By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) terminated its Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage contract with Fox Insurance Company (Fox) on March 9, 2010. The action highlights CMS’s growing scrutiny and enforcement of Medicare requirements against Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage Plans and other federal health care program contractors.
CMS terminated the Fox contract after CMS found the failure by Fox’s plan and services to meet Medicare’s requirements to provide enrollees with prescription drugs according to recognized standards of care jeopardized the health and safety of Fox enrollees. When announcing the contract termination, CMS reported that an on-sight review by CMS showed that Fox committed a series of violations, including improperly denying its enrollees coverage of critical HIV, cancer, and seizure medications. CMS issued an enrollment and marketing sanction to Fox on Feb. 26, 2010, because the organization was not following Medicare’s rules for providing prescription drug coverage to its enrollees. According to CMS, an onsite audit conducted between March 2 and March 4 showed that Fox’s problems persisted and that Fox continued to subject its enrollees to obstacles in getting sustaining medicines or other needed medications. Among other things, CMS found Fox:
- Failed to provide access to Medicare prescription drugs benefits by imposing unapproved prior authorization and step therapy criteria that made it more difficult for beneficiaries to get drugs that are protected by law;
- Failed to meet the plan’s appeals deadlines; and
- Did not comply with Medicare regulations requiring enrollees to be transitioned to new drugs at the beginning of the new plan year.
- Failed to notify enrollees about prior authorization and step therapy determinations as required by Medicare.
CMS also found that many of the obstacles were in place to limit access to high-cost drugs, which could have led to enrollees’ clinical needs not being met.
In many cases, CMS reported that Fox required enrollees to have unnecessary and invasive medical procedures before they were able to obtain drugs. Finding that Fox was unable to satisfactorily address these compliance concerns and furnish medicines to its Medicare enrollees, CMS immediately terminated the Fox contract.
At the time of the termination, more than 123,000 Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Fox plans. Beginning March 10, 2010, CMS indicated that LI-NET, a Medicare run program administered by Humana, would replace the Medicare Part D coverage of enrollees affected by the Fox contract termination on an interim basis. Fox enrollees will be able to choose a new Medicare prescription drug plan through May 1, 2010. Current enrollees who do not choose a plan will be enrolled into a new plan by Medicare. CMS is sending letters explaining the actions taken by CMS to enrollees and has established a 1-800 number to receive questions.
The action against Fox is part of an ongoing series of oversight, disciplinary and enforcement actions by CMS against Medicare Advantage and other federal health care program participants. These programs and CMS’ oversight and enforcement of federal programs are drawing increasing Congressional scrutiny in connection with Congressional health care reform efforts. Amid this heightened scrutiny, Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans; health care providers, administrative services providers and others contracting with these plans and others involved with this programs should take appropriate action to maintain compliance, tighten their contracts with and oversight of actions of partners and vendors performing critical functions; review complaint reporting, investigation and response processes and procedures; and strengthen other practices to minimize exposures to audit or other enforcement actions.
For Assistance With Medicare Managed Care or Other Matters
If your organization needs advice or assistance about Medicare Part D or other Medicare Advantage contracting or other requirements or about other health plan or health care matters, consider contacting the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail here.
Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee and an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council member, Ms. Stamer has more than 22 years experience advising health plans, health care providers, and other health industry and insurance clients. Her experience includes specific experience assisting Medicare, Medicaid and other health plan sponsors, administrators, or administrative services providers about contracting, compliance, coverage and other matters. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry matters, Ms. Stamer also conducts compliance and other training on Medicare Advantage and other contract and compliance matters, as well as a broad range of other health industry related concerns. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry quality, regulatory, reimbursement, and other operations, risk management and public policy concerns. Her insights on health industry matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.
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