Life Science Compliance Update

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November 29, 2017

Hospitals and Health Systems Sue CMS Over 340B Provisions

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Three hospital groups, along with three health systems, have filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) recent regulation that made substantial cuts to hospitals for 340B drugs. The American Hospital Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, America’s Essential Hospitals, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, Henry Ford Health System, and Fletcher Hospital Inc. brought the suit, challenging the changes made to the 340B program that were included in the calendar year 2018 hospital outpatient system (OPPS) and ambulatory surgical center payment systems final rule that CMS released earlier this month. The 340B provisions of the final rule, including a 27 percent reduction in the reimbursement rate for hospitals for 340B drugs, are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2018.

The lawsuit contends that while CMS has the statutory authority to “calculate” and “adjust” drug payment rates, it does not have statutory authority to reduce those rates by nearly 30 percent. The complaint also states that the 340B provisions of the final rule “undermine the 340B Program by depriving eligible hospitals of critical resources Congress intended to provide those hospitals through 340B discounts.” The groups also note that the cuts will undermine critical programs that provide health services to vulnerable and underserved populations.

On July 13, 2017, CMS issued its proposed rule on OPPS and Ambulatory Surgical Center payment systems for the Calendar Year 2018. In addition to updating the OPPS with 2018 rates, CMS proposed to change how Medicare pays certain hospitals for separately payable drugs purchased under the 340B Program. CMS justified this proposed change by stating that the new rate better recognizes “the significantly lower acquisition costs of such drugs incurred by a 340B hospital,” and that it “better represents the average acquisition cost for these drugs and biologicals.” On November 1, 2017, CMS issued the final version of the 340B Provisions of the OPPS rule, adopting the proposed rate of ASP minus 22.5% for drugs purchased under the 340B Program.

The plaintiffs believe that the 340B Provisions of the OPPS Rule also exceed the Secretary’s authority because they thoroughly undermine the 340B Program by depriving eligible hospitals of critical resources Congress intended to provide those hospitals through 340B discounts.

According to the complaint, the Plaintiffs have used the 340B Program to provide critical healthcare services to their communities, including to underserved patient populations in those communities. The Plaintiffs allege that they, and the populations they serve, would suffer significant and immediate harm from the negation of the cost-reimbursement differential through the 340B Provisions of the OPPS Rule.

The harm would come from the 340B provisions of the OPPS rule because it would deprive the hospitals “of millions of dollars of savings currently generated from the differential between Medicare reimbursements and 340B discounts.”

The hospitals have asked the court to either strike the changes in payment methodology for 340B drugs from the final rule and direct CMS to use the methodology used in calendar year 2017 or issue a preliminary injunction suspending the effective date of the changes until the lawsuit is concluded.

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