Government Enforcement

Certain COVID-19 emergency declaration blanket waivers are being phased out by the federal government, and health care providers should take steps to determine whether current arrangements are compliant. As background, in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency CMS previously enacted extensive temporary COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers for Health Care Providers. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have now determined that various regulatory requirements must be restored in order to protect the health and safety of residents in long-term care facilities.

Continue Reading NOTICE TO PROVIDERS: CMS Phasing Out Certain COVID-19 Regulatory Waivers in Long-Term Care Facilities, Hospices, and ESRD Facilities

On March 30, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Manual J. Bojorquez, the owner of a marketing company, was sentenced to 36 months’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of $3.3 million for his role in a kickback scheme. The sentencing follows a plea agreement by Mr. Bojorquez in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the federal anti-kickback statute. According to the DOJ and court documents, Mr. Bojorquez, through his company, provided marketing services to various compounding pharmacies. Mr. Bojorquez’s company conspired with the compounding pharmacies to pay kickbacks to physicians in exchange for those physicians referring prescriptions to the compounding pharmacies. The compounding pharmacies then paid Mr. Bojorquez (through various shell companies) a percentage (approximately 45%) of the fees generated from the prescriptions referred by the physicians. The pharmacies billed and received payment from the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Workers Compensation Program, which is a federal health care benefit program. Over the course of the conspiracy, the DOL paid over $8 million for the kickback-induced prescriptions.

Continue Reading Marketer in Kickback Scheme Involving Compound Pharmacies Sentenced to Probation and Order to Pay $3.3 Million

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) recently released a “Dear Administrator Letter” (DAL) DHCSB 22-02 for Licensed Home Care Services Agencies (LCHSAs).  The DAL addresses guidance and procedures for LCHAs as they relate to certain administrative licensure amendments.  Such amendments include changing the service, county of operation, sites, address of agency or operator, the corporate name or assumed name (d/b/a), or closing a site.
Continue Reading New York State Department of Health Releases Administrative Guidance for LCHSAs’ Licensure Amendments

Effective February 3, 2022, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BoRM), which oversees physician licensure and the practice of medicine, updated its “Policy on Telemedicine in the Commonwealth” (Policy) to provide more guidance for licensed physicians on utilization of telemedicine in practice. BoRM initially issued this Policy in 2020 in connection with the onset of COVID-19 and the significant corresponding expansion of telemedicine and other telehealth care delivery models for patients and providers.
Continue Reading Massachusetts Updates State Telemedicine Guidance for Physicians

On February 28, 2022, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued data on information blocking claims received since April 5, 2021, the effective date of information blocking regulations enacted under the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act). As a reminder, in accordance with the Cures Act’s prohibition on certain information blocking practices, in 2020 ONC issued a pair of rules (available here and here) to implement information blocking regulations (now found at 45 CFR Part 171).  Due to COVID-related delays, ONC ultimately set a compliance date for such regulations of April 5, 2021. ONC is now sharing preliminary data on the information blocking claims received for the first time.
Continue Reading ONC Information Blocking Data Show Majority of Claims Against Health Care Providers

In a February 14, 2022, press release, The Joint Commission (Joint Commission) announced that it began surveying affected facilities for compliance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) interim final rule entitled “Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination,” published on November 5, 2021, with guidance following on December 28, 2021 (see our previous analysis here and here). Among other things, the rule required eligible staff in affected facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Joint Commission surveying began on January 27, 2022, in states that did not challenge CMS’s interim final rule, and the Joint Commission will begin surveying the remaining states (except Texas) on February 14, 2022. It is not clear when surveys will begin in Texas, as the deadlines for compliance with the interim final rule differ from the other 49 states.
Continue Reading The Joint Commission Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Surveys Have Begun

On February 14, 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued Advisory Opinion No. 22-03 (Advisory Opinion) regarding a home health agency’s (Requestor) proposal to pay nurse aide certification tuition costs on behalf of new employees hired to work as certified nurse aides (Proposed Arrangement). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would not generate prohibited remuneration under the federal anti-kickback statute (AKS) or the beneficiary inducements civil monetary penalties (CMP).
Continue Reading OIG Issues Favorable Advisory Opinion Regarding Home Health Agency’s Proposal to Pay Tuition Costs for New Employees

On February 9, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $3.8 million settlement with Catholic Medical Center (CMC) of Manchester, New Hampshire. This settlement resolves allegations that CMC violated the False Claims Act (FCA) and federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). The allegations were originally brought in a qui tam lawsuit filed by a physician who is a former employee of CMC.
Continue Reading DOJ Announces $3.8 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently undertaken a number of notable actions with respect to vaccines in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Below is an overview of these actions and related COVID-19 vaccine information:

Full Approval of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for 18+

On January 31, 2022, the FDA announced its full approval (licensing) of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for individuals 18 and older. The Moderna vaccine had been administered under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA since December 18, 2020.  This is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the FDA following approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on August 23, 2021. Notably, the approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be marketed and known as the ‘Spikevax.’

Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccine Update – February 2022

In a per curiam decision issued January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care worker vaccine mandate rule, finding that the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was authorized by law to issue the rule.  See our previous analyses of the rule and subsequent litigation here and here for more background information on the stakes of this case.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Worker Vaccine Mandate