On Thursday, April 11, 2013, the Obama Administration released its Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2014 ("FY 2014") that begins at the beginning of October. If implemented, the Budget Proposal would include approximately $1.8 trillion in savings over the next ten years, enough to replace the automatic sequestration that took effect last month and was imposed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
To achieve these savings, the Administration's Budget Request includes nearly $401 billion in Healthcare reductions that would likely affect all providers. While it is nearly impossible that the budget will pass Congress, some of the proposals are likely to make it into law in one form or another.
One of the numerous proposals from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS") is beginning in 2015, to exclude radiation therapy, outpatient therapy, and advanced imaging services from the Stark Law's exception for In-Office Ancillary Services ("IOAS") except in cases where a practice meets certain accountability standards, as defined by the Secretary. The IOAS exception to the Stark Law's prohibition on physician self-referrals was intended to allow physicians to provide beneficiaries with certain services that were a natural extension of their core practices and to lawfully bill for such services; however, CMS takes the position that radiation therapy, outpatient therapy, and advanced imaging services, in a significant number of cases, do not fit within the rationale underlying the IOAS exception insofar as they are "rarely performed on the same day as the related office visit." In addition, CMS cites evidence suggesting that allowing these services to fit the IOAS exception has led to overutilization and rapid growth of these services. By excluding the services from the exception, CMS believes that the government will save nearly $6.1 billion over the next 10 years.
CMS has also proposed to begin requiring prior authorization for advanced imaging services on the theory that the rapid growth in the number and intensity of services in the last decade is the result of inappropriate use of the services. In its summary of the proposal, CMS notes that this proposal would bring the program in line with private payers, which typically require prior authorization. Furthermore, the proposal satisfies a request from the Government Accountability Office ("GAO") that CMS implement prior authorizations or attempt other methods to limit growth in spending for advanced imaging services. However, at this time, CMS does not believe this will have an effect on the budget.