On February 2, 2015, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016. The budget would impact all types of health care providers, health plans, and drug manufacturers if adopted as proposed – which is unlikely given Republican control of the House and Senate. Nevertheless, Congress can be expected to consider the Medicare and Medicaid savings proposals (many of which are carry-overs from prior budgets) during expected debate in the coming months on Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) reform legislation or during future budget negotiations.

The following is a summary of the major Medicare, Medicaid, and related policy proposals contained in the FY 2016 budget proposal.

Medicare Delivery & Payment Reforms

The proposed FY 2016 budget includes a package of Medicare legislative proposals estimated to save $423.1 billion over 10 years (note that the proposals are scored off an adjusted baseline that assumes a zero percent update to Medicare physician payments). Highlights include the following (all savings estimates are for the 10-year period of FYs 2016-2025):

  • Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula used to update MPFS payments, and replace it with reforms contained in recent bipartisan reform legislation (including a period of predictable payments followed by reimbursement tied to alternative payment models and value-based purchasing). The Administration estimates that this would cost $44 billion over 10 years.
  • Reduce Medicare payment for services provided in off-campus hospital outpatient departments under the Outpatient Prospective Payment System to either the MPFS-based rate or the rate for surgical procedures covered under the Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) payment system. The provision would be phased in over four years beginning in 2017 ($29.5 billion in savings).
  • Implement bundled payment for post-acute care providers, including long-term care hospitals (LTCHs), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and home health agencies (HHAs) beginning in 2020. Payments would be bundled for at least half of the total payment for post-acute care providers, with rates set to produce a permanent and total cumulative adjustment of -2.85% by 2022, with beneficiary coinsurance equal to current levels ($9.3 billion).
  • Allow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to assign more Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries to Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics that participate in an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) under the Medicare Shared Savings Program ($80 million), and expand the basis for beneficiary assignment for ACOs to include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists ($60 million).
  • Implement a budget neutral value-based purchasing program for additional provider types, including SNFs, HHAs, ASCs, hospital outpatient departments, and community mental health centers beginning in 2017. At least 2% of payments must be tied to the quality and efficiency of care in the first two years, rising to at least 5% in 2019 (no budget impact).
  • Eliminate the 190-day lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric facility services: ($5 billion in costs).
  • Reduce market basket updates for IRFs, LTCHs, and HHAs by 1.1 percentage points each year from 2016 through 2025 (the update could not fall below 0%), and reduce SNF updates by -2.5% in FY 2016, tapering down to a -0.97% update in FY 2023 ($102.1 billion).
  • Increase the minimum Medicare Advantage coding intensity adjustment ($36.2 billion).
  • Reduce Medicare coverage of bad debts from 65% in most cases to 25% over three years starting in 2016 ($31.1 billion).
  • Strengthen the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) by reducing the target rate of Medicare cost growth from gross domestic product plus one percentage point to plus 0.5 percentage point, which would make it easier to trigger Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions requiring reductions to Medicare provider reimbursement ($20.9 billion).
  • Reduce Medicare indirect medical education add-on payments ($16.3 billion).
  • Exclude radiation therapy, therapy services, advanced imaging, and anatomic pathology services from the in-office ancillary services exception to the prohibition against physician self-referrals (Stark law), except in cases where a practice is “clinically integrated” and demonstrates cost containment, as defined by the Secretary ($6 billion).
  • Adjust the standard for classifying a facility as an IRF; at least 75% of patient cases admitted would be required to meet one or more of 13 designated conditions beginning in 2016 ($2.2 billion).
  • Reduce critical access hospital (CAH) reimbursement to 100% of costs ($1.7 billion) and limit CAH designation eligibility for hospitals within 10 miles of another hospital ($770 million).
  • Expand the Part B benefits to cover short-term scheduled dialysis at a Medicare-certified End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) facility for the treatment of acute kidney injury ($200 million).
  • Modify documentation requirement for face-to-face encounters for durable medical equipment (DME), orthotics, prosthetics, and supplies (DMEPOS) to allow certain non-physician practitioners to document the face-to-face encounter (no budget impact).

Medicare, Medicaid, & Other Prescription Drug Provisions

  • Provide Medicaid-level drug rebates for brand name and generic drugs provided to Medicare beneficiaries who receive Part D low-income subsidies, beginning in 2017 ($116.1 billion).
  • Accelerate manufacturer Medicare Part D “coverage gap” discounts from 50% to 75% beginning in plan year 2017 ($9.4 billion).
  • Reduce payment for physician-administered Medicare Part B drugs from 106% to 103% of average sales price (ASP) starting in 2016. If a physician’s cost for purchasing the drug exceeds 103% of ASP, the drug manufacturer would be required to provide a rebate to ensure that the provider’s net cost to acquire the drug equals 103% of ASP minus an overhead fee to be determined by the Secretary. The Secretary would be authorized to pay a portion of the entire amount above ASP as a flat fee rather than a percentage in a budget-neutral manner ($7.4 billion).
  • Extend Medicare Secondary Payer reporting requirements to group health plans offering prescription drug coverage ($480 million).
  • Authorize the Secretary to negotiate Part D prices for biologics and high-cost prescription drugs eligible for placement on a plan’s specialty tier (no budget impact).
  • Authorize the Secretary to require high-risk Medicare beneficiaries to use certain prescribers and/or pharmacies to obtain controlled substance prescriptions under Part D; allow the Secretary to suspend coverage and payment for Part D drugs prescribed by providers who have misprescribed or overprescribed drugs with abuse potential, or that that pose an imminent risk to patients; and allow the Secretary to require additional information on certain Part D prescriptions, such as diagnosis and incident codes, as a condition of coverage (no budget impact).
  • Encourage the use of generic drugs by Part D low-income subsidy beneficiaries by modifying copayments ($8.9 billion).
  • Increase the availability of generic drugs and biologics by authorizing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop companies from entering into “pay for delay” agreements ($10.1 billion) and modifying the length of exclusivity on brand name biologics ($4.4 billion).
  • Lower Medicaid drug costs by clarifying the definition of brand drugs, collecting an additional rebate for generic drugs when prices grow faster than inflation, and including certain prenatal vitamins and fluorides in the rebate program. The plan also would make a technical correction to the ACA alternative rebate for new drug formulations; limit to 12 quarters the timeframe for which manufacturers can dispute drug rebate amounts; exclude authorized generic drugs from average manufacturer price calculations for determining rebate obligations for brand drugs; calculate Medicaid federal upper limits based only on generic drug prices; and exempt emergency drug supply programs from the Medicaid rebate calculations. ($6.3 billion.)
  • Require manufacturers to pay Medicaid rebate equal to the entire amount that the state has paid for the drugs in cases where the state improperly reported non-drug products as covered outpatient drugs, or where the state improperly reported drugs that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found to be less than effective. The budget also would allow more regular audits and surveys of manufacturers to ensure compliance with Medicaid drug rebate agreement requirements; require drugs to be electronically listed with the FDA to receive Medicaid coverage; and increase penalties for reporting false information for the calculation of Medicaid rebates. ($10 million.)
  • Fully fund a nationwide retail pharmacy survey incorporating prices paid by cash-paying, third-party insured, and Medicaid insured consumers. The funding also permits collection of actual invoice prices from retail community pharmacies to enable states to set reasonable payment rates to pharmacies. CMS would be authorized to collect wholesale acquisition costs for all Medicaid covered drugs. ($30 million in costs.)
  • Requires states to track high prescribers and utilizers of Medicaid prescription drugs ($710 million).

Major Program Integrity Provisions

  • Expand funding for the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) program, the Medicaid Integrity Program, and Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other HHS program integrity efforts.
  • Expand the current authority to exclude individuals and entities from federal health programs if they are affiliated with a sanctioned entity by closing a “loophole” that allows an officer, managing employee, or owner of a sanctioned entity to avoid exclusion by resigning his or her position or divesting his or her ownership; and extending the exclusion authority to entities affiliated with a sanctioned entity ($70 million).
  • Authorize civil monetary penalties for providers who do not update enrollment records ($29 million).
  • Establish a registration process for clearinghouses and billing agents that act on behalf of Medicare providers and suppliers (no budget impact).
  • Expand CMS’s authority to require prior authorization for all Medicare FFS items, and mandate prior authorization of advance imaging services and power mobility devices ($90 million).
  • Increase the minimum amount of the HHA surety bond to $50,000 (no budget impact).
  • Authorize Medicaid Fraud Control Units to investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse or neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings (no budget impact).
  • The budget includes several provisions to reform the Medicare appeals process, including allowing Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to retain a portion of Recovery Audit Contractor recoveries to fund related appeals; increasing the minimum amount in controversy required for Administrative Law Judge adjudication; allowing the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) to use attorney adjudicators for certain claims; establishing expedited OMHA procedures for claims with no material fact in dispute; remanding an appeal to the first level of review when new documentary evidence is submitted into the administrative record at the second level of appeal or above; and authorizing the Secretary to adjudicate appeals through the use of sampling and extrapolation techniques

Other Medicare & Medicare Reforms

  • Revise beneficiary cost-sharing requirements, including increased income-related premiums under Parts B and D ($66.4 billion).
  • Increase Part B deductible for new enrollees ($3.7 billion), and increase premiums for beneficiaries with Medigap policies with particularly low cost-sharing requirements ($4 billion).
  • Establish a new home health copayment ($830 million).
  • Base Medicaid rates for DME on Medicare rates ($4.3 billion).
  • Rebase future Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital allotments to account for levels of uncompensated care under ACA coverage expansion ($3.3 billion).

Precision Medicine Initiative

The President proposes a high-profile “Precision Medicine Initiative,” which would provide $215 million to focus on developing treatments, diagnostics, and prevention strategies tailored to the individual genetic characteristics of each patient. This effort includes $200 million for the National Institutes of Health to launch a national research cohort of a million or more Americans who volunteer to share their genetic information, expand current cancer genomics research, and initiate new studies on how a tumor’s DNA can inform prognosis and treatment choices. The budget provides $10 million for the FDA to modernize its regulatory framework to support the development and use of molecular diagnostics in precision medicine, and it provides the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) with $5 million to define standards to enable the exchange of genomic data. The Office for Civil Rights will also work with the participating agencies to ensure that privacy protections are in place.

Note that the budget proposal includes numerous other proposals impacting programs and operations throughout the HHS agencies.