The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division issued a Business Review Letter (BRL) on January 15 in response to a proposal by the American Optometric Association (AOA) and AOAExcel GPO, LLC to expand their group purchasing arrangement. The AOA includes approximately 27,000 doctors of optometry (plus optometry staff and students) who compete with one another and nonmember optometrists and ophthalmologists to provide optometric services. AOA members also compete with other retail and online stores and vertically integrated providers who offer optometric products. In an effort to help their members better compete with these online and retail stores and vertically integrated manufacturers, the parties plan to expand their group purchasing arrangement to include optometric products for resale to customers. The proposed expansion would cover optometric products including eyeglass lenses and frames and contact lenses. The DOJ, in reviewing the details of the proposal, concluded that it presently does not intend to challenge the parties’ group purchasing arrangement in light of certain competitive safeguards within the structure of the expanded arrangement.
In what has become the new “normal” in Washington, DC, these days, hospitals and their associations filed a lawsuit today against the US Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) challenging the recent Final Rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on November 27, 2019, addressing hospital pricing disclosures.
In its complaint, the American Hospital Association, joined by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Association of Children’s Hospitals, Inc. (d/b/a Children’s Hospital Association), and three representative hospitals in Missouri, California, and Nebraska (collectively, Plaintiffs), argue that the Secretary issued a Final Rule that (1) is unlawful and in excess of his statutory authority; (2) is a violation of the First Amendment by unlawfully compelling speech; and (3) is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law, citing the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
Price transparency rules impacting hospitals, health plans and third-party payers released by the Trump administration promise to substantially change how health plans, consumers, and providers will interact over the coming years. In this LawFlash, our healthcare industry team unpacks the final rule requiring hospitals to make standard charges public and the proposed transparency in coverage rule requiring group health plans and health insurance issuers to disclose negotiated rates with providers and out-of-network estimates for consumers. Across the industry as a whole, plans and providers alike will have to undertake additional costs to update their current programs, technology, and web pages to comply with the price transparency rules and take on or train personnel to maintain that programming and technology.
The FTC announced on October 21, 2019, that its Commissioners voted 5–0 in support of issuing orders requesting information from five health insurance companies and two health systems to study the effects of Certificate of Public Advantage laws (COPAs) on price, quality, access, and innovation in the healthcare sector. The FTC has demanded an extensive amount of data from the targeted entities by January 21, 2020. Also notable in the FTC’s announcement is that the agency will study the impact of hospital consolidation on employee wages.
The US government continues its focus on healthcare fraud through criminal actions. It has demonstrated its willingness to pursue physicians and investors alike and to take creative approaches in order to secure convictions. When it comes to alleged healthcare fraud, the government not only focuses on fraud in connection with government payers, but also uses the statutes in its arsenal to target purported fraud against private payers.
A handful of bills that comprised a healthcare reform package championed by Florida House Republicans are on their way to the governor’s desk where they’ll likely be signed into law. The result of an ambitious effort by lawmakers to overhaul how Florida regulates healthcare, the bills represent a striking departure from the current regulatory environment. Passed during the last week of the legislative session with a July 1, 2019, general effective date, providers will want to begin reviewing their policies in anticipation of the coming change.