Hospitals & Health Systems

As the health care and life sciences fields experience ever-increasing levels of disruption, diverse entities across the industry are teaming up to embrace and foster innovation. These new pairings are shaping the future of health care, as organizations come together to tackle the industry’s most pressing issues with redoubled agility and pooled resources.

In an environment of change and uncertainty, this trend of Collaborative Transformation is yielding improved financial outcomes, increased operational efficiencies, and a fresh infusion of diverse talent and perspectives—all of which result in enhanced quality of care.

This is where the McDermott Health and Life Sciences team comes in. As a top-ranked US health law practice and a leader in life sciences with decades of experience advising the leading players in US and cross-border health and life sciences, we have the skill, market insight and ingenuity to partner with you wherever your innovation takes you. Whether you are forming innovative alliances across borders and industries, creating or implementing groundbreaking technologies and services, or restructuring investments to position your organization at the cutting edge of the market, our team can work alongside yours to achieve excellence.

Click here to learn more about McDermott Health, our recent work executing collaborative transformations on behalf of our clients and how we can help your organization form innovative business relationships.

On October 10, 2018 President Trump signed two bills that ban “gag clauses” in pharmacy contracts. Congress passed the two bills—one for Medicare prescription drug plans (“Know the Lowest Price Act”) that will go into effect in January 2020, and another for commercial employer-based and individual policies (“Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act”) effective immediately—by almost unanimous vote in September 2018.

While many states have already prohibited the use of these clauses, this is the first such action on a federal level.

Gag clauses are sometimes found in contracts between pharmacies and insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers or group health plans and bar pharmacists from telling customers that they could save money by paying cash for their prescriptions rather than using their health insurance. If pharmacists violate the gag rule, they risk penalties and/or contract termination. Under the new legislation, pharmacists are not required to tell patients about the lower cost option, but they also cannot be contractually prohibited from engaging in the cost conversation.

The legislation is consistent with the position of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which, in May of this year, issued guidance stating that “gag clauses” are unacceptable in the Medicare Part D program.

It has now been one month since the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) sent its proposed information blocking rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for required review.

We expect OMB to approve the much-anticipated proposed rule and ONC to release it soon with the usual opportunity for public comment. While we wait, there are some things that health information technology developers, health information exchanges, health information networks and health care providers who may be subject to the information blocking prohibition and enforcement actions can do to prepare for the upcoming comment period. But before we get to comments, let’s remind ourselves about how we got to this point.

By way of background, Congress asked ONC to produce a report describing the extent of information blocking and a strategy to address it. ONC submitted that report to Congress in 2015 (the 2015 Report) noting, among other things, enforcement authority gaps and indicating that successful information blocking prevention strategies would likely require congressional intervention. In the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in 2016, Congress granted the HHS Office of Inspector General investigative and enforcement authorities for prohibited information blocking conduct. The Cures Act defined information blocking as a practice that “except as required by law or specified by the Secretary…, is likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information [(EHI)].” As part of the law, Congress tasked the Secretary of HHS with issuing rules that identify “reasonable and necessary activities” that will not be considered prohibited information blocking. This is one purpose of ONC’s proposed rule.

At this point, we do not know precisely what kinds of activities ONC will propose to permit by carving them out of the broad information blocking prohibition. However, from the Cures Act we do know the types of practices Congress believed “may” be information blocking, namely:

  • restricting authorized access, exchange and use of EHI for treatment and other permitted purposes, and
  • implementing technology in ways that are:
    • nonstandard and likely to substantially increase the burden or complexity of access, exchange and use of EHI;
    • likely to impede EHI with respect to exporting complete information sets and in transitioning between health IT systems; or
    • likely to lead to fraud, waste and abuse, or impede innovation and advancements in health information access, exchange or use.

These track closely to the types of practices ONC identified as raising information blocking concerns in the 2015 Report, which also provided a few illustrative examples, including: Continue Reading ONC Expected to Release Proposed Information Blocking Rule Soon

There are many critical issues facing the physician practice management (PPM) and ambulatory surgery center (ASC) industries today, including the effects of sky-high valuations, concerns about sustainability, and the importance of delivering on value. This current environment demands new approaches to PPM structures — one that is focused on alignment and designed to enable growth.

Below are five key market issues to be addressed at the 2018 Physician Practice Management & ASC Symposium in Nashville, TN on April 25-26, where industry leaders will come together to discuss trends in the current landscape and the myriad business, transactional and regulatory issues that exist today, including: Continue Reading 5 Key Topics Explored at McDermott’s 2018 PPM & ASC Symposium

Specialty pharmacy is not going away any time soon – by 2020, it’s expected that the pharmacy industry’s revenue will exceed $483 billion, with almost all growth as a result of specialty drugs (high-cost medications used to treat chronic conditions, such as cancer). It’s also estimated that the next generation of pharmaceutical “blockbusters” will be primarily specialty products. As the make-up of the pharmaceutical market shifts, we’re also seeing changes with the role of pharmacy benefit managers and other medical groups in the process. How are these shifts in specialty pharmacy impacting the health care system as a whole?

We asked Karen Gibbs, McDermott partner and former VP and Senior Counsel at CVS, to share her expertise on the subject and her thoughts on what’s to come.

Q.  Investments in niche sectors of pharmacy services, specialty pharmacy and pharmacy benefit management have gained huge traction recently. What’s driving the shift away from more traditional pharmacies?   

A.  Traditional pharmacies are retail establishments and have been suffering from the same earnings pressure that all retail establishments have endured. Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) typically own mail and specialty pharmacy operations, which generate revenue in a manner complementary to that derived from the pharmacy benefit management services. The margin on specialty pharmacy and PBM services is significantly more than retail pharmacy. Continue Reading Q&A: Shifting Trends in Specialty Pharmacy to Continue in 2018