Tag Archives: ASAM

What We Are Reading This Week

Hello all!  We haven’t written in a while because there seems to be “news” updates that come out almost daily.  Please “Like” and follow our Facebook page if you would like to see the latest news stories that we post. https://www.facebook.com/soberlawnews/

Here is what we have been reading that is of great interest:

  1. Mom, When They Look at Me, They See Dollar Signs” by Julie Lurie.  After a 9-month investigation, Ms. Lurie wrote this article that not only addresses the epidemic of patient brokering that itself is sweeping the nation, but also does an excellent job discussing current trends and historical perspectives to better understand “how we got here.”  A “must read” in our opinion.
  2. United loses in court on behavioral health coverage rules” by Modern Healthcare reporter Harris Myer, and “Mental Health Treatment Denied to Customers by Giant Insurer’s Policies, Judge Rules” by NY Times reporter Reed Abelson. As reported in the NYT, the federal judge in the consolidated cases of Wit v. United Behavioral Health and Alexander v. United Behavioral Health, ruled that a unit of UnitedHealth Group, the giant health insurer, had created internal policies aimed at effectively discriminating against patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders to save money. The cases are both class-action lawsuits filed in 2014 against UnitedHealth and involved United members, including children, being denied coverage by self-insured and fully insured employer health plans for residential and outpatient treatment from 2011 to 2017. The plaintiffs claimed United adopted an unreasonable interpretation of plan rules which required coverage for treatment that was consistent with generally accepted standards of care.  However, the article rightfully points out what most of us already know – different insurers use widely different criteria for covering behavioral care, even though medical experts have sought to standardize those guidelines. Many states require providers and carriers to use criteria developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, or ASAM, for addiction-treatment coverage. Those are the criteria the plaintiffs want United to adopt. In his decision, Judge Spero found that United had a structural conflict of interest in applying its own restrictive coverage rules because it felt pressure to keep benefit expenses down so it could offer competitive rates to employers. “UBH’s refusal to adopt the ASAM criteria was not based on any clinical justification,” Spero wrote. “Indeed, all of its clinicians recommended that the ASAM criteria be adopted. The only reason UBH declined to adopt the ASAM criteria was that its finance department wouldn’t sign off on the change.” D. Brian Hufford of Zuckerman Spaeder, the co-lead attorney for the plan members, called the ruling “a monumental win for mental health patients, who face widespread discrimination in attempting to get the coverage they were promised and that the law requires.”
  3. Buprenorphine Coverage in the Medicare Part D Program for 2007 to 2018” is the title of a recent research paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), authored by Daniel M. Hartung, PharmD, MPH; Kirbee Johnston, MPH; Jonah Geddes, MPH; Gillian Leichtling; Kelsey C. Priest, MPH; and P. Todd Korthuis, MD, MPH. Their research concluded that, eliminating Medicare Part D coverage restrictions on the medication buprenorphine would immediately improve patients’ access to opioid use disorder treatment. About 300,000, or 12 percent, of Americans diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2013 were Medicare beneficiaries. Buprenorphine, which may cause less dependence and fewer withdrawal symptoms than other opioids, is often used to treat the disorder. The research, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) which is part of HHS, analyzed drug formularies and found that Part D coverage for buprenorphine was relatively high. In 2018, generic buprenorphine tablets were covered by all plans. And about three-fourths of plans covered brand-name and generic versions of buprenorphine-naloxone, which is another opioid medication. Access to both brand-name and generic formulations was often delayed, however, by prior authorization requirements.
  4. Alexion agrees to pay $13 million for illegally using charities to pay kickbacks to Medicare patients” by Ed Silverman and published in STAT is the ongoing story of entities trying to create charitable non-profits to cover their patients/consumers out of pocket expenses. Alexion disclosed that it agreed last December to pay $13 million to resolve civil claims concerning payments made to Patient Services and the National Organization of Rare Disorders, which provide financial assistance to Medicare patients taking its medicines. This concern is nothing new to the HHS OIG and we wrote about this back in December 2016 in the post “Donation to Charity in Exchange for Patient Referrals Violates Federal Law.”
  5. Insurer skips doctors and sends massive checks to patients, prompting million-dollar lawsuit” by Wayne Drash for CNN (finally) brings attention to the horrendous practice of insurance providers (namely Anthem and its BCBS federal policies) directly paying patients rather than treatment providers for services rendered. “Those allegations are part of a lawsuit winding its way through federal court that accuses Anthem and its Blue Cross entities of paying patients directly in an effort to put pressure on health care providers to join their network and to accept lower payments. The insurance giant is accused of sending more than $1.3 million in payments to patients — money, the suit claims, that is owed to the facilities that treated people with addiction and mental health problems.” Critics say it’s a revenge tactic against doctors, hospitals, treatment facilities and other medical providers that don’t agree to insurance companies’ demands to be “in-network,” by making them chase down money. At the same time, trying to become an in-network provider is often a monumental task and regularly rejected by insurance companies. The insurance industry disputes any such characterization.  But the known reality is that, instead of paying the facilities, Anthem sends checks directly to patients, some while they were still in rehab. It’s a strategy that put the providers in the tricky and tenuous position of trying to collect money — in some cases, very large sums — from the very people they were trying to help. Health care providers, medical professionals and attorneys familiar with this insurance practice told CNN that, while many patients send the money on to the providers, others realize they’re onto a bonanza, pocketing the money and ducking and dodging every time a doctor or medical office reaches out.
  6. NAATP Releases Version 2.5 of its Code of Ethics, Prohibiting Provider Operated Directories. According to Marvin Ventrell, Executive Director of NAATP: “All NAATP members, as a condition of their NAATP membership, must act in compliance with the NAATP Code of Ethics. Noncompliance can result in removal from membership. Our goal with the new Ethics Code, as with previous versions, is not to exclude providers but rather to create a professional membership environment in which all providers agree to common, values-based, professional, and ethical conduct. By doing so, we demonstrate to the public, payers, and policymakers that NAATP is committed to helping families find reliable, responsible, and fully transparent care.” Amongst the changes to the Ethics Code is provision IV, B, 6, which provides as follows: “NAATP Members may not own, operate, or otherwise control directory type websites.” NAATP believes that it is a fundamental conflict of interest for a treatment provider to operate a directory purporting to unbiasedly direct consumers to care providers. “Unlike a Yellow Pages or Yelp-type service, which is truly independent from the providers to which consumers are directed, a provider-operated directory is indisputably and integrally connected to the provider itself.” Additional changes to the code include: (i) Clarifying the branding requirements for advertising, including television ads that do not identify the specific provider that is paying for or promoting the ad; (ii) Prohibiting advertising that refers to a competitor name while promoting one’s own program; and (iii) Prohibiting the display of services that are not actually offered by the provider.  This Code of Ethics follows in large part the changes to addiction treatment marketing space adopted by the Florida Legislature.

ASAM and CARF Announce New Certification Program for Treatment Centers

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and CARF International (CARF) announced yesterday, October 15, 2018, the pilot launch of a national certification program for addiction treatment programs that they believe will demonstrate the ability to deliver services consistent with established national guidelines for levels of care.

“The importance of certification to the future of addiction medicine cannot be overstated,” said Kelly J. Clark, MD, MBA, DFAPA, DFASAM, president of ASAM. “ASAM has led the national movement to standardize and deliver evidence-based care for the disease of addiction. Certification is the critical next step to implement consistent standards across the nation, build transparency and consumer confidence around the services patients receive at a particular program, ensure provider fidelity to The ASAM Criteria, and address an urgent national public health need.”

The certification program is intended to provide an independent, comprehensive assessment of an individual treatment program’s fidelity to a specific level of care as outlined in The ASAM Criteria. ASAM and CARF have clearly defined roles in the development and operation of the program to deliver accuracy and ensure independence throughout the certification process.

[Editor’s Note: While Florida law requires treatment programs to become accredited through a nationally-recognized body, a vast majority of programs flock to obtain that accreditation from the Joint Commission, rather than CARF. It is believed within the treatment industry that Joint Commission standards are less stringent than CARF.]

“CARF is pleased to partner with ASAM to deliver a certification program that will benefit patients and their families, health professionals, and insurers, with the necessary clarity to identify discrete levels of care for persons with substance use disorders,” said Brian J. Boon, PhD, president/CEO of CARF.

The ASAM Criteria is the nation’s most widely used and comprehensive set of guidelines for placement, continued stay, and transfer/discharge of patients with addiction and co-occurring conditions.

[Editor’s Note: There are many practitioners who do not believe the ASAM Criteria to be the “gold standard” when it comes to addiction medicine and care.]

“Three decades ago, a group of committed administrators, addiction clinicians, physicians, researchers, and scientists set out to define one national set of criteria for providing outcome-oriented, results-based care for the treatment of addiction – what is known today as The ASAM Criteria,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, ASAM president-elect and one of the authors of The ASAM Criteria.  “With [yesterday’s] certification announcement, ASAM advances the specialty of addiction medicine in another significant way by giving addiction treatment programs a way to validate their ability to provide care consistent with ASAM’s nationally recognized best practices.”

ASAM and CARF anticipate piloting the certification in early 2019, adding verification in a second phase, and making the program broadly available later in the year.  The ASAM level of care certification will initially offer certification standards based on Level 3 of the ASAM Criteria, specifically levels 3.1, 3.5, and 3.7, covering residential treatment programs.  Certifications for other levels of care may be developed at a later date.

ASAM and CARF collaborated on the development of proprietary ratable certification elements and scoring methodology, which include certain pass/fail elements that ASAM has determined are essential to an applicant’s certification.

Importantly, CARF will evaluate programs for certification. To obtain certification, programs will need to demonstrate to CARF that they have the capacity to deliver services at the level of care defined by The ASAM Criteria, as represented by satisfaction of the applicable ratable elements in accordance with the scoring methodology. Programs will submit applications to CARF directly and CARF will independently perform the certification process, including reviewing individual provider applications and conducting site visits.

“CARF possesses the necessary infrastructure, credibility, and expertise to offer certification as a valid proxy of the ASAM levels of care delivered by providers of residential substance use disorder services,” stated Michael Johnson, MA, CAP, managing director for Behavioral Health at CARF.

Each certification will be valid for up to three years, at which time the program may reapply.The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and CARF International (CARF) announced yesterday, October 15, 2018, the pilot launch of a national certification program for addiction treatment programs that they believe will demonstrate the ability to deliver services consistent with established national guidelines for levels of care.

“The importance of certification to the future of addiction medicine cannot be overstated,” said Kelly J. Clark, MD, MBA, DFAPA, DFASAM, president of ASAM. “ASAM has led the national movement to standardize and deliver evidence-based care for the disease of addiction. Certification is the critical next step to implement consistent standards across the nation, build transparency and consumer confidence around the services patients receive at a particular program, ensure provider fidelity to The ASAM Criteria, and address an urgent national public health need.”

The certification program is intended to provide an independent, comprehensive assessment of an individual treatment program’s fidelity to a specific level of care as outlined in The ASAM Criteria. ASAM and CARF have clearly defined roles in the development and operation of the program to deliver accuracy and ensure independence throughout the certification process.

[Editor’s Note: While Florida law requires treatment programs to become accredited through a nationally-recognized body, a vast majority of programs flock to obtain that accreditation from the Joint Commission, rather than CARF. It is believed within the treatment industry that Joint Commission standards are less stringent than CARF.]

“CARF is pleased to partner with ASAM to deliver a certification program that will benefit patients and their families, health professionals, and insurers, with the necessary clarity to identify discrete levels of care for persons with substance use disorders,” said Brian J. Boon, PhD, president/CEO of CARF.

The ASAM Criteria is the nation’s most widely used and comprehensive set of guidelines for placement, continued stay, and transfer/discharge of patients with addiction and co-occurring conditions.

[Editor’s Note: There are many practitioners who do not believe the ASAM Criteria to be the “gold standard” when it comes to addiction medicine and care.]

“Three decades ago, a group of committed administrators, addiction clinicians, physicians, researchers, and scientists set out to define one national set of criteria for providing outcome-oriented, results-based care for the treatment of addiction – what is known today as The ASAM Criteria,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, ASAM president-elect and one of the authors of The ASAM Criteria.  “With [yesterday’s] certification announcement, ASAM advances the specialty of addiction medicine in another significant way by giving addiction treatment programs a way to validate their ability to provide care consistent with ASAM’s nationally recognized best practices.”

ASAM and CARF anticipate piloting the certification in early 2019, adding verification in a second phase, and making the program broadly available later in the year.  The ASAM level of care certification will initially offer certification standards based on Level 3 of the ASAM Criteria, specifically levels 3.1, 3.5, and 3.7, covering residential treatment programs.  Certifications for other levels of care may be developed at a later date.

ASAM and CARF collaborated on the development of proprietary ratable certification elements and scoring methodology, which include certain pass/fail elements that ASAM has determined are essential to an applicant’s certification.

Importantly, CARF will evaluate programs for certification. To obtain certification, programs will need to demonstrate to CARF that they have the capacity to deliver services at the level of care defined by The ASAM Criteria, as represented by satisfaction of the applicable ratable elements in accordance with the scoring methodology. Programs will submit applications to CARF directly and CARF will independently perform the certification process, including reviewing individual provider applications and conducting site visits.

“CARF possesses the necessary infrastructure, credibility, and expertise to offer certification as a valid proxy of the ASAM levels of care delivered by providers of residential substance use disorder services,” stated Michael Johnson, MA, CAP, managing director for Behavioral Health at CARF.

Each certification will be valid for up to three years, at which time the program may reapply.