The federal Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently published a report (OIG Report) as part of a series of analyses of the expansion and utilization of telehealth in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  In its report, the OIG concludes that telehealth was “critical for providing services to Medicare beneficiaries during the first year of the pandemic” and that the utilization of telehealth “demonstrates the long-term potential of telehealth to increase access to health care for beneficiaries.” The OIG’s conclusions are notable because they come at a time when policymakers and health care stakeholders are determining whether and how to make permanent certain expansions of telehealth for patients nationwide.

Continue Reading OIG: Telehealth “Critical” to Maintaining Access to Care Amidst COVID-19

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

On Monday, November 15, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) repealed a policy established by the Trump administration that directed the FDA not to enforce premarket review requirements for COVID-19 laboratory developed tests (LDTs). This prior policy, which waived premarket review requirements aimed at increasing broad public access to COVID-19 tests, was generally consistent with the FDA’s historical stance allowing laboratories to not seek approval of LDTs. With the policy announced by the Trump administration, laboratories again began offering their tests prior to or without an emergency use authorization (EUA) after the test was validated and a notification was provided to the FDA. While this policy expedited the availability of tests, the FDA contends that the policy also led to some poorly-performing tests being offered prior to FDA review. Notably, this prior policy did not apply to at-home or point of care collection tests, which have always required FDA review.
Continue Reading HHS Again Requires FDA Premarket Review for COVID-19 Tests

On September 9, 2021 President Biden announced a COVID-19 Action Plan entitled “Path out of the Pandemic” (the “Plan”) which comprises a six-pronged national strategy aimed at combatting COVID-19. The Plan includes a number of important provisions related to health care, including implementation of COVID-19 vaccine requirements and an expansion of resources available for treatment of COVID-19. The Plan signals significant changes upcoming for health care organizations, their employees, and their patients.

The following summary addresses certain parts of the Plan with specific implications for health care, but please continue to check R+C blogs and legal updates for follow-up analysis of the specific guidance and rules that are released in furtherance of the Plan.
Continue Reading Biden COVID-19 Action Plan Expands Vaccine Mandates, Testing, and Treatment to Combat Spread of Virus

In a rare move, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a warning to hospitals and health systems to prioritize the patching of a two-year-old vulnerability in picture archive communication systems (PACs). PACs are used for the exchange and storage of health scans and images, such as MRIs, CT Scans, breast imaging,

On January 28, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Fifth Amendment to HHS’s Declaration under the Public Health Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) that provides liability immunity to certain individuals and entities arising from the manufacturing, distribution, administration or use of medical countermeasures (e.g., therapeutics and vaccines) against COVID-19.
Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccine Update: HHS Expands Pool of Eligible Vaccinators under PREP Act

On January 14, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned a $4.348 million penalty for alleged HIPAA violations assessed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) against the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Hospital). The case arises from an enforcement action undertaken by HHS following the Hospital’s self-disclosure of three separate instances of lost or stolen portable devices containing electronic protected health information (ePHI). The government’s investigation determined that the devices were not encrypted, and that the Hospital’s failure to encrypt the devices to protect the ePHI contained therein constituted a violation of HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rules. After HHS imposed the penalty in 2017, the Hospital appealed the penalty first to an Administrative Law Judge, and then to HHS’s Departmental Appeals Board before petitioning the Fifth Circuit for review in 2019 (see our prior analyses of this case here).
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Overturns “Arbitrary and Capricious” $4.3 Million HIPAA Penalty Against Hospital

On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced proposed changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, which is one of several rules that protect the privacy and security of individuals’ medical records and other protected health information (PHI). According to HHS, the proposed changes are intended to support individuals’ engagement in their health care, remove barriers to coordinated care and case management, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry, while continuing to protect the privacy and security of individuals’ PHI.
Continue Reading HHS Proposes Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Enhance Care Coordination and Management and Remove Barriers to Accessing Information

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

Health care providers interested in applying for additional CARES Act Provider Relief funding from the Phase 3 General Distribution have until November 6, 2020 to submit an application to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
Continue Reading REMINDER: November 6 Deadline for New CARES Act Funding Approaches