Header graphic for print

Vorys Health Care Advisors

For health care reformers, the challenge is to improve care quality and expand access to providers and services while controlling costs. It is not a job for the timid. Instead, it requires creativity, experience and leadership. Vorys Health Care Advisors’ strategic solutions and guidance exemplify each of these imperatives. Our health care and Medicaid consultants help providers, business decision makers, state and federal government agencies and professional associations respond to the complex needs of health care consumers by discovering, developing and implementing innovative policies and programs.

Alicia D. Smith, Experienced Health Policy Consultant, Named VHCA President

Posted in Announcement

Vorys today announced that Alicia D. Smith has joined Vorys Health Care Advisors (VHCA) as its new president. Smith has over 25 years of experience in health care policy.  More specifically, she brings to VHCA a wealth of experience regarding the Medicaid program and other public assistance programs, and has worked extensivelywith mental health and substance use disorder systems and providers.

“We’re ecstatic that Alicia has taken on the role of VHCA president,” said Jolie Havens, chair of the Vorys health care industry group and the VHCA board chair. “Her unique experience in the health care industry is unmatched.”

Prior to joining VHCA, Smith worked in principal roles for national health care policy and research consulting firms. She began her career in 1995 working at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (now the Ohio Department of Medicaid) as a policy and program developer.

“I worked at Vorys for a brief time earlier in my career and enjoyed the work and the people,” said Smith. “I’m very excited to take on this important role and use my expertise in health policy to help clients deal with the many challenges inherent in the complex, rapidly-changing health care environment.”

Over the course of her career, Smith has assisted health care providers, payers and regulators.  She led projects for community behavioral health providers, hospitals and health systems, and state and national trade associations. She assisted state and local government programs with designing and implementing numerous service delivery and payment reform efforts, including the development and approval of Medicaid health homes and similar care management programs.  In addition, Smith has consulted with several clients, including the District of Columbia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia, on a wide range of issues, including program design and implementation; Medicaid 1115 waivers and state plan development; program analysis; and stakeholder engagement.

Smith has a M.H.A. from The Ohio State University.  She holds a B.A. from Central State University.

About VHCA: VHCA, a wholly-owned health care consulting subsidiary of the Vorys firm, was founded in 2011. The founding president, Maureen Corcoran, recently departed VHCA to lead Ohio’s Department of Medicaid and serve in Governor DeWine’s cabinet.  VHCA has extensive expertise in health care policy and reimbursement, services for children, behavioral health care, developmental disabilities, aging and community-based services. Its unique combination of experience, industry contacts, and creativity allows it to deliver smart, effective solutions for clients across the industry. VHCA does not provide legal services. To learn more about VHCA and its team, visit voryshcadvisors.com.

About Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP: Vorys was established in 1909 and currently has nearly 375 attorneys in seven offices in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Akron, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Houston, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Vorys currently ranks as one of the 200 largest law firms in the United States according to American Lawyer magazine. To learn more about Vorys, visit vorys.com.

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn
Comments Off on Alicia D. Smith, Experienced Health Policy Consultant, Named VHCA President


Posted in Medicaid

ATTENTION MH AND SUD PROVIDRS – The Ohio Departments of Medicaid and Mental Health & Addiction Services have announced they are working together to evaluate the status of the Behavioral Health Redesign, and need your input. ODM is issuing a brief 5-minute survey on January 28, 2019 to providers that must be completed by January 30, 2019 at 5:00.  Specifically, MH and SUD providers are requested to complete one survey (per Federal Tax Identification number) to provide you input regarding the technical assistance provided for the transition to managed care, and issues with claims payment. This is an important opportunity for providers to communicate directly with departmental leadership about BH Redesign and payment.

Over this past year, VHCA has worked with nearly 70 providers in preparing for this transition and are continuing work with many of you on billing and claims payment issues. We encourage all providers to complete the survey and offer your suggestions to mitigate these challenges!

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Cut & Paste

Posted in privacy

M. Reneé Bostick joined Vorys Health Care Advisors (VHCA) as a full time Senior Advisor in 2018 to expand VHCA’s work with Health Information Technology (Health IT) – an essential and innovative capability for modern health care. VHCA assists health care providers, associations and stakeholders with compliance and management of electronic health record (EHR) systems and health information exchange in their rapidly changing health care business. VHCA also enables providers to strategically use opportunities of change to improve care quality, coordination and experience, enhance revenue cycle management, and build analytical capabilities to improve performance and outcomes.

Given “clear evidence of the potential for harm,” a leading physician in Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Patient Safety Network calls the popular practice of “cut-and-paste” of information within electronic health records (EHR) has been called “a blot on our profession.

In the January 2018, Shannon Dean, M.D. the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health wrote in the AHRA op-ed that despite compelling evidence that the cutting and pasting practice increases the likelihood of patient harm, there appears to be growing acceptance of it by new generations of clinical supervisors. Studies shown have documented that this practice leads to inaccurate information, long, rambling notes that do not clearly convey the patient’s current status, the decline of the quality of documentation used for decision-making, diagnostic errors, and less effective guidance to treat chronic conditions, as well as well documented cases of injury and harm. Despite this evidence, a JAMA Internal Medicine study found that more than 82 percent of the 23,630 electronic inpatient progress notes studied were copied or imported. Forty-six percent of notes were copied-and-

Dr. Dean calls on physicians to “reestablish ownership of the accuracy of clinical documentation,… to stop blaming the EHR for our carelessness,” and to increase education on efficient documentation, change management and the effective use of supportive EHR technologies.

Dr. Dean recommends expanded use of –

  • EHR meta-data capabilities to track copied or imported notes,
  • EHR natural language processing and voice recognition software to increase efficiency and ease review,
  • the OpenNotes initiative to enable patients to read their clinicians’ notes and improve accuracy,
  • payment reforms tied to quality and outcomes to refocus attention from billing and coding to clinical communication,
  • peer review of documentation to using industry based guidance and toolsets, such as:
  • Toolkit for the Safe Use of Copy and Paste by the ECRI Institute that convened the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety Health IT Safe Practices in February 2016. The toolkit focuses making “copy-and-paste” materials identifiable, the origin of the material readily available, staff education on the appropriate use of “copy-and-paste” and are regularly monitor, measure, and assess this practice

VHCA works with clients to identify such practices in need of remediation, and implement improved policies, procedures and practices to effectively use to EHR technologies to improve the quality and cost efficiency of health care.

SUD Part 2 Final…Final Rule?

Posted in SAMHSA

M. Reneé Bostick joined Vorys Health Care Advisors (VHCA) as a full time Senior Advisor in 2018 to expand VHCA’s work with Health Information Technology (Health IT) – an essential and innovative capability for modern health care. VHCA assists health care providers, associations and stakeholders with compliance and management of electronic health record (EHR) systems and health information exchange in their rapidly changing health care business. VHCA also enables providers to strategically use opportunities of change to improve care quality, coordination and experience, enhance revenue cycle management, and build analytical capabilities to improve performance and outcomes.

On January 2, 2018, in another significant federal policy change supporting greater use of Health IT, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a Final Rule on the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, pursuant to 42 CFR part 2 (part 2). A year ago, January 18, 2017, SAMHSA issued the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records final rule (82 FR 6052), as well as an Supplemental Notice of Public Rule-Making (SNPRM) soliciting comment on: disclosures for “payment and health care operations,” and audit or evaluation, as well as the re-disclosure abbreviated prohibition notice. The new rule seeks to balance and clarify part 2 privacy protections for individuals seeking treatment of SUDs with advances in the health care delivery system, including integrated care, secure electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchange (HIE) and performance measurement.

SAMHSA did not change the requirements for the strict, separate patient consent for disclosure, and reaffirm that part 2 programs and “lawful holders” of patient identifying information (PII) are responsible for maintaining and communicating part 2 requirements pursuant to part 2. The new final rule:

  • permits disclosure of PII, with patient consent, to facilitate payment and healthcare operations such as claims management, quality assessment, and patient safety activities,
  • allows disclosure of PII to contractors, subcontractors, and legal representatives with whom the provider has a “legal instrument” for the purpose of conducting a Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP audit or evaluation, and
  • permits use of an abbreviated notice prohibiting re-disclosure which can be used in electronic health record (EHR) text fields (“Federal law/42 CFR part 2  prohibits unauthorized disclosure of these records”)

Texting Comes to Health Care

Posted in CMS

M. Reneé Bostick joined Vorys Health Care Advisors (VHCA) as a full time Senior Advisor in 2018 to expand VHCA’s work with Health Information Technology (Health IT) – an essential and innovative capability for modern health care. VHCA assists health care providers, associations and stakeholders with compliance and management of electronic health record (EHR) systems and health information exchange in their rapidly changing health care business. VHCA also enables providers to strategically use opportunities of change to improve care quality, coordination and experience, enhance revenue cycle management, and build analytical capabilities to improve performance and outcomes.

Several recently announced changes in federal policy, which will be featured in this Blog, signal that Health Information Technology (Health IT) remains integral to the modernization of health care.

Late in November 2017, the CMS Survey & Certification Group (SCG) sent e-mails to two hospitals stating, “texting is not permitted,” even for secure text applications. “After meeting with vendors regarding these products, it was determined they cannot always ensure the privacy and confidentiality of PHI [protected health information] of the information being transmitted,” according to the e-mail reported by Report on Medicare Compliance. The ban surprised many in the health care accreditation and compliance community, particularly after JCAHO solicited public comment and developed a position statement supporting the use of secure texting. As a result, JCAHO reversed this position on December 22, 2017 issuing the “Clarification: Use of Secure Text Messaging for Patient Care Orders Is Not Acceptable.” Many hospital compliance officers indicated that secure texting and paging was an integral part of their secure communication platform, and that this decision would negatively disrupt their critical patient communication pathway.

Then on December 28, 2018, the Director of CMS Survey & Certification Group released S&C 18-10-ALL reversing the e-mail position by concluding:

  • Texting patient information among members of the health care team is permissible if accomplished through a secure platform.
  • Texting of patient orders is prohibited regardless of the platform utilized.
  • Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) is the preferred method of order entry by a provider.

While CMS S&C now supports secure texting, it does not support the use of texting of patient orders.   Stay tuned as JCAHO posted an FAQ response on the same day as CMS memo stating “The practice of texting orders is currently under review.”

How Ohio’s Behavioral Health Redesign impacts providers

Posted in Behavioral Health

Over the next year, Ohio community behavioral health providers (mental health and substance use addition providers) will be participating in a truly transformational time as a result of a statewide initiative called Ohio’s Behavioral Health Redesign.

Redesign will fundamentally alter the clinical and business processes of community behavioral health providers through the adoption of coding changes, enactment of a completely new service array and the implementation of Medicaid managed care.

In order to be prepared for these changes, many providers are engaged in a process of clinical and business transformation, as well as conducting a legal review of their managed care contracts and other internal and external legal structures in order to assess how the redesign changes will impact their agencies.

Today, over 400,000 adults and children receive services, at a total cost of approximately $900 million dollars. The implications of these changes are far reaching, with clinical, operational, quality and cost considerations.

Throughout health care, the importance of identifying and treating both mental health and substance use disorders is increasingly understood as a key driver of total health care costs and the excessive use of services, such as emergency rooms. The severe and pervasive opioid crisis is daily news. Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid in 2014 helped to meet the huge demand for behavioral health services, and provided the behavioral health system with needed funding to address the demand.

In addition, in order to battle Ohio’s severe opioid addiction issues, state and federal lawmakers have passed laws increasing service flexibility and funding.

At the same time, the state has been working on the redesign of behavioral health services to improve quality, accountability and transparency of these important Medicaid services.

What is redesign and how does it impact behavioral health providers?

The redesign initiative is the result of the Kasich administration’s commitment to improve access to services and to “modernize” the regulations and business practices of providers. “Modernizing” includes using a more up-to-date menu of service codes and transitioning to national correct health care coding and accountability requirements.

The use of a more ‘up-to-date’ menu of codes sounds deceptively simple. The current menu of service codes provides the building blocks for today’s services and programs. Providers have been engaged in a process of clinical and business transformation; working with behavioral health experts to analyze current services, practitioners and payment rates and assessing the impact of the new requirements.

Individual clinicians and provider agencies are finding that this is a monumental shift in the way that they will operate in the future, causing them to rethink the way that they will provide individual services, and reconfiguring clinical and business processes in order to meet the demands of the new system.

The coding and accountability changes will also fundamentally alter the way that providers will bill for services. For instance, today, in the other parts of the Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance, the practitioner providing the service must be identified in order to bill.

In the current behavioral health system, agencies must meet standards and requirements for practitioners, but can bill without including the practitioner’s unique code on the bill.

In the new system, practitioner requirements are being increased and they will be expected to provide services at the “top of their scope of practice.” The new credentialing requirements will provide the system with a higher level of clinical expertise when compared to the current requirements.

While most providers agree that raising the bar and having more highly credentialed staff is an admirable goal for many reasons, some providers have voiced concern about the implementation of the new requirements due to the clinical staff workforce shortage that currently exists even under the broader standard in place today. Other associated coding changes are designed to increase provider accountability and accuracy in billing.

When will the redesign changes take place and how will it work?

As a result of the recently passed biennial state budget, the coding and service redesign changes described above will be effective starting Jan. 1, 2018. The budget bill also provided for the implementation of these same services from the current fee for service payment method into Medicaid managed care.

Providers have been paid under a fee schedule for many years. The General Assembly wanted to delay the managed care implementation until July 1, 2018 to allow the coding and service changes to go into effect before the shift to Medicaid managed care.

Governor John Kasich vetoed the delay provision. However, in an historic action, the General Assembly recently overrode the governor’s veto of the managed care delay. As a result of the veto overrides, Medicaid managed care firms will take responsibility for the new services on July 1, 2018.

Currently, Medicaid managed care firms are holding regional meetings around the state to educate providers about the requirements of each managed care plan to be a part of their network.

Accordingly, providers are engaging experienced advisors to assist with an analysis of the new regulatory landscape, provide advice regarding business considerations, conduct a review of managed care contracts, and analyze potential alliances to better promote efficiencies and advance their sophistication in contract negotiations while being mindful of any antitrust issues that these types of alliances may present.

Providers should be preparing now and consulting with those familiar with the changes in order to be prepared to meet the upcoming challenges associated with this significant transformation of Ohio’s system of mental health and substance use disorder services. Communities, families and individuals lives depend on a smooth transition.

Report Regarding Drug Purchasing in Ohio

Posted in Access, Drug Pricing, Health Care, Medicaid, Pharmaceuticals

Today Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue announced opposition to the ballot issue on drug pricing in Ohio. More than 30,000 doctors, nurses and pharmacists, business and labor and the state’s largest organization serving individuals with AIDS/HIV announced their opposition to the proposal.

A policy report was released in September 2016, providing an analysis of the impact of the ballot issue on state programs, other local government entities and businesses. Vorys Health Care Advisors (VHCA) and Health Management Associates (HMA), analyzed the proposed initiated statute. The research team was led by VHCA President Maureen Corcoran and Barbara Coulter Edwards, Managing Principal with HMA, both well-known in the health care field with extensive experience in Medicaid.

The proposed initiated statute seeks to prohibit the state from entering into contracts where the “net cost” of a prescription drug purchased by the state is more than the “lowest price paid” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

If adopted, the proposed statute would affect roughly 4 million Ohioans. In addition to Ohio Medicaid, the state retirement systems and certain programs operated by state departments, the report also describes potential negative impacts on entities outside of state government, e.g. state universities and community colleges, the RxOC purchasing collaborative, BestRx, and concerns about access to VA-administered drugs now available to military veterans.

Click here to download the full report.

Lesser-known CBO findings about the American Health Care Act

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Care Reform, Medicaid

As reported by Harris Meyer at Modern Healthcare, a deeper dive into the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) reveals rich data.

Top-line numbers from CBO analysis of the House proposal predicted the bill would:

  • Increase in the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million over the 10 years
  • Reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion

Here are 13 other key CBO findings cited by Modern Healthcare:

  1. By 2026, individual-market premiums would be 20% to 25% lower for a 21-year-old, 8% to 10% lower for a 40-year-old and 20% to 25% higher for a 64-year-old.
  2. Medicare disproportionate share hospital payments (DSH) would increase by $43 billion from 2018 to 2026 due to a significant rise in the uninsured population.
  3. Medicaid DSH would increase by $31 billion over 10 years.
  4. Total federal Medicaid payments to states would decline by $880 billion, or 25%, by 2026.
  5. Under the per-enrollee cap on federal Medicaid payments, states’ actual per-capita costs would grow annually 0.7 percentage points faster than federal payments from 2017 to 2026.
  6. Five million fewer low-income adults would be enrolled in the Medicaid expansion programs by 2026.
  7. By 2026, Medicaid expansion states would have only 5% of expansion enrollees left for whom they would receive enhanced federal matching payments.
  8. Consumers would have a harder time comparison-shopping for health plans because the minimum actuarial-value requirement would be repealed and insurers could sell subsidized plans outside the exchanges.
  9. The repeal of the actuarial-value requirement would prompt many insurers to offer plans with higher deductibles and higher cost-sharing. That, and the loss of ACA cost-sharing subsidies in 2020, would significantly increase out-of-pocket costs for lower-income enrollees.
  10. About 7 million fewer people would have employer-based coverage by 2026 due to: elimination of the employer and individual mandates and penalties, reduction in employer sponsored insurance, and potential for employers to send higher income workers to purchase coverage in the individual market with new premium tax credits.
  11. The 30% premium penalty for buying insurance after a coverage gap would lead to about 2 million fewer people buying coverage after 2018. Those who pay the penalty would likely be sicker people.
  12. By 2026, the average premium tax credit to help people buy coverage would be about 50% less than under the ACA.
  13. About 52 million Americans, or 19% of the non-elderly population, would be uninsured in 2026, up from 10% under the ACA. People aged 50-64 with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level would make up a larger share of the uninsured.

Vorys Health Care Alert: A deeper look into the ACA replacement bill

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Care Reform, Medicaid

Please see the newest Vorys Health Care Alert for a deeper look into the House Republican’s proposed legislation to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). If enacted as proposed, the plan would implement changes in the areas of:

  • Insurance, mandates, penalties, and tax credits
  • Medicaid, expansion, and per capita caps
  • Risk pools, health savings accounts
  • Other areas

The bill would not change several other popular aspects of the ACA.

Vorys attorneys Matthew E. Albers, Jolie N. Havens, Suzanne J. Scrutton, and Nita Garg, and Vorys Health Care Advisors Maureen M. Corcoran and Marisa P. Weisel provide an analysis of each of these topics on the Vorys Website.

The Vorys Health Care Team will continue to provide updates on federal health reform efforts and other health care proposals as they evolve.

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn
Comments Off on Vorys Health Care Alert: A deeper look into the ACA replacement bill

What’s next for the American Health Care Act?

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Care Reform

On March 13th, the Congressional Budget Office released an assessment of the impact of the American Health Care Act.

This week, the House Republican health reform proposal moves to the House Budget Committee, where it will be heard and marked up on Thursday. Here, the two individual bills passed by the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees last week will be combined into one piece of legislation.  The Budget Committee is chaired by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN.),

If the bill passes the Budget Committee, it will move to the Rules Committee, where Budget Chair Black will offer amendments to facilitate the bill’s passage through the full House.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has previously said he hopes to schedule the full floor vote for the week of March 20. If the bill passes the House, it will head to the Senate.  If the bill meets the rules to use the budget reconciliation process, it could be fast-tracked through the Senate and will need only 50 votes to pass.

Prior to the release of the CBO analysis, there was speculation that the bill might not garner sufficient votes to pass since the legislation drew complaints from conservative and moderate republicans, democrats, advocacy organizations, and think tanks who either expressed concern that the bill did not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and/or noted concern about how many Americans could lose insurance coverage. We’ll have to see whether the timelines change as people digest the CBO analysis.