Health Care Law Blog

Health Care Trends

Rural hospitals across the United States struggling to stay open

According to the National Rural Health Association, approximately 50 hospitals in the rural United States have closed since 2010. The number of annual closures is growing. Congressional healthcare budget cuts and policy changes significantly affect rural hospitals because rural hospitals often have a disproportionate number of patients who are covered under Medicare, Medicaid or who are uninsured. A number of factors affect and pose challenges to rural hospitals. One challenge is the difficulty of attracting talent, which often means paying more to healthcare professionals in order to recruit them for employment at a rural hospital.  Other challenges facing rural hospitals include:

  • changing demographics;
  • advances in medical practice that the hospital may be unable to implement;
  • new federal regulations and standards that create additional compliance related pressure; and
  • lower reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid.

Closures of rural hospitals may force individuals to travel long distances for medical care, which may lead to an increase in mortality rates. The closures may discourage business ventures in rural areas due to the increased costs associated with not having a healthcare facility nearby. Metropolitan hospital closings have increased recently, but the existence of medical care alternatives in metropolitan areas typically reduces the effects that closures have on patients.  Read More ›

Categories: Health Care Reform, Hospitals, Insurance, News & Events, Physicians, Tax

New Legislation Makes Concierge Medicine a Viable Business Model In Michigan

The Affordable Care Act ("ACA") authorizes the innovative payment model referred to as direct primary care, and more commonly known as “concierge medicine.” Under the direct primary care model, patients can access comprehensive coverage of basic healthcare services for a flat monthly fee.  Such services generally include guaranteed same-day or next-day visits with no waiting times. Concierge medicine is becoming increasingly popular in states where it is allowed. Read More ›

Categories: Billing/Payment, Health Care Reform, Insurance, Providers

CMS Proposes Rule to Update Wage Index and Payment Rate for the Medicare Hospice Benefit

On April 30, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a proposed rule that would update fiscal year (“FY”) 2016 Medicare payment rates and the wage index for hospices serving Medicare beneficiaries (the “Proposed Rule”). CMS estimates that the Proposed Rule would result in a 1.3 percent ($200 million) increase in hospice payments for FY 2016. The highlights of the Proposed Rule are summarized below.  Read More ›

Categories: Billing/Payment, Long Term Care, Medicare/Medicaid, News & Events

The Updated April 2015 National Practitioner Data Bank Guidebook has been Released

The DHHS Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) has finally published the new National Practitioner Data Bank (“NPDB”) Guidebook.  The original Guidebook had not been updated since September 2001. 

The updated April 2015 NPDB Guidebook is available here.

The new Guidebook extensively covers the changes resulting from the 2013 merger of the NPDB and the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (“HIPDB”).  The HIPDB was a separate data bank that received and disclosed reports of final adverse actions by federal and state agencies and health plans against practitioners, entities, providers, and suppliers.  After the merger, there were significant changes in the entities eligible to query and report, as well as the individuals and entities subject to reports.  Read More ›

Categories: Criminal, Hospitals, Licensing, News & Events, Physicians, Providers

Peer Review Protections Apply to Objective Facts in Incident Reports

The Michigan Supreme Court has issued an important decision on the scope of peer review protection. In Krusac v Covenant Med Ctr, Inc, the court held that “objective facts gathered contemporaneously with an event” are protected when “contained in an otherwise privileged incident report.” Krusac overruled a Court of Appeals opinion, Harrison v Munson Healthcare, which ruled that peer review protection only applied to the evaluative content in an incident report. Krusac reinforces the broad protections for “records, data and knowledge” that is collected by or for peer review committees.

While Krusac clarifies the scope of the statutory protection, it also highlights the need for hospitals and health facilities to carefully structure and properly document their peer review processes. It will be especially important in litigation to establish that a committee or individual has been assigned a peer review function and that information is being collected for the purpose of reducing morbidity and mortality and improving patient care.

Richard Kraus of Foster Swift filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the University of Michigan Health System in Krusac.

Categories: Hospitals, News & Events

The IRS Provides Temporary Relief for Certain Health Reimbursement Arrangements

On February 18, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) provided further guidance related to the issue of how certain employer health insurance reimbursement arrangements are treated under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

As we explained in a previous post, after the Health Insurance Marketplace opened for business, many employers recommended that their employees use it to purchase individual health insurance policies, with the promise that the premium costs would be reimbursed by the employer. In fact, such employee reimbursement strategies were aggressively marketed to employers as a solution to reduce costs and comply with the requirements of the ACA. Little did these employers (and marketers) know, such arrangements exposed the employers to significant penalties under the ACA. 

Prior guidance made clear that such arrangements – whether funded on a pre- or post-tax basis – may be subject to the ACA’s market reforms. Employers that offer reimbursement arrangements that violate the ACA are subject to a $100 per day per affected employee penalty.

Notice 2015-17 clarifies previous guidance and provides transition relief to certain small employers from ACA penalties. Key aspects of the new guidance are noted below. Read More ›

Categories: Compliance, Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance Exchange, Medicare/Medicaid, Tax

2015 Michigan Health Law Update

On March 12, 2015 Foster Swift Attorney Jennifer Van Regenmorter co-presented the Michigan Health Law Update (“Annual Update”) at the 21st Annual Health Law Institute. The Annual Update provides an overview of the most significant Michigan-specific health law developments from the past year, many of which have been covered on this blog. This article will summarize the highlights from this year’s Annual Update. Read More ›

Categories: Hospitals, Insurance, Licensing, Medicare/Medicaid, News & Events, Privacy

Recap from the 2015 Health Law Institute

Foster Swift health care attorneys recently attended and presented at the 21st Annual Health Law Institute on March 12 and 13, 2015. The two-day institute, which was co-sponsored by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education and the Health Care Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, included presentations on recent statutory, regulatory, and case law developments in the health care industry.

Foster Swift Attorney Jennifer Van Regenmorter co-presented the “Michigan Health Law Update,” which provided an overview of Michigan’s most significant health law developments from the past year. This was Van Regenmorter’s third time presenting this yearly update at the Institute. Read More ›

Categories: Fraud & Abuse, HIPAA, News & Events, Physicians

“Top 10 Healthcare Law Trends in 2015” – Part 2

The February issue of the American Health Lawyers Association’s AHLA Connections features a list of the top ten issues that will impact healthcare law in 2015. We summarized the first five topics in a previous blog. (Miss our summary of the first five? Please click here.)

Here are the remaining trends to think about:  Read More ›

Categories: Health Care Reform, HIPAA, Medicare/Medicaid, News & Events, Providers

“Top 10 Healthcare Law Trends in 2015” – Part 1

The February issue of the American Health Lawyers Association’s AHLA Connections features a top-ten list of the issues that will impact healthcare law in 2015. This two-part series discusses these important trends.

Here are the first five: Read More ›

Categories: Fraud & Abuse, Health Care Reform, Medicare/Medicaid, News & Events