Client Alerts, News Articles & Blog Posts

Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

HHS Addresses Drug Manufacturer Coupons on Out-of-Pocket Limits

On May 7, 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced their Notice of Benefit Parameters for 2021 in which HHS addressed the application of prescription drug manufacturer copay coupons towards a patient’s out-of-pocket limit. Under this guidance, HHS will permit, but not require, plans and insurers to count direct support offered to enrollees by drug manufacturers (i.e., coupons) for specific prescription drugs toward the annual limits on cost-sharing, regardless of whether a generic equivalent is available.

In the Notice of Benefit Parameters for 2020, HHS finalized a proposal that for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2020, amounts paid toward cost sharing using any form of direct support offered by drug manufacturers to enrollees to reduce or eliminate immediate out-of-pocket costs for specific prescription brand drugs that have an available and medically appropriate generic equivalent are not required to be counted toward the annual limitation on cost sharing.[1] HHS received stakeholder feedback indicating confusion on whether plans and issuers are required to count the value of all forms of direct support provided by drug manufacturers, including drug manufacturers' coupons, toward the annual limitation on cost sharing, other than in circumstances in which there is a medically appropriate generic equivalent available, particularly with regard to large group market and self-insured group health plans.

In an effort to alleviate this confusion, HHS is revising the rule to state, “…amounts of direct support offered by drug manufacturers to enrollees for specific prescription drugs towards reducing the cost sharing incurred by an enrollee using any form are not required to be counted toward the annual limitation on cost sharing.”[2] Health insurance issuers and group health plans now have the flexibility to determine whether drug manufacturer direct support to enrollees for specific prescription drugs counts toward the annual limitation on cost sharing.

HHS considered a proposal to interpret the definition of “cost sharing” to exclude expenditures covered by drug manufacturer coupons, but after review of proposal rule feedback and comments, is refusing to adopt this interpretation in this 2021 final rule.

Finally, HHS expects issuers and group health plans to be transparent with enrollees regarding potential out-of-pocket liability and whether the value of direct drug manufacturer support accrues to the annual limitation on cost sharing. HHS is encouraging issuers and group health plans to prominently include this information on websites and in brochures, plan summary documents, and other collateral material that consumers may use to select, plan, and understand their benefits, but this is not a requirement.

Please contact a BMD healthcare attorney if you have any questions regarding this final rule, the application of drug manufacturer coupons on cost sharing, or other general healthcare questions. 

Provider Relief Funds – Continued Confusion Regarding Reporting Requirements and Lost Revenues

In Fall 2020, HHS issued multiple rounds of guidance and FAQs regarding the reporting requirements for the Provider Relief Funds, the most recently published notice being November 2, 2020 and December 11, 2020. Specifically, the reporting portal for the use of the funds in 2020 was scheduled to open on January 15, 2021. Although there was much speculation as to whether this would occur. And, as of the date of this article, the portal was not opened.

Ohio S.B. 310 Loosens Practice Barrier for Advanced Practice Providers

S.B. 310, signed by Ohio Governor DeWine and effective from December 29, 2020 until May 1, 2021, provides flexibility regarding the regulatorily mandated supervision and collaboration agreements for physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse practitioners working in a hospital or other health care facility. Originally drafted as a bill to distribute federal COVID funding to local subdivisions, the healthcare related provisions were added to help relieve some of the stresses hospitals and other healthcare facilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS Issues Opinion Regarding Illegal Attempts by Drug Manufacturers to Deny 340B Discounts under Contract Pharmacy Arrangements

The federal 340B discount drug program is a safety net for many federally qualified health centers, disproportionate share hospitals, and other covered entities. This program allows these providers to obtain discount pricing on drugs which in turn allows the providers to better serve their patient populations and provide their patients with access to vital health care services. Over the years, the 340B program has undergone intense scrutiny, particularly by drug manufacturers who are required by federal law to provide the discounted pricing.

S.B. 263 Protects 340B Covered Entities from Predatory Practices in Ohio

Just before the end of calendar year 2020 and at the end of its two-year legislative session, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 263, which prohibits insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) from imposing on 340B Covered Entities discriminatory pricing and other contract terms. This is a win for safety net providers and the people they serve, as 340B savings are crucial to their ability to provide high quality, affordable programs and services to patients.

DOL Finalizes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status, But Its Future Is In Jeopardy

On January 6, 2021, the Department of Labor announced its final rule regarding independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As described in a prior BMD client alert, this new rule was fast-tracked by the Trump administration after its proposal in September 2020. The new rule is set to take effect on March 8, 2021, and contains several key developments related to the "economic reality" test used to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee under the FLSA.