Posts

Accountable Care Organizations- Christensen Law

Accountable Care Organizations

Christensen Law Explains Accountable Care Organizations

Accountable Care Organizations are a part of the Affordable Care Act that’s designed to give doctors incentives to keep people healthy and out of the hospital. Christensen Law explains this new denomination of healthcare in the article below.

Written By: D. Wade Christensen, JD^ , J. Clay Christensen, JD^^ , L. Nazette Zuhdi, JD, LLM^^^, Adam W. Christensen^* , JD, MBA, Blake Christensen, DO, and S. Sandy Sanbar, MD, PhD, JD^**

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. It created the Medicare Shared Savings (MSS) program*. The MSS program promotes accountability for a patient population, coordinates items and services under part A and B; and encourages investment in infrastructure and redesigned care processes for the purpose of providing high quality and efficient service delivery.

In 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is one of the HHS agencies, issued the rule that established Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)** . The ACO initiative is a doctor-hospital partnership which heavily emphasizes integration through technology. The goals or benchmarks of ACOs are the provision of good quality care to Medicare beneficiaries, the reduction of waste when rendering medical services, and ultimately the containment of health care cost.

The doctors and hospitals will jointly be accountable for the health of their patients. They are expected to utilize, meaningfully, the use of electronic medical records and to effectively coordinate care among all providers, and are discouraged from repeating tests on patients. The Accountable Care Organizations providers contractually agree to manage all of the health care needs of a minimum of 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries for at least three years. They are given strong incentives to cooperate and save money by avoiding unnecessary tests and procedures.

They will get paid more in bonuses for keeping their patients healthy and out of the hospital. On the other hand, the ACOs may have to pay a penalty if they do not meet performance and savings benchmarks. And patients in Accountable Care Organizations would still be free to see doctors of their choice outside the network without paying more. In this regard, ACOs differ from HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) where patients do not have that choice. In an attempt to become integrated systems, U.S. hospital systems have been buying up physician practices in hopes of becoming ACOs that directly employ the majority of their physicians.

The novel idea of the ACO doctor-hospital partnership has raised some important legal concerns, including:

(1) anti-trust and anti-fraud laws

(2) novel contracts between doctors and hospitals

(3) direct liability of ACOs for integrated system failure or improper integration of care, failure to properly credential and re-credential physicians, and failure to properly train or oversee personnel, vicarious liability extending to both old and new duties which are based on general corporate and agency law principles

(4) liability for independent contractors under the theory of apparent authority, or ostensible agency

(5) liability of primary care physicians for any system breakdown, even at a third-party level

(6) ACO liability caused by self-insurance which protects physicians as long as the system remains financially stable

(7) malpractice claims resulting from incentivizing physicians to not repeat tests or not to refer patients for needed treatment, delay some admissions or discharge patients prematurely

(8) the standard of care for ACOs may be higher than the prevailing standard because the physician may have to explain why he or she did not follow the ACO application, assessment and individualized care plan

(9) when providing informed consent, physicians should ascertain that the patient comprehends the alternative therapies presented and their risks in order to make an informed choice; patient understanding is pivotal in the informed consent process.

An ACO should put the beneficiary and family at the center of all its activities, honor individual preferences, values, backgrounds, resources, and skills, and should thoroughly engage people in shared decision-making about diagnostic and therapeutic options. This is referred to as patient engagement, which allows the patient to assess the merits of various treatment options in the context of his or her values and convictions. The ACO standards may indeed be stricter than the prevailing informed consent standards. Physicians may be liable for lack of informed choice for failure on the part of the physician to demonstrate that a patient understood all reasonable alternatives and made decisions accordingly.

^ First Gentleman of Oklahoma; Owner, Christensen and Associates; ^^ Owner and Managing Director, Christensen Law Group ^^^ Chair, Health Law Section, Christensen Law Group ^* Attorney, Health Law Section, Christensen Law Group ^** Of Counsel, Health Law Section, Christensen Law Group Address for all: 210 Park Avenue Suite 700, Oklahoma City, OK 73102.

*http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-7880.pdf

**http://www.cms.gov/sharedsavingsprogram

Don’t forget, the lawyers at Christensen Law can answer any other questions you have on Accountable Care Organizations.

Pain Management

Chronic Pain Management: Legal And Medical Aspects With Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Prescription Drug Abuse has different effects depending on the severity of the abuse. As such, prescription drug abuse prevention needs to be flexible to deal with this changing severity. Christensen Law is well-versed in healthcare laws of Oklahoma and the history behind chronic pain management. Here’s an article we wrote to explain a little more about this tricky subject.

Written by: Blake Christensen, DO, Adam W. Christensen, JD, MBA, S. Sandy Sanbar, MD, PhD, JD, D. Wade Christensen, JD, J. Clay Christensen, JD, L. Nazette Zuhdi, JD, LLM, Oklahoma City

Controlled substances prescription abuse has been reported to be the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined.* And, for every unintentional overdose death related to an opioid analgesic, nine persons are admitted for substance abuse treatment. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act was the first narcotics law that prohibited doctors from prescribing opioids to addicts. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act replaced the Harrison Act as the federal U.S. drug policy under which manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances is regulated. In 2005, President George Bush promoted quality pain relief with accountability by signing NASPER (National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting) into law. NASPER was designed to improve patient access and prevent “doctor shopping” and drug diversion.**

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration Amendments of 2007 gave the FDA the authority to require a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) from manufacturers to ensure the benefits of a drug outweighed its risks through education of providers and the public. In 2009, the FDA announced a “Safe Use Initiative,” a program aimed at decreasing the likelihood of preventable harm from medication use. Finally, in 2011, President Barack Obama’s administration unveiled a Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, which focuses on four major areas: education, monitoring, enforcement, and disposal. There are also state laws, rules, policies and guidelines that address proper pain management.

The means of narcotic control is found within the federal and state laws currently in place, together with a three step-wise methodological approach to treatment from providers according to their trained skill set.***

1. The first modality is via prevention, patient education and screening. Primary care physicians and other interdisciplinary care providers play a vital role in effective treatment of chronic pain. The chronic-pain patients receiving treatment in this modality are typically the least physically and psychologically impaired. The physician should follow all existing regulations and evidence-based guidelines while having an individualized treatment plan for each patient. This level is typically the most cost-effective modality of treatment for the patient. It is also the modality where most of the laws governing controlled substances apply.

2. The second modality involves physicians who are board-certified in interventional pain management. The patients in this category are complex and display little or no progress using more conservative treatment. Interventional pain procedures can involve high-risk procedures and should only be provided by designated board-certified specialists when stringent objective medical criteria are met. These patients will often require an interdisciplinary care team and manager. They may need the help of a board-certified surgical specialist.

3. The third modality of treatment involves patients with the most physical and psychological impairment. It requires an interdisciplinary team. Psychiatric counseling may be beneficial. The patient should understand all facets of the ailment, have the support of family and friends, and have an established care team manager and interdisciplinary care team. Families need to be good reporters about the patient.

Treatment should focus on ways to manage the disease. The practice of medicine and pain management is based on patient care within the confines of the law. The law protects society from the dangers of narcotic abuse. Public policy exists to protect the public. The crux of the patient, physician, lawmaker, and public interests lies in the efficacy of information exchange. By having a well informed society, effective pain management may be achieved and laws may be understood and followed. Through information exchange of all modalities and the public, a balance may be found between drug control and drug availability.

Prescription drug abuse prevention is the frontline tactic versus the fastest growing drug problem in America. If you have any questions about the legal side of prescription drug abuse, the lawyers at Christensen Law in OKC can help.

* http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss.htm

**http://www.asipp.org/NASPER.htm

*** http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/HOM-75466-4625/Tiered-approachto-chronic-pain-targets-suffering