Update on HHS OIG Reports on Ambulance Services

Update on HHS Office of the Inspector General Reports on Ambulance Services The HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an update to the Work Plan as the year comes to a close.  There are no new projects specific to ambulance services, but the update does provide a summary of three projects that have been completed or are in progress. Medicare Part B Payments for Ambulance Services Subject to Part A Skilled Nursing Facility Consolidated Billing Requirements (expected release 2019). In this work, the OIG  seeking to determine whether ambulance services paid by Medicare Part B were subject to Part A SNF consolidated billing requirements. The OIG will also assess the effectiveness of edits in CMS’s Common Working File to prevent and detect Part B overpayments for ambulance transportation subject to consolidated billing. Prior OIG reports have identified high error rates and significant overpayments for services subject to SNF consolidated billing. Ambulance Services – Supplier Compliance with Payment Requirements (partially completed; remainder expected release 2019). Prior OIG work has found that Medicare made inappropriate payments for advanced life support emergency transports. The OIG seeks to determine whether Medicare payments for ambulance services were made in accordance with Medicare requirements. ...

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Federal District Court Judge Strikes Down the ACA

On December 14, 2018, a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the grounds that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional, and that the rest of the law cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny without the Individual Mandate. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision relates to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by 20 states and two individuals. The plaintiffs argued that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — which amended the Individual Mandate to eliminate the penalty on individuals that failed to purchase qualifying insurance effect January 1, 2019 — rendered the Individual Mandate unconstitutional. The plaintiffs further argued that the Individual Mandate was inseverable from the rest of the ACA, and, therefore, that the entire ACA should be struck down. The defendants in this case were the United States of America, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, in his capacity as the Secretary of HHS, and David J. Kautter, in his capacity as the Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 16 states and the District of Columbia intervened as additional defendants. In order to properly understand the district (more…)

HHS Releases Communication Checklist to Aid First Responders

HHS Releases Checklist to Aid First Responders in Communicating Effectively with Patients The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has released a plain language checklist that is intended to aid First Responders during emergencies that involve individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and communications related disabilities. The AAA issued numerous articles to its members in 2016 about the newly published requirements for all healthcare providers, including EMS agencies, under the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1557. The requirements are intended to prevent discrimination in the provision of healthcare and ensure that all individuals can meaningfully participate in their healthcare treatment, including those patients with LEP and other communications related disabilities. The announcement yesterday is intended to provide additional resources for healthcare providers to ensure compliance with the ACA Section 1557. The checklist includes numerous recommendations and action steps that EMS agencies can utilize to ensure that they are serving all members of a community in a meaningful way. These recommendations include conducting research about the communities by accessing U.S. Census Bureau data, engaging Centers for Independent Living and local assistance groups, and by preparing emergency messaging that can be...

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Executive Order on Association Health Plans (AHP)

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Trump has signed an Executive Order that directs the Secretary of Labor to consider expanding access to Association Health Plans (AHP) would give employers the right to form groups in multiple states for the purposes of negotiating health care benefits.  A change would require an change to the interpretation of Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA).  In addition, the Executive Order directed the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider changing several ACA restrictions, including low-cost short term limited duration insurance (STDLI) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs).  This Executive Order may impact the ACA insurance markets because it may attract the younger and healthier away from current plan groups causing those coverage costs to increase substantially....

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Trump Administration Interim HHS Rule

In a surprising announcement by the Trump Administration late Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the Administration released an interim rule that rolled back the Obama Administration rules regarding the requirement of employer sponsored health plans to pay for “preventative services” which included birth control and abortion procedures under religious or moral objections. The move has initiated legal action by the Attorney General in Massachusetts who announced yesterday that she has filed a suit in U.S. District Court yesterday. Key facts about the interim final rules: The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction. The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists. The Administration is asserting that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions would only impact about 200 entities. Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute. The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income...

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OIG Releases SemiAnnual Report to Congress

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG) recently issued the “Measuring Compliance Program Effectiveness: A Resource Guide“. The Guide was developed by a group of HHS-OIG professionals who wanted to provide a set of metrics by which health care providers can measure the elements of their compliance program. The authors recognize that not all the metrics are applicable to all health care providers but intended to be used as a guide. The Guide was released on March 27. You can also read the full “Semiannual Report to Congress (October 1, 2016 – March 31, 2017)“.

HHS to Administer $70 million in Funds to Combat Opioid Crisis

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $70 million in grants to help communities and health care professionals combat the ongoing opioid crisis that is ravaging communities across the U.S. The majority of the money will be used to help prevent opioid-induced deaths and to provide treatment for people with opioid use disorders, including $28 million allotted for medication-based treatment. More than 33,000 lives were claimed in 2015 due to opioid overdoses. $41.7 million of the funding is set to expand resources and training for first responders on how to use emergency treatments, such as Narcan, to help reverse and treat overdoses. In many cases, first responders are often the difference between life and death for opioid users who experience an overdose, so it is imperative health care professionals have access to the needed resources and training to help save lives. The additional funding aims to help paramedics, EMTs and other emergency service personnel gain access to much-needed resources. “The grants we announce today clearly demonstrate our efforts to meet the opioid crisis with every tool at our disposal,” said Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto. “The evidence-based training, medication, and behavioral therapies provided here will save lives and help people with addictions (more…)