Administration Sketches Healthcare Plan, Signs Executive Order

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New Executive Order Applies to Foreign Third-Party Code | The Media Trust

Critics question value of provision addressing preexisting condition coverage.

President Trump presented his “America First Healthcare Plan” during a speech to healthcare professionals in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday — a plan that mentioned preexisting condition coverage protections and surprise billing but did not seem to include comprehensive changes to the healthcare system.

“Under the America First Healthcare Plan, we will ensure the highest standard of care anywhere in the world, cutting-edge treatments, state-of-the-art medicine, groundbreaking cures, and true health security for you and your loved ones,” Trump said. “And we will do it rapidly, and it’s in very good order, and some of it has already been implemented.”

Executive Order Provisions

The president signed an executive order outlining the plan, but the order contained initiatives in only a few areas, including:

  • Preexisting condition coverage. The order says simply: “It has been and will continue to be the policy of the United States to ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.” The order does not direct any government agency to enact a regulation nor request Congress to pass legislation. In August 2018, the Trump administration allowed the sale of “short-term, limited duration” insurance plans that could last for up to 3 years; these often exclude coverage for preexisting conditions but also typically cost less than comprehensive coverage.
  • Surprise billing. “Recognizing that both chambers of the Congress have made substantial progress towards a solution to end surprise billing, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall work with the Congress to reach a legislative solution by December 31, 2020,” the order says. “In the event a legislative solution is not reached by December 31, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall take administrative action to prevent a patient from receiving a bill for out-of-pocket expenses that the patient could not have reasonably foreseen.”
  • Price transparency. “Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall update the Medicare.gov Hospital Compare website to inform beneficiaries of hospital billing quality, including whether the hospital is in compliance with the Hospital Price Transparency Final Rule whether, upon discharge, the hospital provides patients with a receipt that includes a list of itemized services received during a hospital stay; and how often the hospital pursues legal action against patients, including to garnish wages, to place a lien on a patient’s home, or to withdraw money from a patient’s income tax refund,” the order reads.

Trump also announced another initiative, this one aimed at seniors. “Under my plan, 33 million Medicare beneficiaries will soon receive a card in the mail containing $200 that they can use to help pay for prescription drugs … The cards will be mailed out in coming weeks,” Trump said. The $6.6 billion cost of the cards will be paid for under the auspices of a Medicare demonstration program. These funds are ostensibly available via savings generated through Trump’s “most favored nation” executive order allowing Medicare to pay no more for certain prescription drugs than the price paid by other developed countries, a White House official said. That executive order has not yet been implemented, however, and court challenges are expected.

Final Rule Issued on Drug Importation

Trump also noted that the FDA issued a final rule on Thursday implementing the president’s July executive order earlier this month to allow for importation of certain less expensive prescription drugs from Canada. “This means a state or whatever — can go to Canada and buy drugs for a fraction of the price that they’re charging right now,” he said.

He also highlighted individual actions his administration had taken that mostly affected particular groups, including lowering insulin prices for certain Medicare beneficiaries, investing in childhood cancer research, and expanding health reimbursement accounts that employers can use to reimburse employees for medical expenses. The COVID-19 pandemic received scant mention other than a reference to slashing red tape to accelerate development of treatments for the disease, and a sentence about how the pandemic had greatly increased the use of telehealth.

During a telephone briefing with reporters Thursday afternoon, HHS Secretary Alex Azar highlighted the surprise billing provision. “The President is saying that all the relevant players — hospitals, doctors, insurance companies — had better get their act together and get legislation passed through Congress that protects patients against surprise medical bills from anybody — hospitals or doctors, doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Those special interest groups need to sort it out and figure out how that would work,” he continued. “There have been legislative packages that have come quite close on the Hill that are bipartisan, but…. the president is saying the time is now. And if they do not get legislation passed by January 1st, he is instructing me to use the full regulatory power of the U.S. government to protect patients against surprise medical bills.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), outgoing chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, praised the surprise billing announcement. “The president is right to call on Congress to pass legislation this year to end surprise medical billing,” Alexander said in a statement, adding that a bill currently going through the House and Senate addresses the issue effectively. “Ending surprise medical bills is a problem that requires a permanent solution passed by Congress this year. The American people can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Preexisting Condition Provision Panned

The preexisting condition provision drew scorn from Democratic legislators. The provision “offers no protection not already available through the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA) and no protection for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions if Trump is successful in packing the Supreme Court to destroy the ACA,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), chairman of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee, said in a statement.

But Azar said during the briefing that the ACA’s clause requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions does no good if people aren’t able to afford insurance in the first place. “If you’re a couple, aged 55, living in Missouri, making $70,000 a year, Obamacare is going to cost you $30,000 in premiums and a $12,000 deductible,” he said.

Azar promised that the administration “will work with Congress or otherwise to ensure” that people with pre-existing conditions are protected, but he did not indicate how that would be made affordable to individuals without government subsidies of the sort Republicans have long opposed.

Bob Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates in Alexandria, Virginia, questioned how much good the executive order’s preexisting condition provision would do. “Trump and the Republicans couldn’t pass an alternative to Obamacare in 2017 when they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress,” he wrote in a blog post. “But, now he can just sign an executive order and everything is fixed? He has signed a number of healthcare-related executive orders and just about all of them are tied up in the byzantine federal regulatory process, or have faded away. This is just an election-year gimmick in an attempt to persuade voters that Trump has healthcare policy under control. There are a lot of governments in the world that operate by executive fiat. Ours is not one of them.”

 

 

 

 

House government funding bill gives providers relief on Medicare advance payments

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/house-government-funding-bill-gives-providers-relief-medicare-advance-payments?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&mrkid=959610&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWTJZek56Z3lNV1E0TW1NMyIsInQiOiJKdUtkZE5DVGphdkNFanpjMHlSMzR4dEE4M29tZ24zek5lM3k3amtUYSt3VTBoMmtMUnpIblRuS2lYUWozZk11UE5cL25sQ1RzbFpzdExcL3JvalBod3Z6U3BZK3FBNjZ1Rk1LQ2pvT3A5Witkc0FmVkJocnVRM0dPbFJHZTlnRGJUIn0%3D

The House passed a short-term government funding bill that extends the deadline for providers to start repaying Medicare advance payment loans to the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The bill that the House passed late Tuesday is a major win for provider groups who worried they could struggle to repay the Medicare loans starting in August. The bill still has to pass through the GOP-controlled Senate.

The continuing resolution, which funds the federal government through Dec. 11, also lowers the interest rate for payments made under the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program to 4%, down from 10.25%.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) gave out more than $100 billion in advance payments in March to providers slammed by the pandemic. The payments are essentially loans which CMS recoups by garnishing Medicare payments to providers. That process starts 120 days after the first payment was received.

But the bill would give providers one year before Medicare can claim their payments.

It would also give providers 29 months since the first payment to fully repay the loan amount. Currently, CMS gives providers a year to fully repay.

In addition to the changes to the repayment terms, the bill also delays $4 billion in payment cuts to disproportionate share hospitals that were supposed to go into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act. The cuts will now be delayed until December.

The bill earned plaudits from the hospital industry, which has pressed Congress for help as providers are still struggling with the pandemic and could not afford to have Medicare payments become garnished.

“Our hospitals continue to suffer high costs and revenue losses associated with COVID-19, and they welcome the relief this continuing resolution would provide,” said Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, which represents safety net hospitals.

The Federation of American Hospitals said earlier this week before the House vote that the advance payment program is a “vital lifeline to hospitals and healthcare providers during the pandemic that has enabled hospitals and providers to maintain access to critical patient care. But the ongoing pressures of the current crisis required a revision of the repayment terms.”

The bill, which has approval from the White House, now heads to the Senate. The chamber must reach a decision on the legislation to avoid a government shutdown when funding runs out on Sept. 30.

 

 

 

 

Medicare won’t cover coronavirus vaccines approved under emergency use authorization

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/pharmacy/medicare-won-t-cover-coronavirus-vaccines-approved-under-emergency-use-authorization.html?utm_medium=email

Medicare Wouldn't Cover Costs of Administering Coronavirus Vaccine Approved  Under Emergency-Use Authorization - WSJ

Medicare won’t cover the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine if it is approved under an emergency use authorization, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The White House recently concluded that Medicare’s exclusion of emergency-use drug costs could mean 44 million Americans, or 15 percent of the U.S. population, may have to pay out-of-pocket for a vaccine if it is approved under an emergency use authorization, the Journal reported.

HHS is now exploring coverage options, and a spokesperson told the Journal any vaccine doses bought by the government will be provided free.

The administration of President Donald Trump has pushed for a COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and distributed before the presidential election, which would likely only come with an emergency use authorization, since FDA approvals take more time.

In March, lawmakers passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which ensures no out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 vaccines for people on Medicare.

HHS also said in August that government health insurance programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, would cover the costs of administering a COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

 

 

 

‘People should worry:’ ACA in limbo after Bader Ginsburg’s passing

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/people-should-worry-aca-in-limbo-after-bader-ginsburgs-passing/585545/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-09-22%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29794%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

In less than two months, the Supreme Court is set to hear the case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act — without Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the bench, fanning anxieties the landmark law is in greater jeopardy due to her passing. 

“People should worry,” Nicholas Bagley, a health law expert and professor at the University of Michigan, said.

The death of the liberal justice on Friday at the age of 87 means that of the nine justices, there are now only three appointed by Democratic presidents instead of four.

Assuming the liberal wing was set to uphold the ACA, with Bader Ginsburg they would have only needed to pick up one more conservative justice to vote in favor of preserving the law. Chief Justice John Roberts has been a swing vote in several cases involving the law. Roberts’ 2012 vote saved the law from a fatal blow in a 5-4 decision when he deemed the individual mandate could be considered a tax. 

Without Bader Ginsburg, they’ll now need to sway two — raising concerns about whether that’s possible. 

“This opens it wide up and I really do think the law could be at risk,” Katie Keith, another legal expert who has followed the case closely, agreed.

The landmark but politically polarizing legislation ushered in health coverage gains and basic protections for millions under President Barack Obama (who appointed two of the three remaining liberal justices). The law’s latest time at the Supreme Court comes after a group of red states argued the law was moot after Republicans zeroed out a key part of it — a tax penalty for those that did not get insured as was required in the law.

However, a split decision may be welcome by ACA proponents.

If the the liberal wing is only able to sway one conservative justice, resulting in a 4-4 split case, it will buy more time for the law and its defenders, a set of blue states lead by California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

In that instance, the case would be punted all the way back down to Judge Reed O’Connor. The Fifth Circuit, which oversaw the appeal following a decision by O’Connor, ruled the individual mandate was unconstitutional but did not weigh in on whether the rest of the ACA could stand without the mandate. It sent that question back to O’Connor, and that’s where the case would land again, before O’Connor, in the event the Supreme Court punts.

That outcome buys more time, plus another opportunity to appeal and for the case to again work its way back before the Supreme Court.

But one legal expert said based on cases from this past term there is reason to be hopeful that two conservative justices could be swayed to leave the remainder of the ACA intact even if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional.

Legal experts point to cases from the most recent term in which Brett Kavanaugh and Roberts — both appointed by Republicans — weighed in on severability in a way viewed as favorable for the outcome of the ACA case. 

“I’m pretty hopeful,” Tim Jost, emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said.

Severability is an important question in the challenge to the ACA. The crux of the lawsuit centers on the argument that the individual mandate is so essential and intertwined into the fabric of the ACA that if the mandate is deemed unconstitutional than the entirety of the ACA must fall.

In their legal challenge, the red states and two individual plaintiffs argued that the individual mandate cannot be severed from the rest of the law, so the entire law should be overturned. That’s why ACA case watchers have tried to read the tea leaves by reviewing how justices have weighed in on severability in earlier cases.

Kavanaugh seemed emphatic about his belief that unconstitutional pieces of a larger law should not spell the demise for the entire law.

In a case decided this summer, political organizations were seeking to make robocalls to cell phones. However, a law, barred robocalls to Americans’ cellphones but was later amended by Congress to include an exception for the collection of debt. The plaintiffs argued this was a violation of the First Amendment, favoring debt-collection speech over political speech. The plaintiffs wanted the entirety of the robocall law overturned, not just the exception allowing robocalls for debt collection.

Kavanaugh wrote the 6-3 opinion, finding the exception for debt-collection unconstitutional, but ruling that the remainder of the law can stand. 

In his opinion, Kavanaugh wrote that the court’s preference has been to “salvage rather than destroy” the rest of the law in the event a part is deemed unconstitutional.

“The Court’s precedents reflect a decisive preference for surgical severance rather than wholesale destruction, even in the absence of a severability clause,” Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion in the case, Barr v. Association of Political Consultants.

And Roberts showed similar favor for surgically precise decisions when it comes to severability.  “We think it clear that Congress would prefer that we use a scalpel rather than a bulldozer,” he wrote in a separate 5-4 decision from this latest term regarding a challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

 

 

 

 

Three Million People Lost Health Coverage From Their Employers During The Pandemic

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2020/09/20/pandemics-wrath-on-worker-health-coverage-tops-3-million-so-far/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=coronavirus&cdlcid=5d2c97df953109375e4d8b68#58cf3e92ed47

More than three million American workers lost health insurance coverage this spring and summer from their employers as the pandemic and spread of Covid-19 triggered massive job losses, a new study shows.

In all, there were 3.3 million adults under the age of 65 who lost employer-sponsored health insurance and almost two-thirds of them, or 1.9 million, “became newly uninsured from late April through mid-July,” according to a new analysis by The Urban Institute and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The loss of employer coverage has hit Hispanic adults particularly hard with 1.6 million losing health benefits, Urban Institute researchers said.

And it could get worse.

“With continued weakness in the labor market, researchers conclude federal and state policymakers will need to act to prevent job losses from leading to further increases in uninsurance,” the authors of the report wrote about their analysis, which was derived from  2020 U.S. Census data.

In particular, the analysis underscores the need to expand health benefits, particularly Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, analysts say. The ACA dangled billions of dollars in front of states to expand Medicaid coverage for poor Americans but 12 states generally led by Republican Governors or legislatures have refused while President Donald Trump and his appointees at the U.S. Justice Department fight led by Republican Governors

 “The danger of an inadequate safety net can be seen in the non-expansion states, where the number of uninsured adults has already increased more than 1 million,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation senior policy advisor Katherine Hempstead said in a statement accompanying the report.

 

 

 

CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus from website

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/517387-cdc-says-revised-guidance-on-airborne-coronavirus-transmission-posted-in

National coronavirus updates: CDC provides detailed guidance on reopening -  ExpressNews.com

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday pulled revised guidance from its website that had said airborne transmission was thought to be the main way the coronavirus spreads, saying it was “posted in error.”

The sudden change came after the new guidance had been quietly posted on the CDC website on Friday.

“CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19),” the CDC wrote. “Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.”

The CDC guidance on the coronavirus is now the same as it was before the revisions.

The change and the the reversal comes as the CDC comes under extensive scrutiny over whether decisions by and guidance from government scientists are being affected by politics.

Just last week, President Trump contradicted CDC Director Robert Redfield on the timing of a vaccine and the necessity of wearing masks. 

Public health experts were pleased with the updated guidance, saying evidence shows COVID-19 can be spread through the air and that the public should be made aware of that fact. 

The World Health Organization issued a warning in July, saying that coronavirus could be spread through people talking, singing and shouting after hundreds of scientists released a letter urging it to do so.

The CDC said the guidance posted Friday was a “draft version of proposed changes.”

It is not clear if that draft will eventually become the CDC’s guidance, or if it will go through additional changes.

CNN first reported the new guidance on Sunday.

The now-deleted guidance had noted that the coronavirus could spread through airborne particles when an infected person “coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breaths.”

“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” the agency had written. “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.”

“These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection,” the deleted guidance said. “This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

 

 

 

 

Administration’s Record on Health Care

President Trump’s Record on Health Care

President Trump's Record on Health Care | KFF

A review of Trump’s health care record so far. Avoiding the problematic issue of Trump’s alleged plan, analysts at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released a report this week that examines President Trump’s record on health care over the last three and half years. Some highlights from the overview and the full analysis:

  • On the Affordable Care Act: “From the start of his presidential term, President Trump took aim at the Affordable Care Act, consistent with his campaign pledge leading up to the 2016 election. He supported many efforts in Congress to repeal the law and replace it with an alternative that would have weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions, eliminated the Medicaid expansion, and reduced premium assistance for people seeking marketplace coverage. While the ACA remains in force, President Trump’s Administration is supporting the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ACA in its entirety that is scheduled for oral arguments one week after the election.”

 

  • On Medicare and Medicaid: “The Administration has proposed spending reductions for both Medicaid and Medicare, along with proposals that would promote flexibility for states but limit eligibility for coverage under Medicaid (e.g., work requirements).”

 

  • On drug prices: “The President has made prescription drug prices a top health policy priority and has issued several executive orders and other proposals that aim to lower drug prices; most of these proposals, however, have not been implemented, other than one change that would lower the cost of insulin for some Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, and another that allows pharmacists to tell consumers if they could save money on their prescriptions. The Trump Administration has also moved forward with an initiative to improve price transparency in an effort to lower costs, though it is held up in the courts.”

 

  • On the response to the coronavirus: “The Trump administration has not established a coordinated, national plan to scale-up and implement public health measures to control the spread of coronavirus, instead choosing to have states assume primary responsibility for the COVID-19 response, with the federal government acting as back-up and ‘supplier of last resort.’ The President has downplayed the threat of COVID-19, given conflicting messages and misinformation, and often been at odds with public health officials and scientific evidence.”

 

President Trump’s Record on Health Care – Issue Brief

 

One million Americans lost health insurance last year

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/16/health-202-one-million-americans-lost-health-insurance-last-year/?utm_campaign=wp_the_health_202&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_health202

Analysis | The Health 202: One million Americans lost health insurance last  year - Digital Tariq

Americans became wealthier and more held jobs last year.

Yet at the very same time, one million people lost health insurance. And that number has steadily climbed this year under the pandemic.

U.S. Census Bureau report released yesterday showed a continued slow erosion of the nation’s insured rate in 2019. The decline of coverage illustrates both the shortcomings of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law and repeated attempts by President Trump and Republicans to undermine it.

“Though the reasons are sharply debated, the new data signifies that the first three years of President Trump’s tenure were a period of contracting health insurance coverage,” Amy Goldstein writes. “The decreases reversed gains that began near the end of the Great Recession and accelerated during early years of expanded access to health plans and Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.”

Nearly 30 million Americans lacked health coverage in 2019.

The uninsured rate rose to 29.6 million people, totaling 9.2 percent of the population. It has slowly ticked upward since 2016, when 28.1 million people didn’t have a health plan. Between 2018 and 2019, the share of people without coverage increased in 19 states and decreased in just one.

The share of people on Medicare and with employer-sponsored coverage actually increased slightly. That was due to an aging population and last year’s booming economy, which meant more people had workplace plans — still the chief way Americans get their coverage.

The biggest erosions in coverage took place in state Medicaid programs.

Medicaid enrollment fell from 17.9 percent of Americans to 17.2 percent.

One reason for the decline is positive: As poverty rates fell for all major racial and ethnic groups, more people earned too much to qualify for the program. The poverty rate fell to 18.8 percent for Blacks, 15.7 percent for Hispanics and 9.1 percent for Whites.

But other factors were also at play. People no longer face a tax penalty for being uninsured, after Congress repealed it in 2017. Several GOP-led states expanded enrollment requirements. And wide disparities persisted in how states run their programs.

Missouri voters recently approved Medicaid expansion, making the state the seventh to do so under President Trump.

“There is huge variation state-to-state in the ease of enrollment, the administrative process, the mechanisms for verifying eligibility, how hard the state works to sign people up,” said Katherine Baicker, a health economist at the University of Chicago. “All those have big effects on net take-up rates.”

The trickle of coverage losses has become a flood under the pandemic.

Before the coronavirus pandemic upended life, the United States was enjoying a record-long economic expansion. By the end of last year, the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent.

Women outnumbered men in the workforce for only the second time, buoyed by a tight labor market and fast job growth in health care and education,” Amy writes. “Minimum-wage increases were also fueling faster wage growth for those at the bottom.”

But now millions of people have lost their jobs — and, in the process, their health insurance.

“Since March … job losses have disproportionately hit low-income workers and women, many of whom held service-sector jobs that were gutted by shutdown measures to help protect people from infection,” Amy writes. “Nearly 40 percent of households with income below $40,000 were laid off or furloughed by early April, according to the Federal Reserve.”

The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that 12 million people have lost health insurance received through their workplace or that of a family member. Some of those have been able to enroll in Medicaid — its rolls have risen by about 4 million during the pandemic — but others find it unaffordable.

 

 

ACOs in Medicare Shared Savings Program post third year of savings

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/ACOS-medicare-shared-savings-health-affairs-seema-verma/585210/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-09-15%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29671%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

PYA Releases Updated Medicare ACO Road Map White Paper - PYA

Dive Brief:

  • The Medicare Shared Savings Program saved the agency $1.19 billion in 2019, according to CMS performance results of 541 accountable care organizations released Monday.
  • This marks the third year of savings for the value-based care program and its largest yet, CMS Administrator Seema Verma wrote in a Health Affairs blog post Monday. ACOs taking on more risk continued to outperform those that didn’t, Verma wrote, including those under its Pathways to Success rule rolled out in December 2018.
  • ACOs in the Pathways to Success program generated net per-beneficiary savings of $169 compared to $106 for legacy track ACOs, Verma said, suggesting the policies are incentivizing ACOs to deliver more coordinated and efficient care.

Dive Insight:

ACOs are groups of doctors, hospitals and other providers with payments tied to the cost and quality of care they provide beneficiaries. According to Verma’s post, the number of ACOs taking on downside financial risk has nearly doubled since the Pathways to Success program launched for those in the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

New participation options under the rule require accountability for spending increases, generally after two years for new ACOs, and close evaluation of care quality. The new benchmarks and speed at which ACOs would need to take on downside risk was initially shot down by ACOs.

But CMS also created an option for “low-revenue” ACOs, generally run by physician practices rather than hospitals, allowing them an additional year before taking on downside risk for cost increases.

According to the blog post, physician-led ACOs performed better than hospital-led ACOs.

But the National Association of Accountable Care Organizations said only 5% of eligible ACOs took CMS’ offer on the Pathways to Success program structure early and instead chose to remain under the previous MSSP rules.

“To get program growth back on track, Congress needs to take a close look at the Value in Health Care Act, which makes several improvements to the Medicare ACO program and better incentivizes Advanced Alternative Payment Models,” trade group CEO Clif Gaus said in a statement.

Farzad Mostashari, CEO of the Aledade, pointed to physician-led ACOs out-performing hospital ACOs in a statement on the results. “What we need now is to help more practices participate in these models of care,” he said.

Low-revenue ACOs, typically physician-led, had per beneficiary savings of $201 compared to $80 per beneficiary for high-revenue ACOs. Low-revenue ACOs in the Pathways to Success program saved $189 per beneficiary while high-revenue ACOs in the program saved $155 per beneficiary, according to the 2019 performance results.

 

 

 

 

CMS kills controversial Medicaid fiscal accountability rule

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/cms-kills-controversial-medicaid-fiscal-accountability-rule/585206/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-09-15%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29671%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

What You Need to Know About the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR)  | KFF

Dive Brief:

  • CMS is axing its proposed Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule, agency head Seema Verma announced via Twitter late Monday afternoon, in a move quickly cheered by provider organizations.
  • The rule proposed last year would have increased federal oversight of how states fund their Medicaid programs and potentially resulted in funding cuts for the cash-strapped safety net insurance. Myriad providers, patient advocacy groups and lawmakers in both states and the halls of Congress opposed the rule as a result.
  • “We’ve listened closely to concerns that have been raised by our state and provider partners about potential unintended consequences of the proposed rule, which require further study. Therefore, CMS is withdrawing the rule from the regulatory agenda,” Verma said.

Dive Insight:

MFAR was designed to increase fiscal transparency in the 55-year-old Medicaid program, but was quickly met with a firestorm of controversy, with even bipartisan House and Senate members raising concerns it could lead to states being forced to choose between program cuts or raising taxes to replace the lost funding.

One estimate, conducted by Manatt Health for the American Hospital Association, estimated the changes proposed in the rule would cut Medicaid funding by almost $50 billion annually, shrinking the program by 8%.

“Hospitals and health systems will be greatly relieved when the proposed rule is formally withdrawn,” AHA EVP Tom Nickels said in a statement.

Bruce Siegel, CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, a lobby representing hospitals serving a disproportionate amount of vulnerable patients, called CMS’ decision “wise and welcome … especially as state budgets and providers strain under the heavy financial burden and economic fallout of COVID-19.”

Medicaid is jointly funded by the states and the federal government. Generally, CMS matches every dollar states spend at rates that vary depending on the state, its covered services and its population. There are no limits for how much federal funding a state can receive, and snowballing spending in Medicaid has resulted in concerns about cost control.

Medicaid spending swelled from $456 billion in 2013 to $576 billion in 2016, per CMS data, mostly due to an expanding federal share.

The most acute worries on the federal side stemmed from supplemental payments, or payments state Medicaid agencies give to providers for going above and beyond routine care, normally for high-need patients or those in underserved areas.

Supplemental payments to healthcare providers have increased from 9.4% of all other payments in 2010 to 17.5% in 2017, according to CMS, and are generally uneven across state lines, contributing to geographic funding disparities.

Oversight agencies, including the Government Accountability Office and the Office of the Inspector General, flagged the growth in payments and called for stronger Medicaid oversight in a series of reports from 2006 to 2015.

As a result, CMS proposed the MFAR rule in November 2019. If finalized, it would require states to report Medicaid payment and financing data at the individual provider level, instead of an aggregate, and establish definitions for “base” and “supplemental” payments. It would also have allowed CMS to sunset existing supplemental payment methodologies after up to three years, requiring states to get approval for a longer period, and close financing loopholes that might allow states to re-use federal Medicaid dollars to fund additional payments.

At the outset, CMS attempted to stamp out criticisms the rule could winnow Medicaid funding. “Alarmist estimates that this rule, if finalized, will suddenly remove billions of dollars from the program and threaten beneficiary access are overblown and without credibility,” Verma wrote in a blog post on the proposal in February.

But the rule received more than 4,000 public comments, most of them negative. The swirling concerns about unintended consequences, especially as COVID-19 exacerbates worries about care access, have now brought CMS back to the drawing board on Medicaid fiscal accountability.

As of late Monday, MFAR remained on the Federal Register.

Other actions from the Trump administration to overhaul Medicaid have faced similar backlash, including unpopular efforts to instill requirements linking coverage to work hours and an early 2020 push to cap federal funding for states in exchange for wider latitude in program administration.