Medicare Final Rule Decreased Physician Payments But Expands Coverage to Counselors

Attorney and Author George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

On November 2, 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that decreased overall payment rates for services provided under the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS). However, the final rule increased payment rates for outpatient services and expanded telehealth services. The rule went into effect January 1, 2024.

Physician Fee Schedule Rate Reductions; Counselors Added.

The overall payment rates under the 2024 PFS were reduced by 1.25 percent for 2024. The conversion factor is $32.74, which is a $1.15 decrease from 2023. Physicians’ Medicare reimbursements will fall by 3.4 percent under the PFS in 2024.

However, in a piece of good news, the 2024 final rule allows marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors, including addiction counselors, to enroll in Medicare and bill the program, for the first time ever.

Telehealth Expansions.

The PFS 2024 final rule expanded telemedicine and established that telehealth providers will be paid the non-facility rate for telehealth services. Under the rule, CMS will temporarily add health and well-being coaching services to the Medicare Telehealth Services List in 2024. Social Determinants of Health Risk Assessments will also be permanently added to the Telehealth Services List. The final rule also expanded the types of telehealth practitioners to include occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists.

The final rule allows all diabetes self-management training services via telehealth. It also enables teaching physicians to be present using telecommunications when a resident furnishes telehealth services.

Finally, the rule established that rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers will continue receiving payment for telehealth services.

Outpatient Program Payment Increases.

CMS increased Medicare payments for hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgical centers by 3.1 percent for 2024. Stipulations in the Outpatient Prospective Payment Program final rule require hospitals to display standard charge information that conforms to a CMS template. Hospitals have been required to post the prices of services online since 2021, but compliance could be better.

Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health providers in actions initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs), in False Claims Act cases, in actions initiated by the state to exclude or terminate from the Medicaid Program or by the HHS OIG to exclude from the Medicare Program.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Calendar Year (CY) 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule.” CMS.gov Newsroom. (2 November 2023) https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/calendar-year-cy-2024-medicare-physician-fee-schedule-final-rule

“CY 2024 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System Final Rule (CMS 1786-FC).” CMS.gov Newsroom. (2 November 2023) https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cy-2024-medicare-hospital-outpatient-prospective-payment-system-and-ambulatory-surgical-center-0

“CMS issues CY 2024 physician fee schedule final rule.” American Hospital Association. (2 November 2023) https://www.aha.org/news/headline/2023-11-02-cms-issues-cy-2024-physician-fee-schedule-final-rule

“CMS Issues Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule with Payment Rate Cut.” American Health Law Association Health Law Weekly. (3 November 2023) https://www.americanhealthlaw.org/content-library/health-law-weekly/article/e144866d-b571-4b10-98d0-530c46f3f5e7/CMS-Issues-Physician-Fee-Schedule-Proposed-Rule-wi?Token=fe443b47-6081-4bae-bc4a-936ffe203608

HHS Press Office. “CMS Finalizes Physician Payment Rules that Advances Health Equity.” United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2 November 2023) https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/11/02/cms-finalizes-physician-payment-rule-advances-health-equity.html

“Medicare Payments for Hospital Outpatient Services to Increase 3.1% in 2024.” American Health Law Association Health Law Weekly. (3 November 2023) https://www.americanhealthlaw.org/content-library/health-law-weekly/article/dcc44d7b-c122-49fd-9e5a-9918549f2c44/Medicare-Payments-for-Hospital-Outpatient-Services

Pifer, Rebecca. “CMS finalizes 2024 Medicare hospital, doctor payments, 340B fix and price transparency requirements.” Healthcare Dive. (3 November 2023) https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/cms-medicare-hospital-doctor-rates-2024-340b-transparency/698706/

Vaidya, Anuja. “New PFS Rule Includes Telehealth Payment, Address Reporting Wins.” mHealth Intelligence Healthcare Media. (3 November 2023) https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/new-pfs-rule-includes-telehealth-payment-address-reporting-wins

About the Authors: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.

Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm.

The Health Law Firm’s main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced by anyone in any medium without the author’s express written permission. The author reserves the right to have his name associated with this work at all times.

Esformes Reaches Plea Deal in Major Nursing Home Medicare Fraud Scheme

Attorney and Author George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

On February 1, 2024, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida announced that Florida nursing home mogul Phillip Esformes had reached a plea deal on pending conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud charges.

Esformes, who then owned more than 30 Miami-area nursing and assisted living facilities, was first charged in July 2016 with what the Department of Justice (DOJ) called a $1 billion, decades-long Medicare fraud and money-laundering scheme. Click here to read the DOJ’s press release. (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/three-individuals-charged-1-billion-medicare-fraud-and-money-laundering-scheme)

The Fraudulent Health Care Scheme.

The government initially accused The Florida Man of bribing physicians to refer patients to the nursing homes he owned in the Miami area. He would then move the patients to his assisted living facilities once he had charged Medicare for the maximum of 100 days the government pays for skilled nursing services.

In April 2019, a federal jury convicted the nursing home mogul on various counts of paying and receiving kickbacks, money laundering, bribery, and obstruction of justice. The judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $5.5 million in restitution and to forfeit $38.7 million. Click hear to read more. (https://www.thehealthlawfirmblogs.com/the-biggest-healthcare-fraud-case-ever-prosecuted-in-2019-big-surprise-florida-wins/)

However, in December 2020, former President Donald Trump commuted his 20 year prison sentence. The conviction remained, however, and he was ordered to pay the restitution order, which the Eleventh Circuit later affirmed.

The Retrial.

During the initial trial, the jury was deadlocked on six counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The DOJ announced in April 2021 that it would retry Esformes on these counts. He appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that a retrial was barred because it would violate Trump’s clemency order. He also argued that the prosecution’s misconduct in reviewing privileged materials barred the retrial. The Eleventh Circuit denied his appeal of the prosecution misconduct issue and did not rule on the issue of Trump’s clemency order.

He appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States which denied his appeal in December 2023.

A Plea Deal with the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

On February 1, 2024, the judge assigned to the retrial in the case canceled a scheduled conference because the parties had reached a plea deal. A plea in the case lets the Florida man avoid another lengthy trial — and another potentially harsh prison sentence if he were convicted. The terms of the plea deal have not been made public.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Health Care Fraud and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, Medicare audits, Anti-Kickback allegations, and False Claims Act cases throughout Florida and across the United States. Our attorneys also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Bolado, Carolina. “Fla. Nursing Home Mogul Reaches Plea Deal With Feds.” Law360. (1 February 2024) https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1767643?nl_pk=ab1e43aa-534e-4b86-8a5a-6b981ef7c33b&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=1767643&read_main=1&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=0

Hale, Nathan. “Esformes Told To Pay $44.2M In Massive Health Fraud Case.” Law360. (21 November 2019) https://www.law360.com/articles/1219282

Mangan, Dan. “Trump clemency recipient Philip Esformes reaches plea deal in Medicare fraud case.” CNBC. (1 February 2024) https://www.cnbc.com/2024/02/01/trump-clemency-recipient-philip-esformes-has-medicare-plea-deal.html

Office of Public Affairs. “South Florida Health Care Facility Owner Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Role in Largest Health Care Fraud Scheme Ever Charged by The Department of Justice.” United States Department of Justice. (12 September 2019) https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/south-florida-health-care-facility-owner-sentenced-20-years-prison-role-largest-health-care

About the Authors:

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.

Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm.

The Health Law Firm has its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area, and can be reached at: www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: [email protected] or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any way in any medium without the written permission of the copyright owner. The author of this work reserves the right to have his name associated with any use or publication of this work or any part of it.

Medicare Final Rule Decreased Physician Payments But Expands Coverage to Counselors

Attorney and Author George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

On November 2, 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that decreased overall payment rates for services provided under the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS). However, the final rule increased payment rates for outpatient services and expanded telehealth services. The rule went into effect January 1, 2024.

Physician Fee Schedule Rate Reductions; Counselors Added.

The overall payment rates under the 2024 PFS were reduced by 1.25 percent for 2024. The conversion factor is $32.74, which is a $1.15 decrease from 2023. Physicians’ Medicare reimbursements will fall by 3.4 percent under the PFS in 2024.

However, in a piece of good news, the 2024 final rule allows marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors, including addiction counselors, to enroll in Medicare and bill the program, for the first time ever.

Telehealth Expansions.

The PFS 2024 final rule expanded telemedicine and established that telehealth providers will be paid the non-facility rate for telehealth services. Under the rule, CMS will temporarily add health and well-being coaching services to the Medicare Telehealth Services List in 2024. Social Determinants of Health Risk Assessments will also be permanently added to the Telehealth Services List. The final rule also expanded the types of telehealth practitioners to include occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists.

The final rule allows all diabetes self-management training services via telehealth. It also enables teaching physicians to be present using telecommunications when a resident furnishes telehealth services.

Finally, the rule established that rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers will continue receiving payment for telehealth services.

Outpatient Program Payment Increases.

CMS increased Medicare payments for hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgical centers by 3.1 percent for 2024. Stipulations in the Outpatient Prospective Payment Program final rule require hospitals to display standard charge information that conforms to a CMS template. Hospitals have been required to post the prices of services online since 2021, but compliance could be better.

Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health providers in actions initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs), in False Claims Act cases, in actions initiated by the state to exclude or terminate from the Medicaid Program or by the HHS OIG to exclude from the Medicare Program.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Calendar Year (CY) 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule.” CMS.gov Newsroom. (2 November 2023) https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/calendar-year-cy-2024-medicare-physician-fee-schedule-final-rule

“CY 2024 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System Final Rule (CMS 1786-FC).” CMS.gov Newsroom. (2 November 2023) https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cy-2024-medicare-hospital-outpatient-prospective-payment-system-and-ambulatory-surgical-center-0

“CMS issues CY 2024 physician fee schedule final rule.” American Hospital Association. (2 November 2023) https://www.aha.org/news/headline/2023-11-02-cms-issues-cy-2024-physician-fee-schedule-final-rule

“CMS Issues Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule with Payment Rate Cut.” American Health Law Association Health Law Weekly. (3 November 2023) https://www.americanhealthlaw.org/content-library/health-law-weekly/article/e144866d-b571-4b10-98d0-530c46f3f5e7/CMS-Issues-Physician-Fee-Schedule-Proposed-Rule-wi?Token=fe443b47-6081-4bae-bc4a-936ffe203608

HHS Press Office. “CMS Finalizes Physician Payment Rules that Advances Health Equity.” United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2 November 2023) https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/11/02/cms-finalizes-physician-payment-rule-advances-health-equity.html

“Medicare Payments for Hospital Outpatient Services to Increase 3.1% in 2024.” American Health Law Association Health Law Weekly. (3 November 2023) https://www.americanhealthlaw.org/content-library/health-law-weekly/article/dcc44d7b-c122-49fd-9e5a-9918549f2c44/Medicare-Payments-for-Hospital-Outpatient-Services

Pifer, Rebecca. “CMS finalizes 2024 Medicare hospital, doctor payments, 340B fix and price transparency requirements.” Healthcare Dive. (3 November 2023) https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/cms-medicare-hospital-doctor-rates-2024-340b-transparency/698706/

Vaidya, Anuja. “New PFS Rule Includes Telehealth Payment, Address Reporting Wins.” mHealth Intelligence Healthcare Media. (3 November 2023) https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/new-pfs-rule-includes-telehealth-payment-address-reporting-wins

About the Authors: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.

Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm.

The Health Law Firm’s main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced by anyone in any medium without the author’s express written permission. The author reserves the right to have his name associated with this work at all times.

Esformes Reaches Plea Deal in Major Nursing Home Medicare Fraud Scheme

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

On February 1, 2024, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida announced that Florida nursing home mogul Phillip Esformes had reached a plea deal on pending conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud charges.

Esformes, who then owned more than 30 Miami-area nursing and assisted living facilities, was first charged in July 2016 with what the Department of Justice (DOJ) called a $1 billion, decades-long Medicare fraud and money-laundering scheme. Click here to read the DOJ’s press release. (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/three-individuals-charged-1-billion-medicare-fraud-and-money-laundering-scheme)

The Fraudulent Health Care Scheme.

The government initially accused The Florida Man of bribing physicians to refer patients to the nursing homes he owned in the Miami area. He would then move the patients to his assisted living facilities once he had charged Medicare for the maximum of 100 days the government pays for skilled nursing services.

In April 2019, a federal jury convicted the nursing home mogul on various counts of paying and receiving kickbacks, money laundering, bribery, and obstruction of justice. The judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $5.5 million in restitution and to forfeit $38.7 million. Click hear to read more. (https://www.thehealthlawfirmblogs.com/the-biggest-healthcare-fraud-case-ever-prosecuted-in-2019-big-surprise-florida-wins/)

However, in December 2020, former President Donald Trump commuted his 20 year prison sentence. The conviction remained, however, and he was ordered to pay the restitution order, which the Eleventh Circuit later affirmed.

The Retrial.

During the initial trial, the jury was deadlocked on six counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The DOJ announced in April 2021 that it would retry Esformes on these counts. He appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that a retrial was barred because it would violate Trump’s clemency order. He also argued that the prosecution’s misconduct in reviewing privileged materials barred the retrial. The Eleventh Circuit denied his appeal of the prosecution misconduct issue and did not rule on the issue of Trump’s clemency order.

He appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States which denied his appeal in December 2023.

A Plea Deal with the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

On February 1, 2024, the judge assigned to the retrial in the case canceled a scheduled conference because the parties had reached a plea deal. A plea in the case lets the Florida man avoid another lengthy trial — and another potentially harsh prison sentence if he were convicted. The terms of the plea deal have not been made public.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Health Care Fraud and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, Medicare audits, Anti-Kickback allegations, and False Claims Act cases throughout Florida and across the United States. Our attorneys also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Bolado, Carolina. “Fla. Nursing Home Mogul Reaches Plea Deal With Feds.” Law360. (1 February 2024) https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1767643?nl_pk=ab1e43aa-534e-4b86-8a5a-6b981ef7c33b&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=1767643&read_main=1&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=0

Hale, Nathan. “Esformes Told To Pay $44.2M In Massive Health Fraud Case.” Law360. (21 November 2019) https://www.law360.com/articles/1219282

Mangan, Dan. “Trump clemency recipient Philip Esformes reaches plea deal in Medicare fraud case.” CNBC. (1 February 2024) https://www.cnbc.com/2024/02/01/trump-clemency-recipient-philip-esformes-has-medicare-plea-deal.html

Office of Public Affairs. “South Florida Health Care Facility Owner Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Role in Largest Health Care Fraud Scheme Ever Charged by The Department of Justice.” United States Department of Justice. (12 September 2019) https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/south-florida-health-care-facility-owner-sentenced-20-years-prison-role-largest-health-care

About the Authors:

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.

Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm.

The Health Law Firm has its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area, and can be reached at: www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: [email protected] or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any way in any medium without the written permission of the copyright owner. The author of this work reserves the right to have his name associated with any use or publication of this work or any part of it.

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