Senate Bill 135 Amends the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act to Limit Certain Durable Medical Equipment and Treatments

Recently, Georgia has amended its Workers’ Compensation legislation to limit certain treatments in non-catastrophic cases. Becoming effective on July 1, 2019, the amended act now eliminates the 400-week cap for certain medical items and services that were furnished within 400 weeks of the date of injury and prescribed by an authorized physician.

Specifically, O.C.G.A Sec. 34-9-200 now states:

For injuries arising on or after July 1, 2013, that are not designated as catastrophic injuries pursuant to subsection (g) of Code Section 34-9-200.1, the maximum period of 400 weeks referenced in paragraph (2) of this subsection shall not be applicable to the following care, treatment, services, and items when prescribed by an authorized physician:

(i) Maintenance, repair, revision, replacement, or removal of any prosthetic device, provided that the prosthetic device was originally furnished within 400 weeks of date of injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment; 

(ii) Maintenance, repair, revision, replacement, or removal of a spinal cord stimulator or intrathecal pump device, provided that such items were originally furnished within 400 weeks of the date of injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment; and 

(iii) Maintenance, repair, revision, replacement, or removal of durable medical equipment, orthotics, corrective eyeglasses, or hearing aids, provided that such items were originally furnished within 400 weeks of the date of injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment.

The bill then goes on to define the following:

For the purposes of this subsection, the term:

(i) ‘Durable medical equipment’ means an apparatus that provides therapeutic benefits, is primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose, and is reusable and appropriate for use in the home. Such term includes, but shall not be limited to, manual and electric wheelchairs, beds and mattresses, traction equipment, canes, crutches, walkers, oxygen, and nebulizers. 

(ii) ‘Prosthetic device’ means an artificial device that has, in whole or in part, replaced a joint lost or damaged or other body part lost or damaged as a result of an injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment.

Per the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Reference Guide note “CMS will recognize or honor any state-legislated [1], non-compensable medical services and will separately evaluate any special situations regarding WC case”. Therefore, this amendment is of import as with this specific language, arguments can now be made to exclude pricey treatment such as intrathecal pain pumps and dreaded spinal cord stimulators. This could significantly impact WMCSA values in Georgia starting July 2019.

The GRSM Medicare Compliance Group will continue to monitor this, and other compensability matters. Please contact rmaldonado@grsm.com should you have any questions or concerns.


[1] Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Reference Guide., Version 2.9, January 4, 2019.

CMS Proposes to Cover Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain for Medicare Beneficiaries Enrolled in Approved Studies

On July 5, 2019, CMS issued a proposed decision to cover acupuncture for the treatment of low back pain in very specific circumstances.

Citing an effort to avoid opioid use, this decision would allow access to acupuncture for Medicare benefiaries who are enrolled in medical studies to allow CMS to review the data and the effect of acupuncture on the treatment of chronic low back pain.

Per the decision, CMS proposed to cover acupuncture with patients with chronic low back pain who are enrolled in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or in a CMS approved study. Furthermore, the rule indicates that the aforementioned studies must address and adhere to the following:

  • Enrollment of Medicare beneficiaries based on broad eligibility criteria to maximize diversity and minimize intentional or unintentional exclusions based on risk, multi-morbidity, age, health literacy, demographics, or expected adherence.
  • For the purpose of this decision, chronic low back pain (CLBP) is defined as:
    • lasting 12 weeks or longer;
    • nonspecific, in that it has no identifiable systemic cause (i.e., not associated with metastatic, inflammatory, infectious, etc. disease);
    • not associated with surgery within 12 weeks of enrollment in the study; and
    • not associated with pregnancy.
  • A minimum 12-week acupuncture intervention versus usual care or other intervention for chronic low back pain.
  • Endpoints must be measured at 12 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months after enrollment, with comparison to usual care, or other planned comparator arm.  
  • The protocol design must incorporate rigorous controls, prospectively identified, preferably by randomization.  If another method is used to generate the comparison group, it should provide comparable rigor.
  • Be consistent with for the Standards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA) guidelines.

In summary, CMS has been actively working towards their agenda of fighting the opioid crisis through policy. However, although this is certainly a move in the right direction, this benefit will not be immediately seen for most beneficiaries. Unless prescribers begin to refer to clinical studies that meet the above mentioned qualifications, this treatment will still not be covered until a second decision is made upon the review of the data collected from clinical studies.

To read the notification in its entirety, the link can be found here.

The GRSM Medicare Compliance Group will continue to monitor this, and other coverage matters. Please contact rmaldonado@grsm.com should you have any questions or concerns.

CMS Issues Updated Section 111 NGHP User Guide Version 5.6

On July 1, 2019, CMS issued an updated version of the of the MMSEA Section 111 NGHP User Guide. The latest version of the User Guide provides some much needed clarity as to the submission of multiple claim files per reporting quarter. GRSM has received numerous inquiries regarding the submission of multiple claim input files per quarter, and in light of potential misinformation disseminated by various other Section 111 service providers, these updates come at an opportune time.

CMS did not change the fact that an RRE can submit more than one claim input file per quarter. Rather, Ch. II, Sect. 4.2.2 of the User Guide now states that Responsible Reporting Entities (RREs) should submit one Claim Input file per quarter but also provides in Ch. IV that under appropriate circumstances RREs may submit multiple files within a single quarter. The User Guide specifically states that the primary purpose for multiple submissions in a quarter is to permit RREs to provide ORM termination updates in an expedited manner. An RRE may want to submit more than one claim file per quarter for a number of reasons. For example, in order to trigger a conditional payment notice/letter to aid in the recovery process, an RRE may want to submit an off-cycle claim input file; or to avoid receiving a late flag for timeliness, an RRE may want to submit TPOC or ORM termination information off-cycle.

A full list of the updates made to the latest version of the User Guide is as follows:

– Ch. II of the User Guide added clarity regarding the submission of multiple claim input files. As discussed above, Ch. II Sect. 4.2.2. now states that “RREs should submit one Claim Input file per quarter. Please See CH. IV: Technical Information for more information.” (pg. 4-10).  Whereas this same section previously stated that “File submitters can only submit one Claim Input File on a quarterly basis for each RRE ID.”

– Ch. IV of the User Guide now states that the retention period for downloading response files from the Section 111 site has been updated from 180 days to 60 days (Sect. 10.3 and 10.4).

– RREs can now download the latest PC/server version of the HIPAA Eligibility Wrapper (HEW) software from the Section 111 MRA application, which is compatible with Windows 10. (Sect. 9.3 and 10.4).

– RREs using the HTTPS file transmission method can only upload files with the extension of .txt. Other file types will generate an Invalid Error message (Sect. 9.3 and 10.4). – Finally, Ch. V now provides the same update mentioned above in Ch. IV regarding downloading the HEW software, i.e. RREs can now download the latest PC/server version of the HIPAA Eligibility Wrapper (HEW) software from the Section 111 MRA application.

Version 5.6 of the NCHP Section 111 User Guide can be downloaded here (link https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Mandatory-Insurer-Reporting-For-Non-Group-Health-Plans/NGHP-User-Guide/NGHP-User-Guide.html).

The GRSM Medicare Compliance Group will continue to follow all trends and updates issued by CMS and provide you with the latest updates. If you would like to discuss these updates, or Section 111 Reporting in general, please contact our Section 111 Reporting team at CMSReporting@grsm.com.

CMS Issues Final Rule Modernizing Part D and Medicare Advantage to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Expenses

On May 23, 2019, CMS issued a final rule regarding Part D expenses and the Agency’s ongoing efforts in lowering the cost of prescription medications for its beneficiaries.

Per the rule, CMS reports that this final rule amends the Medicare Advantage (MA) program (Part C) regulations and Prescription Drug Benefit program (Part D) regulations to support health and drug plans’ negotiation for lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs for Part C and D enrollees.

CMS then goes on to outline the major provisions of the new rule. Per the announcement there are 5 provisions that CMS plans to implement. They are as follows:

1.) Providing Plan Flexibility to Manage Protected Classes:

According to CMS, except in limited circumstances, current Part D policy requires Part D sponsors to include on their formularies all Part D drugs in six categories or classes: (1) antidepressants; (2) antipsychotics; (3) anticonvulsants; (4) immunosuppressants for treatment of transplant rejection; (5) antiretrovirals; and (6) antineoplastics. The new proposed rule provides for three exceptions to this protected class policy that would allow Part D sponsors to: (1) implement broader use of prior authorization (PA) and step therapy (ST) for protected class Part D drugs, including to determine use for protected class indications; (2) exclude a protected class Part D drug from a formulary if the drug represents only a new formulation of an existing single-source drug or biological product, and (3) exclude a protected class Part D drug from a formulary if the price of the drug increased beyond a certain threshold. This rule is purported to be effective as of January 1, 2020.

2.) Updates to Part D E-Prescribing Standards

The requirement for this provision is that Part D plan sponsors implement an electronic real-time benefit tool (RTBT) capable of integrating with at least one prescriber’s electronic prescribing (eRx) system or electronic health record (EHR). According to CMS, this would support interactive real-time standards whenever feasible, and for standards that improve the cost-effectiveness of the Part D benefit. This provision would not go into effect until January 1, 2021.

3.) Medicare Advantage and Step Therapy for Part B Drugs

CMS indicated that in this final rule, CMS is reaffirming Medicare Advantage plans’ existing authority to implement appropriate utilization management and prior authorization programs (meaning policies and procedures) for managing Part B drugs to reduce costs for both beneficiaries and the Medicare program.

4.) Part D Explanation of Benefit

With this new rule, CMS is requiring the inclusion of negotiated drug pricing information and lower cost alternatives in the Part D Explanation of Benefits beginning on 01/01/2021. CMS cites its ongoing goal to be more transparent for beneficiaries’ which hypothetically would in turn create more competition and therefore lower costs.

5.) Prohibition Against Gag Clauses in Pharmacy Contracts

This rule also implements the statutory requirement that restricts Part D sponsors from prohibiting or penalizing a pharmacy from disclosing a lower cash price to an enrollee. Again, this is purported to help lower out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries by helping inform them about lower cost alternatives.

In summary, CMS has been actively working towards their agenda of lowering prescription medicines for beneficiaries. However, considering that these rules are set to be enacted in 2020 and some even in 2021, it may be some time before beneficiaries see the benefits of such provisions.

To read the notification in its entirety, the link can be found here.

The Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance Group will continue to monitor this case and bring you updates as they become available. Please contact me at (412) 588-2283 or rmaldonado@grsm.com should you wish to discuss this or any other Medicare Secondary Payer matters.

ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS VIA MSPRP NOW LIVE

Effective April 1, the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) is equipped to accept electronic payments for Medicare conditional payment reimbursements. Answers to common inquiries were subsequently released by CMS on April 12, 2019 called “Electronic Payments on the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) and Commercial Repayment Center Portal (CRCP) Frequently Asked Questions and Answers.” Such functionality was originally referenced in the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act of 2012.

In the alert, CMS specifically indicated that to make an electronic payment through the MSPRP, one does not need a new or updated user access. The option is available to any user on any matter to which the user already has access.

Payments are not required to be made through the MSPRP. Payers may continue to remit a paper check to satisfy Medicare conditional payment demands. However, any refund issued by the Medicare recovery contractor will still be made via paper check and will not be made electronically, to date.

Interestingly, CMS specifically reports that in order to make an electronic payment through the MSPRP, the matter to which you wish to apply payment must be in “demand” status. There is no option to remit payment electronically unless the amount has been demanded. Therefore, if payment is desired to be made on a Conditional Payment Notice instead of a Demand for Reimbursement, a written check still must be mailed to the CRC/BCRC for application to the claim. Furthermore, CMS clarifies that when paying online, this does not mean that the full demand amount must be paid. If a Redetermination Request has been submitted on a portion of the conditional payments being asserted, a user can still submit a partial electronic payment.

Finally, CMS reported that the electronic payments utilize Pay.gov to secure the transaction, where payments can be made utilizing a savings/check account, debit card, or PayPal linked to a bank account. Credit cards, however, are not being accepted for payment at present. Also, the limit for each payment method is posted, as well. Once payment has been made. a confirmation of payment will be posted to the MSPRP on the Payment Status page. Additionally, an Electronic Payment History status will list the status of all electronic payments, as well as the amount and payment date.

In summary, the new electronic payment system appears to streamline the payment process significantly, with much quicker application times and updates to the portal. However, as indicated above, it is still requiring that non-demand claims must be paid via paper check. This can be frustrating for those that are attempting to make payments before the demand and can potentially complicate settlements.

We at Gordon and Rees will continue to monitor these issues and will continue to report any updates.

New Part D Safety Policy Intends to Reduce Opioid Misuse

CMS recently announced its new Medicare Part D opioid safety policy, intended to reduce prescription opioid misuse. One aspect of the new policy is improved safety alerts at the pharmacy for Part D beneficiaries who are filling initial opioid prescriptions or receiving high doses. CMS cited the following three situations that would warrant an alert:

CMS recently announced its new Medicare Part D opioid safety policy, intended to reduce prescription opioid misuse. One aspect of the new policy is improved safety alerts at the pharmacy for Part D beneficiaries who are filling initial opioid prescriptions or receiving high doses. CMS cited the following three situations that would warrant an alert:

• Possible unsafe amounts of opioids.
• First prescription fills for opioids.
• Use of opioids and benzodiazepines at the same time.

CMS reports that if an alert is sent and if the prescription can’t be filled as written, including the full amount on the prescription, the pharmacist will give the beneficiary a notice explaining how they or their doctor can contact the plan to ask for a coverage determination.

The new policy also permits Part D plans to put drug management programs in place to help beneficiaries. One of the proposed ways that a Part D plan would accomplish this is given through the example that if a beneficiary gets opioids from multiple doctors or pharmacies, the beneficiary may be directed to receive such medications from specific providers or pharmacies to avoid overlap. However, the most notable part of this new plan is that the Part D plan will send the beneficiary a letter if it will limit their access to these medications under its drug management program. If so, the beneficiary and their doctor will have the right to appeal.

CMS acknowledges that “one size does not fit all” and that such policies do not apply to specific populations (i.e. long-term care facilities, individuals in hospice, palliative, or end-of-life care). To that end, additional material was provided for prescribers, pharmacists, and patients to clarify CMS’s interpretation of these policies.

Practitioner’s Note: While these policies are admirable in their attempt to curb the opioid issues within our country, it does beg the question as to what impact this will have in a clinical setting. With the example of the seven (7) day fill rule for new opioid users, in a majority of workers’ compensation and/or liability cases the beneficiary isn’t a beneficiary at the time of injury and the initial prescription of pain medication. As such, this policy would not apply to those individuals. Additionally, upon review of the additional materials for the providers and pharmacists, CMS specifically notes in bold “This alert is not a prescribing limit” and explains that decisions to taper or discontinue prescription opioids are individualized between patient and prescriber. How this policy may apply to the current Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Reference Guide allocation methodology has yet to be determined.

The Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance team will continue to follow these trends and update you as new developments arise.

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Becomes First 50-State Law Firm

With 68th office opening, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani expands reach, services to every state.

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani (GRSM) has opened its 68th office, creating the world’s first 50-state law firm.

Name partner Miles Scully heralded the move as a game-changing moment in the legal services industry. “As the first and only law firm to feature offices in all fifty states, we are poised to meet our clients’ needs whenever or wherever they may arise. Our deep bench of talented lawyers coupled with our forward-thinking use of technology enables us to lead the industry in providing efficient and cost effective representation virtually anywhere in the country.”

Managing partner Dion Cominos added, “With an already established national platform, the firm was well-positioned to take the next step of providing full territorial coverage throughout the United States. This milestone represents both the culmination of our journey toward becoming a truly national firm, and the next chapter in a new era of delivering seamless and comprehensive legal services to clients on a nationwide basis.”

Since its founding 45 years ago in San Francisco, GRSM has strategically expanded across the nation, opening offices in markets critical to its clients. And as the firm’s clients have continued to consolidate, grow in size, and span additional industries, GRSM has grown to match and service their needs – initially on the west coast, and eventually throughout the country. The full list of GRSM’s offices and local contacts can be found here.

The firm’s strong growth was recognized by The American Lawyer in 2018, which named GRSM number 103 in top grossing law firms, moving up seven spots from the previous year. Law360 recognized the firm as the 40th largest in the United States in its annual rankings by domestic attorney headcount. The firm was also recognized among the top 45 for diversity on The American Lawyer Diversity Scorecard.

GRSM is a national litigation and business transactions firm with more than 900 lawyers providing full service representation to public and private companies ranging from the Fortune 500 to start-ups. Founded in 1974, GRSM is recognized among the fastest growing and largest law firms in the country.

Highlights of Resulting Media Coverage:
Bloomberg Law, April 15, 2019
Law360, April 15, 2019 (subscription may be required)

Contacts
Dion N. Cominos
Miles D. Scully

Medicare Coverage App Launches eMedicare

Yesterday CMS announced a new app to display what Medicare Part A & B covers. Per the announcement, “The new ‘What’s Covered’ app lets people with Original Medicare, caregivers and others quickly see whether Medicare covers a specific medical item or service. Consumers can now use their mobile device to more easily get accurate, consistent Original Medicare coverage information in the doctor’s office, the hospital, or anywhere else they use their mobile device.” Unsurprisingly, CMS discussed the need for this app as questions about what Medicare covers are some of the most frequent inquiries that CMS receives.

Interestingly, this app also is reported to enable beneficiaries to connect their claims data to applications and tools developed by innovative private-sector companies to help them understand, use, and share their health data.

As discussed previously, this innovation is in line with the directive from the current administration to move toward more electronic access in regards to healthcare. Specifically, this program is called eMedicare, and some of the purported goals are to allow beneficiaries to examine all available plans and see how different coverage choices will affect out-of-pocket costs.

Practitioner’s Note: This app could be extremely beneficial to beneficiaries who have had a MSA approved and are attempting to appropriately spend down their funds. Additionally, it will be interesting to see if the next version of this new app will include the option to compare Part C plans. Considering the narrative, ease of comparing different Part C plans appears to be an important part of the eMedicare program. However, this does beg the question what exactly is the “health data” they aim to share? 

The Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance team will continue to follow these trends and update you as new developments arise.

New Conditional Payment Portal Functionality Expected in January

Long awaited improvements to the Medicare conditional payment reimbursement process may be available at the start of the new year, according to a November 19 alert from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Back in August, CMS announced the Medicare Secondary Payment Recovery Portal (MSPRP) would offer enhanced functionality in 2019, including the ability for authorized Non-Group Health Plan (NCHP) users to self-report leads on liability, auto, no-fault or workers’ compensation cases. According to the alert, this functionality will be effective on January 7, 2019.  CMS is hosting a webinar regarding this enhancement on December 18th, 2018 at 1:00PM EST. A link to register for this webinar can be found here>>CMS 12.18.18 Webinar Registration

The ability to self-report leads will generate Medicare Conditional Payment information that authorized parties can review and/or dispute in accord with their reimbursement obligations under the Medicare Secondary Payer laws. Such enhanced portal functionality should eliminate several weeks of wait time per claim in obtaining Medicare conditional payment information.

This enhancement was initially introduced as a possible improvement for 2019 during a webinar CMS conducted on August 16. A second enhancement allowing online payment of Medicare conditional payments to the MSPRP was also referenced at that time as a possible improvement for 2019. The November 19 CMS alert makes reference to online payment.

Stay tuned to the Gordon & Rees MSPulse for a summary of the December webinar. In the meantime, please contact us should you have any questions.

CMS Low Dollar Recovery Threshold Remains $750 for 2019

There will be no change in the low dollar threshold for Medicare conditional payment reimbursement in 2019. The SMART (Strengthening Medicare And Repaying Taxpayers) Act of 2012 serves to avoid governmental waste by setting an annual amount in which the costs associated with reimbursement outweigh the benefits. The SMART Act provides that the Secretary must calculate and publish not later than November 15th a low dollar threshold amount applicable in the following year for settlements, judgments, awards or other payments in which Medicare Conditional Payment reimbursement need not be reimbursed given the costs associated with recovery. This threshold corresponds also to the $750 threshold for Medicare Mandatory Insurer Section 111 reporting requirement.

On Friday, November 15th, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released their updated Computation of Annual Recovery Thresholds for Non-Group Health Plans.  Below are the Agency’s findings:

  • The 2019 reporting threshold remains $750 for no-fault, workers’ compensation and liability cases.
  • The estimated cost to process any individual case is $297
  • The average Medicare conditional payment demand amount for settlements of $500 is $368 (74%)
  • The average Medicare conditional payment demand amount for settlements around $750 is $518 (69%)

These metrics once again demonstrate exceedingly high percentages of cost versus recovery for low dollar settlements. The SMART Act applies a common sense approach to recovery efforts, given such costs associated with reimbursement and the interest of avoiding wasteful spending of government money,. The complete notice can be found in the link here>> CMS Computation-of-Annual-Recovery-Thresholds-for-NGHP–2019.pd

Should you have any questions regarding the above or need any Medicare compliance assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance Group at mstockdale@grsm.com or 412-588-2277