On March 4, 2014, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2015. Virtually all types of health care providers, health plans, and drug manufacturers would be impacted by the budget provisions if adopted as proposed – an unlikely scenario given the Republican House leadership’s reaction to the document. Nevertheless, the Medicare and Medicaid savings proposals (many of which are carry-overs from prior budgets) could resurface as spending offsets in the pending negotiations on Medicare physician fee schedule reform legislation or in future budget negotiations. Highlights of the Administration’s Medicare and Medicaid legislative proposals include the following (all savings estimates are for the 10-year period of FYs 2015-2024):

Major Medicare Provider Payment Provisions

The proposed FY 2015 budget includes a package of Medicare legislative proposals estimated to save $407.2 billion over 10 years.

  • Reduce Medicare coverage of bad debts from 65% in most cases to 25% over three years starting in 2015 ($30.8 billion/10 years).
  • Reduce Medicare indirect medical education add-on payments by $14.6 billion (although a new targeted grant program would reinvest $5.2 billion of these savings).
  • 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 ($720 million).
  • Reduce payment updates for inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), long-term care hospitals (LTCHs), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and home health agencies (HHAs) by 1.1 percentage points each year from 2015 through 2024 (the update could not fall below 0%). The SNF reduction would be accelerated, beginning with a -2.5% update in FY 2015, tapering down to a -0.97% update in FY 2022. These provisions would save $97.9 billion over 10 years.
  • Implement bundled payment for post-acute care providers, including LTCHs, IRFs, SNFs, and HHAs beginning in 2019, with rates set to produce a permanent and total cumulative adjustment of 2.85% by 2021, and beneficiary coinsurance equal to current levels ($8.7 billion).
  • Adjust the standard for classifying a facility as an IRF (at least 75% of patient cases admitted to an IRF must meet one or more of 13 designated conditions), saving $2.4 billion.
  • Reduce by up to 3% payments to SNFs with high rates of care-sensitive, preventable hospital readmissions, beginning in 2018 ($1.9 billion).
  • Equalize IRF and SNF payments for certain conditions involving hips and knees, pulmonary conditions, and other conditions selected by the Secretary ($1.6 billion).
  • Implement a budget neutral value-based purchasing program for additional provider types, including SNFs, HHAs, ambulatory surgical centers, and hospital outpatient departments beginning in 2016. At least 2% of payments must be tied to the quality and efficiency of care.
  • Align Medicare payment for clinical laboratory services with private sector rates and encourage electronic reporting of laboratory results ($7.9 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 ACA provisions requiring reductions to Medicare provider reimbursement ($12.9 billion).
  • The budget endorses reform of the sustainable growth rate formula used to update Medicare physician fee schedule payments, including a period of predictable payments followed by reimbursement tied to alternative payment models and value-based purchasing, along the lines of pending Congressional reform legislation.

Prescription Drug Provisions

  • Reduce payment for physician-administered Medicare Part B drugs from 106% to 103% of average sales price (ASP). 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. This proposal is estimated to result in $6.8 billion in savings.
  • Provide Medicaid-level drug rebates for brand name and generic drugs provided to Medicare beneficiaries who receive Part D low-income subsidies, beginning in 2016 ($117.3 billion).
  • Effectively close the Medicare Part D coverage gap by 2016, rather than 2020, by increasing manufacturer “coverage gap” discounts from 50% to 75% beginning in plan year 2016 ($7.9 billion).
  • Allow the Secretary to suspend coverage and payment for Part D drugs (1) prescribed by providers who have misprescribed or overprescribed drugs with abuse potential, and (2) that pose an imminent risk to patients. The Secretary also could require additional information on certain Part D prescriptions, such as diagnosis and incident codes, as a condition of coverage.
  • Encourage the use of generic drugs by Part D low-income subsidy beneficiaries by modifying copayments ($8.5 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 Affordable Care Act (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, and calculate Medicaid federal upper limits based only on generic drug prices. These proposals are projected to save $8.6 billion over 10 years.
  • Direct states to track high prescribers and utilizers of Medicaid prescription drugs ($540 million).
  • 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. In addition, the budget 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.
  • 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 ($9.1 billion) and modifying the length of exclusivity on brand name biologics ($4 billion).

Major Program Integrity/Efficiency Provisions

  • Expand funding for the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) program, the Medicaid Integrity Program, and Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other Department of Health and Human Services (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 ($60 million in savings).
  • Authorize civil monetary penalties or other intermediate sanctions for providers who do not update enrollment records ($90 million).
  • Expand authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse or neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings.
  • 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 meets certain accountability standards, as defined by the Secretary effective for calendar year 2016 ($6 billion).
  • Expand the authority of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to require prior authorization for all Medicare fee-for-service items, and mandate prior authorization of advance imaging services and power mobility devices ($90 million).
  • Allow the Secretary to create a system to validate practitioners’ orders for certain high-risk items and services.
  • Increase reporting and review of so-called “higher-risk” banking arrangements to receive Medicare payments (such as “sweep accounts” that immediately transfer funds from a financial account to an investment account in another jurisdiction, preventing Medicare from recovering improper payments).

Other Medicare & Medicaid Provisions

  • Increase the minimum Medicare Advantage (MA) coding intensity adjustment ($31 billion).
  • 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.
  • Revise beneficiary cost-sharing requirements, including increased income-related premiums under Parts B and D, a new home health copayment, increased Part B deductible for new enrollees, and increased premiums for beneficiaries with Medigap policies with particularly low cost-sharing requirements.
  • Base Medicaid rates for DME on Medicare rates ($3.1 billion).
  • Rebase future Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotments to account for levels of uncompensated care under ACA coverage expansion ($3.3 billion).