CMS retains 340B, site-neutral payment cuts in final hospital payment rule

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals-health-systems/cms-retains-340b-site-neutral-payment-cuts-final-hospital-payment-rule?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&mrkid=959610&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWTJZd1pqWXpZbVUwWTJKbSIsInQiOiJLV2JJQWM1clQ3OVBiaURjdFVUUUg2K093U21XZm0zVHNPa1hTUjdTWEdxSWZpYklsako0TVMrZFYxazVGZHFkOHJ3M1pWNlwvYW5pVWpPcjM1TEtVRnErOWgxU3NKc1dcLzk3TnZTc1pLZVI0Ymcrb0V1ZEZ2eDh1djFwa1FlaW50In0%3D

billing statement from a doctor's office

The Trump administration finalized a hospital payment rule Friday that retains proposed cuts to off-campus clinics and the 340B drug discount program. 

The changes outlined in the hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule come despite both cuts being struck down in legal challenges and amid major pushback from providers.

Site-neutral payments

The agency decided to move ahead with the two-year phase-in of the cuts to outpatient services for clinic visits furnished in an off-campus hospital outpatient setting. The goal is to bring payments to off-campus clinics in line with standalone physicians’ offices.

“With the completion of the two-year phase-in, the cost sharing will be reduced to $9, saving beneficiaries an average of $14 each time they visit an off-campus department for a clinic visit in [calendar year] 2020,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said in a fact sheet.

However, the two-year project that was supposed to start in 2019 has been halted because of a federal court ruling.

CMS decided to move forward with the cuts for off-campus clinics.

“The government has appeal rights, and is still evaluating the rulings and considering, at the time of this writing, whether to appeal the final judgment,” the agency said.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) said that the site-neutral payment rule was misguided and that CMS ignored the recent court ruling. 

“There are many real and crucial differences between hospital outpatient departments and the patient populations they serve and other sites of care,” said Tom Nickels, executive vice president of the AHA, in a statement.

CMS also finalized a proposed cut for the 340B program that cuts payments by 22.5% in 2020.

CMS has installed prior cuts in 2018 and 2019 to the program that requires drug companies to provide discounts to safety-net hospitals in exchange for getting their products covered on Medicaid.

However, a court ruling has struck down the cuts, and CMS is currently appealing the decision.

CMS said that it hopes to conduct a 340B hospital survey to collect drug acquisition cost data for 2018 and 2019, and the survey will craft a remedy if the appeal doesn’t go their way.

“In the event the 340B hospital survey data are not used to devise a remedy, we intend to consider the public input to inform the steps we would take to propose a remedy for CYs 2018 and 2019 in the CY 2021 rulemaking,” the agency said.

Hospital groups commented that CMS should drop both the 340B and site-neutral cuts because of the legal challenges.

Several groups weren’t happy that the cuts were still there.

“The agency also prolongs confusion and uncertainty for hospitals by maintaining unlawful policies it has been told to abandon in clear judicial directives,” said Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy for America’s Essential Hospitals, in a statement Friday.

The hospital-backed group 340B Health added that CMS needs to stop this “unfunny version of ‘Groundhog Day’ and restore Medicare payments for 340B hospitals to their legal, statutory level.”

 

 

 

Number of Uninsured Children Increases by 400,000

https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2019/10/30/Number-Uninsured-Children-Increases-400000

A new report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute says the number of uninsured children in the U.S. increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018.

Some key findings from the report:

  • The number of uninsured children rose above 4 million by the end of 2018.
  • Insurance coverage losses are concentrated in 15 states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia,
  • Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia.
  • States that have not expanded Medicaid, as allowed by the Affordable Care Act, have seen much larger increases in uninsured rates.
  • Children in non-expansion states are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured compared to states that have expanded Medicaid.
  • White and Latino children saw the largest increases in the uninsured rate.
  • Households with low to moderate income – $29,000 to $53,000 per year for a family of three – were the hardest hit.

The report’s authors said it’s no coincidence that the increases in the number of uninsured children have occurred since President Trump took office in 2017.

“This serious erosion of child health coverage is likely due in large part to the Trump Administration’s actions that have made health coverage harder to access and have deterred families from enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP,” they wrote in their conclusion. “These actions include attempting to repeal the ACA and deeply cut Medicaid, cutting outreach and advertising funds, encouraging states to put up more red tape barriers that make it harder for families to enroll or renew their eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP (or ignoring it when they do), eliminating the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, and creating a pervasive climate of fear and confusion for immigrant families.”

 

 

 

 

Advocates submit signatures to get Medicaid expansion on Oklahoma ballot in 2020

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/467382-advocates-submit-signatures-to-get-medicaid-expansion-on-oklahoma-ballot-in

Advocates submit signatures to get Medicaid expansion on Oklahoma ballot in 2020

Supporters of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma said they submitted more than enough signatures on Thursday to get the measure on the ballot in 2020.

The “Yes on 802” campaign said it submitted more than 313,000 signatures, far more than the roughly 178,000 it needed, to qualify to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Oklahoma next year. 

Campaign manager Amber England said in a statement that her group had “a mandate from a record-breaking number of Oklahoma voters who want the chance to bring more than a billion of our tax dollars home from Washington every single year to deliver healthcare to our neighbors, keep our rural hospitals open, and boost our economy.”

Oklahoma is one 14 GOP-controlled states that have not accepted the expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare. Republicans have traditionally raised concerns about the cost of the program. 

More states have been expanding recently, however. Utah, Idaho and Nebraska voters approved ballot measures approving Medicaid expansion in last year’s elections. 

The Yes on 802 campaign estimates almost 200,000 people in Oklahoma would gain coverage if expansion were adopted in next year’s election.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank in the state, has vowed an opposition effort.

“There will obviously be significant opposition once it gets to the campaign stage,” the group’s president, Jonathan Small, told The Oklahoman earlier this month.

 

 

 

A group of Republicans has unveiled its healthcare plan. Here is what’s new and what isn’t

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/a-group-republicans-have-a-new-healthcare-plan-here-what-new-and-what-isn-t?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT0RZNE4yTm1PV1psTmpNeSIsInQiOiJ5R3gxMEwrdUhPWUdZVlBTZ3NWWkdMV08xOCtObDdFaGdHaE1hN0o4Z2p5WnBaN3hjd2lDVm5ybnBhWUtUNFdlTW1LcndtaTN1WUtNVzg1NmUrQjJmWEhqTWpJR3BkUmVuZmVNS2FzdmRWdENuMEtNT0tJMXozUW93N0lVQmZ5WSJ9&mrkid=959610

Capitol building in Washington

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of 145 House GOP lawmakers, rolled out a new healthcare plan to counter Democrats’ call for “Medicare for All.”

However, the plan itself closely resembles the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill called the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that the House passed in 2017 and contributed greatly to the loss of the GOP House majority in 2018.

For the plan to become law, Republicans would have to retake the House in 2020, and President Donald Trump would need to be reelected. However, if those victories happen, the plan could be a blueprint for how a GOP-controlled Congress would move forward on healthcare, as the committee counts among its members both GOP leadership and rank and file.

Here are three takeaways from the plan:

Shifting to high-risk pools

The plan would retain the ACA’s requirement that individual market plans cover pre-existing conditions. However, it takes out provisions that ensure patients with pre-existing conditions get affordable coverage such as requirements that prevent plans from charging sicker people higher premiums than healthy customers.

The plan does introduce high-risk pools that would be used by people with high healthcare costs, a commonly deployed tactic by states for the individual market before the ACA. The high-risk pools would be funded by repackaging the funding used for the ACA’s subsidies and the Medicaid expansion.

However, the plan doesn’t identify the full amount that should be devoted to high-risk pools, which segregate high-cost customers on the individual market.

The plan cites a 2017 report from consulting firm Milliman that estimated a federally supported high-risk pool could require $3.3 billion to $16.7 billion a year. The AHCA also called for high-risk pools but only gave $2.5 billion a year to help states fund them.

While the “$17 billion annual price tag may not seem ideal, it sets up a sustainable path for the individual market,” the RSC report said.

The desire for more funding for high-risk pools is likely a nod to Democratic attacks during the 2018 midterms that the AHCA threatened pre-existing condition protections. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the AHCA, which let states waive pre-existing condition protections, would lead to people in those states not getting affordable coverage for their pre-existing conditions.

While the AHCA had funding for high-risk pools, experts across the healthcare spectrum said that it wasn’t enough. It would remain to be seen how much more funding would be needed.

Doubling down again on health savings accounts

Bolstering health savings accounts has been a very popular reform idea among Republicans, and that enthusiasm is clear in the RSC plan.

The plan proposes to increase how much an employee can contribute to a health savings account. Currently, an individual can contribute $3,500 and a family can contribute $7,000.

A 2018 bill that passed out of the House but didn’t make it through Congress increased the contribution cap to $6,650 for an individual and $13,300 for a family.

Now, the RSC plan wants to increase the figures again, this time to $9,000 per individual and $18,000 for families, in line with a proposal from libertarian think tank Cato Institute.

“The RSC plan would also expand health savings accounts so that they could be used for a number of health services and products that currently must be paid for with after-tax dollars,” the plan said.

Replace Medicaid expansion with a block grant

This is another common reform in ACA repeal plans. The bill would phase out the enhanced federal matching rate for the Medicaid expansion to pre-expansion levels.

In addition, the bill would replace the existing open-ended federal match with a fixed amount in a block grant.

But the plan has a new twist in a new “flex-grant” that would give more funding to states that adopt a work requirement. However, half of the funding for any flex-grant must go toward supporting the purchase of private plans for low-income individuals.

So far, 12 states have gotten approval from the Trump administration to install work requirements for their Medicaid expansion population. But of those 12 states, three have had their work requirement programs struck down by legal challenges.

Some states are also considering installing their own block grants. Tennessee has released a draft proposal for a block grant but has yet to get federal approval.

 

 

 

Don’t Confuse Changes in Federal Health Spending with National Health Spending

https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/dont-confuse-changes-federal-health-spending-national-health-spending?utm_source=The+Fiscal+Times&utm_campaign=27ee43ca78-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_10_16_09_52&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_714147a9cf-27ee43ca78-390702969

There has been confusion over estimates, like ours, that measure the effect of single-payer (i.e., Medicare for All) proposals on both federal spending and total national health spending.

The two are not the same, and too frequently, people use estimates of both and make misleading apples-to-oranges comparisons.

Federal spending versus national spending

Federal health care spending is the money the federal government spends on health care, whereas national health spending includes all health spending, regardless of who pays for it.

Federal health care spending includes spending on Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance program, Affordable Care Act Marketplace premium subsidies, the Veterans Administration, US Department of Defense health care programs, support for health care professionals and hospitals providing uncompensated care, as well as other federal programs.

Changes in federal health spending represent amounts that would either need to be added to the federal budget (and funded through tax increases or additional government debt) or which would lead to cuts in other federal programs to free up sufficient federal funds.

National health care spending includes spending by the federal government, state and local governments, households, and employers. National health expenditures (NHE) are estimated annually by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as the National Health Expenditure Accounts. Using our models’ projections and extending the CMS’s estimate for spending categories we do not model, we estimate that NHE for the 10-year period from 2020 to 2029 will total approximately $52 trillion dollars under current law.

What increases or decreases in these estimates mean

It is possible, for example, for federal spending to increase while national health spending decreases, if new federal programs take over some of the expenses currently paid for by employers and households and do it at a lower cost.

But if a federal program takes over some of the private spending and ends up providing more generous benefits, total national spending could still increase. Regardless, it is important to separate changes in federal spending from changes in national spending to understand the implications of any health care reform approach.

In our most recent report, we estimate that a broad single-payer reform (referred to as Reform 8: Enhanced Single Payer in the report) would increase federal government spending by $34 trillion over the 2020–29 period, $34 trillion beyond what the federal government already spends on health care.

However, this reform would shift almost all of the spending currently done by households, employers, and state governments over to the federal government. All people, regardless of whether they have insurance coverage today, would be covered by the new federal program.

How single-payer reform would affect federal and national spending

Under the single-payer enhanced reform, the new federal government program would provide more covered benefits than typical insurance offers today (including typical medical benefits but adding a new home- and community-based long-term services and supports benefit and adult dental, vision, and hearing benefits). All the costs would be covered by the federal government; no one would pay premiums or out-of-pocket costs (i.e., no deductibles and no copayments or coinsurance), including undocumented residents.

As a result, many people would get insurance for the first time, and many others would get significantly more generous insurance than they currently have. And with their new or improved insurance, many people would use more medical care than they do today.

The federal government would limit the fees paid to doctors, hospitals, and prescription drug manufacturers, which would help lower the program’s costs, compared with what it would be otherwise. In addition, the system would be simpler than our current “patchwork” system, so the administrative costs of running the program would be lower than in most private insurance plans; this also helps offset some of the new costs.

However, by our estimates, the increase in spending for people with this new generous coverage would outweigh the savings from lower prices for health care providers and lower administrative costs. As a result, total national spending would increase, even taking into account greatly reduced household, employer, and state government spending.

For this approach to reform, federal spending would increase by $34 trillion over 10 years, but health spending by individuals, employers, and state governments would decrease by $27 trillion, so national health spending would increase by $7 trillion over the same 10-year period, from $52 to $59 trillion.

The figure below illustrates our estimates. In the first bar, we divide the $52 trillion estimated current-law spending on health care over 2020–29 into three pieces: $17 trillion in federal spending; $27 trillion in private spending and state and local government spending for medical care and dental care that would be subsumed into the new single-payer program; and $8 trillion in spending (a mix of government and private spending) that would not be affected by a single-payer program.

figure 1

The $8 trillion includes costs associated with an array of expenses, such as medical care for members of the military and their families while military members are deployed, services provided to foreign visitors, acute care provided to people living in institutions (e.g., prisons and nursing homes), and the value of new construction and equipment put in place by the medical sector. This spending also includes long-term services and supports by states and individuals that would continue under reform. For our purposes here, we refer to this $8 trillion in spending as “spending not affected by single-payer.”

The taller second bar shows that the total national spending under a single-payer program would be higher than under current law. The $17 trillion in federal spending under current law would be shifted to help fund the new program, and the federal government would take over the $27 trillion in current health care spending by employers, households, and state and local governments.

Fully funding a new single-payer program would require an additional $7 trillion in federal spending beyond that repurposed $44 trillion. The $8 trillion in spending not affected by the  single-payer program would continue to be funded by a mix of government and private sources.

Thus, it is not appropriate to compare an estimated increase in federal spending of $34 trillion over 10 years with a current-law level of national health spending of $52 trillion over the same period and conclude these are savings in national health spending.

And although many advocates believe that a single-payer system would increase federal spending but with the benefit of reducing national health spending, our estimates contradict that. According to our analysis, a broad single-payer reform, similar to current Medicare for All bills, would increase federal spending and increase national spending.

But as our full report also shows, a single-payer program can be designed to decrease national health spending, as can other approaches to achieving universal coverage.

 

 

 

Report: Climate changes costing U.S. billions in health spending

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals-health-systems/report-climate-changes-costing-u-s-billions-health-spending?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1dJNE5tUTFZV0k1TVdRNCIsInQiOiJMakFtS1IzZmxaRDlQNUtjdFdMUHVYUFdBd1wvXC9EZFR3ekhHU3ZsYVNib2t3bTlEb0Z2bklLZndEZXFOTjZ1RVZ0bURYMXI5dGFNcW92SXFYV25HTVh4d01tNEY4YkVCUnBMamhpbllXSytVTW5ybGJ1OTh0UjJmVDRmSWJ6c1wveCJ9&mrkid=959610

From deaths and injuries caused by extreme heat and stronger storms to longer growing seasons linked to an increased risk of mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses and wildfires, the healthcare impacts of climate change are costing the U.S. billions, a new analysis found.

Case in point: An analysis of a single year—2012—by researchers at the Natural Resource Defense Council and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) estimated a total of 10 climate-sensitive events in the U.S. that ultimately cost $10 billion. 

That estimate stems from costs associated with 917 deaths, 20,568 hospitalizations and 17,857 emergency room visits, researchers said in the study published in the journal GeoHealth.

Among the costs connected to “climate-sensitive events” in 2012, researchers pointed to:

  • $252 million in Wisconsin: A heatwave led to several record temperatures were broken over the span of a week in July 2012. Researchers analyzed costs from an estimated 27 deaths, 155 hospitalizations and 1,620 emergency room visits that summer.
  • $1.6 billion in Colorado and $2.3 billion in Washington: Longer fire seasons in the western U.S. have resulted from higher temperatures and changes in seasonal rainfall patterns. Researchers examined costs from direct wildfire deaths and impacts attributed to wildfire smoke in 2012. There were 174 deaths, 256 hospitalizations and 1,432 emergency room visits in Colorado and 245 deaths, 371 hospitalizations and 1,897 emergency room visits in Washington.
  • $3.1 billion in New Jersey and New York: Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding and power outages for more than 20 million customers. Sea level rise is believed to have amplified the storm surge. Researchers estimate there were 273 hurricane-related deaths, 6,602 hospitalizations and 4,673 emergency room visits.

Researchers said mortality costs were estimated using a mortality risk valuation implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in regulatory impact analyses, with each life lost valued at $9.1 million in 2018 dollars. They also factored direct morbidity costs for each event using hospital admissions and emergency department visits from the federal Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data well as costs associated with outpatient visits, home health care costs and prescribed drugs from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

They acknowledged several limitations of the study. For instance, they said, “despite record-setting weather conditions across the U.S. in 2012, our analysis was restricted to case studies for which there was adequate documentation of health impacts,” they said.

They only included mental health impacts from Hurricane Sandy despite evidence that other events like wildfires can also adversely impact mental health. They also said extreme heat and Lyme disease are routinely underreported health effects that could result in conservative estimates.

“As such, the $10 billion total we calculated is likely a conservative estimate of health-related costs for these studies,” researchers said in this study.

Still, these costs are not just theoretical, but tangible costs that should be factored into the policy conversation, said Wendy Max, co-director of the Institute for Health & Aging at UCSF.

“We wanted to look at who bears this cost and we found two-thirds of the cost are borne by the Medicaid and Medicare programs,” Max said. “In an era of concern about healthcare costs, this is an important message: Climate change is adding to the public healthcare cost burden. That’s a message we’re hoping will resonate with policymakers.”

 

 

 

Rate of uninsured people increases for first time since ACA rolled out

https://www.axios.com/uninsured-rate-increases-first-time-since-obamacare-ec6dbd6d-fffc-446d-be4c-02bed0d3ea3e.html

Image result for uninsured health care

Roughly 27.5 million people, or 8.5% of the U.S. population, had no health insurance at some point in 2018, according to new figures from the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: Last year’s uninsured rate increased from 7.9% in 2017 — the first time the uninsured rate has gone up since the Affordable Care Act has been in effect.

Between the lines: The uninsured population does not include the “underinsured,” or people who have medical coverage but face prohibitively high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

  • The figure also does not include people who have short-term plans, association plans and religious-based sharing ministries — policies the Trump administration has promoted, but that have holes in coverage that could leave people on the hook for high costs.

The intrigue: The type of coverage that witnessed the largest decline in 2018 was Medicaid, which fell 0.7 percentage points.

  • 4 states where the uninsured rate had a statistically significant increase were Alabama, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas, all of which have not fully expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

The bottom line: The uninsured rate is still markedly lower before the ACA became law, but it’s an odd paradox to see more people lose health coverage even though the economy created more jobs.