Joint Commission to Resume Surveys in June

The Joint Commission (JC) announced yesterday that it will resume its regular surveying and reviews beginning in June. The JC will identify and prioritize low-risk organizations, and organizations due for a survey can expect to be contacted by the JC for an assessment of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the organization. Although surveying will resume, the JC announced there will be changes to the process to maintain social distancing and protect all parties involved. Those changes include:

  • Limited number of individuals in meetings and increased use of audio and/or video conferencing.
  • Use of masks by all surveyors. The JC expects the organization being surveyed to provide appropriate protective equipment for the JC surveyors.
  • Use of technology to avoid extended periods of contact with an organization’s employees or to avoid entering high-risk areas. Examples include using screen-sharing to review electronic medical records and interviewing patients and staff by phone.

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HHS Extends Compliance Deadline for Providers Receiving CARES Act Provider Relief Funds and Reminds Providers of June 3 Deadline Related to Additional Relief Fund Payments

On May 22, 2020 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a 45-day extension of the deadline for providers who receive payments from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to accept the Terms and Conditions attached to such payments. Providers now have up to 90 days from the date a payment is received to accept the Terms and Conditions or return the funds to HHS.  In its announcement, HHS reiterated its prior position that “Providers that do not accept the Terms and Conditions after 90 days of receipt will be deemed to have accepted the Terms and Conditions.” Continue Reading

Connecticut DPH Reinstates Requirement that COVID-19 Tests be Ordered by Physician or Other Authorized Practitioner and that Results be Reported to the Ordering Practitioner

The new Acting Director of Public Health in Connecticut, Deidre Gifford, recently rescinded a prior May 6, 2020, Department of Public Health (DPH) order that had eliminated the requirement that a request for collection or analysis of a COVID-19 specimen be made by a licensed physician or other licensed person authorized by law to make diagnoses, and eliminated the obligation to report the COVID-19 results to the licensed provider who ordered the testing. We previously wrote about the now rescinded DPH order and its relation to Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7KK in a post, here. While the DPH order has been rescinded, Executive Order 7KK still remains in effect allowing pharmacists to order COVID-19 tests.

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Connecticut Governor Lamont Releases Guidance for Dentists Expanding Services Beyond Emergency-Only Care

On May 17, 2020 Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont – in conjunction with the Department of Public Health (DPH) – released a guidance document for resuming non-emergency dental procedures (the “Guidance”). The Guidance notes that while dental practices were never subject to an executive order to close, the governor’s office and DPH had both strongly encouraged the suspension of all elective procedures and routine non-emergency care. Accordingly, as certain businesses in the state begin to reopen starting on May 20th, the Guidance is designed to inform dental practitioners on preparation and policies for expanding services beyond emergency-only care to include elective procedures and routine hygiene and health exams. The document details policies for expanding offered procedures and notes that dental practices that cannot meet the guidelines “are strongly advised to delay expansion of their operations beyond urgent care until they are able to meet these guidelines.” Continue Reading

CMS Proposes IPPS and LTCH PPS Payment and Policy Changes for FY 2021

On May 11, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule to update Medicare payment policies for hospitals under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and the Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Prospective Payment System (PPS) for FY 2021 (the “Rule”).  IPPS and LTCH PPS proposed rules are released on a fiscal year cycle to define payment and policies for inpatient hospitals, long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, inpatient psychiatric facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and hospices. CMS also released a fact sheet highlighting certain major provisions in the Rule. Continue Reading

CMS Releases Additional Blanket Waivers in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

On May 11, 2020 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced additional blanket waivers for hospitals and other facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to CMS, the new waivers “provide the flexibilities needed to take care of patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The blanket waivers have a retroactive effective date of March 1, 2020 and do not require a waiver request or notice to CMS to apply. Continue Reading

CMS Interim Rule Makes Sweeping Changes in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On May 8, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published an interim final rule with comment period (the “Interim Rule”) in the Federal Register, setting forth additional regulatory waivers and other changes to healthcare regulations and policies in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). At a high level, the Interim Rule encompasses topics including expansion of telehealth, support for and expansion of COVID-19 testing, allowing certain licensed professionals to practice at the top of their licenses, Medicare payments for teaching hospitals, changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program regarding financial methodologies, and application and risk assumption deadlines for accountable care organizations, among other changes. CMS has also updated provider-specific fact sheets on recent waivers and flexibilities, available here. Below are highlights from the Interim Rule.  Providers are encouraged to read all applicable sections of the Interim Rule in their entirety here. Comments may be submitted to CMS within 60 days of the date of publication in the Federal Register. Continue Reading

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont Issues Executive Order Allowing Pharmacists to Order COVID-19 Tests

On May 7, 2020 Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order 7KK allowing pharmacists to order COVID-19 tests.

The order modifies Section 19a-36-D29 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies to permit licensed pharmacists to order COVID-19 diagnostic tests consistent with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments. The modification also permits pharmacists to order any Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved COVID-19 serology test that does not require venipuncture. Pharmacists are required to comply with all Department of Health testing reporting requirements. The Executive Order is effective immediately. Continue Reading

OCR Issues Guidance About Media Access to Health Care Facilities

These days, news stations are frequently running stories concerning people being treated for COVID-19, the providers working tirelessly to care for them, and politicians visiting health care facilities for a first-hand look at the crisis. In response to the media interest, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance on May 5, 2020 to healthcare providers answering the question “Does the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency alter the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s restrictions on disclosures of protected health information to the media?” The guidance reminds them “that the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not permit them to give media and film crews access to facilities” in which patient health information may be accessible without the patients’ authorization. This includes any areas of the facility where patients’ protected health information (PHI) may be accessible in any form (e.g., written, electronic, oral, or other visual or audio form). Continue Reading

CMS Interim Rule Makes Changes to COVID-19 Laboratory Test Ordering and Payment For Medicare and Medicaid Providers and Beneficiaries

On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule with comment period published in the Federal Register on May 8, 2020 (the Interim Rule) which – among other things – makes changes to Medicare requirements for ordering COVID-19 laboratory tests, Medicare reimbursement for specimen collection and Medicaid reimbursement for laboratory services. Continue Reading

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