An Overhaul for Medicare’s Pay Transformation Program

The Biden administration recently finalized an overhaul of an initiative known as the Medicare Shared Savings Program that seeks to pay health providers based on patient outcomes instead of the number of services they perform. In this Axios article, McDermott+Consulting’s Mara McDermott offers insight into providers’ Congressional push to extend a 5% pay increase for participants in advanced alternative payment models.

“If the bonus is not continued, it will soften or dampen the momentum toward alternative payment models, because it would create this mentality, or the view, that we’re not serious about that transformation,” McDermott said.

Access the article.




Insights and Challenges for the Executive Compensation Committee

The board’s executive compensation committee is the focus point for many of the extraordinary financial, economic and operating challenges currently facing healthcare organizations. Executive compensation increases are impacted by both an inflationary economy and significant revenue downturn. In addition, the US Department of Justice has identified executive compensation as an important conduit through by which corporate compliance incentives and deterrence can be implemented. Furthermore, executive recruitment and retention amidst the “Great Resignation” remains a key compensation concern.

These and similar issues have become important agenda items for the board’s executive compensation Committee. Michael Peregrine is joined by industry experts Tim Cotter and Ralph DeJong for the first in a two-part conversation about the impact of the developments on the compensation committee, including:

  • Key topics for briefing the board’s compensation committee.
  • Increasing communication between the compensation committee and the C-Suite.
  • Addressing pressures felt by executive committee members.
  • Insights from the Sullivan Cotter compensation data survey.
  • Projections for the impact of inflation on next year’s salary increases.
  • Expectations for future CEO salary increases and organization departures.
  • The segmenting approach to leadership plans.
  • Coordination with the Audit & Compliance Committee on compensation incentives

Access the podcast.




New California Law Requires Open Payments Notice to Patients

On September 29, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1278, which requires physicians and their employers to provide patients with notices about the Open Payments database starting January 1, 2023.

The federal Open Payments program is designed to promote transparency by requiring applicable manufacturers of drugs, devices, and biological or medical supplies to annually report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services certain payments and other transfers of value made to physicians, certain advanced practice providers (e.g., nurse practitioners) and teaching hospitals. Currently, pharmaceutical companies in California must disclose their compliance program, including information related to the annual dollar limits on gifts, promotional materials or incentives provided to medical or health professionals (California Health & Safety Code § 119402). The enactment of this new legislation will impose new disclosure requirements specifically onto physicians and their employers regarding physicians’ financial relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.

Read more here.




Employers Seek Clarity on Reproductive Healthcare Benefits Litigation Following EEOC Commissioner Filing

Following the US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many employers extended travel benefits to women residing in states where abortion or reproductive health procedures may now be unlawful. Recently, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Commissioner Andrea Lucas filed a Commissioner’s Charge against at least three companies alleging that doing so violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Although these charges are not public, it’s believed they mirror a letter that Sharon Fast Gustafson, the former EEOC General Counsel, recently sent en masse to employers around the country also alleging such travel programs violate federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC has since issued a statement that Gustafson’s views are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the EEOC.

When Title VII was amended in 1978 by the Pregnancy Act amendments, language was added requiring pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions be treated equally with other medical conductions under an employer’s “fringe benefit programs.” Lucas asserts that providing travel benefits for those seeking abortions provides preferential treatment to women, thus constituting gender discrimination. Her contention is also that travel benefits further implicate religious discrimination by favoring those who terminate pregnancies over those who, for religious reasons, carry a child to term. Her final contention is that the provision of travel benefits violates the ADA, which she claims requires parity of benefits for those with physical disabilities.

Employers are now asking whether Lucas’ and Gustafson’s position may be the beginning of litigation by the EEOC or private plaintiffs and whether they can take measures to address the legal arguments being raised.

First, it is doubtful the EEOC will be suing. While Title VII and the ADA authorize a single commissioner to file a Commissioner’s Charge, that Charge will be investigated like any other Charge of Discrimination. If cause is found, EEOC procedure requires in cases garnering public attention (which this most certainly is) that litigation may only be commenced if a majority of the Commissioners (minus the Commissioner who brought the Charge) vote in favor of doing so. In the absence of a quorum, then only the General Counsel of the EEOC may initiate suit. At this time, Lucas would not appear to have such votes.

Second, employers can and should draft around these contentions to prepare for private suits. Specifically, such travel benefits should cover not only abortion and/or reproductive health, but also all covered services or procedures that are unavailable within a covered individual’s state of residence or area, regardless of the individual’s gender, pregnancy or childbirth status, or disability status. This would make the benefits “available” to everyone.

Finally, there is a suggestion that, even with such drafting, this travel benefit will still be utilized primarily by non-Christian women, thus supporting a disparate impact claim based on religious discrimination. This is an overreach. Title VII claims require an adverse employment action such as an employee who requests but is denied a travel benefit due [...]

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Senate Approves Resolution to End COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration

On November 15, the Senate approved a resolution to end the national emergency concerning COVID-19 declared by the president on March 13, 2020. The resolution was approved by a bipartisan vote of 62–36, with 13 Democrats joining all present Republicans in voting for the resolution.

While ending the national emergency is different than ending the public health emergency (PHE), which is declared by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the two are related, as the PHE must be tied to another declaration. Should the national emergency declaration end (as intended in this Senate resolution), most current waivers would terminate. There are notable exceptions, however, where other pieces of legislation have enacted additional flexibility (including telehealth waivers), and where policy changes in HHS rulemakings specified that policy changes are tied to the PHE. Should the national declaration end but the PHE stand, such policies would continue until the end of the PHE. Should both the national emergency declaration and the PHE end, all waiver authority would cease. Please see this +Insight for additional information.

The COVID-19 PHE, which is extended in 90-day increments, was most recently extended in mid-October, until mid-January 2023. The Biden administration has maintained a commitment to provide 60 days’ advance notice of any plans to end the PHE, and that 60-day mark recently passed with no indication that the PHE will end in mid-January. This indicates that the PHE is likely to be extended at least once more, through mid-April 2023.

Senate passage of this resolution will not have a tangible impact, as it is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled House this year, and the president has threatened to veto it. However, the vote in the Senate demonstrates “pandemic fatigue” as well as significant bipartisan support for ending COVID-19 declarations, which suggests that the next presumed PHE extension through mid-April 2023 could be the last.




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