T’was the night before the First Tuesday after the First Monday in March, and all through the House (and the Senate…)

FLBy: Dave Davidson

It’s that time of year.  People are scrambling around, deciding what they want to give and what they want to get.  Brand new packages are being wrapped up and filed away.  Excitement and tension fill the air. Everyone can’t wait for the big day; but in this season that big day doesn’t happen until the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.  But it’s never too early to start getting ready, right?  In fact, the Florida Legislature is currently in session, drafting and filing bills that the sponsors hope will be considered in March and will become law in 2016.  And as usual, health care is on a lot of legislative wish lists.  Although all of these bills are subject to significant revision, and some may never make it out of a subcommittee, here’s a sneak peek of some of the proposed health care legislation (without editorial – for now).

Scope of Practice Expansion

Three categories of health care professionals may see significant expansion of the scope of their practice.

Both Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants would gain the right to prescribe controlled substances pursuant to Senate Bill 676.  Most of the details about specific medications and dosages is left to an administrative committee, but the bill seems to anticipate broad authority.  The bill also adds references to ARNPs and PAs throughout the Florida Statutes, indicating a willingness to accept these professionals into a significant role in the delivery of care.  Additionally, SB 572 would add PAs and ARNPs to the list of providers who can certify that an individual meets Baker Act criteria to justify a patient’s involuntarily confinement for mental health reasons. Continue reading

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Full of Surprises

Bill Tracking SpyglassBy: Jeff Cohen

When new healthcare regs come out, we all get excited.  “What sort of nuggets will I find that could be useful?”  Sometimes the regs have useful things and sometimes, they’re just disappointing and frustrating.  The proposed changes to the 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule are a mixed bag.  Allow me to illustrate:

The incident to rules may be changed to require only the ordering physician to supervise the performance of the service.  Currently, any physician in a group practice could supervise the performance of an incident to service (which allows the practice to bill for the service as though it had been performed by the ordering physician);

Qualified telemedicine services that are furnished via an interactive telecom system can be furnished by a physician or authorized practitioner for an additional list of services, including CRNAs.  This is a big change that expands the list of authorized providers;

The feds propose to characterize certain Stark Law violations as “technical,” which means they pose no financial risk to the Medicare program.  Examples include unsigned or expired agreements; Continue reading

The Reality of the “Economic Realities Test”

contractBy: Valerie Shahriari & Jacqueline Bain

Across the healthcare industry, providers and healthcare businesses are consistently faced with the decision of whether to employ or contract with their workers.  Whether it’s a physician working with a group practice, or a marketer on behalf of a healthcare service, correctly structuring relationships between healthcare businesses and their workers is important.  For tax reasons, many workers strongly prefer to enter into independent contractor relationships.  However, simply calling oneself an independent contractor is not enough to solidify the relationship.  Many times, workers who call themselves independent contractors are actually employees in the minds of the government.  And sometimes, so-called “employees” with several part-time positions are actually viewed as independent contractors.

On July 15, 2015 the Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) provided additional guidance regarding the application of the standards for determining who is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The goal of the guidance is to help the regulated community in classifying workers and decreasing misclassification.  The Administrator’s Interpretation reviews the pertinent FLSA definitions and the breadth of employment relationships covered by the FLSA.  The Administrator’s Interpretation then addresses each of the factors of the “economic realities test”.

According to the Administrator, when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, the application of the economic realities factors should be guided by the FLSA’s statutory directive that the scope of the employment is very broad.  The FLSA’s definitions establish the scope of the employment relationship under the Act and provide the basis for distinguishing between employees and independent contractor.

The Supreme Court and Circuit Court of Appeals have developed a multi-factorial “economic realities” test to make the determination whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the FLSA.  The test focuses on whether the worker is economically dependent on the employer or in business for him or herself.  The factors include: Continue reading

Value Based Payments Gaining Traction – CMMI Oncology Care Model

443 Providers sign up for the CMMI Oncology Care Model including numerous providers in Florida.  The Oncology Care Model is a new payment model for physician practices administering chemotherapy.  Practices receive reimbursement via an episode based payment model that incentivizes high quality coordinated care.  Letters of Intent from payers (several of which are Florida payers) wishing to participate in the new model were submitted and Letters of Intent from providers wishing to participate were also submitted.  A list of those payers and providers who submitted LOIs can be found at http://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/Oncology-Care/ .

If you would like to learn more about value based payments for your practice, Attorney Valerie Shahriari is offering a free webinar on June 24, 2015.  Registration is now open: “Preparing Your Practice for an Incentive Based Payment Structure”

 

New OIG Advisory Opinion Frowns on Proposed Lab/Physician Arrangement

OIG crestMarch 25, 2015 Advisory Opinion No. 15-04 addresses a proposed arrangement involving a clinical/anatomic lab’s desire to position itself as the single lab recommended by practices.

The proposal arises in the context of the OIG Advisory Opinion process, which allows the OIG to opine on its view of how the federal anti-kickback statute might view a proposed arrangement.  Though Advisory Opinions are not “law,” they do provide good insight into prosecutorial intent.

Facts Presented

The clinical/anatomic lab (“Lab”) wanted to have agreements with physician practices to provide all their lab services.  To deal with the fact that some commercial insurers have exclusive arrangements with labs,  the Lab proposed that if a practice patient’s insurer required the patient to use another lab, the Lab would waive all fees for the affected practice patients and would not bill the patient, the medical practice or the patient.  The Lab would provide its services to these “exclusive patients” for free, while billing all other patients (and/or their insurers, including governmental payers) its fee scheduled or contracted rates.  The proposed arrangement would allegedly simplify things for the practices and keep lab results uniform.  A practice patient would be required to use the Lab.  The Lab’s services would simply be offered by the practices to their patients.  The Lab stated that the provision of free services to certain practice patients would not provide any financial benefit to the practices, although the lab would provide the practice a limited-use interface.  Samples would not be drawn in physician offices. Continue reading

Houston Court Brings the Heat in Payer Provider Case

bcbs lawsuitBy: Jeff Cohen 

A recent Texas District Court case took the usually frustrating ERISA dynamics applicable in payer provider disputes and upended them in a way that helped the provider.  There (Cigna v. Humble Surgical Hospital, Civ. Action No. 4:13-CV-3291, U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Tex., Houston Division), the court was faced with an out of network hospital sued by CIGNA to recover payments made.  In particular, the case involved—

  • An out of network hospital (HSH);
  • HSH set its prices higher than neighboring in network hospitals;
  • HSH billed Cigna members for deductibles and coinsurance at in network rates, but billed Cigna on an out of network basis;
  • Cigna alleged that the billing practices of HSH caused Cigna to pay more than its required share under applicable plans, even though plan members paid little or nothing at all;
  • Cigna also alleged HSH paid owner physicians referral fees to induce patient referrals; and
  • Cigna sought to recover payments made to HSH.

The case is a departure from the usual scenario, which involves (a) providers suing payers for payment and relying on state laws to do so, and (b) provides side stepping those state laws by successfully arguing that the federal ERISA law applies (which usually offers provides less favorable remedies). Continue reading

Protecting Your Practice Through Restrictive Covenants

Contract CWBy: Charlene Wilkinson

The beginning of a new year is a great time to evaluate your medical practice and determine ways to protect its healthy growth for the future.  The time, effort and dedication that it may take to build a successful practice may be quickly undermined without certain contractual protections in place.   As you seek to establish or expand your practice, it is essential to protect your hard earned efforts from employees and consultants taking a portion of your patient base, employees and valuable proprietary business processes to compete against you.

One of the ways physicians seek to protect the investment that they have made in their practice is through the use of restrictive covenants. Restrictive covenant is an all-inclusive term used to refer to all contractual restrictions upon competitive practices; nonsolicitation; confidential information and use of trade practices.  Restrictive covenants may be found in a number of documents related to your practice. A restrictive covenant may be found in your practice governing documents, such as the shareholder agreement, the partnership agreement of a partnership or the operating agreement of a limited liability company. A restrictive covenant is often included in an employment contract where it prevents an employee from engaging in certain competitive practices while they are an employee and for a period of time after their employment ends. There may be a restrictive covenant provision in a contract for the sale of a party’s interest in the practice. Continue reading