On March 14, 2021, Connecticut Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 10C (EO 10C), which extends provisions of Public Act 20-2 (PA 20-2), a law passed by the Connecticut legislature in July 2020 that “provided additional flexibility for the delivery of telehealth services and insurance coverage of these services” but was scheduled to expire March 15, 2021. As a result of EO 10C, the provisions of PA 20-2 that were scheduled to expire on March 15 will remain in effect through April 20, 2021, in part to give the state legislature more time to “address the ongoing need for” expanded access to telehealth services.
Continue Reading Connecticut Extends Expansion of Access to Telehealth Services

On November 30 and December 2, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) published two final rules (available here: November 30 Final Rule and December 2 Final Rule) which modify the safe harbor regulations to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and codify a new exception to the Civil

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.
Continue Reading 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 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 Releases Additional Blanket Waivers in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 9, 2020 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated blanket waivers issued previously in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. According to CMS, the new waivers “focus on reducing supervision and certification requirements so that practitioners can be hired quickly and perform work to the fullest extent of their licenses.” 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 Updates Blanket Waivers to Help Expand Health Care Workforce

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 term care facilities (nursing homes), hospitals, and CLIA laboratories.
Continue Reading CMS Announces Targeted Plan for Healthcare Facility Inspections in Light of COVID-19

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

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is moving forward with its Patients over Paperwork initiative, which was created in accordance with President Trump’s Executive Order directing federal agencies to reduce burdensome regulations in order to improve the patient and provider experience, and the health care system as a whole. On September 26, 2019, CMS passed the Omnibus Burden Reduction (Conditions of Participation) Final Rule (Final Rule), with the goal of removing CMS regulations that have become extraneous or burdensome on health care providers, allowing providers to increase and improve focus on patients. CMS estimates savings resulting from the Final Rule will be 4.4 million hours of time, and $800 million annually. The Final Rule was published on September 30, 2019, and goes into effect 60 days thereafter. Hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), however, have six months to implement antibiotic stewardship programs and CAHs have eighteen months to implement Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement (QAPI) programs.
Continue Reading CMS Passes Final Rule Reducing Regulations Burdensome on Health Care Providers

“A mere difference of opinion between physicians, without more, is not enough to show falsity.”

In a 3-0 decision issued September 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a three-year-old district court ruling in United States v. AseraCare, Inc. that a Medicare claim for hospice services cannot be deemed false under the False Claims Act (FCA) based on a difference in clinical judgment. This decision – apparently the first circuit-level determination of the “standard for falsity [under the FCA] in the context of the Medicare hospice benefit” – will affect all hospice providers, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and whistleblowers will not be able to rely on disagreements between physician opinions as the basis for establishing falsity under the FCA. Instead, the Eleventh Circuit instructs that a claim for hospice reimbursement “cannot be “false” – and thus cannot trigger FCA liability – if the underlying clinical judgment does not reflect an objective falsehood.” The Eleventh Circuit’s decision emphasizes that reasonable differences of opinion between physician reviewers of medical documentation are not sufficient to suggest that the judgments concerning a particular patient’s eligibility for Medicare’s hospice benefit, or any claims submitted based on such judgments, are false for purposes of the FCA.
Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Endorses Objective Falsehood Standard for False Claims Cases Concerning Physician Judgment of Hospice Eligibility

On July 9, 2019, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law Public Act No. 19-118 “An Act Concerning the Department of Public Health’s Recommendations for Various Revisions to the Public Health Statutes” (PA 19-118). Certain relevant provisions of PA 19-118 are described below.
Continue Reading Connecticut Legislature Modifies Public Health Statutes