability to fulfill the consumer’s responsibilities under the program (in this regard, they are not truly managed care, although there are some similarities).  The Enacted Budget prohibits false or misleading advertisements by fiscal intermediaries.  Furthermore, fiscal intermediaries are now required to submit proposed advertisements to DOH for review prior to distribution, and are not permitted to disseminate advisements without DOH approval.  The DOH is required to render its decision on proposed advertisements within 30 days.  In the event DOH has determined the fiscal intermediary has disseminated a false or misleading advertisement, or if an advertisement has been distributed without DOH approval, the fiscal intermediary has 30 days to discontinue use and/or remove such advertisement.  If DOH determines a fiscal intermediary has distributed two or more advertisements that are false or misleading or not previously approved by DOH, the entity will be prohibited from providing fiscal intermediary services and its authorization will be revoked, suspended or limited.  Additionally, DOH will maintain a list of these entities and will make this list available to local departments of social service, health maintenance organizations, accountable care organizations and performing provider systems.  These limitations apply to marketing contracts entered into after April 1, 2018.

Fiscal Intermediary Reporting.  The Enacted Budget allows the Commissioner of Health to require fiscal intermediaries to provide additional information regarding the direct care and administrative costs of personal assistance services.  DOH may determine the type and amount of information that will be required, as well as the regularity and design of the reports.  These cost reports must be certified by the owner, administrator, chief administrative officer or public official responsible for the operation of the provider.  The DOH must provide at least 90 days’ notice of this report deadline.  If DOH determines the cost report is not complete or inaccurate, it must notify the provider in writing and specify the correction needed or information required.  The provider will have 30 days to respond to DOH’s request for supplementary information.  In the event a provider cannot meet this filing deadline, DOH may provide an additional 30 day extension if the provider sends written notice prior to the report due date which details acceptable reasons beyond their control which justify their failure to meet the filing deadline.

Mainstream Managed Care and Health Homes

Quarterly Meetings on Medicaid Managed Care Rates.  In a side letter, the Executive has committed to providing quarterly updates to the Legislature regarding Medicaid managed care rates, including the actuarial memorandum which, pursuant to statute, is provided to managed care organizations 30 days in advance of submission to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  This is intended to increase the transparency of Medicaid managed care rates.

Separate Rate Cells or Risk Adjustments for Specific Populations.  In a side letter, DOH has committed to exploring separate rate cells or risk adjustments for the nursing home, high cost/high need home and personal care, and Health and Recovery Plan (HARP) populations.  DOH will re-engage CMS regarding this reimbursement methodology with the assistance of health care industry stakeholders impacted by these changes (e.g. advocates, providers and managed care organizations).  This will hopefully lead to a fairer rate structure for plans serving higher-risk patients.

Health Homes Targets.  The Enacted Budget requires the Commissioner of Health to establish reasonable targets for health home participation by enrollees of special needs plans and other high risk enrollees of managed care plans to encourage plans and health homes to work collaboratively to achieve such targets.  The DOH was also empowered to assess penalties for failure to meet such participation targets where they believe such failure is due to absence of good faith and reasonable efforts.

Health Home Criminal History Checks.  The Enacted Budget requires criminal history checks for employees and subcontractors of health homes and any entity that provides community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities or to individuals under 21 years old.

Health Home Reporting.  Similar to fiscal intermediaries (above) and LHCSAs (here), the Enacted Budget allows the Commissioner of Health to require health homes to report on the costs incurred to deliver health care services to Medicaid beneficiaries.

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So that concludes our series on the 2018-19 New York State Healthcare Budget.  If you have any questions or would like additional information on any of the above referenced issues, or any of the other items covered (or not covered) in the series, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

 

 

 

A Renewed Focus: 2018-19 NYS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Budget Highlights

Since the beginning of the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo, there has been a strong emphasis on reform of the acute, primary, and long term care systems, and, particularly with the recent focus on the opioid crisis, that attention has extended to the behavioral care system, as well.  In contrast, reforms in the developmental disabilities system have been slower in coming, attributable to a variety of factors, including historical issues surrounding service mix and reimbursement, and legitimate concerns about client safety and quality of life. In some ways, the developmental disabilities provisions in the 2018-19 Enacted Budget represent a return of focus on the developmental disabilities sector, with several provisions concentrating on how larger reform efforts – including the movement toward managed care, health homes, and telehealth – intersect with the developmental disabilities community. Highlights of key provisions follow.

Managed Care. The Enacted Budget includes language updating existing provisions related to the movement of developmental disabilities clients and services into managed care. First, it expands the list of individuals who may be required to enroll in managed care and revises provisions regarding eligibility to include individuals with developmental or physical disabilities who receive services via a federal 1115 waiver, and authorizes the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the Commissioner of Developmental Disabilities, to submit an application for such waiver. The Enacted Budget also extends authority of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to require enrollment in managed care from 2019 to 2023, and makes technical corrections to that authority. The OPWDD Commissioner will also assess the quality, outcomes, experience and satisfaction of managed care for individuals with developmental disabilities, and report to the Legislature by December 31, 2022.

Health Homes. The Enacted Budget amends the Public Health Law to require criminal history checks for employees and subcontractors of health homes and any entity that provides community based services to individuals with developmental disabilities or to individuals under 21 years old.

Telehealth. The Enacted Budget amends the Public Health Law to allow the use of telehealth by certified and non-certified day or residential health care facilities operated by OPWDD, residential health care facilities serving special needs populations, credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselors, and early intervention providers. Further, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, in consultation with the Commissioners of Office of Mental Health, OPWDD and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services may identify other providers that should be permitted to provide telehealth services. Additionally, DOH, OMH, OPWDD and OASAS will coordinate on a single guidance document that will identify the discrepancies in regulations and policies by state agencies, and assist consumers, providers and health plans to better understand and facilitate the use of telehealth to address barriers to care.

First Responder Training. The Enacted Budget agreement includes language to require the Commissioner of Mental Health, in consultation with the Department of Health, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Municipal Police Training Council, and the Superintendent of the State Police, to develop a training program and educational materials to provide instruction and information to firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel on appropriate recognition and techniques for handling emergency situations involving individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

Care at Home Waivers. The Enacted Budget extends the Care at Home I and II waivers until March 31, 2023. These waivers provide community-based services to physically disabled children who require hospital or skilled nursing home level of care.

Extension of OMH Inpatient Psychiatry Demonstration. The Enacted Budget extends this demonstration program, which allows for three or more time-limited demonstration programs to test and evaluate new methods or arrangements for organizing, financing, staffing and providing services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, through March 31, 2021.

Independent Practitioner Services. The Enacted Budget amends Section 367-a of the Social Services Law to include independent practitioner services for individuals with developmental disabilities as covered services for insurance reimbursement.

Residents Use of Funds for Care and Treatment. The Enacted Budget extends Chapter 111 of the Laws of 2010 and Chapter 58 of the Laws of 2015 to extend the authority of state facility directors that act as federally appointed representative payees to use funds for the cost of a resident’s care and treatment in facilities through June 30, 2018.

For additional information on any of the above-referenced issues, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

Responding to the Opioid Crisis and More:  2018-19 NYS Behavioral Health Budget Highlights

Several provisions in the recently adopted 2018-19 New York State Budget (the “Enacted Budget”) are intended to address the ongoing opioid crisis.  As discussed in a prior post (here), some were focused on pharmaceutical manufacturers.  Some of the most significant provisions, however, relate to the behavioral health services available to patients, including both mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services.  Other provisions will affect behavioral health services more generally. Key provisions are summarized below.

Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Ombudsman.  The Enacted Budget establishes the Office of the Independent Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Ombudsman, which will be operated or selected by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), in conjunction with the Office of Mental Health (OMH).  The Ombudsman will assist individuals with SUD and/or mental illness to ensure they receive appropriate health insurance coverage.  The Ombudsman will identify, investigate, refer and resolve complaints that are made by or on behalf of consumers and treatment providers regarding health insurance coverage and network adequacy for substance use disorder and mental health care services.  The Enacted Budget appropriated $1.5 million for this program.

Prohibit Prior Authorization for Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment.  The Enacted Budget amends several provisions of the Insurance Law to prohibit prior authorization for outpatient, intensive outpatient, outpatient rehabilitation and opioid treatment provided by OASAS-certified facilities that are within the insurer’s provider network.  The coverage provided cannot be subject to concurrent review for the first two weeks of treatment if the facility notifies the insurer of the patient’s initial start date of treatment and the treatment plan within 48 hours.  The facility is also required to perform a patient clinical assessment at each visit and consult with the insurer to ensure the facility is using the appropriate evidence-based/peer reviewed clinical tool utilized by the insurer and designated by OASAS to ensure treatment is medically necessary.  Insurers may deny coverage for any portion of the initial two weeks of treatment if the treatment was deemed not medically necessary and contrary to the insurer-designated, OASAS-approved, evidence-based/peer reviewed tool.  If such coverage is denied by the insurer, the patient is liable for the copayment, coinsurance, or deductible required pursuant to the insurance contract.

Children and Recovering Mothers Program.  The Enacted Budget authorizes the Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with OASAS, to establish the Children and Recovering Mothers Program to provide health care providers, hospitals, and midwifery birth centers with guidance, education and assistance when providing care to expectant mothers with SUD.  The program will provide information to health care providers and expectant mothers on medication-assisted treatment, a referral list of SUD providers in the area, and information on other benefits and services they may be eligible for while expecting or after birth.  The program will develop a statewide system for rapid consultation and referral linkage services for obstetricians and primary care providers who treat expectant mothers.  Additionally, the DOH, in consultation with OASAS, will convene a workgroup of stakeholders, including hospitals, local health departments, obstetricians, midwives, pediatricians and substance use disorder providers, to study and evaluate the obstacles in identifying and treating expectant mothers, newborns and new parents with SUD.  The workgroup is required to submit a report of its findings to DOH, OASAS and the Legislature by April 2019.   The Enacted Budget appropriated $1 million for this initiative and $350,000 to establish an infant recovery pilot program to support up to four recovery centers in NYS.

Peer Recovery Advocate Services.  The Enacted Budget establishes the Certified Peer Recovery Advocate Services Program which builds upon the existing NYS Peer Recovery program.

The program provides patient-centered services that emphasize knowledge and wisdom obtained through life experience, where peers share their own personal journey with SUD to support the recovery goals of others.  The program standards, training and certification process will be developed and administered by OMH.  Certified peer recovery advocate services may include: developing recovery plans; raising awareness and linking participants to existing social and formal recovery support services; working with individuals to model coping skills and develop individual strengths; assisting individuals applying for benefits; attending medical appointments and court appearances; educating program individuals about the various modes of recovery; providing non-crisis support; and working with hospital emergency services, law enforcement departments, fire departments and other first responders to assist patients that have been administered an opioid antagonist establish connections to treatment and other support services.   

Opioid Stewardship Act.  As previously discussed, the Enacted Budget establishes an “Opioid Stewardship Fund” which imposes a “stewardship payment” (essentially a tax) on manufacturers and distributors that sell or distribute opioids in New York.  More detail can be found here.

Opioid Treatment Plans. The final budget includes language which prohibits prescribing opioids beyond three months, unless the patient’s medical record contains a written treatment plan that follows generally accepted national professional or governmental guidelines.  Exceptions are provided for patients being treated for cancer or palliative care.  More detail can be found here.

Social Work, Psychology and Mental Health Practitioners Scope of Practice.  The Enacted Budget includes provisions to clarify the activities and services that may be performed by licensed practitioners and those that do not require licensing.  These provisions eliminate the need to continue the licensure exemption which has been in place for persons employed by programs regulated or operated by OMH, OPWDD, OASAS, DOH, the State Office for Aging, the Office of Children and Family Services, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and local government or social services districts since 2002.

Behavioral Health/Primary Care Integration.  The Enacted Budget includes provisions building on the State’s prior efforts to integrate the licensure of behavioral health and primary care services. Prior state regulations established standards to determine how a facility offering integrated mental health, SUD and/or primary care services must be licensed.  Unfortunately, the ability to streamline such licensure was restricted in part by applicable statutes.  The Enacted Budget revises those statutes to clarify that primary care services providers licensed by Article 28 of the Public Health Law, mental health service providers licensed by Article 31 of the Mental Hygiene Law, and SUD providers licensed by Article 32 of the Mental Hygiene Law can each provide the other types of services so long as they are authorized to provide integrated services in accordance with DOH, OMH and OASAS regulations, without obtaining additional operating certificates.

Significant Appropriations

School Mental Health Resource and Training Center.  The Enacted Budget includes $1 million to create a Resource Center to help schools provide mental health education as part of their kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum, as required by Chapter 390 of 2016.

Children’s Mental Health.  The Enacted Budget includes $10 million for services and expenses of not-for-profit agencies licensed, certified or approved by OMH to support the preservation, restructuring or expansion of children’s behavioral health services.

Jail-Based SUD Treatment and Transition.  The enacted budget includes $3.75 million for jail-based SUD and transition services.  The Commissioner of Mental Health, in consultation with local government units, county sheriffs and other stakeholders, will implement a jail-based program that supports the initiation, operation and enhancement of SUD services for individuals incarcerated in county jails.

Mental Health Facilities Capital Improvement Fund.  The enacted budget includes $50 million for the acquisition of property, construction, and rehabilitation of new facilities, to develop   residential crisis programs.  Funds may be used for the renovation of existing community mental health facilities under the auspice of municipalities, and other public or not-for-profit agencies, as approved by the Commissioner of Mental Health.

OASAS Treatment Funding.  The enacted budget includes $30 million for the development, expansion, and operation of treatment, recovery, and/or prevention services for persons with heroin and opiate use and addiction disorders. This funding will be distributed by the Commissioner of Office of Substance Abuse Services, subject to the approval of the Budget Director.

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If you have any questions or would like additional information on any of the above referenced issues, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

Pharmaceutical provisions in the 2018-2019 Enacted New York State Budget

Notwithstanding the enactment of a first-in-the-nation drug spending cap last year, in light of the $4.4 billion deficit and ongoing concerns about the opioid crisis it was inevitable that this year New York State would once again seek to enact substantial reforms impacting the pharmaceutical industry. The recently adopted 2018-19 New York State (“NYS”) Budget included several provisions that relate to access to pharmaceutical treatments, insurance coverage, cost sharing, and reimbursement. Below please find an overview of these key provisions.

Medicaid Drug Spending Cap.  The final budget extends the Medicaid drug cap enacted last year through the 2019-20 fiscal year, at the same amount as the 2018-19 fiscal year (CPI + 4%, less an $85 million savings target). The provisions clarify that the Medicaid drug expenditure growth target shall be calculated and projected on a cash basis and requires the Department of Health (DOH) and Division of Budget to report quarterly to the Drug Utilization Review Board (DURB) the projected (state funds) Medicaid drug expenditures. These reports shall include the aggregate amounts attributable to the net cost of changes in utilization, changes in the number of Medicaid recipients, and changes in the cost of brand and generic drugs. This information cannot be publically released in a manner that will allow for identification of individual drugs or manufacturers. DOH will also be required to provide an annual report (by February 1) to the DURB which details how savings were achieved, calculated and implemented in the last year. Additionally, language was included to clarify the authority the DOH has to require prior approval of drugs and to remove such drugs from managed care formularies when they have not reached a supplemental agreement with a manufacturer.

Opioid Stewardship Act. The final budget establishes an “Opioid Stewardship Fund” which imposes a “stewardship payment” (essentially a tax) on manufacturers and distributors that sell or distribute opioids in New York. The total opioid stewardship payment is $100 million annually, and each manufacturer and distributor that sells or distributes opioids in New York will pay a portion of the total opioid payment amount based on that manufacturer’s or distributor’s ratable share. The ratable share will be calculated based on the total milligram of morphine equivalents (MMEs) sold or distributed during the preceding year, as reported by the manufacturer and distributor, and shall be divided by the total amount of MMEs sold in New York by all manufacturers and distributors. The payment percentage will be multiplied by the total opioid stewardship payment to determine the ratable share. The calculation of total MME’s shall not include opioids sold or distributed to entities certified to operate as hospices and chemical dependence services. Opioid stewardship funds will be used to support programs operated by OASAS for opioid treatment, recovery, prevention, education and the I-STOP program, pursuant to approval of NYS Budget Director. 

Opioid Treatment Plans. The final budget includes language which prohibits prescribing opioids beyond three months, unless the patient’s medical record contains a written treatment plan that follows generally accepted national professional or governmental guidelines. Exceptions are provided for patients being treated for cancer or palliative care.

Direct Negotiations for Supplemental Rebates in Medicaid Managed Care. The enacted budget extends authority through March 31, 2020 to allow DOH to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers to obtain supplemental rebates for pharmaceutical utilization of anti-retrovirals and Hepatitis C treatments for Medicaid managed care recipients. The manufacturer is not required to pay supplemental rebates to a managed care provider, or any of a managed care provider’s agents when NYS is collecting such supplemental rebates. This statute was originally enacted in 2015.

Rebates for Generics.  The final budget agreement extends DOH authority through March 31, 2020 to require additional rebates/penalties for drugs that have a state maximum acquisition cost (SMAC) of more than 75% over a one year period under the Medicaid program. This statute was first enacted in 2016.

Pharmacy Benefit Manager Clawbacks and Pharmacy Gag Prohibition. The final budget includes language to prohibit pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and their contracting agents from penalizing a pharmacist or a pharmacy from disclosing pricing information, the availability of therapeutic equivalents, and alternative payment methods that may be less expensive for patients. PBMs are further prohibited from imposing a co-payment that exceeds the total cost of the drug. Moreover, if an individual pays a co-payment, the pharmacy is entitled to retain the adjudicated costs and the PBM is prohibited from recouping the additional funds.

Pharmacy Dispensing Fees.  The final budget increases the professional pharmacy dispensing fee from $10.00 to $10.08 per prescription.

Prescriber Prevails.  The final budget agreement continues prescriber prevails consumer protections in both Medicaid fee-for-service and Medicaid managed care. Under current law, a prescriber’s determination can prevail over prior authorization limitations for any drug in fee-for-services, and for eight protected classes of drugs in managed care.

 

If you have any questions or would like additional information on any of the above referenced issues, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

Periodically over the years, and consistently since 2005, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) has received funding through the New York State budget process to provide capital support for infrastructure improvements at institutional providers.  The rationale for this state funding has varied – at times, it has ostensibly been intended to incentivize certain actions (e.g., facility consolidation, development of information technology infrastructure, participation in value-based payment arrangements, etc.), but at other times, it has clearly represented a recognition of the fact that the depressed margins of healthcare providers often prevent them from making necessary investments in aging infrastructure.

These programs, including the original Healthcare Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL-NY) Program, the Capital Facility Restructuring Program (CFRP), and the Essential Health Care Provider Support Program, among others, have usually focused on hospitals, but have included other Article 28 providers (nursing homes, clinics, etc.) as well as other types of providers more recently.  They have invariably included limitations on permissible uses of the funds, and have usually required some form of qualifying activity on behalf of applicants that may or may not relate directly to the use of the funds (e.g., bed closures or consolidations in the form of active parent relationships or full asset mergers).  They have also frequently included some form of non-capital support, either via non-capital appropriations supporting the program directly, or via allied programs offering some temporary relief from operating expenses.

Over time, DOH has refined its approach to such programs and the Request for Applications (RFA) language used to define that approach.  For a long time, the trend was toward limiting the pool of potential applicants to facilities facing some form of economic hardship.  More recently, however, DOH seems to have broadened the pool of potential applicants, and appears to be more comfortable using its capital programs as a general support for the New York State health care system as a whole.

The latest iteration, the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program (“SHCFTP”) reflects this trend.  SHCFTP was first authorized in 2016, and has seen two iterations so far, with a third just having been approved as part of the 2018-19 New York State Budget.  All three iterations share some basic characteristics.  First, in all cases eligibility includes at minimum the following types of entities:

1.       General hospitals;

2.       Residential health care facilities;

3.       Diagnostic and treatment centers and clinics licensed pursuant  to  Article 28; and

4.       Clinics licensed pursuant to the Mental Hygiene Law.

Second, in making awards, in all cases the State was required to consider criteria including, but not limited to:

(a)                The extent to which the proposed capital project will contribute to the integration of health care services and long term sustainability of the applicant or preservation of essential health services in the community or communities served by the applicant;

(b)                The extent to which the proposed project or purpose is aligned with delivery system reform incentive payment (DSRIP) program goals and objectives;

(c)                 Consideration of geographic distribution of funds;

(d)                The relationship between the proposed capital project and identified community need;

(e)                The extent to which the applicant has access to alternative financing;

(f)                  The extent that the proposed capital project furthers the development of primary care and other outpatient services;

(g)                The extent to which the proposed capital project benefits Medicaid enrollees and uninsured individuals;

(h)                The extent to which the applicant has engaged the community affected by the proposed capital project and the manner in which community engagement has shaped such capital project; and

(i)                  The extent to which the proposed capital project addresses potential risk to patient safety and welfare.

Third, in all cases awards have been permitted to be made without a formal competitive bid, although in practice they were awarded competitively pursuant to Request for Applications (RFA) processes.

Beyond that, there have been some differences among the three iterations.  One difference is in the stated purpose of each.  The first iteration, which was authorized by Public Health Law § 2825-d, enacted in 2016 (“SHCFTP I”), provided that “[t]he program shall provide capital funding in support of projects that replace inefficient and outdated facilities as part of a merger, consolidation, acquisition or other significant corporate restructuring activity that is part of an overall transformation plan intended to create a financially sustainable system of care,” thus focusing very strongly on consolidation and sustainability.

In contrast, the second iteration, authorized by Public Health Law § 2825-e and enacted in 2017 (“SHCFTP II”), provides that funding is “in support of capital projects, debt retirement, working capital or other non-capital projects that facilitate health care transformation activities including, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, acquisition or other activities intended to create financially sustainable systems of care or preserve or expand essential health care services.”  In short, SHCFTP II has a broader scope than SHCFTP I, insofar as its purpose include “preserving or expanding essential health services” and it is not tied solely to restructuring or supporting failing systems.  It is also significant that SHCFTP II can be used for some non-capital expenses; while SHCFTP I was solely “for capital non-operational works or purposes,” the only analogous limitation on SHCFTP II is that it may not support “general operating expenses.”

The third iteration (“SHCFTP III”), just approved in the 2018-19 New York State Budget, expands that purpose even more.  It allows the program to provide funding in support of “capital projects, debt retirement, working capital or other non-capital projects that facilitate health care transformation activities including, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, acquisition or other activities intended  to:  (a) create financially sustainable systems of care; (b) preserve or expand essential health care services; (c) modernize obsolete facility physical plants and infrastructure; (d) foster participation in value based payments arrangements including, but not limited to, contracts with managed care plans and accountable care organizations; (e) for residential health care facilities, increase the quality of resident care or experience; or (f) improve health information technology infrastructure, including telehealth, to strengthen the acute, post-acute and long-term care continuum.”  Once again, grants are not available to support general operating expenses, but otherwise, this a far broader set of purposes than the prior iterations.

The second difference is that SHCFTP III adds some categories of eligibility.  In addition to general hospitals, residential health care facilities, diagnostic and treatment centers and clinics licensed pursuant to Article 28, and clinics licensed pursuant to the Mental Hygiene Law, SHCFTP III is available to adult care facilities, children’s residential treatment facilities, and assisted living programs.

The third difference is in the amount of funds in the program each year.  SHCFTP I allowed $200 million to be appropriated without a formal competitive bid, and required at least $30 million of those funds to be awarded to community-based health care providers.  SHCFTP II allows $500 million to be appropriated without a formal competitive bid, and requires at least $75 million of those funds to be awarded to community-based health care providers.  SHCFTP III allows $525 million to be appropriated without a formal competitive bid, and requires at least $60 million of those funds to be awarded to community-based health care providers.  It also provides that $45 million of those funds must be awarded to residential health care facilities and $20 million to new assisted living programs.

Significantly, the definition of “community-based health care provider” varies between the iterations:  SHCFTP I defines the term as Article 28 diagnostic and treatment centers, mental health clinics, alcohol and substance abuse treatment clinics, primary care providers, or home care providers.  SHCFTP II includes that list, but also includes “other purposes and community-based providers designated by the commissioner.”  SHCFTP III is the same as SHCFTP I, except that it also includes clinics serving people with developmental disabilities and hospices.

Taken together, the variations between SHCFTP III and the prior iterations reflects a continued movement away from using capital funding as a means of incentivizing desired behavior and toward simply providing necessary funding in the absence of private capital.  Perhaps more importantly, it reflects a stronger focus on long term care providers, and more generally, on smaller providers instead of the large hospital systems that have traditionally benefited from DOH’s capital programs.  It remains to be seen how this change in focus will be implemented in practice, and, on a practical basis, how many long term care providers (or smaller providers more generally) will be able to take advantage of the funding, insofar as the burdensome requirements of the grant process are often challenging for smaller providers.  Any such providers interested in pursuing the funding would be well-advised to seek assistance from counsel familiar with DOH’s grant requirements.

The creation of SHCFTP III represents a significant dedication of capital to healthcare providers during the 2018-19 fiscal year.  It is also important to remember that this program is separate from the $2 billion “Health Care Transformation Fund” previously discussed, which the State can dedicate to similar purposes.  These funds together present a significant opportunity for healthcare providers.

If you are interested in pursuing a grant under SHCFTP, the Heath Care Transformation Fund, or another state program, please feel free to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at (518) 313-1450, or email the Practice Group at NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

Governor Cuomo's 2018-19 Healthcare Budget
New York State Healthcare Budget 2018-19

In the wee hours of the morning on March 30, almost two days ahead of the April 1 deadline, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a $168.3 billion State Budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The Enacted Budget maintains a self-imposed cap of 2% on spending increases, and averts a predicted $4.4 billion spending gap.  As in prior years, a significant portion of this year’s spending has been devoted to healthcare, and particularly Medicaid.

One of the key issues faced by the healthcare sector in New York State during budget negotiations this year was whether and how to address potential future cuts in federal financial support. The Enacted Budget addresses that general concern in two ways.  First, at the prompting of the Greater New York Hospital Association and 1199SEIU (the health care workers union), the Enacted Budget creates a new “Health Care Transformation Fund.”  The fund will be supported in part by a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Fidelis, a not-for-profit Medicaid managed care plan acquired by Centene, a national for-profit insurer, as well as a portion of Fidelis’ excess reserves, for a total expected amount of around $2 billion.  Moneys in the fund will be available for transfer to any other fund in the State to “support health care delivery, including for capital investment, debt retirement or restructuring, housing or other social determinants of health, or transitional operating support to health care providers.”  This amounts to a very significant source of funds which can be deployed by the State in a very flexible manner.

Second, the Enacted Budget includes language providing that, where federal legislation, regulation or other executive or judicial action in federal fiscal year 2019 is expected to reduce federal financial participation in Medicaid or other federal financial participation by $850 million or more in state fiscal years 2018-19 or 2019-20, the Director of the Division of the Budget must submit a plan to the Legislature identifying the resulting cuts to be made in State spending. The Legislature will then have 90 days to adopt an alternative plan; if it does not, then the Division of the Budget’s plan will go into effect immediately.  In short, this language could, in effect, completely undo the budget just adopted by the Legislature, with minimal legislative input.

The 2018-19 Enacted Budget includes a plethora of other financial and policy reforms affecting virtually every segment of the healthcare sector. Some highlights include:

  • Health Care Facility Capital Funds: The Enacted Budget includes $525 million for the latest iteration of the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, which provides capital grants to healthcare providers.
  • Pharmacy: The Enacted Budget makes a variety of changes to address the opioid crisis, including establishing a $100 million “Opioid Stewardship Fund” to be supported by manufacturers and distributors of opioids, which will be used to support a variety of opioid-related programs.
  • Mental Hygiene: The Enacted Budget expands and clarifies the ability of mental health, substance use disorder and developmental disabilities services providers to offer integrated services, and provides $1.5 million for the creation of a new Independent Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Ombudsman to assist individuals in receiving appropriate health insurance coverage.  It also includes a variety of provisions related to the transition of developmental disabilities services to managed care.
  • Long Term Care: The Enacted Budget sets out a plan for limiting the number of licensed home care services agencies that a managed long term care plan may contract with, effectively forcing consolidations in that sector.  It also allows the Commissioner of Health to reduce reimbursement to poor-performing nursing homes.  At the same time, it makes a significant number of additional assisted living program beds available at the discretion of the Commissioner.
  • Hospitals: The Enacted Budget establishes a new category of “Enhanced Safety Net Hospitals” that would be eligible for additional reimbursement.
  • Managed Care: The Enacted Budget includes a variety of reforms related to health homes, and makes a variety of changes to the rules governing managed long term care eligibility and enrollment.

These highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next several days, we will provide additional detail on each of the areas outlined above.  In the meantime, any questions about the 2018-19 New York State Healthcare Budget can be addressed to Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at (518) 313-1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

Stemming from the recent drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has had life-lasting effects for many of its residents, including children, due to unsafe lead-related toxicity levels in the drinking water, New York State Governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, announced that various New York municipalities were awarded $20 million dollars in the aggregate to replace lead service lines as part of the New York Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 (the “Act”). The Lead Service Line Replacement Program (the “LSLRP”), a critical part of the Act, provides $2,445,452 to Long Island, including $611,363 to the City of Glen Cove and $611,363 to the Town of Hempstead. Other awardees include New York City ($5,323,904), Buffalo ($567,492), as well as many other cities, towns and counties throughout the state.  In his press release, Governor Cuomo stated “[t]hese critical improvements to New York’s drinking water infrastructure are vital to protecting public health and to laying the foundation for future growth and economic prosperity in these communities”.

The LSLRP was introduced in 2017 and is intended to provide funding to municipalities to replace residential lead service lines, especially those that have corroded, from the public water system. The program empowers the New York State Department of Health to award funds to certain municipalities determined by the “percentage of children with elevated blood levels, median household income, and the number of homes built before 1939”. In fact, homes built before 1930 are more likely to contain lead in its pipes because at that time the government neither regulated this area nor the applicable construction practices.

In addition to the Act, New York has increased its attention to this cause, especially focused on children, who are most at risk for lead-related negative health effects, by requiring health providers to test every child for lead in his or her blood when reaching 1 and 2 years old. Further, in 2016, Governor Cuomo took a bold step by requiring all public schools to test their water for lead as well as mandating those results be made public.

It appears that Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature have learned the very valuable lessons their counterparts in Michigan have taught us, and the important steps our government has since taken will help ensure the better health and quality of life for all of us that live in the Empire State.

Few, if any, in the medical industry are unfamiliar with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”).  Under AKS, those giving or receiving compensation for referrals for items or services reimbursed by the federal healthcare programs are subject to criminal prosecution.  The statute is intended to prevent exploitation of the federal healthcare system, avoid unnecessary inflation of program costs and encourage fair competition in the industry.

AKS prohibits, among other things, the knowing and willful payment or receipt of any form of compensation to induce or reward referrals involving any item or service payable by federal healthcare programs.  “Federal healthcare programs” include more than just Medicare and Medicaid – “any plan or program providing health care benefits, whether directly through insurance or otherwise, that is funded directly, in whole or part, by the United States government (other than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program), or any state health care program” is included.  This means that remuneration for referrals in connection with items and services that are reimbursable under TRICARE, the Veterans Administration, Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, and block grant programs are all subject to prosecution under AKS.

 

Where items or services are not reimbursable by a federal healthcare program, providers and referring parties are not subject to AKS prosecution.  However, due to an emerging trend in prosecution, the absence of reimbursement from federal healthcare programs should no longer leave providers and referral sources with a sense of security that they cannot be prosecuted for kickback arrangements.

 

Prosecutors are increasingly bringing charges against payers and recipients of remuneration for referrals in the medical arena under the Travel Act.  The Travel Act criminalizes the use of the United States mail and interstate or foreign travel for the purpose of engaging in certain specified criminal acts.  The Travel Act typically enforces two categories of state laws – laws prohibiting commercial bribery (i.e. corrupt dealings to secure an advantage over business competitors) and laws addressing illegal remuneration, including specific provisions regarding improper payments in connection with referral for services.

 

In two very recent high profile cases, prosecutors brought charges against those allegedly involved in kickback schemes under the both AKS and the Travel Act – Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services in New Jersey and Forest Park Medical Center in Texas.  Both cases have resulted in several plea bargains, yet both have charges under AKS and the Travel Act that are still pending.  While no court has directly ruled on the merits of prosecuting kickback schemes for medical services and items under the Travel Act, it is noteworthy that, in the Forest Park Medical Center case, the charges under the Travel Act survived a motion to dismiss at the district court level just last month.

 

All parties involved in referral arrangements for medical items or services should be on heightened alert as a result of this development.  Whereas AKS can only be used to prosecute parties to a kickback arrangement where federal healthcare program funds are at issue, the use of the Travel Act may broaden prosecutors’ reach to the private payor sector, even where federal healthcare programs are not involved.

In follow-up to our prior blog post, Concierge Medicine – Is it for you?, we recognize that while a concierge or direct-pay practice might be a good choice for a physician or physician practice group, patients do not necessarily feel the same way.  When patients hear that a medical practice is a “concierge” or “direct-pay” practice, they often think of prohibitively high out of pocket costs.  One way for a concierge or direct-pay practice to be more enticing to patients is to structure its billing methods so patients may be able to obtain reimbursement from their health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) for some of the associated costs.  Generally, access fees will not be reimbursable through either a HSA or FSA.  But costs incurred for qualified medical services actually rendered to the patient may be.  Here are some quick rules of thumb for when HSA and/or FSA reimbursement may be applicable to cover such costs:

 

Fees for Qualified Medical Services:  Any fees charged for qualified medical care (generally defined under the Internal Revenue Code to include the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease) are generally reimbursable under a HSA or FSA, to the extent not reimbursed by the patient’s insurance.

 

Access Fees or Subscription Fees:  Fees related solely to having access to a physician will not be reimbursable under either a HSA or FSA.  This is because they are not fees for qualified medical services, but rather are more akin to insurance premiums (which are also not reimbursable under a HSA or FSA).  Such non-reimbursable fees would include fees for admission as a patient, monthly retainer fees, fees for a reduced wait time, fees for 24 hour access to a physician, or any other fees not directly related to the rendering of medical services.

 

Prepaid Fees for Qualified Medical Services:  If an access fee or subscription fee includes a prepaid fee for a qualified medical service (for example, the annual fee includes the cost of a comprehensive physical examination), any costs attributable to that medical service that are not reimbursed by insurance may be reimbursable under a HSA or FSA, but not until such time as the service is actually rendered to the patient.

 

In order for patients to be able to take advantage of reimbursement from their HSA or FSA, they must have appropriate supporting documentation for the qualified medical service.  Documentation should include the patient’s name, the date of service, the type of service, and the fair market value charge attributable to just the medical service portion of the patient’s bill.

 

In sum, concierge and direct-pay practices can work for physicians on account of the upfront fees paid by patients.  However, if such fees include prepayment for medical services, it will not only encourage patients to take advantage of preventative care but may also enable them to recoup part of their upfront costs from their HSA or FSA once such services have been rendered.

 

Next week, look for the release of Medical Marijuana 102, a follow-up blog post to Veronique Urban’s Medical Marijuana 101:  The State of the Law in NY.  This will be the second blog post in a series of articles discussing the current state of the law in New York regarding medical marijuana.

According to the 2016 Kaiser/HERT Employer Health Benefits Survey, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored family health insurance coverage in 2016 was $18,142 – representing a 20% increase since 2011 and a 58% increase since 2006.  As the cost of healthcare coverage has continued to rise dramatically, patients are seeing a reduced level of personal care.  The average wait to schedule an appointment with a doctor in the United States is 24 days – up 30% since 2014.  Meanwhile, physicians report that they spend, on average, only 13 to 24 minutes with a patient and of that time, approximately 37% of it is spent on EHR and other administrative tasks.

 

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act imposed a requirement that most Americans have insurance coverage.  But it also identified direct primary care as an acceptable option.  Whereas concierge and direct-pay medicine had once been limited to a very wealthy consumer base, it was suddenly poised to hit the mainstream.  And it can be a win-win for both physicians and consumers – physicians have the potential to devote more time to each patient and less time to paperwork, and consumers can pay for faster, more personalized attention from a physician instead of paying the pricey premiums now charged in the market for traditional insurance coverage.

 

But is concierge medicine right for every physician?

 

  1. Do you want to continue to participate in Medicare? If so, you will still be required to bill Medicare for your concierge patients and will not be able to charge Medicare patients extra for Medicare covered services.  Nor can you charge a membership fee (aka an access fee) that includes extra charges for services Medicare usually covers.  (The exception is if you do not accept assignment, in which case you can charge up to 15% more than the Medicare-approved amount for a Medicare covered services.)  If Medicare usually covers a service but will not pay for it, you must still provide the patient with an ABN.  And even if you do choose to opt out of Medicare, give extreme care to following the proper procedures or you could be subjected to substantial penalties.

 

  1. You still need to price services at fair market value. Even if you opt out of Medicare, providing “free” services because they are included in the access fee could run afoul of state anti-kickback laws.  Obtain advice regarding your state laws before setting your contract, and set a fair market value at which you provide each service.

 

  1. Check with your state to make your concierge/direct-pay contract is in compliance. Some states – including New York and New Jersey – have questioned whether these arrangements are deemed to be the practice of insurance but even where they are not, certain provisions of state insurance law could apply to your contract.

 

  1. Termination of existing patients. You can expect attrition by many, if not most, of your existing patients when transitioning from a traditional practice to a concierge or direct-pay model.  You will need to comply with state laws and ethical rules with regard to finding alternate care.

 

  1. Compliance with HIPAA. To the extent you are not participating in insurance or Medicare, you might not be a “covered entity” under HIPAA; however, there are many state privacy and confidentiality laws that you will still be required to comply with.

 

In some instances, transitioning to a concierge or direct-pay business model could be a win-win for both doctors and patients.  However, there are many legal issues that require careful consideration as you set up your practice.  There are many consulting firms that specialize in planning this transition, and a good attorney can help you avoid any pitfalls and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.