Category Archives: Post Acute Care

2016 Is Ramping Up For Telemedicine Developments

Two months in and this year has already seen significant movement in regulatory action across the country to expand the ability to provide telemedicine services. Below please find some of the more significant items that have already gone into effect in 2016 or are under consideration, including commercial payor and Medicaid reimbursement coverage for telemedicine services, reciprocal licenses for out-of-state providers and the ability to prescribe without an in-person evaluation.

Parity Laws in New York and Connecticut

Effective January 1, 2016, New York passed a Chapter Amendment clarifying last year’s telemedicine commercial coverage statute.  Under the 2016 Chapter Amendment, private insurers are required to cover services via telemedicine if provided by hospitals, home care and hospice agencies, licensed physicians, physician assistants, dentists, nurses, midwives, podiatrists, optometrists, ophthalmic dispensers, psychologists, social workers, speech language pathologists and audiologists.  The parity law prohibits an insurer from excluding from coverage a service provided via telehealth if that service is otherwise covered in-person.

The law also provides for Medicaid reimbursement to providers for telehealth services, which is defined broadly to include real-time two-way electronic audio visual communications, asynchronous store and forward technology and remote patient monitoring. However, with the exception of remote patient monitoring, telehealth will not be reimbursed by Medicaid when the patient is located in their home.  The New York Department of Health is expected to release telemedicine regulations later this year.

Similarly, Connecticut also recently passed a new telemedicine parity law that went into effect January 1, 2016. Under Connecticut’s parity law, commercial insurers must provide coverage for services rendered via telemedicine under the same terms and conditions as would apply if that service was provided in-person.  Connecticut broadly defines telehealth to include services performed by a telehealth provider at a distant site as well as synchronous interactions, asynchronous store and forward transfers and remote patient monitoring.

Notably, Connecticut went even farther than New York in its telehealth parity law by expressly preventing a health plan from excluding a service from coverage solely because the service is provided through telehealth and not in-person. In this way, a health plan cannot exclude a telehealth service, such as remote patient monitoring, simply because it does not lend itself to an in-person professional service.

Florida’s Controlled Substance Teleprescription Law

Florida recently implemented a new rule to permit physicians to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine exclusively for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, effective March 4, 2016. Specifically, the amended regulation provides that controlled substances may not be prescribed through the use of telemedicine, “except for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.”

However, after passing this new rule, the Florida Board of Medicine recognized that it is still restricted by the Federal Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008.  The Ryan Haight Act narrowly permits the remote prescription of controlled substances for patients without an in-person evaluation so long as the patient is: (1) physically located in a hospital or clinic with a valid DEA registration; and (2) treated by a DEA registered practitioner in the usual course of professional practice and in accordance with state law.  Accordingly, while Florida is expanding its telemedicine laws, the prescription of controlled substances via telemedicine will only be broadly permissible if the American Telemedicine Association, or other organizations, are successful in amending the Ryan Haight Act.

Newly Introduced Telemedicine Bills in New Jersey and Ohio

Various other states are also in the process of trying to pass telemedicine bills. For example, New Jersey recently introduced a bill on February 8, 2016, that would require private payors to provide coverage for telemedicine to the same extent that the services would be covered if they were provided through an in-person consultation.

Additionally, another NJ telemedicine bill was introduced on January 12, 2016, which would provide a mechanism for physicians and other health care providers to obtain reciprocal licenses to practice in New Jersey if the providers are licensed by another state in their particular specialty.  The bill would also provide a parity law for telemedicine services to be reimbursed under NJ Medicaid.  As a similar bill was proposed in 2015 and has now carried over into the 2016 session, the likelihood of its passing is even greater.

An Ohio legislative bill is also headed to the Senate that would allow patients to obtain prescriptions (for non-controlled substances) without an in-person exam or visit from a health care provider.

For more information on telehealth and telemedicine legal and regulatory considerations, continued legislative developments or related issues, please feel free to contact Daniel Meier or any member of our health care practice group for a further discussion.

OIG 2014 Work Plan – Skilled Nursing Facilities

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (the “OIG”) released its work plan for 2014. The work plan provides stakeholders in the health care industry with a broad overview of the OIG’s activities in the coming year as they relate to its enforcement priorities and issues it will review and evaluate during the year. This article is one in a series of articles that will outline the OIG’s activities, as discussed in the 2014 work plan, for a specific industry sector – skilled nursing facilities.

For 2014, the OIG’s activities relating to skilled nursing facilities are focused on billing and payments and quality of care. Continue reading

The UPMC – Highmark Dispute: The Beginning of the End of Medical Practices Using Hospitals’ Managed Care Contract Rates?

Recent trends across the country have health systems buying out private physician practices and reclassifying them as hospital-outpatient departments.  There are a number of motivations behind these transactions, the greatest being managed care contracting.  Typically, the physician practice will reassign its Medicare NPI Number to the Hospital and the Hospital will then bill exclusively under that NPI number.  The Hospital will also submit claims to the third party payor and receive payments based on the hospital’s negotiated contract rates and fee schedule.

Critics, including a number of insurers, have claimed that this practice allows the hospital to bill higher rates for the same service at the same location.  For this reason, on February 26, 2014, Highmark, a  Blue Cross Blue Shield company based in Pittsburgh, stated that it would stop reimbursing health systems at higher hospital-outpatient rates for cancer treatment performed in physician offices.  Highmark explained that this move would save patients’ money by reducing out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-insurance. Continue reading

CMS Final Rule on Moratoria for the Enrollment of New Home Health Agencies and Ambulance Suppliers and Providers

On February 4, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued in the Federal Register a notice of temporary moratoria on enrollment of new home health agencies (HHA) and ambulance suppliers and providers in certain geographic locations across the U.S. The moratoria were effective on January 30, 2014. CMS also extended existing moratoria noticed on July 31, 2013. Continue reading

Office of Inspector General Issues Strategic Plan

The Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a 2014-2018 strategic plan including outlining the visions, goals, and priorities of that office for the upcoming several years. The plan sets forth four goals: 1. Fight fraud, waste and abuse; 2. Promote quality, safety, and value; 3. Secure the future; and 4. Advance excellence and innovation. Each goals is identified with several priority areas that support the stated goal. The report can be found at the OIG’s website http://go.us.gov/WdbV

CMS Directs MACs to Reject Part B Ambulance Claims for SNF to SNF Transfers

On November 6, 2013, CMS issued Transmittal No. 1311 which instructed Medicare Administrative Contractors (“MACs”) to reject claims for SNF to SNF ambulance transfers that are billed separately under Part B. According to CMS, ambulance transportation and related ambulance services for residents in a Part A stay are included in the SNF PPS rate and may not be billed as Part B services by the supplier. Instead, the SNF discharging the beneficiary to another SNF is responsible for the transportation fees. As such, ambulance providers must seek payment from the transferring SNF. Continue reading

Long Term Care Facilities Should Anticipate Increased Scrutiny on Nursing Home Trust Fund Oversight

USA Today recently published a report about theft from nursing home resident trust funds by facility employees. According to USA Today’s analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), more than 1,500 nursing homes have been cited since 2010 for mismanaging trust funds—of the more than 100 thefts identified, at least 10 exceeded $100,000. The report warns about inadequate oversight, at both the nursing home and state surveyor level, to effectively protect the integrity of resident funds from employee theft. Continue reading