For decades, pundits, policymakers and consumer groups have called for better tools to make health care purchasing decisions easier.  Greater cost transparency and clear indicators of quality, they say, would help consumers make the right choices, which would lead to lower costs and better quality care.

If only it were as easy as using Angie’s List:  describe the need and up pops the names of local providers, along with comparative information on their performance.

Increasingly, such information and tools are available.  But their impact is unclear.

Since 2010, Medicare consumers have had an “Angie’s List” type of resource in Physician Compare, an online service produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  The website was mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  It serves a two-fold purpose, according to CMS:
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Under Texas law, physicians that will be called upon to complete and sign a death certificate in Texas are required to register to file the certificate electronically with the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Texas Medical Board is authorized to take action against providers who do not register for electronic filing of death certificates under Tex. Health and Safety Code §193.005. Until recently, registration and filing of death certificates was made through the Texas Electronic Registrar (“TER”).

On January 1, 2019, the Texas Department of State Health Services replaced TER with a new platform, the Texas Electronic Vital Events Registrar (“TxEver”). TxEver supports all vital events operations, including reporting, registration, and amendments of birth and death records, and represents one of the first fully integrated vital records systems nationwide. TxEver will additionally support the Texas remote birth issuance system, which allows users to obtain copies of birth certificates without having to visit the vital records offices in their county of birth.
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Hallway in a hospitalOn April 2, 2018, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-082 into law. Senate Bill 18-082 amends Colorado’s non-compete statute, C.R.S. § 8-2-113, and curtails the ability of a former employer to enforce a non-compete agreement against a departing physician by seeking damages when the physician is treating patients who have “rare disorders.” The stated purpose of this law is to protect patients with rare disorders who would otherwise not have ready access to a physician with the necessary expertise to treat the disorder.
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Since the first managed care plans were introduced, relationships between physicians and payers have been rocky. It has not been uncommon for controversies between the two sides to result in lawsuits, contract terminations and regulatory intervention. Both sides recognize that each needs the other to survive — payers must populate their networks with sizeable numbers of physicians, while physicians must contract with payers to get reimbursed for patient care.

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A stethoscope and American money on a white background - HealthcSpecialists are generally subject to the MACRA merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS) in the same manner as primary care clinicians but are treated differently under MACRA in two situations:

  1. Certain specialists may qualify as “non-patient-facing” (for example, pathologists or radiologists that do generally not see patients) and have reduced MIPS reporting obligations; and
  1. A specialist who participates in more than one alternative payment model (APM) will receive the most favorable APM treatment of the APMs in which the specialist participates (for example, if the specialist participates in two Track 1 ACOs, the specialist will get the higher of the MIPS scores for those ACOs).


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flag_160540827This is the second article in our series on the effect of a “slow repeal” of the ACA, which began January 3, 2017, when Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi introduced a budget resolution with instructions to the relevant Senate and House committees to develop a plan to repeal the ACA. The four committees that control healthcare policy have until January 27, 2017, to draft reconciliation bills, which will address the important details, likely including how long it will take to replace the ACA, and which parts of the ACA will be repealed through a budget reconciliation process. On January 4, 2017, the Senate promptly voted (51-48) to begin debate on the procedures to repeal the ACA.
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White gift box wrapped with vibrant red bow and ribbon isolatedOn Dec. 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an update to its 2000 policy regarding gifts of nominal value given to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary. The update increases the nominal value of gifts given to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary to $15 per occurrence and $75 in the aggregate for a year (the previous limit was $10 per occurrence and $50 in the aggregate). If a gift complies with these limits, the arrangement does not need to fit within a “safe harbor” to 42 U.S.C. §1320a-7b(b) (the federal anti-kickback statute).
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corporative buildingIn the 2016 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule published on Nov. 16, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the proposed exception for timeshare arrangements that we discussed in our earlier blog post [80 Fed. Reg. 70,886, 71,300 (Nov. 16, 2015)]. As we stated in our earlier post, a timeshare or part-time “space use” arrangement typically provides a physician with the use of office space during scheduled time periods. The space usually includes furnishings with basic medical office equipment, supplies and support personnel so that the physician is able to use the space, on a turn-key basis, to see patients during scheduled times. Prior to the implementation of the new timeshare exception, these types of arrangements needed to be structured to comply with the Rental of Office Space Exception, which includes “exclusive use” requirements that many hospitals and physicians found burdensome [42 C.F.R. § 411.357(a)].
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spotlightiStock_000001543068_LargeThe Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently published its Fiscal Year 2016 Work Plan, which summarizes OIG’s priorities over the coming year. Notably, the 2016 Work Plan demonstrates the OIG’s expanded focus on delivery system reform and the effectiveness of alternate payment models, coordinated care programs, and value-based purchasing.

There were also noteworthy areas of new focus for several provider types, including skilled nursing facilities, hospice organizations, ambulatory surgical centers, and physician practices.  Below we have highlighted a few key areas from the FY 2016 Work Plan that will likely impact these providers. Please note this is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of the 2016 Work Plan and is focused only on the new OIG focal areas for these certain providers.
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Attorneys, compliance officers, accountants, and other professionals who advise clients in the healthcare industry may want to consider attending a coming event next month in Chicago. Featuring Husch Blackwell attorneys Cori Turner and Bill Hopkins, the Fundamentals of Health Law will be held Nov. 15-17.

The American Health Lawyers Association’s event will offer continuing education credits.
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