The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently issued new guidance (Guidance) on the use of remote communication technologies to deliver audio-only telehealth in accordance with HIPAA. Per OCR, the Guidance is intended to ensure continued access for patients to audio-only telehealth in a secure and compliant manner, particularly once OCR’s notification of enforcement discretion (previously discussed here) tied to the COVID-19 pandemic is rescinded (i.e., once the HHS-declared COVID-19 public health emergency is ended).
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.…
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
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 November 20, 2020, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released heavily anticipated final rules revising the regulatory exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (also known as the Stark Law), the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) safe harbors, and the Beneficiary Inducements Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP) regulations. The changes to the regulations go into effect on January 19, 2021 (except for one change to the Physician Self-Referral Law that becomes effective January 1, 2022). In a separate rule also released November 20th, HHS removed safe harbor protection for rebates involving prescription pharmaceuticals and created a new safe harbor for certain point-of-sale reductions in price on prescription pharmaceuticals and pharmacy benefit manager service fees.
The full text of each rule is available below.
- Final Physician Self-Referral Law Rule, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-26140.pdf
- Final AKS Rule and Beneficiary Inducements CMP Regulations, Office of Inspector General (OIG): https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-26072.pdf
- Final Rule on Rebate/Point-of-Sale Price Reductions Safe Harbor, OIG: https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-25841.pdf?utm_campaign=pi+subscription+mailing+list&utm_source=federalregister.gov&utm_medium=email
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 Shared Savings Program regarding financial methodologies, and application and risk assumption deadlines for accountable care organizations, among other changes. CMS has also updated provider-specific fact sheets on recent waivers and flexibilities, available here. Below are highlights from the Interim Rule. Providers are encouraged to read all applicable sections of the Interim Rule in their entirety here. Comments may be submitted to CMS within 60 days of the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading CMS Interim Rule Makes Sweeping Changes in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
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 increases reimbursement for some of these services. Highlights of these changes and pertinent background are provided below.
Continue Reading 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 (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…
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 patient who have prescribed a particular controlled substance for the patient previously can reissue the prescription without an in-person visit. Additionally, no prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance can contain more than one (1) prescription.
- Schedule III and IV prescriptions can be refilled up to five (5) times every six (6) months as authorized by the prescribing practitioner.
- Schedule V prescriptions can be refilled as authorized by the prescribing practitioner.
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).
Continue Reading OIG Issues FAQs on its Policy for Waiver of Patient Cost Sharing Obligations for Telehealth During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency