Archives: COVID-19

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CMS Issues Blanket Waivers of Physician Self Referral (Stark) Law Penalties to Support COVID-19 Response Efforts

On March 30th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued blanket waivers (Blanket Waivers) of sanctions under the federal physician self-referral law (Stark Law) to relax regulatory requirements related to health care providers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blanket Waivers were issued under the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s authority in Section 1135 of the Social Security Act to ensure that (i) sufficient health care items and services are available to federal health care program beneficiaries, and (ii)  health care providers are reimbursed for providing …

Connecticut DCP Issues Guidance for Remotely Refilling Prescriptions

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Drug Control Division (DCP) has issued guidance for health care providers regarding refills and reissuances of controlled substance prescriptions for patients without an in-person visit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DCP explains that “practitioners may issue prescription refills for controlled substances using their professional discretion for a patient under their care without seeing the patient in-person within certain parameters.” The parameters are as follows:

  • Schedule-Specific Requirements for Controlled Substance Prescriptions
    • Schedule II prescriptions cannot be refilled; however, practitioners with a pre-existing relationship with a

Connecticut Waives CON Approval Requirements Entirely for Temporary Bed Expansions and Temporary Service Suspensions by Hospitals and Outpatient Surgical Facilities Related to COVID-19 Response Efforts

The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) issued its third guidance document related to CON requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 25, in which OHS waives CON approval requirements for hospitals seeking to temporarily increase bed capacity or temporarily suspend (as opposed to terminate) inpatient or outpatient services in order to diagnose and treat COVID-19 patients. On March 31, OHS updated that guidance to expand its applicability to outpatient surgical facilities (OSFs) in Connecticut.…

Massachusetts Issues Further COVID-19 Updates for Providers

Massachusetts continues to issue additional directives and guidance for the health care provider community in response to COVID-19. In this post we highlight new orders by Massachusetts Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and MassHealth. Updates include expanded license reciprocity for non-physicians, independent practice of certain Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), waiver of certain MassHealth requirements in the discharge and transfer of long-term care patients, and authorization for EOHHS to establish temporary rates, supplemental payments, or alternative rates and payment methodologies for certain providers. MassHealth has also …

CARES Act Provides Vital Financial Support for Health Care Providers on COVID-19 Front Lines

On March 27, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, or the Act), Public Law 116-136, a trillion-dollar stimulus bill intended to provide financial assistance to individuals and business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Act contains a broad range of measures intended to bolster the economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Unsurprisingly, a central focus of the Act is the provision of relief and support for hospitals and health care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This article …

CMS grants Massachusetts Section 1135 Waiver, DPH issues Guidance regarding Determination of Need and Nurse Staffing Requirements, and MassHealth Issues Provider and Pharmacy Guidance

In this article, we highlight additional updates issued by state and federal government authorities for the health care community in Massachusetts related to COVID-19. This post addresses the Section 1135 waivers granted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) related to MassHealth and CHIP, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) orders and guidance regarding Determination of Need and nurse staffing ratios, and MassHealth guidance for providers and pharmacies.…

OCR Issues Additional Guidance on HIPAA for Providers and First Responders on COVID-19 Front Lines

On March 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued new HIPAA guidance to help providers and first responders in efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. …

Massachusetts Issues COVID-19 Orders and Related Guidance for Pharmacies and Pharmacy Professionals

On March 24, 2020, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health issued a Pharmacy Practice Order related to pharmacy practice by retail and institutional pharmacies. The Order as well as supplemental guidance issued by the Board of Registration in Pharmacy (Board) is effective as of March 24. …

DOJ and FTC Issue Joint Statement on Antitrust Enforcement and the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 24, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a joint statement on COVID-19-related antitrust enforcement highlighting ways “firms, including competitors, can engage in procompetitive collaboration that does not violate the antitrust laws” to protect public health and safety. The DOJ and FTC emphasized their commitment to facilitating antitrust compliance for businesses that are responding to the national emergency. In furtherance of this position, the agencies gave examples of collaborative activities designed to improve health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic that are unlikely …

OIG Issues FAQs on its Policy for Waiver of Patient Cost Sharing Obligations for Telehealth During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On March 25, 2020, the Office of Inspector General, Health and Human Services (OIG) issued two frequently asked questions (FAQs), clarifying its March 17th Policy Statement Regarding Physicians and Other Practitioners That Reduce or Waive Amounts Owed by Federal Health Care Program Beneficiaries for Telehealth Services During the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak (Policy Statement).…

CMS Announces Targeted Plan for Healthcare Facility Inspections in Light of COVID-19

On March 23, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that, effective immediately, it is temporarily postponing routine facility inspection and focusing on infection control and situations involving Immediate Jeopardy (where patient safety is placed in imminent danger). CMS is rolling out a new focused survey and inspection process to assess whether facilities are prepared for COVID-19, and has published a fact sheet describing the initiative. This will apply to inspections of all Medicare and Medicaid certified provider and supplier types across the country, such as long …

OHS Streamlines Application Process for CON Waivers to Respond to COVID-19

On March 20, the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) issued new guidance (Guidance) on the process for requesting a certificate of need (CON) waiver for projects related to the COVID-19 response. See our analysis of the initial OHS guidance on CON waivers here.…

New York Further Expands Facility Capacity and Practitioner Capacity in New Executive Order

On March 23, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order (Executive Order) related to the COVID-19 public health emergency to ease regulatory requirements and expand the resources available to address the emergency.

Significant provisions of the Executive Order are as follows:

Provisions to Expand Facility Capacity

  • Orders the Commissioner of Health to direct all general hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, office-based surgery practices and diagnostic and treatment centers to increase the number of beds available to patients, including by canceling all elective surgeries and procedures, as determined by

Rhode Island Issues Emergency Regulations on Off-Label Prescribing for COVID-19, and Guidance on Telehealth and Reciprocal Licensure

Rhode Island has issued important updates for health care providers related to COVID-19, available at https://health.ri.gov/diseases/ncov2019/for/providers/.  Providers should be aware of these updates including, among others, the following described below.…

OIG Warns of COVID-19 Fraud Schemes

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a fraud alert warning Medicare beneficiaries of potentially fraudulent schemes that take advantage of the fears surrounding the COVID-19 public health emergency. The OIG warns that fraudsters are targeting Medicare beneficiaries through telemarketing, social media and even in-person, door-to-door contact. According to the OIG, the fraudulent schemes often involve an offer of a COVID-19 test in exchange for an individual providing personal information.…

Connecticut Issues Order Temporarily Recognizing Reciprocal Health Care Practitioner Licenses

In alignment with both New York and Massachusetts, earlier today Connecticut’s Commissioner of the Department of Public Health issued an order (Order) permitting physicians, nurses, respiratory care practitioners, emergency medical services personnel and other health care practitioners who are licensed in another state to provide temporary assistance in Connecticut for a period of 60 days. The Order is subject to the following conditions:

  • No practitioner may provide services beyond the scope of practice permitted under Connecticut law relating to the applicable profession;
  • Each practitioner must maintain malpractice and other insurance

COVID-19: HHS Issues FAQs on HIPAA and Telehealth to Help Providers Maintain Access to Care During the Pandemic

On March 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued additional guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on HIPAA and telehealth services to help providers furnish care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAQs follow and provide further information on the Notification of Enforcement Discretion issued by HHS on March 17 (Notification), in which HHS indicated that it would not penalize providers for using popular video chat applications, such as FaceTime and Skype, in good faith to provide telehealth services amid the COVID-19 …

Connecticut Governor Lamont Expands Access to Telehealth Services In Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 19, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7G, which is intended to expand access to telehealth services for Connecticut residents amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  Notably for health care providers, the Order waives or modifies provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-906 and any associated regulations, rules and policies regarding the delivery of telehealth services as follows:

  • Allows telehealth providers enrolled in Medicaid or in-network in fully-insured commercial plans to provide covered telehealth services via audio-only telephone to established patients (i.e., those with an existing provider-patient

Massachusetts Issues New COVID-19 Guidance and Updates

Massachusetts government agencies have issued recent guidance and updates concerning the COVID-19 emergency. A summary is provided below.

Allowing Health Care Personnel with Potential Exposure to COVID-19 to Continue to Work

On March 19, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued the following Guidance for Health Care Personnel with Potential Exposure to Patients with COVID-19.

Healthcare facilities must take the following procedures in order that health care personnel (HCP) who have had exposure to COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, may continue to work. Under the guidance, exposed HCP may continue …

COVID-19: Lamont Authorizes DSS to Expand Access to Telehealth Services for Medicaid Beneficiaries in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

As part of Executive Order No. 7F issued on March 18, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont authorized the Commissioner of the Department Social Services (DSS) to “temporarily waive any requirements” set forth in state law, regulations, rules, policies or other directives concerning telehealth as is necessary to enable the Medicaid program “to cover applicable services provided through audio-only telehealth services.”  As a result, DSS will be able to expand Medicaid coverage for telehealth services that are provided by phone, and not just audio-video technology.…

Connecticut DPH Updates List of Reportable Laboratory Findings to Include Negative SARS-CoV-2 Test Results

On March 18, 2020, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) issued an order requiring laboratories to report negative SARS-CoV-2 test results to DPH using the Electronic Laboratory Reporting System. DPH indicated the immediate reporting of such results is necessary for public health purposes.…

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