CMS cut to 340B spending overshadows OPPS update; associations threaten suit

Reimbursement to outpatient departments in 2018 will increase $5.8 billion compared to 2017, according to the hospital outpatient prospective payment (OPPS) and ambulatory surgical center (ASC) PPS Final rule for calendar year 2018. However, CMS will drastically reduce reimbursement for drugs under the 340B Program, much to the ire of providers and associations, which have already threatened to sue. (Final rule, 82 FR 52356, November 13, 2017).

340B program 

In calendar year (CY) 2018, CMS will change its reimbursement for separately payable drugs and biologics (other than pass-through drugs and vaccines) acquired through the 340B Program from average sales price (ASP) plus 6 percent to ASP minus 22.5 percent. Rural sole community hospitals, PPS-exempt cancer hospitals, and children’s hospitals will be exempt from this policy for CY 2018. This change, said CMS, addresses recent trends of increasing drug prices and will save beneficiaries about $320 million on copayments in 2018. CMS will offset the projected $1.6 billion decrease in drug payments by redistributing this amount for non-drug items and services across the OPPS.

The 340B Program (see 42 U.S.C. §256b, as expanded by Secs. 2501, 7101, and 7102 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148)), has been controversial, as critics have accused hospitals of abusing the program (see Participants in drug delivery system testify to impacts on patient prescription drug costs, Health Law Daily, October 18, 2017). However, the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and America’s Essential Hospitals criticized the cut to 340B spending as contrary to Congressional intent and a threat to safety net hospitals (see, e.g., Testimonies focus on benefits of 340B Drug Program, Health Law Daily, October 12, 2017).

Further, said the AHA, the policy “does nothing to address the stated goal of reducing the cost of pharmaceuticals” and could cause increases in beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for non-drug Part B benefits. American’s Essential Hospitals predicted that, “given their fragile financial position, essential hospitals will not weather this policy’s 27 percent cut to Part B drug payments without scaling back services or jobs.” The three associations plan legal action to stop CMS from cutting 340B spending.

OPPS update

For CY 2018, CMS increased the payment rates under the OPPS by an increase factor of 1.35 percent, which is based on the hospital inpatient market basket percentage increase of 2.7 percent, minus the multifactor productivity adjustment of 0.6 percentage point, and minus a 0.75 percentage point adjustment required by Sec. 3401(i) of the ACA.

Direct supervision requirement

42 C.F.R. Sec. 410.27(a)(1) requires therapeutic outpatient services to be furnished under the direct supervision of a physician or nonphysician practitioner. Sec. 16004 of the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) delayed enforcement through 2016 of this requirement for therapeutic hospital services provided by critical access hospitals and small rural hospitals with fewer than 100 beds. The CY 2018 OPPS Final rule continues the nonenforcement of the direct supervision requirement for hospital outpatient therapeutic services for CAHs and small rural hospitals having 100 or fewer beds for CYs 2018 and 2019.

Inpatient only list

Services that typically would be paid in an inpatient setting will not be paid by Medicare under the OPPS (see 42 C.F.R. Sec. 419.22(n)). These are services that require inpatient care because of (1) the invasive nature of the procedure; (2) the need for at least 24 hours of postoperative recovery time or monitoring before the patient can be safely discharged; or (3) the underlying physical condition of the patient. Effective for CY 2018, CMS will remove total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and five other procedures from the inpatient only list and will add one procedure to the list. CMS is also prohibiting recovery audit contractors from reviewing TKA procedures for “patient status” for two years to give providers time to gain experience with the procedure in the outpatient setting.

Packaging

CMS will conditionally package low-cost drug administration services assigned to Ambulatory Payment Classifications (APCs) 5691 and 5692 effective January 1, 2018. In addition, CMS assigned skin substitutes with a geometric mean unit cost (MUC) or a per day cost (PDC) that exceeds either the MUC threshold or the PDC threshold to the high cost group. For CY 2018, a skin substitute product that was assigned to the high cost group for CY 2017, but does not exceed either the CY 2018 MUC or PDC threshold for CY 2018, will be assigned to the high cost group for CY 2018.

OQR program

CMS removed six measures from the Outpatient Quality Reporting (OQR) program beginning with the CY 2020 payment determination (CY 2018 reporting). CMS stated that the removal of these measures results in a burden reduction of 457,490 hours and a saving of $16.7 million in CY 2020 for hospitals. CMS also delayed the mandatory implementation of the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery Survey under the Hospital OQR Program beginning with the CY 2018 data collection.

Laboratory tests

A new exception to the laboratory date of service policy will generally permit laboratories to bill Medicare directly for advanced diagnostic laboratory tests and molecular pathology tests excluded from OPPS packaging policy if the specimen was collected from a hospital outpatient during a hospital outpatient encounter and the test was performed following the patient’s discharge from the hospital outpatient department.

ASCs

For CY 2018, payments to ASCs will increase 1.2 percent, or $4.62 billion, based on a projected consumer price index of 1.7 percent minus a multifactor productivity adjustment required by the ACA of 0.5 percentage point. For CY 2018, CMS added three procedures to the ASC covered procedures list. In addition, CMS removed three measures from ASC Quality Reporting program for the CY 2019 payment determination and later and added two measures of hospital events following specified surgical procedures for the CY 2022 payment determinations and later (see Approximate 2 percent increase in OPPS, ASC payments proposed for 2018; cuts to 340B drug discount pay, Health Law Daily, July 20, 2017).

Trump administration disperses $485M in opioid fight

The Trump Administration announced $485 million in grants to assist states with combating opioid addiction. The funding is the first part in two rounds of opioid-focused state grants provided for by the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) (P.L. 114-255). The funds will be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The funding will be received by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Micronesia, Northern Marianas, Palau, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The allocation of the $485 million was determined according to need. The largest grants were awarded to states with the highest rates of overdose deaths and unmet need for opioid addiction treatment. Some of the highest awarded states include: California ($44,749,771), Florida ($27,150,403), Ohio ($26,060,502), Pennsylvania ($26,507,559), and Texas ($27,362,357).

In a letter to governors, HHS Secretary Price called the opioid crisis alarming, noting that “opioids were responsible for over 33,000 deaths in 2015.” He also admonished governors that “we cannot continue to lose our nation’s citizens to addiction.” Price cautioned that “while I am releasing the funding for the first year immediately, my intention for the second year is to develop funding allocations and policies that are the most clinically sound, effective and efficient.”

PDUFA VI reauthorization would aid 21st Century Cures Act implementation

Since 1992, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) has authorized the FDA to collect user fees from biopharmaceutical manufacturers to supplement Congressional appropriations. Revenues from these fees are used on activities related to the review and regulation of new drug products. In exchange for these fees, the FDA commits to meeting certain performance goals, such as reviewing applications within specified timeframes. The FDA’s ability to collect these fees must be reauthorized every five years. Each five-year reauthorization sets a total amount of fee revenue for the first year and provides a formula for annual adjustments to that total based on inflation and workload changes.

On March 22, 2017, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to examining the PDUFA program. PDUFA, as reauthorized by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 (FDASIA) (P.L. 112-144), expires in September 2017, and must be reauthorized for the fiscal years 2018 to 2022.

This will be the sixth reauthorization of PDUFA. The proposed agreement (PDUFA VI), builds upon process improvements enacted pursuant to FDASIA, including enhanced support for the Breakthrough Therapy Program. Further, it would aid in the implementation of several key provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act and further streamline the development and review of innovative new drugs for patients. The FDA estimates that the fees negotiated in PDUFA VI will average approximately $1 billion per year.

At the hearing, the following individuals testified on how the program has been implemented to date and presented recommendations pertaining to its reauthorization:

Allen

In his testimony, Allen pointed out that: “Prior to the initial user-fee authorizations, patients in other parts of the world were gaining access to new medicines faster than Americans, with only about 10 percent of new treatments reaching U.S. patients first.” That paradigm has largely been reversed, according to Allen. “Between 2003 and 2016, 73 new cancer drugs were approved by both the FDA and EMA [European Medicines Agency]. Of those drugs, 97 percent (71 of 73) were available in the U.S. before Europe. Furthermore, the FDA approved new cancer drugs on average nearly 6 months faster than the EMA.”

Allen also stated that PDUFA VI:

  • Advances the role of patients and their experiences;
  • supports the continued success of the Breakthrough Therapy Designation, a designation that may be given to a drug intended to treat a serious illness for which preliminary clinical evidence indicates a substantial improvement over any existing interventions. To date, 170 Breakthrough Therapy Designations have been granted, leading to 79 indications approved by the FDA using this process;
  • promotes qualifications and the use of drug development tools;
  • enhances the use of real-world evidence in regulatory decision-making; and
  • effectively communicated scientific advances.

Allen cautioned, however, that “proposed cuts to biomedical research will put the brakes on the engine of discovery, abandon progress on new tools to enhance product evaluation, impede opportunities for new businesses in the biotech sector, and most perilously, jeopardize the development of new medicines for patients desperate for progress.”

Pritchett

In supporting PDUFA VI reauthorization, Pritchett stated: “For nearly twenty-five years, PDUFA has provided much needed resources to the FDA’s human drug review program that has resulted in greater certainty and predictability for patients who depend on safe and effective innovative medicines.” Pritchett also noted the following benefits under PDUFA:

  • The FDA has approved over 1,500 new drugs and biologics since 1992, including treatments for cancer, cardiovascular, neurological, infectious and rare diseases.
  • The number of new medicines being approved on their first review cycle is at a historic high, including approvals for new medicines to treat rare diseases.
  • Review times for drug applications have dropped by nearly 55 percent.
  • The median approval time for standard applications has decreased from 22.1 months in 1993 to an estimated 10 months in 2015.
  • The median approval time for priority applications has similarly decreased from 13.2 months in 1993 to an estimated 7.9 months in 2014.

Pritchett concluded: “At a time when the U.S medical innovation ecosystem is facing severe strains and increased global competition, it is imperative that the FDA is equipped to help us deliver the next generation of new treatments and cures to meet patients’ unmet medical needs. PDUFA VI will help the FDA ensure that patients receive effective and lifesaving drugs, while maintaining the United States’ global leadership in biomedical innovation.”

Holcombe

Holcombe’s testimony cautioned Congress on the cost of the program: “Since 2002, the PDUFA program has grown at an average of 11 percent per year; this is unsustainable moving into the future. Changes are needed that address the fee collection structure to increase efficiency and reduce administrative burdens for both FDA and companies.”

Holcombe believes that the proposed PDUFA VI agreement would address these concerns by:

  • limiting the carryover balance levels, thus reducing possible over-collection of fees and the need for complicated administrative mechanisms to deal with such over-collections;
  • eliminating supplement fees, which will further simplify fee collections;
  • replacing the current product and manufacturing fees with a new program fee that will constitute 80 percent of the annual fee collections; and
  • reducing the percentage that application fees contribute to the total from the current 33 percent to 20 percent, thus mitigating the overall impact of this difficult-to-predict revenue source.

Holcombe also pointed out the benefits of important overlaps between provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act and the proposed PDUFA VI agreement. She offered the following examples of overlap:

  • The 21st Century Cures Act and PDUFA VI are complementary, in terms of ensuring that FDA (1) has and uses effectively an efficient process for qualifying biomarkers; (2) publishes guidance to help applicants for biomarker qualification understand the taxonomy and data standards; (3) makes public a list of qualified biomarkers and pending applications; and (4) engages external experts in biomarker qualification.
  • Patient-focused drug development. Guidance development, public meetings, development of methods and standards for collecting information and data, and use of patient perception and experience information in the FDA regulatory decision about the benefits and risks of a drug are all elements of both 21st Century Cures and the PDUFA VI agreement.
  • Real-world evidence. The 21st Century Cures Act provides helpful context for the work under PDUFA VI, and provisions of the two that differ are easily harmonized.
  • Innovative trial design. While the 21st Century Cures Act focuses on adaptive trials and Bayesian approaches, PDUFA VI takes a broader approach, opening its pilot program to other trial designs while also highlighting adaptive trials and Bayesian approaches.

Holcombe concluded by indicating the Biotechnology Innovation Organization strongly supports and applauds the enactment of 21st Century Cures, and it strongly supports the PDUFA VI proposed agreement.

Woodcock

At the hearing, Subcommittee Vice Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-Ky) asked Woodcock for an update on the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, a key component of 21st Century Cures and a committee-supported initiative. Woodcock elaborated on the center’s structure and the important work it will be doing.

With regards to PDUFA VI, Woodcock noted: “The PDUFA VI reauthorization proposal . . . was submitted to Congress in December under the previous Administration, and reflects a different approach to the federal budget.” She also stated: “Center to PDUFA VI, and its largest single investment component, are plans to elevate patient voices in developing new drugs to treat their diseases. The agreement shares the committee’s goals reflected in the 21st Century Cures Act – and the highest priority of our stakeholders – to leverage essential patient input and insights to fight disease.”

‘Mid-build’ outpatient departments: submit paperwork soon to qualify for OPPS exemption

Off-campus provider-based hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) that qualify for the mid-build exception must submit the required materials to their Medicare Administrative Contractor by February 13, 2017, to qualify for the exception for services provided in 2018. The hospital must (1) attest that department requirements are met; (2) include the department on the provider’s enrollment form; and (3) and submit a written certification that the department met the mid-build requirement that is signed by the CEO or COO of the main provider. All attestations must be audited by HHS for accuracy.

Outpatient prospective payment changes

Under the 2017 Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) Final rule (81 FR 79562), CMS implemented section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act (P.L. 114-74), which disallows payment made to off-campus HOPDs under the OPPS (see OPPS, ASC payment rates updated; off-campus PBD billing system established, Health Law Daily, November 2, 2016). This provision was created to ensure that services are billed at a uniform rate, regardless of the facility in which the services are provided.

21st Century Cures Act

Section 16001 of the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) provides an important “mid-build” exception for off-campus HOPDs that had a written contract with an outside party for construction of the facility before November 2, 2015. CMS’ preliminary guidance outlines the requirements for HOPDs that qualify for the 2018 exception. It also clarifies that attestations received from providers before December 2, 2015, qualifies that provider for the exception, and that these HOPDs should continue to use the ‘PO’ modifier when billing, rather than the ‘PN’ modifier. Those that did not submit timely attestations are to use ‘PN,’ which triggers the Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) payment.

The Cures Act also excepted HOPDs of cancer hospitals from the change to OPPS. Departments that met the requirements of 42 C.F.R. section 413.65 between November 1, 2015, and December 13, 2016, will qualify, as long as attestation is received February 13, 2017. HOPDs of cancer hospitals that meet regulatory requirements after December 13, 2016, will be exempt as long as an attestation is received within 60 days of meeting the requirements.