Long Term Care, Home Health and DME

 

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.

New York increases Assisted Living Beds in 2018-19 Enacted Budget

While much of the public attention this year on healthcare budget negotiations in New York State was drawn to the pharmaceutical and managed care sectors, the Enacted Budget for 2018-19 also includes some very significant reforms in the long term care space. Continuing its ongoing efforts to rationalize what even the most ardent supporters of New York’s long term care system acknowledge to be an unnecessarily complicated structure, provisions in the Enacted Budget related to Licensed Home Care Service Agencies, Assisted Living Programs, Residential Health Care Facilities and Hospice reflect New York State’s continued efforts to combat fragmentation, inconsistent quality of services and waste across the continuum of care. This year, that has yielded policy outcomes that to the untrained eye can appear inconsistent, or even contradictory – but there is a method to the madness. The following is a list of some the key long term care reforms included in the 2018-19 Enacted Budget.

HOME CARE

Licensed Home Care Services Agencies (LHCSAs) appear to be on the frontline of the battle for consolidation of the community based long term care marketplace in New York. The 2018-19 Enacted Budget clearly articulates a policy in favor of encouraging fewer, larger LHCSAs instead of the current, heavily fragmented LHCSA market, via measures such as:

Limitations on MLTCP Contracting

Beginning October 1, 2018, the Commissioner of Health may limit the number of LHCSAs with which a Managed Long Term Care Plan (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.

For more about MLTCPs, look for our upcoming blog analysis of the overall Managed Care provisions in the 2018-19 Enacted Budget.

Moratorium on New LHCSAs

Effective April 1, 2018, there is a new statutory moratorium on the awarding of new LHCSA licenses until March 31, 2020.  This will not apply to:  (i) LHCSA applications submitted as part of an Assisted Living Program application; (ii) application for transfers of LHCSAs licensed for at least five years for the purposes of consolidating one or more LHCSAs; or (iii) applications that address a serious concern reflecting the same considerations that would justify an exception to the new MLTCP contract rule.

Expanded Certificate of Need for LHCSAs

The Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) must now consider public need, financial feasibility and other factors in addition to character and competence when evaluating a LHCSA application (previously, LHCSAs were technically exempt from those considerations).

Registration Requirements for Existing LHCSAs

Existing LHCSAs must register with the Department of Health, and presumably meet those new CON requirements, by January 1, 2019, and any failing to register for two years may have their licenses revoked.

The question remains whether these regulations will produce the desired effect, i.e., a consolidation of the LHCSA marketplace, and whether that consolidation will occur through large providers formally acquiring smaller providers, or the gradual disappearance of smaller providers altogether as they struggle to maintain market share.

Cost Reporting Requirements for Existing LHCSAs

Under the new provision, the Commissioner is authorized to require LHCSAs to report on costs incurred by the LHCSA in rendering health care services to Medicaid beneficiaries. The commissioner must give the LHCSA 90 days’ notice of the need for the report, and an additional 30 days to correct any perceived inaccuracies. LHCSAs must certify the accuracy and completeness of the reports.

ASSISTED LIVING PROGRAMS

Assisted Living Programs (“ALP”) appear to be the biggest winner among long term care providers in the Enacted Budget. In contrast to the state’s efforts to consolidate and centralize the LHCSA providers, the Enacted Budget authorizes a general expansion of existing ALP providers and encourages the establishment of new beds. Key provisions include:

New ALP Beds at Existing ALP Providers

Each existing ALP provider may apply to DOH for approval of up to nine additional ALP beds. To be eligible, the existing ALP provider must: (a) be in good standing with the DOH; (b) be in compliance with applicable state and local requirements; (c) not require any major renovation or construction to accommodate the new beds; and (d) agree to dedicate new beds to serve only individuals receiving Medicaid.

The number of new ALP beds approved under this program will be based on the total number of previously awarded beds either withdrawn by applicants or which were previously denied. The commissioner is obligated to approve applications under this section on an expedited basis – specifically, within 90 days of the receipt of a satisfactory application.

ALP providers licensed on or before April 1, 2018 will be eligible to apply during a time period to begin no later than June 30, 2018 and ALP providers licensed on or after April 1, 2018 will be eligible to apply during a time period to begin no later than June 30, 2020.

New ALP Beds in Counties with Few ALP Providers or High Utilization

The Commissioner of Health is authorized to create up to 500 new ALP beds in counties where there are one or fewer existing ALP Providers based on criteria to be determined by the Commissioner. The Commissioner is also authorized to solicit and award applications for an additional 500 ALP beds in counties where utilization of existing ALP beds exceeds 85%. To be eligible, the applicant must commit to: (a) dedicate the beds to serve only individuals receiving medical assistance; (b) develop and execute collaborative agreements with at least one of each of the following entities: an adult care facility; a residential health care facility; or a general hospital, within 24 months of applying to DOH; and (c) enter into an agreement with an existing managed care entity. ALP beds sought by, but not awarded to, providers in counties with one or fewer ALP providers may be issued to ALP providers in counties where utilization exceeds 85%.

New ALP Beds Based On Public Need

After April 1, 2023, the Commissioner of Health is authorized to approve additional new beds on a case by case basis wherever a public need exists. In determining whether a public need exists, the Commissioner may consider, but is not limited to, regional occupancy rates for adult care facilities and ALP occupancy rates and the extent to which the project will serve individuals receiving Medicaid. Existing ALP Providers will be eligible for up to 9 additional beds under this provision.

ALP for Individuals with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

The Commissioner is authorized to issue up to two hundred vouchers for Medicaid ineligible people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia covering up to 75% of the cost of ALP based on the average private pay rate in the respective region.

RESIDENTIAL HEALTH CARE FACILITIES

The Enacted Budget includes a mix of quality control and increased support measures directed at Residential Health Care Facilities (RHCFs):

Medicaid Reduction for Underperforming Facilities

The Enacted Budget includes a provision directing the Commissioner to reduce Medicaid revenue to any RHCF in a given payment year by 2%, where that RHCF performed in the lowest two quintiles of facilities based on its nursing home quality initiative data in each of the two most recent payment years for which data is available, and was ranked in the lowest quintile in the most recent payment year. The Commissioner has the authority to waive this provision in the event the Commissioner deems the facility to be in “financial distress”.

Funding For Capital Projects

As discussed in greater detail in our earlier post regarding the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program (SHCFTP), $45 million is dedicated to RHCFs to increase the quality of resident care or experience, or to improve their health information technology infrastructure, including telehealth, to strengthen the acute, post-acute and long-term care continuum, but not for general operating expenses.

Telehealth

The Enacted Budget also expands the definition of an “originating site” for purposes of telehealth to include RHCFs treating populations with special needs.

HOSPICE

The Enacted Budget requires the Commissioner to establish a methodology as of July 1, 2018, subject to federal financial participation, that will ensure a 10% increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospice providers for services provided on or after April 1, 2018. Furthermore, the Enacted budget carves hospice providers out of the Opioid Drug provisions requiring a care plan for pain lasting more than three months (discussed here).

Hospice facilities shall be eligible for up to $60 million in funding dedicated to community-based providers through SHCFTP (discussed here).

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.

The New York State Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued an emergency regulation clarifying its minimum-wage rules regarding home care employees. The emergency regulation provides that sleep and meal times for home care aides who work shifts of 24 hours or more are not counted as hours worked. Recently, there has been a ringing dissonance between the DOL and decisions set forth by the New York State Appellate Divisions, First and Second Departments, regarding whether home care workers should be paid for an entire 24-hour shift, including sleep and meal time. In fact, the DOL expressly cited the fact that the emergency regulation is being promulgated in direct reaction to decisions issued by the New York State Appellate Divisions. For reference, the decisions triggering the emergency regulation are: Moreno v. Future Care Health Servs., Inc., 2017 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6462 (2d Dept Sept. 13, 2017); (2d Dep’t Sept. 13, 2017); Andreyeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc., 2017 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6408 (2d Dep’t Sept. 13, 2017); and Tokhtaman v. Human Care, LLC, 149 A.D.3d 476 (1st Dep’t Apr. 11, 2017).

The above-referenced decisions effectively flipped the New York home care industry on its head, each holding, in sum, that home care workers were entitled to pay for all 24 hours worked, including sleep and meal time. Enter the DOL, on October 5, 2017, who quickly put any remaining ambiguity to rest once and for all stating “that hours worked may exclude meal periods and sleep times for home care aides who work shifts of 24 hours or more”. The DOL reasoned that “[t]his regulation is needed to preserve the status quo, prevent the collapse of the homecare industry, and avoid institutionalizing patients who could be cared for at home, in the face of recent decisions by the State Appellate divisions that treat meal periods and sleep time [as hours worked]”.

The emergency regulation is expected to return the home care industry back to normalcy and prevent home care agencies from ceasing to provide “vital, lifesaving care” to thousands of New Yorkers who depend on it. The DOL explained that this “emergency adoption amends the relevant regulations to codify the Commissioner’s longstanding and consistent interpretations that such meal periods and sleep times do not constitute hours worked for purposes of minimum wage and overtime requirements”. And so, the longstanding rule about sleeping on the job still stands: you won’t get paid for it in New York.

Note:  Special thanks to our law clerk, Nicholas G. Moneta, for his assistance in drafting this blog post.

In our previous post, Medical Marijuana 103: Patient and Practitioner Regulations in New York State, we discussed that patients certified for medical marijuana use can designate up to two caregivers. Caregivers can assist patients who are unable to pick up medical marijuana at a dispensing facility or are unable to administer medical marijuana to themselves properly.

Previously the Medical Marijuana Program only allowed for designated caregivers to be natural persons. On October 5, 2017, however, the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) issued emergency regulations that expand the definition of caregiver to allow certain facilities to be designated caregivers. By expanding the definition in this way, patients who are located in or reside at certain facilities can designate their facility as their caregiver, thus making it easier for such patients to obtain medical marijuana.

The new regulations define a designated caregiver as either a natural person or a facility. The term “facility” is further defined as, among others, hospitals, adult day care facilities, community mental health residences, and private and public schools. In addition, each division, department, component, floor or other unit of a parent facility may be designated as a “facility” for purposes of being designated a caregiver.

Just like natural persons, facilities will need to register with the DOH in order to be designated a caregiver for purposes of the Medical Marijuana Program. Once registered with the DOH facilities will be authorized to lawfully possess, acquire, deliver, transfer, transport and/or administer medical marijuana to certified patients residing in, or attending, that facility.

The DOH considered alternatives prior to issuing the emergency regulations, stating:

The Department could have chosen to keep the status quo and not allow patients to designate facilities as designated caregivers. The Department could have also allowed certified patients to designate an individual within the facility to be a caregiver. However, these options are not viable since patients in facilities may be cared for by multiple staff members in the course of a day. Certified patients have severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions and the regulatory amendments would help to prevent adverse events associated with abrupt discontinuation of a treatment alternative that may be providing relief for certified patients in these facilities.”

The regulations were published in the New York State Register on October 25, 2017. The DOH will accept comments from the public for a minimum of 45 days following the date of publication. After publication in the Register and receipt of public comment, the agency may either adopt, revise or withdraw the proposal. This change is just one of the latest revisions implemented by the DOH in an attempt to strengthen and expand New York’s struggling Medical Marijuana Program.

Picture1Under the Privacy Rule, HIPAA covered entities (health care providers and health plans) are required to provide individuals, upon request, with access to their protected health information (PHI) in one or more “designated record sets” maintained by or for the covered entity.

Covered entities are also required to protect the individual’s PHI from unauthorized disclosure. How must a covered entity verify the identity of the individual requesting the PHI so as to comply with the Privacy Rule without at the same time violating it?

Recent guidance from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is somewhat helpful.

According the guidance, the Privacy Rule requires a covered entity to take “reasonable steps” to verify the identity of an individual requesting access (citing 45 CFR 164.514(h)).  OCR confirms the Privacy Rule does not mandate the form of verification, but rather leaves the manner of verification to the professional judgment of the covered entity, provided the verification processes and measures “do not create barriers to or unreasonably delay the individual from obtaining access to her PHI”.  OCR explains that verification may be oral or in writing and states that the type of verification depends on how the individual is requesting or receiving access. For instance, a person may request access in person, by phone, by fax or e-mail, or through a web portal hosted by the covered entity.

OCR suggests that standard request forms ask for basic information about the individual to enable the covered entity to verify the individual is the subject of the information requested.  For those covered entities providing individuals with access to their PHI through web portals, the portals should be set up with appropriate authentication controls, as required by the HIPAA Security Rule (for instance password protection and required periodic password updates).

For individuals who may call requesting access to their PHI, good policy might require verification of the requestors date of birth, address, and perhaps the condition the individual was treated for.

Verifying the authority of an individual’s personal representative is determined under State law. In the next blog post, we will look at the law in New York on who is a qualified person for purposes of access to an individual’s medical records.

An interesting SDNY settlement agreement resolves some False Claims Act allegations, but leaves others for another day.  Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNS) paid just under $35 million to the United States and New York State to settle allegations that VNS improperly billed Medicaid for 1,740 members whose needs did not qualify for a managed care plan.  The government alleged that these members were improperly referred by social adult day care centers (SADCC), or received services primarily from SADCCs, many of which provided substandard and minimal care.   

In the settlement agreement, VNS admitted that 1,740 Medicaid long term care  program members were referred by SADCCs or used SADCC services, and were not eligible to be members of the plan; and that various SADCCs in the provider network did not provide services that qualified as “personal care services” under the long term care program contract with New York’s Department of Health. 

The settlement agreement has a unique “Remaining Investigation” provision.  Most FCA settlement agreements are designed to settle all claims against the defendants.  The VNS settlement agreement, however, provides that it resolves only part of the United States investigation. Examples of allegations that are part of the “Remaining Investigation” are redacted in the publicly-filed document.  In a provision that could lead to interesting questions of interpretation, VNS agrees  “to cooperate with the Remaining Investigation,” but without waiving attorney-client or joint defense privileges, work product protections, or factual or legal defenses covering claims the government may bring against VNS.  The issue of whether VNS is satisfying its duty of cooperation under the agreement while maintaining assertions of privilege and factual and legal defenses will be difficult to sort out if it is ever litigated.  The settlement agreement carves out any potential claims against the president of the corporation that administered the managed health care plan, so that individual could be the focus of the “Remaining Investigation.”  In addition, the Court approved keeping the relator’s complaint and the government’s complaint-in-intervention under seal.

During the pendency of the “Remaining Investigation,” VNS agrees to monitor and further revise standards for credentialing SADCCs; only credential SADCCs that have necessary certificates; monitor SADCCs to ensure compliance with credentialing; ensure that SADCCs provide proper personal care services; and prohibit marketing practices directed at enrolling members through SADCCs.

Earlier this month, a bill to amend the False Claims Act (“FCA”), the “Fairness in Health Care Claims, Guidance and Investigations Act,” was introduced in the House of Representatives.  According to one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), the bill’s purpose is to ensure that unintentional billing disputes are not penalized as fraud.

Some parts of the bill are unlikely to gain wide support.  First, the bill requires that before the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) requests information from a health care provider as part of an investigation, it would have to certify that the responsible agency had examined all regulations, guidelines and billing instructions, all communications with the alleged perpetrator, and each of the allegedly false claims, and certify that the allegations are viable and that the regulations, guidelines and billing instructions were unambiguous at the time of the violation.  Without such a certification, the Court would be required to dismiss a qui tam complaint based on those allegations.

When DOJ receives a qui tam complaint, however, it is mandated by law to investigate, and the bill would seem to require that the government undertake a full investigation based on its own records alone, and on all of the involved claims, before seeking any information from a provider.  The bill would also apply to federal investigations that do not arise from qui tam complaints.  Legislators are unlikely to so severely restrict the ability of federal agencies to investigate health care fraud in light of the massive resources being poured into enforcement.  Similarly, passage of the provision to raise the FCA standard of proof from “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence” is a long-shot.

Sections Likely to Gain Support

Nevertheless, some parts of the bill could garner support because they go directly to the concept of “fairness” in the bill’s title, and the widespread concern that billing errors or confusion about compliance are routinely characterized by investigators and qui tam relators as fraud.  The bill provides that an FCA case could not be brought based on a claim submitted in good faith reliance on: (1) erroneous information supplied by an agency; (2) written statements of Federal policy provided by an agency; or (3) an audit or review by the agency of the person submitting the claim where there was no finding that the claim was a violation.  The bill would also bar FCA cases where a claim was submitted in substantial compliance with a model compliance program issued by HHS.  Some form of these provisions would add a measure of fairness for providers who are attempting to comply in good faith but do not succeed in meeting all the requirements of extremely complex regulations, guidelines and billing instructions.  Another bill provision would limit FCA claims to those involving an amount of damages that is material to the government.

Providing a safe harbor for providers attempting good faith compliance would be a very appealing change to the FCA.  While the DOJ certification provision has a limited chance of success, a restriction on excessive or disproportionate use of subpoenas and civil investigative demands may have broader support.  In any event, this bill highlights the problems providers face when billing errors or confusion are treated as fraud, and they are subjected to the staggering costs of responding to a federal investigation and the crippling risks of fighting the treble damages and penalties of an FCA case.

Farrell Fritz health care attorneys know the False Claims Act, and can help health care providers deal with government investigations, audits, and compliance issues.