Insurance and Managed Care

While there has been discussion of the potential proliferation of telemedicine for quite some time, telemedicine is finally positioned to take off thanks to the latest federal budget. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 incorporated the text of the CHRONIC Care Act,[1] which facilitates Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services by – among other things – allowing Medicare accountable care organizations to build broader telehealth benefits into Medicare Advantage plans and expand the use of virtual care for stroke and dialysis patients. While many providers are eager to take the leap into telemedicine, there are still some things to look out for:

Not all states have caught up – while the vast a majority of states have enacted legislation mandating private insurers provide some degree of parity of insurance coverage between in-person and telehealth services, at least a dozen states have enacted no such legislation at all.

Beware of Stark, Anti-Kickback and private inurement violations, as telemedicine often involves complex arrangements between physicians and healthcare facilities. To that end, make sure the terms of any compensation arrangement are commercially reasonable and/or consistent with fair market value. And be vigilant when evaluating market data, as pricing may vary widely due to participants coming into a market at low cost for strategic reasons. Market data may also be impacted by accessibility to healthcare services in certain localities. The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) has issued Advisory Opinions related to telemedicine compensation arrangements that should be considered when reviewing such arrangements. Additionally, in April of this year OIG issued a report highlighting instances of improper billing for telemedicine services.

One area on which practitioners have particularly set their sights is telemedicine for opioid addiction treatment. However, unlike the popular telemedicine practices of dialysis and stroke treatment, substance abuse treatment via telemedicine has its own set of constraints.

  • Providers of Medication-Assisted Treatment to reduce opioid use disorders have restrictions on the number of patients they may treat at any given time, with a limitation of 30 patients for their first certification year and the opportunity to increase to 100 in the subsequent year upon fulfilment of certain criteria.
  • Additionally, restrictions on a provider’s ability to prescribe certain controlled substances used to treat opioid use disorder over telemedicine exist under both state and federal laws.

In sum, while the CHRONIC Care Act facilitates further foray into the expanding world of telemedicine, there are many pitfalls to be aware of in both ensuring compliance with applicable laws and ensuring the ability to set up a profitable business.  Always consult with an experienced professional before expanding your practice.

[1] The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act.

 

 

Providing Care at Home

As we reported in our annual series highlighting the various healthcare related provisions of the 2018-19 New York State Budget (here), the Enacted Budget reflects the state’s overall policy towards consolidation of the home care marketplace.  Nowhere is the effort to force consolidation more apparent than in the Licensed Home Care Services Agencies (LHCSA) space.  The Enacted Budget has imposed a two-year moratorium on new approvals, a limit on the number of LHCSAs with which Managed Long Term Care Plans (MLTCP) can contract and a new requirement that in the future LHCSA applicants will need to demonstrate “public need” and “financial feasibility” for a post-moratorium certificate of need.  As explained below, however, there may yet be hope for LHCSA applicants and projects that were in the pipeline prior to the moratorium if they fit within one of the three narrow statutory exceptions to the moratorium.  In this article we explore the recent history of LHCSAs in New York, as well as the recent guidance offered by the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) on how these new restrictions will be implemented.

LHCSAs were subject to a prior moratorium until 2010, when that moratorium was ended by DOH.  The rapid growth in number of LHCSAs since that time can be attributed to a number of factors, including New York’s aging population, the trend away from inpatient long-term care, the “age in place” movement, and the fact that, up until this year, there was no “public need” or “financial feasibility” requirements in order to obtain a certificate of need for a LHCSA.  There are currently over 1,400 LHCSAs authorized to provide hourly nursing care, assistance with activities of daily living and other health and social services to New York’s low-income elderly and disabled populations – though the number actually providing services is unknown.  As noted by Crain’s Health Pulse on April 23, 2018, the most recent employment figures for the home care industry, which includes Certified Home Health Agencies (CHHA), show the sector has been growing at a breakneck pace.  In the past five years alone, home health employers have added 72,600 jobs in New York.  And, for the first time ever, the number of people employed in the home health sector in New York City (167,000) has surpassed the number employed by private hospitals in New York City (166,300).  In contrast, and highlighting the increasing demand for homecare services over inpatient long term care services, nursing home employment is on the decline.

As a result of this growth, the general sentiment among DOH officials appears to be that there are once again too many LHCSAs; hence the reforms included in the 2018-19 Enacted Budget.  Ostensibly, DOH believes that fewer providers will reduce waste, inefficiency, and the opportunity for fraud.  Industry advocates, on the other hand, maintain that efforts to consolidate the industry ignore the fact that home care is provided locally and should therefore be locally run, and that various cultural and special needs communities require individualized boutique services that larger consolidated firms may not be able to accommodate.

While the general effort to consolidate the LHCSA marketplace and home care in general was not unexpected, the rather abrupt implementation of these provisions has clearly caught the industry’s major stakeholders off guard.  If the colloquy among the members of the Public Health and Health Planning Committee’s (PHHPC) Establishment and Project Review Committee (EPRC) at its April 12, 2018 meeting is any indicator (click here for the video and transcript), neither the EPRC nor the estimated 350 or so LHCSAs with applications pending before the PHHPC or in the pipeline were aware that these changes were forthcoming.  Indeed, less than three weeks earlier, at a meeting of the EPRC on March 22, 2018, the EPRC approved some 22 LHCSA applications for presentation to the full PHHPC for final approval.  On April 12, however, the EPRC was asked to consider a motion withdrawing that approval and deferring action on those applications, and 12 additional applications, until the DOH had time to consider them in the context of the moratorium.  After some confusion, the motion was withdrawn without comment and the 22 previously approved applications were sent to the full PHHPC, where they were ultimately deferred pending evaluation under then yet-to-be drafted guidelines on exceptions to the moratorium.  There was one new piece of information offered at the meeting – in response to concern that the two-year period of the moratorium seems arbitrary, Deputy Commissioner Sheppard noted the period was “specifically determined as the period of time that the Department would need to develop and promulgate regulations establishing a full need methodology for the approval of LHCSAs, including a determination of public need and financial feasibility.”  It is also clear that DOH intends to use the two-year period to collect data under the Enacted Budget’s new registration and cost reporting provisions, which went into effect to “better understand” the existing LHCSA marketplace and as part of its public need and financial feasibility formula moving forward.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that a moratorium affecting submitted and future applications has been imposed.  The DOH imposed a moratorium on CHHAs between 1994-2000, as well as a moratorium on LHCSAs between 2008-2010 (as noted).  In 2000, the DOH imposed a moratorium on the processing of all pending nursing home applications which had yet to receive final approval and begin construction in order to study public need in light of perceived oversupply.  The nursing home moratorium was challenged multiple times in State Supreme Court by aggrieved applicants and repeatedly upheld by the Second and Third Departments.  See, e.g., Matter of Urban Strategies v. Novello, 297 A.D.2d 745 (2d Dept. 2002) and Jay Alexander Manor Inc. v. Novello, 285 A.D.2d 951 (3d Dept. 2001).  One interesting distinction between previous moratoria on LHCSAs, CHHAs and nursing homes and the instant moratorium on LHCSAs is that the former were imposed by the DOH under its discretionary enforcement and regulatory authority, whereas the latter was enacted by the Legislature through its inherent power to regulate health and welfare.  Whether the instant moratorium, which will arguably be more difficult to defeat given its origin, will face a court challenge remains to be seen.

Until the expiration of the LHCSA moratorium on March 31, 2020, however, only those applications which fit within one of three exceptions will be processed: (1) the ALP Related Exception; (2) the Change of Ownership Related Exception; and (3) the Serious Need Exception.  In early May, the DOH released guidance documents, as well as new applications and instructions related to these three statutory exceptions.  The statutory language containing the exceptions and the recent guidance provided by DOH are summarized below.

  • ALP Related Exceptions.

Statutory Language:

(a) an application seeking licensure of a licensed home care services agency that is submitted with an application for approval as an assisted living program authorized pursuant to section 461-l of the social services law.

Additional information from DOH Guidance and Revised Application:

  • The ALP application must have been submitted to the Department and an application number issued, that number must be included in the applicant’s submission.
  • Ownership of the LHCSA must be identical to the ownership of the ALP.
  • Approval will be limited to serving the residents of the associated ALP. Therefore, the application may request only the county in which the ALP resides as the county to be served.
  • The application must include an attestation acknowledging that the approval will be limited to serving the residents of the associated ALP.

 

  • Change of Ownership Related Exceptions.

Statutory Language:

(b)  an  application seeking  approval  to  transfer  ownership for an existing licensed home care services agency that has been licensed and operating for a  minimum of  five years for the purpose of consolidating ownership of two or more licensed home care services agencies.

Additional information from DOH Guidance and Revised Application:

  • Only changes in ownership that consolidate two or more LHCSAs may be accepted during the moratorium. Consolidate means reducing the number of LHCSA license numbers, not a reduction in the number of sites operated under a license number.  A LHCSA license number, for this purpose, is the first four digits, before the “L”.  The application must include all sites of the to‐be‐acquired agency.
  • LHCSAs to be acquired must be currently operational and have been in operation at least five years.
  • The application must request approval to acquire all of the sites of the existing agency.
  • The application must include an attestation and statistical report data verifying the seller(s) is/are operational and has/have been for a minimum of five years, which shall include:
    • the number of patients served in each county for which they are approved to serve and the number and types of staff employed, currently and in each of the previous five years.
    • A statement that reads “In accordance with the requirements of 10 NYCRR 765-2.3 (g) {Agency Name} will promptly surrender their Licensed Home Care Services Agency license(s) to the NYS Department of Health when they cease providing home care services.”
    • A statement that that indicates the operator understands that the actual transfers of ownership interest may not occur until after all necessary approvals are acquired from the DOH and the PHHPC
  • If an existing LHCSA is purchasing one or more LHCSAs, the buyer must also currently be operational per 10 NYCRR Section 765‐3(g).  The application must include an attestation and statistical report data verifying the buyer is currently operational, which shall include:
    • the number of patients served in each county for which they are approved to serve and the number and types of staff employed, currently and in each of the previous five years.

Examples of Qualifying Change of Ownership Applications  

  • An existing LHCSA purchases one or more separately licensed existing LHCSAs. Upon approval, the purchased LHCSAs licenses must be surrendered and their sites become additional sites of the purchasing LHCSA.
  • A new corporation (not currently licensed as a LHCSA) purchases two or more existing LHCSAs. One new license is issued, with the purchased LHCSAs licenses being surrendered and their sites becoming sites of the newly licensed LHCSA.

Examples of Non‐Qualifying Changes in Ownership Applications  

  • A new proposed operator replaces the current operator of a LHCSA.
  • A new controlling entity is established at a level above the current operator.
    • During the moratorium, the change or addition of controlling persons above the operator does not qualify under the exception criteria. As such, if the controlling person/entity chooses to submit an affidavit attesting they will refrain from exercising control over the LHCSA (see 10 NYCRR Section 765-1.14(a)(2) for required affidavit language) until the moratorium is lifted and an application can be submitted, processed, and approved, then the corporate transaction may proceed. Within 30 days of the moratorium being lifted, the agency must submit an application for PHHPC approval of the controlling person.
  • A partial change in ownership requiring Public Health and Health Planning Council approval.
    • Transfers of ownership (full or partial) due to the death of an owner, partner, stockholder, member without the consolidation of LHCSA licenses, does not qualify under the exemption criteria. However, in accordance with section 401 of the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA), the LHCSA may continue to operate until the Moratorium is lifted and an application may be submitted, unless other sections of regulation or law require otherwise.
  • Serious Concern Exceptions:

Statutory Language:

(c)  an  application  seeking licensure  of  a  home  care  services agency where the applicant demonstrates  to  the  satisfaction  of  the  commissioner  of  health   that submission  of  the application to the public health and health planning council for consideration would  be  appropriate  on  grounds  that  the application addresses a serious concern such as a lack of access to home care services in the geographic area or a lack of adequate and appropriate  care,  language and cultural competence, or special needs services.

Additional information from DOH Guidance and Revised Application:

  • There is a presumption of adequate access if there are two or more LHCSAs already approved in the proposed county.
  • Approved LHCSAs include those that are operational and those approved but not‐yet‐
  • If there are two or more LHCSAs in the requested county:
  • the applicant must articulate the population to be served for which there is a lack of access to licensed home care services;
  • the applicant must submit substantial, data‐driven proof of lack of access to the population (demographics, disposition and referral source for targeted patient population, level of care and visits required, payor mix, etc.);
  • the applicant must provide satisfactory documentation that no existing LHCSA in the county can provide services to the population;
  • if more than one county is requested, the application must include all required material for each county individually;
  • the applicant may request to operate in up to five counties, only.

 

The first round of applications to be processed under this framework occurred at the May 17, 2018 meeting of the PHHPC  (Link to video and agenda).  Those of us looking for additional insight on how the new guidance would be applied by DOH and evaluated by the PHHPC in practice were left wanting, as the entire discussion regarding LHCSAs encompassed less than two minutes of the nearly three-hour meeting.  Notably, the five applications considered and approved at the hearing (as a batch) were all within the ALP Related Exception.  They included:

Elderwood Home Care at Wheatfield

Elderwood Home Care at Williamsville

Western NY Care Services, LLC

Home Care for Generations, LLC

Magnolia Home Care Services

While it may be coincidence, this suggests that DOH and PHHPC have either prioritized LHCSA applications fitting within the ALP Related Exception, or that these types of applications are the simplest to identify and review.

In addition to the guidance on exceptions to the moratorium, DOH has also recently released guidance on the Enacted Budget’s limitations on the number of LHCSAs with which MLTCPs can contract.  As noted in our previous post (here), beginning October 1, 2018, the Commissioner of Health may limit the number of LHCSAs with which an MLTCP may contract, according to a formula tied to (1) MLTCP region, (2) number of MLTCP enrollees,  and (3) timing (the number changes on October 1, 2019).  Exceptions are allowed if necessary to (a) maintain network adequacy, (b) maintain access to special needs services, (c) maintain access to culturally competent services, (d) avoid disruption in services, or (e) accede to an enrollee’s request to continue to receive services from a particular LHCSA employee or employees for no longer than three months.

DOH guidance issued on April 26 to plan administrators (link here), explains the formula that will be used to calculate the number of LHCSAs with which an MLTCP can contract. MLTCPs operating in the City of New York and/or the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester may enter into contracts with LHCSAs in such region at a maximum number calculated based upon the following methodology:

  1. As of October 1, 2018, one contract per seventy-five members enrolled in the plan within such region; and
  2. As of October 1, 2019, one contract per one hundred members enrolled in the plan

within such region.

MLTCPs operating in counties other than those in the city of New York and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester may enter into contracts with LHCSAs in such region at a maximum number calculated based upon the following methodology:

  1. As of October 1, 2018, one contract per forty-five members enrolled in the plan within such region; and
  2. As of October 1, 2019, one contract per sixty members enrolled in the plan within such region.

Additionally, the DOH confirmed that in instances where limits on contracts may result in the enrollee’s care being transferred from one LHCSA to another, and in the event the enrollee wants to continue to be cared for by the same worker(s), the MLTC plan may contract with the enrollee’s current LHCSA for the purpose of continuing the enrollee’s care by that worker(s). These types of contracts shall not count towards the limits mentioned above for a period of three months.

The next big revelation expected from the DOH vis a vis LHCSA restrictions are the parameters by which “financial feasibility” and “public need” will be determined for purposes of issuing certificates of need once the moratorium is over.  As those regulations become available, we will provide a further update.  If you have questions about whether your project may satisfy the requirements of one of the above exception, or you would like to be part of the conversation with the DOH as the framework for the new CON methodology is developed, contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

 

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.

***

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.