On October 10, 2023, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued another extension (Second Temporary Rule) of its pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities “in light of the need to further evaluate the best course of action” with respect to the prescribing of controlled substances via telemedicine. DEA is issuing a limited extension in order to give itself more time to finalize new standards governing tele-prescribing of controlled substances.Continue Reading DEA Further Extends COVID-19 Telemedicine Prescribing Flexibilities through December 31, 2024
On May 9, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a temporary rule that extends pandemic-era flexibilities allowing prescribing of controlled substances based on a telehealth relationship, after receiving in excess of 38,000 comments on its March 1, 2023 proposed rules (previously discussed here) to extend certain of those flexibilities but allow others to end upon expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11, 2023. The Temporary Rule provides the DEA with additional time to assess feedback on its proposed rules for post-pandemic tele-prescribing, and provides practitioners and patients with additional time to utilize pandemic-era flexibilities and to transition away from such flexibilities once final rules are issued.Continue Reading DEA Extends Pandemic Telehealth Prescribing Flexibilities For Up To 18 Months
On February 24, 2023, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a pair of proposed rules to make permanent certain “telemedicine flexibilities” related to the prescribing of controlled substances via telehealth that have been relied upon by prescribers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed rules respectively address (1) telemedicine prescribing of certain controlled substances without an in-person medical examination (Tele-Prescribing Rule), and (2) expansion of buprenorphine prescribing via telemedicine encounters (Buprenorphine Rule). Below please find a high-level summary of the Tele-Prescribing Rule. A separate post will follow addressing the Buprenorphine Rule in detail.Continue Reading As COVID-19 Emergency Waivers End, DEA Proposes to Expand Tele-Prescribing of Controlled Substances
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).Continue Reading HHS Issues HIPAA Guidance to Support Audio-Only Telehealth Services
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
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