During a year in which legislative activity was restrained by a variety of factors, most notably the Senate’s inability to maintain a consistent majority, the New York State Legislature nonetheless still passed 641 bills, several of which would affect the pharmaceutical sector. While the Governor has until the end of the year to consider and act on these proposals, we wanted to provide a brief summary of this legislation as it currently stands.

Drug Take Back Act (S.9100 by Senator Hannon / A.9576-B Assemblywoman Gunther): This bill would establish a statewide pharmaceutical take back program that would be overseen by the Department of Health. Pharmaceutical manufacturers engaged in the manufacture of covered drugs sold in New York would be required to either individually or jointly develop, and fully fund all administrative and operational fees associated with this take back program.

Under this legislation, the definition of “covered drugs” includes substances recognized under 21 USC §321 (g) (1) that are sold or offered for sale in NYS, but does not include:

  •  drugs used in the clinical setting;
  •  biological drugs if the manufacturer already provides a take back program;
  •  drugs that are already part of a manufacturer FDA managed Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program;
  •  emptied injector products or emptied medical devices and their component parts or accessories;
  • vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies;
  • cosmetics;
  • soaps and shampoos;
  • household cleaning products;
  • sunscreens;
  • personal care products;
  • pet pesticide products contained in collars, powders, shampoos or other topical applications.

Affected manufacturers would be required to submit a proposed drug take back plan to the Department of Health (DOH) for approval which specifies their intent to either:

  • operate a program individually or jointly with other manufacturers;
  • enter into an agreement with a take back organization to operate and implement a take back program; or
  • enter into an agreement with DOH to operate a program on its own behalf.

Manufacturers of covered drugs must submit their proposed plan to DOH within 180 days after the bill is signed into law. The proposed plan must:

  • ensure the program will take back all covered drugs, regardless of who produces them;
  • include contact information for the person charged with submitting and overseeing the manufacturer take back initiative;
  • detail how the program will provide convenient, geographically distributed, ongoing collection services to all individuals wishing to dispose of such items;
  • describe other collection efforts by which covered drugs are collected;
  • explain how covered drugs will be safely and securely tracked and handled during the collection, disposal and destruction process;
  • outline the public education and outreach activities, including advertising of locations on a website, signage, other written materials and how effectiveness will be evaluated;   
  • detail how the cost of pharmacy collection will be reimbursed, retroactive to the effective date of legislation, and if there is more than one manufacturer involved in the take back program, a plan for fair and reasonable allocation of costs that is reasonably related to the volume or value of covered drugs sold in NY.

The DOH, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation, will review and determine if the manufacturer take back plan meets the program requirements within 60 days of receipt and will notify the manufacturer of their decision in writing.  If the plan is not approved, the manufacturer will have 30 days to submit a revised plan to DOH. If a subsequent plan is rejected by DOH, the manufacturer(s) will be out of compliance with take back statutory requirements and will be subject to enforcement provisions. The DOH will put a list on their website of all manufacturers that are participating in an approved drug take back program and will update this website annually.    

Moreover, affected manufacturers are required to update their drug take back program at least once every three years and to submit an updated proposal to DOH.  Any proposed change to the take back program must be submitted in writing and approved by DOH.

Additionally, a manufacturer who begins to offer a covered drug after the effective date of this bill, is required to notify the DOH they have joined an existing approved take back program or submit a proposal to operate a take back program within 90 days after the initial sale of the covered drug.

Each approved take back program is required to submit a report, at a date and in a manner set forth by DOH. The DOH is then required to submit an annual report to the Legislature which details:

  • all drug take back program activities;
  • the weight collected by each program;
  • a description of collection activities;
  • the name and location of all collection sites;
  • public education and outreach activities;
  • evaluation of efficacy of the program and each collection method; and
  • manufacturers that are out of compliance or subject to penalties.

This legislation would also require all pharmacy chains that operate 10 or more establishments and all registered non-resident pharmacies that provide covered drugs to state residents by mail, to offer one or more of the following take back options to consumers:

  • on-site collection,
  • drop box or receptacle;
  • mail back collection by voucher for a prepaid envelope; or
  • any other federal DEA approved collection methods.

Participation in the drug take back program by other authorized collectors is voluntary. All program costs incurred by pharmacies and other authorized collectors will be paid or reimbursed by the affected manufacturers, either jointly or individually.

Additionally, the Commissioner of Health will establish a drug take back distribution plan by regulation for cities with a population of 125,000 or more that ensures collection receptacle placement is accessible yet provides for program cost efficiency.

Lastly, this legislation preempts any county/municipal action on drug take back and includes language to clarify the jurisdiction of all matters relating to drug disposal is vested at the State level.   

Reclassification of Controlled Substances by Regulation (A.10468-B by Assemblymember Ryan / S.8275-B by Senator Jacobs): This bill would allow the Commissioner of Health to reclassify any drug (compound, mixture or preparation) containing any substance listed in Schedule I of §3306 of the Public Health Law as a Schedule II, III, IV, or V substance, or exempt it from the schedules entirely, by regulation or emergency regulation instead of through the enactment of legislation, as is currently required.  The Commissioner of DOH would only be able to reclassify or delete drugs that have been similarly reclassified or deleted under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The Commissioner would be permitted to reclassify drugs to the same numbered schedule or a higher numbered schedule. This bill seeks to increase treatment options for those seeking compassionate care, and corrects a long-standing barrier that sometimes resulted in inconsistencies between the federal and state schedules.

Medical Marihuana as Alternative Treatment for Pain and Substance Use Disorder (S8987-A by Senator Amedore / A. 11011-B by Assemblymember Gottfried (Rules): This legislation would help provide alternative treatment options for pain management and substance use disorder by including “pain that degrades health and functional capability where the use of medical marihuana is an alternative to opioid use” and “substance use disorder” to the list of qualifying conditions for patients to access medical marihuana.

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It is unclear when and how the Governor will act on these bills.  However, all of these issues have been the focus of increased attention and advocacy this year.  As discussed in our previous post, the Governor must consider and act upon these bills by the end of 2018.  The Governor may also negotiate any additional language or “chapter amendments” he believes may be necessary to fully implement such provisions.

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

The scheduled 2018 New York State Legislative Session concluded last week amid many of the same speculations and controversies that have characterized all of the Legislature’s activities in recent years.  Once again, much of the activity turned on the Legislature’s tense relationship with the Governor, ongoing questions about control of the Senate, and a backdrop of corruption trials that continue to erode public confidence in State government.  This year, legislative activity was more constrained than usual, owing to the Senate’s inability to maintain a commanding majority on a consistent basis, which was attributable to the recent dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference and the absence of one majority Senator serving in the United States Navy.  While the Senate was not entirely paralyzed, and at one point even accomplished a rare override of a gubernatorial veto, many legislative initiatives that were anticipated to move did not.

But even in this challenging year, many bills were passed in the health and mental hygiene space.  Examples include:

  •  Pharmacy:  The Legislature passed bills requiring manufacturers engaged in the manufacture of covered drugs sold in New York State to develop and operationalize a statewide pharmaceutical take back program, and authorizing the reclassification of controlled substances by regulation rather than by statute.
  •  Hospitals:  Legislation was passed that would require the Department of Health (DOH) to establish a sexual assault victim bill of rights, which hospitals must provide to every sexual offense victim presenting at the hospital.  Other legislation would authorize hospitals to establish standing orders for nurses caring for newborns, allow a nurse practitioner to witness and serve as a health care proxy, establish new standards for clinical laboratory supervision, and require the Office of Mental Health to supply educational materials to hospitals regarding discharge planning for individuals with mental health disorders.
  • Long Term Care:  Bills were passed related to virtually all aspects of the long term care continuum, including bills allowing residents of an assisted living program to access hospice services, requiring DOH to provide written notice to residents of adult care facilities when a temporary operator has been appointed, and clarifying the scope of the long term care ombudsman program.
  • Behavioral Health:  The Legislature approved bills related to maternal depression, the mental health impacts of tick-borne diseases, geriatric mental health services, and suicide prevention, among other mental health issues.  Bills passed in the substance use disorder space include a bill making it a crime for providers of substance abuse services to offer or accept kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals, a bill requiring the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to provide information to school districts regarding the misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, prescription medication and other drugs, and a bill allowing the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids.
  • Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities:  Bills passed in this space include bills to establish identification cards for individuals with developmental disabilities, to allow individuals with developmental disabilities to be accompanied by staff of the same gender when utilizing transportation, to require 85% of the proceeds from the sale of Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) property to be used for state-operated residential or community services, to prohibit OPWDD from changing the auspice of any individualized residential alternative that is operated by the state, and to study and improve outreach concerning autism spectrum disorder.
  • Public Health: A number of the bills passed this session did not deal with specific types of providers, but rather addressed more general public health concerns.  Among these bills were a bill prohibiting discrimination in the provision of insurance based on the fact that an insured is a living organ or tissue donor and authorizing family leave to provide care during transplant preparation and recovery, bills prohibiting smoking in private homes where licensed child care services are provided or within 100 feet of library entrances, further restricting minors’ access to tanning facilities, a bill restricting minors’ access to electronic cigarettes, and bills addressing prostate cancer, Lyme disease, lupus, lymphedema, and lead poisoning.

Each of the bills mentioned above, and many others, now await action by the Governor, and it remains possible that the Legislature will return this year – possibly even in the very near future – to act on additional priority legislation that could not be moved before the conclusion of the scheduled session.  Once a bill is passed by the Legislature, it can be sent to the Governor for action at any point prior to the end of the calendar year, and in practice the bills are sent in several batches over the remainder of the year.  The Governor and Legislature work together to coordinate the timing of those batches, to ensure that the Governor’s staff has adequate time to review each bill and brief the Governor on it.

Once a bill is sent, the Governor has ten days to either approve it or veto it (not including Sundays); if by some chance the Governor fails to act (a very rare occurrence), the bill becomes law.  The only exception to these rules occurs at the end of the year, when the Governor is given thirty days to act, and the failure to act constitutes a veto (the so-called “pocket veto”).

If he vetoes a bill, the Governor will produce a veto message explaining his position.  He may also provide an approval message explaining his position on bills he has approved.  Where a bill comes close to something that the Governor could approve, but the Governor does not want to approve it in its current form, it is not uncommon for the Governor to negotiate “chapter amendments” with the Legislature, pursuant to which the Governor agrees to sign the bill in return for a promise from the Senate and Assembly that they will pass additional legislation at the next available opportunity to amend the bill language to address the Governor’s concerns.

This article represents the first in a series that will review the key bills in each of the foregoing categories in more detail, including both the bills listed above and others.  At this time, in most cases it is impossible to say with certainty how the Governor will act on each bill, but where appropriate, we will provide our best guess.  In the meantime, if you have any questions concerning the foregoing, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

 

Earlier this month the New York State Department of Health released the first results of its recently adopted Medicaid redesign efforts, the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (“DSRIP”), in four core areas: (1) metric performance, (2) success of projects, (3) total Medicaid spending and (4) managed care expenditures.   The passing scores stem from the collaborative efforts of the Performing Provider Systems comprised of New York hospitals, providers and other key stakeholders.

In April 2014, New York State and the federal government agreed to a DSRIP framework, pumping approximately $8 billion in state health care savings to target Medicaid reforms. The goal of the DSRIP waiver is to reduce patient hospital usage by 25% over 5 years while improving patient-centered care. The program includes $6.42 billion for DSRIP Planning Grants, Provider Incentive Payments, and administrative costs.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services did find, however, that New York still needs to show improvement in certain areas, including preventable hospital readmissions and emergency room visits as well as access to timely appointments.

Speaking on the results, Donna Frescatore, the New York State Medicaid Director, said “[a] passing grade on all four of the milestones proves that we are making monumental progress toward improving care for millions of New Yorkers….While we are on a clear path to success, our work is far from over. In the months and years ahead, we will shift our focus toward improving performance metrics and health outcomes as we work to change the culture of health care.”

Even though New York received passing scores on its first report card, the state must continue to demonstrate improvement going forward to avoid financial penalties associated with failing to meet the requisite benchmarks.  It will be interesting to see if New York meets the 25% hospital usage reduction by March 31, 2020, the date the DSRIP waiver ends.

The full report can be found here.

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.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with the Department of Labor (DOL), recently announced a Request for Applications for the Health Workforce Retraining Initiative (HWRI).  This program was established pursuant to NYS Public Health Law §2807-g and is funded through the State’s Health Care Reform Act.  The 2018-19 Enacted New York State Budget included $9 million for this initiative and DOH anticipates an additional $9 million to be available for this grant in SFY 2019-20.

The DOH is soliciting applications from eligible organizations that seek to train or retrain health industry workers for new or emerging positions in the health care delivery system.  The purpose of this initiative is to:

  • Assist health care workers in the development of new skills to maintain employment and achieve licensing/certification requirements;
  • Enable health care workers to pursue new career opportunities created due to market changes, new employment for displaced health care workers and those at risk of displacement;
  • Provide health care workers with the education and training necessary to utilize emerging health technologies and data analytics to support population health management and delivery of high quality, cost effective care;
  • Address current and future occupational shortages;
  • Provide expertise to support integrated and interdisciplinary team-based care;
  • Meet increased demand for home and community-based long-term care services; and
  • Ensure health care workers can effectuate appropriate care transitions, reduce avoidable hospital readmissions and emergency room visits.

Funding is based on the total amount available in each region and will be awarded on a competitive basis by project and region.  Interested organizations may submit up to 50 applications for multiple projects.  Below please find further information regarding the counties included in this initiative, as well as the amount of funding available per region.

Maximum Funding Levels by Region

Western

Rochester

Central

Utica/ Watertown

Northeastern

Northern Metropolitan

New York City

Long Island

Allegany

Livingston

Broome

Chenango

Albany

Columbia

Bronx

Nassau

Cattaraugus

Monroe

Cayuga

Franklin

Clinton

Delaware

Kings

Suffolk

Chautauqua

Ontario

Chemung

Hamilton

Essex

Dutchess

New York

Erie

Seneca

Cortland

Herkimer

Fulton

Orange

Queens

Genesee

Wayne

Schuyler

Jefferson

Greene

Putnam

Richmond

Niagara

Yates

Steuben

Lewis

Montgomery

Rockland

Orleans

Tioga

Madison

Rensselaer

Sullivan

Wyoming

Tompkins

Oneida

Saratoga

Ulster

Onondaga

Otsego

Schenectady

Westchester

Oswego

Schoharie

St.

Warren

Lawrence

Washington

$526,458

$1,045,833

$561,481

$66,643

$483,425

$861,535

$12,866,527

$1,908,098

Maximum Regional Funding Amounts

$67,784

$135,110

$73,280

$8,015

$63,662

$109,920

$1,588,115

$244,114

The following organizations may apply for funding under this initiative:

  • Health worker unions;
  • General hospitals;
  • Long term care facilities;
  • Certified home health agencies, licensed home care services agencies, long term health care programs, hospices, ambulatory care facilities, diagnostic and treatment facilities;
  • Office of Mental Health or the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services licensed providers;
  • Health care facilities trade associations;
  • Labor-management committees;
  • Joint labor-management training funds established by the Federal Taft-Hartley Act; and
  • Educational institutions.

Additionally, applicants must:

  • Be a legally established organization located in NYS;
  • Have a minimum of two years of training experience with health care workers;
  • Be capable of entering into a master contract with DOH; and
  • Identify a need for training in one or more areas:
    • Occupations with known shortages;
    • Educational opportunities in shortage occupations;
    • Provide training to affected health care workers who have experienced or will likely experience job loss/displacement due to changes in health care delivery;
    • New job certification or licensing requirements; and
    • Knowledge and use of emerging technologies.

Applicants that are able to thoroughly demonstrate a need for such training will be given higher scores.  Additionally, preference points will be provided to projects that increase workforce supply in the following professions:

    • Clinical laboratory technologists;
    • Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses;
    • RN Care coordinators;
    • Certified Nursing Aides;
    • Nurse Practitioners and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners;
    • Nurse Managers and Directors;
    • Physician Assistants;
    • Licensed Master Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers;
    • Minimum Data Set Coordinators;
    • Home Health Aides;
    • Emergency Technicians and Paramedics;
    • Physical Therapists;
    • Occupational Therapists; and
    • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

Applicants must also clearly demonstrate an ability to:

    • Develop and manage the structure necessary to implement proposed projects;
    • Develop project curriculum and select program participants within three months of contract execution;
    • Ensure assessment, training and placement services for proposed program participants;
    • Provide DOH with monthly or quarterly outcome and expenditure reports, as well as a two year final report; and
    • Cooperate with DOH and DOL during the program review process and provide supporting documentation regarding outcomes, expenditures and any other information required to evaluate programmatic progress.

Interested organizations must submit applications via the NYS Grants Gateway on or before June 22, 2018 by 4:00 pm.

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For additional information on this and other DOH initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.

 

 

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.

EDNY Judge Brian Cogan recently addressed the False Claims Act public disclosure bar and original source rule in a decision based on a qui tam Relator’s claims that defendants marketed a test to measure the levels of a certain hormone knowing that the test was flawed. In United States ex rel. Patriarca v. Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Inc., Relator alleged that Medicare suffered significant losses because medical professionals ordered treatments based on the test’s inaccurate results.

The Background of PTH Testing

Judge Cogen started his opinion with a lengthy discussion of the medicine that led to Relator’s complaint. Patients with chronic kidney disease may have high levels of parathyroid hormone (“PTH”), which can lead to bone disease. Vitamin D analogs are used to treat high levels of PTH, but overdosing of these analogs can lead to serious health consequences. Accurate diagnosis of PTH levels is therefore critical.

In 1987, Nichols Diagnostics produced a PTH test, the “IRMA Test,” that was performed manually and required a several-hour long incubation period. The test was approved by the FDA and became the industry standard.

The Siemens Test, used to measure PTH levels, was a Second Generation PTH test, measuring the whole PTH molecule and large fragments of the molecule. The Siemens Test was purportedly aligned with the IRMA test. Third Generation tests report only the level of whole PTH molecules and omit the fragments, so Second Generation tests report PTH levels roughly twice that of Third Generation tests.

Later versions of the Nichols Tests “drifted” upward, consistently overstating patient’s PTH levels, leading to medically unnecessary prescriptions and surgeries. After a qui tam action relating to the tests’ inaccuracy and a substantial settlement with the government, Nichols withdrew its tests from the market.

In his qui tam complaint, filed in 2011, Relator alleged the Siemens Test had materially “drifted” from the IRMA test. Relator based his allegation primarily on separate parallel experiments he conducted. Relator compared the Siemens Test to the PTH test developed by his own company, the Scantibodies Test, a Third Generation test.

Public Disclosures of PTH Testing Issues

In the 2006 Souberbielle Study, European scientists studied various PTH tests, including the Siemens Test, compared them to the IRMA Test, and published their findings. The study concluded, among other things, that the values yielded by Second Generation tests varied widely. The study also determined that clinicians should monitor a patient’s PTH levels over a series of tests, as opposed to making clinical decisions on the basis of a single finding. The study also showed a significant differential between the Siemens and Scantibodies Tests.

An article published in 2007 noted that: (1) industry guidelines were based on the IRMA Test; (2) the absolute results obtained from various PTH tests varied from those of the IRMA Test; and (3) the 2006 Souberbielle Study documented this variability. Based on these observations, the author recommended that nephrologists use a single laboratory for results and look at trends in PTH as opposed to single values.

A 2009 study published by the relator who brought the successful Nichols qui tam action disclosed the results of parallel testing of various PTH tests. The study concluded that the Siemens Test generated results that were on average 36% higher than the Scantibodies Test. This was nearly the same differential as that disclosed in the 2006 Souberbielle Study.

Relator argued in his qui tam complaint that the upward drift he observed in the Siemens Test caused physicians to prescribe hundreds of millions of dollars of medically unnecessary Vitamin D, and to conduct untold numbers of medically unnecessary parathyroidectomies. Relator also alleged that Medicare paid for a portion of the cost of the Siemens Test, for prescribed Vitamin D and its analogs, and for surgeries related to elevated PTH levels.

The Public Disclosure Bar

Judge Cogan first addressed the FCA’s public disclosure bar, which bars claims for conduct that has already been made public. The bar discourages “opportunistic plaintiffs” with no significant information of their own who may bring “parasitic lawsuits.”

Prior to the 2010 FCA amendments, the public disclosure bar applied where a qui tam action was “based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions.” The Second Circuit and the majority of circuits had held that a relator’s claim was “based upon” the public disclosure if the allegations in the complaint were “substantially similar” to the publicly disclosed information. The 2010 FCA amendment generally followed this majority approach and identified the inquiry as whether “substantially the same allegations or transactions as alleged in the action or claim were publicly disclosed.”

The Second Circuit has applied a broad view of the public disclosure bar. Under that standard, earlier disclosures will bar a relator’s claim if they were sufficient to set the government squarely upon the trail of the alleged fraud. The bar is triggered if material elements of the fraud have been publicly disclosed, and does not require that the alleged fraud, itself, have been disclosed. Also, merely providing more specific details about what happened or translating technical information into digestible form does not negate substantial similarity. Public disclosures under the FCA include the news media and disclosures in scientific and scholarly journals.

After summarizing this caselaw, the Court held that before the Relator filed his complaint: (1) the variation between PTH tests was widely known; (2) physicians were advised to adjust their course of treatment accordingly; (3) Second Generation tests, such as the Siemens Test, were known to yield higher absolute results than Third Generation tests, such as the Scantibodies Test; and 4) the average difference between the Siemens and Scantibodies tests had been published in several studies. As a result, the public disclosure bar applied to Relator’s claims.

The Original Source Rule

Having decided that the public disclosure bar applied, the Court examined whether Relator qualified as an “original source” despite the earlier public disclosures. The FCA definition of “original source” was amended in 2010.

Under the pre-amendment version of the FCA, an original source was “an individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based and has voluntarily provided the information to the Government before filing an action under this section which is based on the information.” Under the 2010 version, an “original source” is an individual who “has knowledge that is independent of and materially adds to the publicly disclosed allegations or transactions, and who has voluntarily provided the information to the Government before filing an action under this section.”

Judge Cogan outlined various approaches Courts have taken in deciding whether a Relator is an original source: the new information “materially adds to what has already been revealed through public disclosures” (First Circuit); the Relator’s “key facts” are not “already thoroughly revealed” (Eighth Circuit); Relator’s information must “add value” (D.C. Circuit); Relator must bring “more than expertise or a novel analysis to the table” (S.D.N.Y.).

The Court determined that Relator was not an original source. First, over the course of years, the Siemens and Scantibodies tests had been repeatedly compared to each other in a number of published studies. Second, Relator’s findings did not materially depart from earlier ones and were not sufficiently or qualitatively different from the publicly disclosed information. The Court dismissed Relator’s complaint.

The last several years have brought increasing numbers of qui tam actions brought by Relators who are aware of the potentially significant recoveries those actions can bring. The public disclosure bar and the original source rule provide qui tam defendants with arguments to fend off these cases if they are brought by opportunistic relators who are seeking to trade on public information.

As we have discussed in an earlier blog post, the federal administrative agencies have been placing greater emphasis on being more transparent and promoting “interoperability”.

As such, on April 24, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) proposed changes to its Inpatient Prospective Payment System and Long-Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System to promote better access to patient electronic health information and increase pricing transparency. For example, while hospitals are already required to make pricing information publicly available, the proposed rules impose more stringent guidelines, including a requirement that hospitals post pricing information on the internet. Seema Verma, the CMS Administrator, stated “[t]oday’s proposed rule demonstrates our commitment to patient access to high quality care while removing outdated and redundant regulations on providers. We envision a system that rewards value over volume and where patients reap the benefits through more choices and better outcomes.”

Critical to the proposed changes is a complete overhaul of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs, which is commonly known as the “Meaningful Use” program, by executing on the following core principles:

  1. Having a program that is more flexible and less burdensome;
  2. Placing greater emphasis and encouraging the exchange of health information between providers and patients; and
  3. Incentivizing providers to streamline the process for patients to be able to access their medical records electronically.

A rebranding would not be complete without, of course, a name change; in fact, CMS has proposed changing the “Meaningful Use” program to “Promoting Interoperability”. Interoperability, which means “the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information,” has been missing from the healthcare industry as technology has been advancing at an unprecedented rate. In a system where healthcare is central to our lives, it appears the final goal is to have a system where patients could have access to a virtual portal where all of their health information from various providers would be available, thus promoting patient-centered care where providers have greater insight into their patient’s medical history—invariably resulting in more thoughtful care. It is refreshing to see government, which is commonly known to always be a step behind private industry, taking the initiative to modernize its infrastructure. At this point in history a patient should be able to obtain his health information on a whim via his mobile device or even see a new physician while not having to deal with the administrative nightmares associated therewith.

While it is unclear if the final goal of “interoperability” will be reached, CMS’ proposed changes are definitely an encouraging step forward.

For more information, please see the CMS fact sheet.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Small Issues with Big Impacts:  2018-19 NYS Hospital Budget Highlights

There are probably few in the healthcare community in New York State who would disagree that, among provider types, hospitals have typically received the most attention from policymakers.  The hospitals themselves might argue the point, or point out that having the attention of policymakers is not always a good thing (e.g., the attention on pharmaceutical manufacturers in this year’s budget, discussed here).  Payors might argue that they are more frequently the focus of policy efforts.  And of course, patient advocates would be quick to point out that the real focus of healthcare policy should be on patients (a principle with which no one disagrees, at least in theory).  But it is hard to argue against the contention that, more than any other provider, hospitals have been the focus of policy reform efforts since there was such a thing as healthcare policy.

With that in mind, one of the more interesting aspects of the 2018-19 New York State Enacted Budget is the relative lack of hospital-focused reform efforts.  To be sure, hospitals were, as always, a significant part of the debate, and several hospital reform initiatives were discussed that did not make it into the final budget agreement.  And, of course, the hospitals were a major force behind, and are expected to be major beneficiaries of, two huge funding pools established in the final agreement:  the third iteration of the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program (discussed here) and the Health Care Transformation Fund being funded in connection with the acquisition of a New York-based payor (discussed here).  But beyond that, there are no huge system-wide reforms in the Enacted Budget that directly impact hospitals.

However, there are two relatively small items that are likely to have significant long-term impacts:  a series of provisions related to indigent care funding, and a new requirement regarding sexual assault kits.  Both are discussed below.

Indigent Care Funding:  DSH and ICP

2018 began with a great deal of uncertainty regarding the fate of New York’s safety net hospitals.  This uncertainty was fueled in part by wariness over potential cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) subsidies at the federal level, as well as sustained pressure from advocacy groups demanding changes in the state’s Indigent Care Pool (ICP) reimbursement methodology, which opponents claim inequitably favors large financially stable providers serving predominantly insured patients over hospitals that provide the greatest amount of charitable care to the neediest populations.  Thanks in part to a last-minute decision by the Federal Government not to cut DSH payments this year, the Enacted Budget largely maintains the status quo with respect to DSH payments and the ICP methodology – however, the Department of Health has agreed in a side letter with Senate Health Committee leadership to convene a working group on DSH reform.  The Enacted Budget also provides $100 million dollars in enhanced Medicaid payments to a specific subset of safety net hospitals.

Critics claim that the current ICP reimbursement methodology, which reimburses hospitals for charitable health spending through a combination of state surcharges on health insurance and a portion of federally funded Medicaid DSH dollars, has consistently failed to adequately reimburse the institutions which actually provide the most free care to the poorest populations.  Part of the reason for this imbalance is the formula used to calculate ICP distributions.  The ICP, and its prior iteration, the Hospital Bad Debt and Charity Care Pool, traditionally allowed hospitals to seek reimbursement for both “charity care” (free medical services provided to the poor) and “bad debt” (including unpaid copayments and deductibles of commercially insured patients).   Challengers of the current system claim that this results in some of the largest reimbursement payments going to the least charitable hospitals.

In 2013, and in response to provisions in the federal Affordable Care Act penalizing states that allowed DSH dollars to be used for the reimbursement of bad debt, the Legislature amended the ICP’s reimbursement formula to a “needs based calculation.”  However, the 2013 amendment also included a “transition adjustment”, which severely limited the amount each hospital’s grant could be increased or decreased from its pre-2013 levels – in its current version payments may not decrease by more than 2.5% year over year.   As noted in a September 2017 Report by the Empire Center, the transition adjustment has stymied the intended redistributive effect of the needs based formula, and “[t]here [remains] a negative correlation between the overall poverty of a hospital’s patients and the relative size of its indigent care grant.”

The Enacted Budget does not alter the current ICP or DSH frameworks, but rather extends the existing framework through March 31, 2020, and maintains previous funding rates through 2019 of: (a) $139,400,000 as Medicaid DSH payments to major public general hospitals; and, (b) $994,900,000 as Medicaid DSH payments to eligible general hospitals other than major public general hospitals.  Additionally, the Enacted Budget increases the cap on reductions in ICP payments for the calendar year beginning January 1, 2019 from the prior rate of 15% to 17.5%.  In a side letter agreement with Senate Health Committee Leaders, the Department of Health has agreed to establish a temporary workgroup on hospital indigent care methodology which will make recommendations regarding DSH and ICP funding.  The workgroup will convene no later than June 1, 2018 and create a report on its findings no later than December 1, 2018.

While the Enacted Budget does not tackle the larger issues plaguing the ICP methodology, it does provide for $100 million in enhanced Medicaid rate payments – which are administered outside of the ICP and DSH – to a newly-designated class of Enhanced Safety Net Hospitals (“ESNH”).  A hospital will qualify as ESNH if it falls into any of the following categories:

  1. It serves a high percentage of Medicaid and uninsured patients (specifically, in any of the last three years: (a) not less than 50% of the patients treated receive Medicaid or are medically uninsured; (b) not less than 40% of its inpatient discharges are covered by Medicaid; (c) 25% or less of its discharged patients are commercially insured; (d) not less than 3% of the patients it provides services to are attributed to the care of uninsured patients; and, (e) it provides care to uninsured patients in its emergency room, hospital based clinics and community based clinics including the provision of important community services such as dental care and prenatal care).
  2. It is a public hospital (operated by a county, municipality, public benefit corporation or the State University of New York).
  3. It is a federally-designated Critical Access Hospital (CAH).
  4. It is a federally-designated Sole Community Hospital (SCH).

Payments made under the ESNH program may be added to rates of payment or made as aggregate payments to eligible general hospitals.  The 2018-19 Enacted Budget appropriated $50 million under the ESNH program for high Medicaid/uninsured and public hospitals, and another $50 million for CAHs and SCHs.

It remains to be seen how the current ICP framework will hold up in the event that Federal DSH payments are cut at the federal level, whether the $100 million ESNH program will provide sufficient funds to shore up the state’s most vulnerable facilities, and what the indigent care workgroup will recommend for a more permanent solution.  But these various elements could ultimately result in a fundamental change in the way indigent care is reimbursed in New York State

Sexual Assault Kits

The Enacted Budget includes significant amendments surrounding the responsibilities of hospitals with respect to the collection and storage of sexual assault evidence.  Most significantly, beginning April 1, 2018, hospitals are responsible for ensuring that sexual offense evidence is kept locked and secure – refrigerated where necessary – until April 1, 2021.  After April 1, 2021 (or earlier if deemed feasible by the Director of the Budget), the evidence will be turned over to a state appointed custodian.  The state appointed custodian will be responsible for storing the evidence until twenty years from the date of its collection. The new provisions also spell out specific chain of custody requirements (marking and identification of evidence). Hospitals will have the option of entering into third-party contracts for the storage of sexual assault evidence off site between now and the appointment of a state custodian.  After April 2, 2021, new sexual assault evidence must be transferred to the state appointed custodian within ten days of collection.

The Enacted Budget further mandates that hospitals are responsible for ensuring sexual assault survivors are not billed for sexual assault forensic exams and are notified orally and in writing of the option to decline to provide private health insurance information and have the office of victim services reimburse the hospital for the exam. Nonetheless, a sexual assault survivor may voluntarily assign any private insurance benefits to the hospital, in which case the hospital may not charge the office of victim services for the exam, provided, however, that such health insurance coverage shall not be subject to annual deductibles or coinsurance or balance billing by the hospital.  Additional provisions in the Health Insurance Law clarify that such treatments shall not be subject to annual deductibles or coinsurance.

Alone, these changes in the manner in which hospitals handle and are paid for work with sexual assault victims do not seem to have the same kind of systemic impact as changes in the way indigent care is funded.  However, they represent the latest addition to the panoply of standards governing hospital record-keeping – and in an area that can have extremely significant consequences if a hospital fails to meet the applicable standard.  It is not hard to envision litigation resulting from the mishandling of evidence under the new statute, and the agreed upon need for a more permanent solution in 2021 promises additional regulation in this space in the future.

So in short, while both reforms are relatively small in the short term, they may have significant impacts in the long term.  Hospitals are faced with the choice of waiting to see what those impacts might be, working to adjust operations to anticipate those impacts, or actively engaging with the State to try to affect the outcome.  If you have any questions concerning either of those issues, or are interested in engaging with the State to impact them, please do not hesitate to contact Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at 518.313.1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.