Health Law Highlights

Fair Market Value and Commercial Reasonableness Considerations Amid CMS Radiopharmaceutical Reimbursement Challenges

From VMG Health, by Carla Zarazua, Preston Edison, and James Tekippe, CFA:

Radiopharmaceutical drugs (RPs) are crucial for diagnosing and treating diseases. However, the current pricing structure by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) places a financial strain on hospitals and health systems and potentially restricts patient access to these vital resources. The existing CMS payment structure categorizes diagnostic RPs as supplies, bundling their cost into the overall procedure rate, causing a disconnect between the cost of acquiring RPs and the reimbursement received, particularly for high-cost drugs. 

The CMS encourages hospitals to use cost-effective resources while ensuring patient care. A temporary exception allows for separate pricing for new and high-cost drugs for two to three years, but this is a finite period. The current pricing model may force hospitals to limit the use of high-cost or newer RPs, potentially leading to suboptimal patient care and stifling innovation in drug development.

In response to these challenges, the CMS proposed five alternative payment models in 2024, including paying separately for diagnostic RPs with per-day costs above a certain threshold, restructuring the ambulatory payment classification (APC), and adopting codes that incorporate the disease state being diagnosed. Stakeholders, including the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITAS) and the American College of Radiology (ACR), advocate for separate payment for diagnostic RPs based on the average sales price (ASP) + 6% methodology.

However, the CMS has not yet decided on a new reimbursement structure for RPs, leaving hospitals to navigate the financial implications of using these drugs. To remain compliant with fair market value (FMV) and commercial reasonableness (CR), hospitals need to review and negotiate vendor agreements, document the necessity of higher-priced drugs, and establish a process for deciding which RPs to use.

In conclusion, while awaiting a resolution from the CMS, hospitals and health systems must proactively develop compliance protocols and negotiate agreements to minimize the financial impact and ensure optimal patient care. The proposed changes to the reimbursement structure for RPs represent a significant step towards addressing the economic challenges faced by healthcare providers and improving patient access to essential diagnostic and therapeutic resources.