Archives: COVID-19

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CMS Extends Timeline for Finalizing Changes to Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law Regulations to August 2021

On August 24, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an “extension of the timeline” for publication of a final rule addressing changes to the Physician Self-Referral Law (or Stark Law) regulations.  In its announcement, CMS set a new deadline of August 31, 2021 for publication of a final rule.…

COVID-19 Pandemic Brings Telehealth into U.S. Homes

Excerpt of a contributed article published in Medical Economics on August 13, 2020.

The public health emergency (PHE) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in systemic changes throughout the nation’s health care system. Almost overnight, health systems, providers and the government were forced to collaborate to ‘stand up’ field hospitals, testing sites, and quarantine procedures, while postponing or cancelling certain elective procedures and ceasing in-person encounters. One of the most significant developments in the response to COVID-19 has been government support for the expansion of telehealth services, which represents …

Connecticut Authorizes Out-of-State Health Care Practitioners to Render Assistance for Remainder of COVID-19 Pandemic

On July 14, 2020 Connecticut Governor Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7HHH, in which the Governor modified state law to enable the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH) to temporarily suspend licensure, registration and certification requirements for certain DPH-regulated practitioners for the duration of the state public health and civil preparedness emergency.  Notably, in that Executive Order, the Governor stated that “healthcare providers from outside Connecticut have greatly enhanced the provision of healthcare services in Connecticut during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereby fundamentally improved the state’s ability …

CMS Releases Guidance on the Allowance of Telehealth Encounters in eCQMs

On July 2, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance documents on the allowance of telehealth encounters for the Eligible Professional and Eligible Clinician electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) used in CMS quality reporting programs for the 2020 and 2021 performance periods. The guidance applies to eCQMs used in the:

  • Quality Payment Program: The Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (Advanced APMs)
  • APM: Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+)
  • APM: Primary Care First (PCF)
  • Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program for Eligible Professionals

Connecticut Office of Health Strategy Prepares to Resume Certificate of Need Application Review with Virtual Hearings

On June 30, 2020, the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) announced in a newsletter that the agency will prepare to resume the Certificate of Need (CON) application review process. This includes transitioning to virtual hearings, as Connecticut’s COVID-19 restrictions still prevent any in-person hearings. While OHS has yet to announce a specific date for resumption of CON hearings, “OHS officials expect the first of these virtual CON public hearings to be held sometime this summer.”…

New York State Department of Health Publishes Emergency Rule to Clarify Authority to Prevent Spread of Communicable Disease

On June 24, 2020 the New York State Department of Health (DOH) published formal notice of its June 5th emergency rule “necessary to clarify and strengthen the Department’s authority and that of the local health departments to take specific actions to control the spread of disease, including actions related to investigation and response to a disease outbreak, as well as the issuance of isolation and quarantine orders.” Though the emergency regulations are issued in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOH indicates it intends to adopt the emergency rule …

HHS Issues Guidance for Providers on Soliciting COVID-19 Blood and Plasma Donations

On June 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued timely HIPAA guidance (Guidance) regarding solicitations of blood and plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients.

In the Guidance, OCR affirms that health care providers can use patient information to identify patients that have recovered from COVID-19 to provide information about how they may donate plasma or blood with COVID-19 antibodies to support treatment of other patients with COVID-19. OCR explains that this use of protected health information would be permissible …

HHS Announces Additional Distribution of $10 Billion to Safety Net Hospitals, and $15 Billion to Medicaid and CHIP Providers Left Out of General Distribution

On June 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it would distribute up to $25 billion of CARES Act Provider Relief Funds to safety net hospitals and state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers. …

OCR Reaches Early Case Resolutions with the State of Connecticut and a Private Hospital Regarding Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Have Reasonable Access to Support Persons in Hospital Settings During COVID-19

On June 9, 2020 the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced it had reached an Early Case Resolution (ECR) with the State of Connecticut and a separate ECR with Hartford Hospital. Both ECRs involve the rights of patients with disabilities to have reasonable access to support persons in hospital settings during COVID-19. OCR had received complaints that the COVID-19 hospital visitor policies of the State and the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to make exceptions for patients needing support persons for …

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

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.…

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 …

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.…

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 …

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.…

CMS Broadens Telehealth Access Across the Board, Including Audio-Only Telephone Services

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 April 30 Interim Rule) building on previous regulatory waivers and other revisions to regulations issued March 31, 2020 in an interim final rule (March 31 Interim Rule) in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Among other changes, the April 30 Interim Rule further broadens access to patient care provided via telehealth and other communication technology-based services and …

CMS Issues Explanatory Guidance of Blanket Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law Waivers for COVID-19 in Response to Industry Feedback

Amidst the cavalcade of regulatory and policy changes from federal and state governments intended to help health care providers confront the COVID-19 pandemic, on April 21, 2020 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published “Explanatory Guidance” (Guidance) of the applicability of the blanket waivers of the federal Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law) CMS previously issued on March 30, 2020. See our analysis of the PSR Law blanket waivers here.…

CMS Issues New Interim Final Rule With Sweeping Regulatory Changes in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule with comment period (the “Rule”) which sets forth additional regulatory waivers and other changes to healthcare regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Today’s actions are informed by requests from healthcare providers as well as by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act” states CMS in its press release. Spanning 279 pages, the Rule makes sweeping changes for the full spectrum of health care providers. On a high …

Connecticut Governor Expands Health Care Workforce, Access to Telehealth Services and Issues Other Important Health Care Updates in New Executive Orders

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont recently issued four new executive orders to address the COVID-19 state of emergency (Executive Orders 7CC – 7FF) that contain provisions relevant to health care providers and facilities in the state.  Among other things, the Executive Orders (i) expand access to telehealth services, (ii) expand the available health care workforce, (iii) increase current reporting requirements for long-term care facilities, (iv) allow the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services (DSS) to scale back certain Medicaid program requirements, and (v) update requirements related to out-of-network emergency billing.  …

CMS Announces Merit-Based Incentive Payment for Clinicians Participating in COVID-19 Clinical Trial

On April 21, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that clinicians participating in the Quality Payment Program (QPP) can earn credit in the Merit-based Incentive payment system (MIPS) by attesting to a new COVID-19 Clinical Trials improvement activity based on participation in a clinical trial and reporting information. Clinicians who may earn this MIPS credit include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and others. MIPS is one of two options for clinicians to participate in Medicare’s QPP, and requires clinicians to report certain quality, cost and other …

CMS Issues Phase-In Recommendations for Non-COVID Non-Emergent Care

On April 19, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued recommendations for Re-opening Facilities to Provide Non-emergent Non-COVID-19 Healthcare: Phase I. The recommendations apply to areas with a low, or relatively low and stable incidence of COVID-19, in states or regions that have passed Phase I gating criteria that were previously announced by the Administration on April 16, 2020. Initially, the recommendations apply to non-emergent care that is currently on hold, such as chronic disease care, surgery and other procedures, and, eventually, preventive care. CMS is …

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