Articles Posted in Michigan Healthcare News

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On October 22, 2020, the Michigan Legislature enacted Enrolled House Bills 4459 and 4460. These rules were enacted to create limitations on out-of-network provider payments, require certain disclosures to patients related to costs of services, and to generally protect patients from balance medical billing. Balance billing occurs when a healthcare provider bills a patient for services for the amount the patient’s insurance company does not pay. The typical example of balance or surprise medical billing occurs when a patient goes to the emergency room at a hospital in the patient’s insurance network. The patient may receive care from multiple physicians and not know which is participating with the patient’s insurance, because hospitals often employ out-of-network physicians, or those that have no relationship with a patient’s health insurance. After the patient’s insurance pays its allowed amount for in-network and out-of-network services, the patient is then billed for the remaining out-of-network balance.

House Bill 4459 limits how much an out-of-network provider can collect in certain situations by implementing fee restrictions. The amount an out-of-network provider can collect from the patient is limited in certain circumstances, including:

  • Where the service is provided to an emergency patient, is covered by the emergency patient’s health benefit plan, and is provided by a nonparticipating provider at either a participating health facility or nonparticipating health facility.
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The Michigan Department of Health of Human Services (MDHHS) recently announced various support programs to help Michigan residents sign up for and gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Methods to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan have been difficult for individuals 65 and older; many county local health departments are not offering the vaccine and will not provide vaccine information over the phone. These resources may be useful to providers when consulting with elderly patients.

Since individual physician providers cannot yet distribute the vaccine, the only other option for older qualifying individuals is to make an appointment with a local hospital system or pharmacy that is currently distributing the vaccine. However, these hospitals require patients to have an active online chart account with the hospital. In addition, hospital vaccine appointments are given to online chart account holders at random, and patients must continue to monitor their emails for appointment notifications. Many pharmacies, such as Right Aid and Meijer, are following a similar format for those 65 and older, and require patients to schedule appointments online or through the pharmacy’s smartphone application. These processes have caused difficulty for elderly individuals seeking the vaccine, who may have more trouble navigating online portals, emails, and smartphone applications.

Due to the varying degrees of technological access and understanding of Michigan residents 65 and older, MDHHS is working with community partners to make the COVID-19 vaccine appointment process smoother. Qualifying residents can visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine for the most current COVID-19 vaccine information or call the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 for assistance. MDHHS has also partnered with 2-1-1, a free, confidential website service that helps connect Michigan residents with COVID-19 information and community organizations across Michigan with thousands of different programs. 2-1-1 utilizes a comprehensive database of health and human services in Michigan with more than 7,000 agencies providing over 36,000 services across the state. MDHHS first began its partnership with 2-1-1 in June of 2020 to help individuals in Michigan find and register for COVID-19 testing, over the phone or internet, and expanded its partnership on February 12, 2021 to include directing individuals to local vaccination clinics.

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On December 28, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that skilled nursing home residents and staff members would begin to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine immediately. This effort is made possible by the state of Michigan’s participation in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pharmacy Partnership for LTC Program is a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CVS, Walgreens, and certain participating Managed Health Care Associates, Inc. (MHA) pharmacies, to offer COVID-19 vaccination for residents and employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Starting in November 2020, long term care facilities (LTCFs) could sign up for the program and choose a federal pharmacy partner. The CDC worked with local jurisdictions to match facilities with their selected pharmacy partner. Pharmacy partners then reached out to their assigned LTCF to coordinate the vaccine process. Through the program, LTCFs will receive the vaccine free of charge, and will be provided with end-to-end management of the vaccine process, including on-site administration of vaccinations, scheduling, and coordination of on-site clinic dates, ordering vaccines and necessary supplies, and the implementation of reporting requirements. The goal of the program is to reduce the burden on LTCFs and local health departments, while increasing vaccination to vulnerable, priority populations.

Skilled nursing home residents and staff are among the highest risk for severe illness and death due to COVID-19. In Michigan, over 5,000 LTC facilities, including 400 skilled nursing facilities, are enrolled in the vaccine program. There are approximately 91,000 skilled nursing residents and employees to be vaccinated, with the process estimated to require three weeks to completely vaccinate this population. Other facilities eligible for the Pharmacy Partnership for LTC Program, such as, assisted living facilities, personal care homes, residential care, adult family homes, adult foster homes, HUD supportive housing for the elderly and veterans’ homes, will soon receive vaccinations as well. Adult day care facilities, independent living facilities, facilities exclusively for children or adolescents, psychiatric rehabilitation or behavioral treatment facilities, and drug or alcohol rehabilitation centers are not eligible for the program.

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released two new tools to help reduce COVID-19 infections, deaths, and identify exposure risks, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The MI COVID Alert App is a free, anonymous app that alerts users if they have had a recent COVID-19 exposure. In addition to the MI COVID Alert App, the MDHHS launched CV19 CheckUp, a free, anonymous, online service that allows an individual to evaluate his or her personal COVID-19 risks.

In a partnership with MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), the MI COVID Alert App was released statewide on November 9, 2020. The app is free, voluntary to use, and alerts users to recent COVID-19 exposures. Users can anonymously submit a positive COVID-19 test result as well, informing others nearby that they may have been exposed to the virus. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the individual will receive a randomly generated PIN number from the local health department or State of Michigan, which the user can then enter into the app. If a user receives an exposure notification, this alerts the individual that he or she may have been within 6 feet for a minimum of 15 minutes of another individual with a positive test result. Notably, no information that can be used to personally identify or track a user’s location is required or shared; no names are necessary to use the app, and Bluetooth technology is used instead of GPS, to prevent location tracking. One month since its launch, the app has received 461,192 downloads. MDHHS claims the app has potential to decrease infections and mortality, even with only a 15% population use rate.

In addition to the app, on December 15, 2020, MDHHS launched the CV19 CheckUp tool. This free tool, available to all individuals in Michigan, offers users a personalized risk analysis for COVID-19. After completing an online questionnaire that takes into account an individual’s life situation and personal behavior, users are provided with a COVID-19 risk assessment as well as recommendations and connections to support services, if necessary. Although this tool is available for all Michigan residents, it is specifically created for older individuals, those 60 and over, who represent 24% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 89% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Michigan. Like the MI COVID Alert App, the CV19 CheckUp tool is anonymous, and no name, email address, or other personal identifier is necessary to use and receive a personal risk and recommendation analysis. Rather than placing the burden on the individual to browse various websites and other COVID-19 related resources, the CV19 CheckUp tool uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as artificial intelligence, to analyze each person’s data, providing them with a risk level, an easy-to-understand evaluation of that risk, and steps that can be taken to minimize that risk.

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On June 24, 2018, amendments to the Professional Service Corporation Provisions (Chapter 2A) of the Michigan Business Corporations Act (BCA) will be in effect. In 2013, the Professional Service Corporation Act was incorporated into the body of the BCA as Chapter 2A, but was drafted in a way that created conflicting language between multiple provisions. According to Justin Klimko from the Corporate Laws Committee (Business Law Section), the main goal of amending Chapter 2A this year is to clarify that entities may be shareholders in Professional Corporations (PCs) if all of their owners are properly licensed. The amendments also clarify when individuals must sever their relationships with a PC.

The inconsistent language in Chapter 2A of the BCA created confusion as to whether entities may or may not be shareholders of PCs. Various sections were amended to address the discrepancies.

Under the previous language, PCs were prohibited from issuing shares “to anyone other than an individual who is licensed…” This language was inconsistent with other sections of Chapter 2A because it seemed to exclude entities. Thus, the new amendments resolve this contradiction by clarifying that a PC may issue shares to “an entity that is directly or beneficially owned only by persons that are licensed persons in 1 or more of the professional services provided by the professional corporation.” Furthermore, the amendments added to the definition of “licensed person” to allow the entity itself to be a licensed person if the entity is licensed to practice a professional service.

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On March 22, 2017, Michigan’s Public Act 379 of 2016 (the Act) will take effect, altering the practice requirements for physician assistants (PAs) within the state. The Act will require PAs to enter into and comply with a written practice agreement with a “participating physician.” The Act will thus affect not only PAs, but also participating physicians and other healthcare entitles.

A “participating physician” is defined as a physician, a physician designated by a group of physicians to represent that group, or a physician designated by a health facility or agency to represent that health facility or agency.

Another important aspect to note about the Act is that it limits the ability of PAs to practice within Michigan, requiring a written agreement which fulfills the statutory requirements. A practice agreement must include:

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On January 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), for the first time ever, announced a timeline and corresponding goals to shift the basis of Medicare reimbursement away from the quantity of care provided towards the quality furnished to beneficiaries. With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) in 2010, Congress created several new payment models, including Accountable Care Organizations (“ACOs”), primary care medical homes, and new models of payment bundling for care. These models all share the commonality that they incentivize physicians to coordinate care for their beneficiaries, maintain quality, and control costs. With the proliferation of these models that focus on quality over quantity, HHS was compelled to reform the Medicare reimbursement process.

Specifically, HHS announced its goal of tying 30 percent of fee-for-service Medicare payments to quality output through alternative payment models, like ACOs or bundled payment arrangements, by the end of 2016. Furthermore, HHS plans on increasing that amount to 50 percent by the end of 2018. If this goal is met, half of all payments to physicians and hospitals will be made through alternative payment models by 2018. Additionally, HHS set a timeline for tying 85 percent of fee-for-service, or traditional, Medicare payments to quality output by 2016 through the Hospital Value Based Purchasing and Hospital Readmissions Reduction Programs. This number is also set to increase to 90% by 2018.

To accomplish this, HHS has created the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network (“the Network”). The Network is an organization made up of health care stakeholders including private payers, consumers, providers, employers, and state Medicaid programs. The Network, which will hold its first meeting in March 2015, plans to expand alternative payment models nationwide into all areas of health care. HHS hopes that the intensity exhibited by the Network will even surpass its initial goals for program expansion.

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On December 30, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they had awarded the Region 5 Recovery Audit Contract (RAC) to Connolly, LLC. CMS contracts with RACs to identify and correct improper payments. Connolly, which has been the RAC for Region C, was awarded the Region 5 contract which covers claims for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS), home healthcare and hospice providers. With the awarding of the new RAC contract focused on DME, home health and hospice providers, these provider types can expect increased scrutiny of their Medicare claims.

CMS also outlined a number of “improvements” to the RAC program that will take effect with each new RAC contract awarded, beginning with the Region 5 contract awarded on December 30, 2014.

One of the “improvements” brought by the new RAC program is that the CMS has reduced the RAC look-back period to 6 months from the date of service for patient status reviews where hospitals submitted the claim within 3 months of the date of service. Previously, the look-back period for RACs was from 3 years and hospitals had to submit a claim within one year from the date of service in order to comply with the timely filing rules, leaving hospitals with the inability to rebill denials from patient status reviews. Another improvement is that the CMS has established new Additional Documentation Request (ADR) limits based on a provider’s compliance with Medicare rules. Specifically, the ADR limits will align with providers’ denial rates (i.e., providers with low denial rates will have lower ADR limits), and ADR limits will be adjusted as a providers’ denial rates decrease.

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On October 31, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its CY 2015 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule. The rule included several important changes as it relates to telehealth services. With respect to reimbursement rates, in the final rule CMS increased Medicare payments to telehealth originating sites by 0.8 percent.

In addition, the final rule provides seven new procedure codes that cover the following telehealth services:

  • Psychotherapy services (CPT codes 90845, 90846, and 90847);
  • Prolonged services in the office (CPT codes 99354 and 99355); and
  • Annual wellness visits (HCPCS codes G0438 and G0239).

For billing purposes, the originating site fee will be $24.83. CMS also introduced new CPT code 99490, which allows physicians to bill Medicare for chronic care management. The monthly, unadjusted, non-facility fee will be $42.60. Most importantly, CPT 99490 is considered a physician service and is, therefore, available nationwide and not restricted to rural-only telehealth.

Although these changes in the final rule have been received by many telehealth advocates and providers as welcomed developments, CMS did not eliminate the requirement for patients to be located in a rural area in order to receive telehealth services, despite suggestions from many commenters in response to the 2015 Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule to expand the reach of telehealth.

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On October 30, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its final rule regarding changes to the Medicare home health care prospective payment system. The changes, which are set to go into effect in calendar year 2015, will reduce payments to home health agencies (HHAs) by approximately .30 percent, or $60 million. This decrease comes as a result of the 2.1 percent home health payment update percentage. Additionally, the decrease implements the second year of the four-year phase in of the rebasing adjustments promulgated by Section 3131(a) of the Affordable Care Act.

CMS stated that the final rule is one of several to be released for calendar year 2015 aimed at reflecting a broader strategy to deliver better care at lower cost by increasing delivery efficiency. Provisions in the final rule should transition the healthcare system into one that values quality over quantity by focusing on reforms such as helping manage and improve chronic diseases, measuring for better health outcomes, focusing on disease prevention and fostering a more-efficient and coordinated system.

The Medicare program reimburses HHAs through a prospective payment system that pays higher rates for beneficiaries with greater needs. Currently, all HHAs must provide relevant data from patient assessments, which CMS uses to annually determine payment rates. In order to qualify for the Medicare home health benefit, a beneficiary must be cared for by a physician, require physical therapy or speech-language pathology, require intermittent skilled nursing care, or continue to need occupational therapy. Additionally, the beneficiary is required to be homebound and receive services from a Medicare-approved HHA. Outlined below are changes that the final rule makes to various aspects related to the home health prospective payment system.

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