Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still active worldwide, health care industry leaders and regulators have already begun to think about how to implement post-pandemic changes to health care delivery based on lessons learned during the global emergency of the past year and a half. We have reported on some such post-pandemic changes to the health care industry in previous blog posts. For instance, some temporary solutions to challenges presented by COVID-19 are being made permanent due to their proven efficiency or effectiveness. The expansion of telehealth is a primary example of this. We have seen the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), as well as state governors and legislators, expand and extend certain regulatory waivers that were initially designed as temporary solutions to allow for greater access to patient care during the pandemic, but that are becoming permanent fixtures due to their usefulness in innovative patient care delivery generally.

Other post-pandemic changes to the health care delivery landscape will be borne out of sheer necessity rather than innovation.
Continue Reading Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic: Planning for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management in Hospitals

As discussed in a prior blog post, in May of this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ), through its Fraud Section and in conjunction with the Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CPI/CMS), began prosecuting defendants who were alleged to have perpetrated a variety of COVID-19-related scams on federal healthcare programs.  On September 17, 2021, the DOJ’s Health Care Fraud Unit, in coordination with its Health Care Fraud and Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), announced a new wave of enforcement actions against 138 individuals, including 42 licensed medical professionals, alleged to have participated in health care schemes that resulted in $1.4 billion in alleged losses.

Continue Reading DOJ’s National Rapid Response Task Force Strikes Again: New Wave of Enforcement Actions Target Fraudulent Schemes

The False Claims Act (“FCA”) is a punitive civil statute that acts as the federal government’s primary tool for combatting fraud in government health care programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. In fiscal year 2020 alone, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) obtained more than $2.2 billion in FCA settlements and judgments (not including potential recoveries from pending cases or ongoing negotiations); the largest of these many recoveries came in the health care and pharmaceutical sectors, with several recoveries totaling over $100 million each.

Given the frequency of FCA application in the health care context, and despite this vast body of law and commentary spanning more than a century and a half since the FCA’s inception, novel applications and interpretations of the law still arise, especially as the health care industry evolves and new modes of payment and care delivery come to the fore. In 2021, the FCA has once again been the focal point of government attention, with a DOJ memorandum, proposed federal legislation, and recent federal court decisions adding new context and authority to guide future applications of the law.

This post is the first of three covering recent FCA updates, and in it we discuss the re-emergence of federal guidance as a tool in the belt of the DOJ in enforcing the FCA.
Continue Reading False Claims Act Spotlight (1 of 3): Sub-Regulatory Guidance Subjugated No More in FCA Enforcement Actions

JAMA Internal Medicine recently published an article finding that the number of homebound adults aged 70 or older more than doubled during the last decade. In 2011, approximately 5% of adults aged 70 or older were homebound compared with 13% in the same age group in 2020. The authors indicate the steep incline in 2020 was likely due to social distancing restrictions and other health precautions taken over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the high number of homebound adults aged 70 and older will likely continue throughout 2021 and have potential lasting effects on the overall health of the individuals and their health care delivery.

While telehealth has become a staple in the lives of many post-pandemic (as discussed in a prior blog post), it may not be reaching this vulnerable population. The JAMA article indicated that, of the survey respondents, 27.8% did not have a cell phone, 50.8% did not have a computer, and more than 50% did not email, text or go online in the last month. This means those in this population that need assistance with health care services may need to rely on in-person home care.
Continue Reading Home Is Where the Health Care Is: New Study Shows Increase in Number of Homebound Older Adults While CMS Expands Home Health Reimbursement Model

Many forces have been driving the growth of telehealth over the past decade, including value-based reimbursement models, population health management trends, and technology advancements. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, the COVID-19 pandemic was the jet fuel that propelled telemedicine utilization into the stratosphere. This growth was, in large part, due to the necessity of limiting in-person contact to avoid widespread COVID-19 transmission. In fact, as COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) advised health care providers to offer care via telemedicine technologies wherever appropriate. However, not all of this growth in the telehealth space can be attributed to the necessity of social distancing during the pandemic; even as transmission of COVID-19 has slowed in many areas, providers continue to offer telehealth for patient care, and patients continue to utilize it.
Continue Reading Where Are We Now? Trends in Telehealth Utilization

As discussed in a prior blog post, effective June 25, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 210, which officially declared the end of the New York State of Emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the New York emergency telehealth waivers have expired.  These telehealth waivers had previously allowed many digital health companies and health systems to utilize certain flexibilities related to the methods of allowable telehealth technologies and the use of out-of-state providers to expand services and to cover understaffed departments.

In response to the Governor’s announcement, the New York State Department of Health (“NYS DOH”) issued guidance extending the expansion for the ability of all Medicaid providers in all situations to use a wide variety of communication methods to deliver services remotely during the remainder of the federally-declared COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (“PHE”). Note that this guidance does not impact or provide additional flexibilities to non-Medicaid providers and, as discussed in our prior blog post, the New York State Education Department has only commented stating that given the expiration of the New York COVID-19 waivers, “professionals should exercise due diligence and good faith efforts to return to compliance with all Title VIII statutory and regulatory requirements without delay.”
Continue Reading New York Medicaid Still Holding Onto Pandemic-Era Telehealth Expansions Even After COVID-19 Waivers Disappear

On June 24, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 210, which officially declared the end of the New York State of Emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic effective June 25, 2021. The issuance of the Executive Order marked an important milestone for life post-pandemic and a welcome result for small businesses barely treading water trying to comply with the COVID-19 restrictions. However, the abruptness of the announcement, the limited carve-outs for health care professionals and the organizations that employ or contract with them, and the lack of permanent alternative solutions will create a tumultuous few weeks for those parties.
Continue Reading Abrupt End to New York State of Emergency Creates Uncertain Future for Out-of-State Licensed Health Care Professionals

This is the second of two posts discussing the June 11, 2021 updates to the PRF reporting requirements and FAQs.

As discussed in our earlier blog post, on June 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) released revised COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund (“PRF”) Reporting Requirements, superseding all prior versions of reporting requirements issued by HHS, along with associated revised PRF FAQs, Reporting Portal FAQs, and a Reporting Portal Registration User Guide that each make conforming changes. In addition to the new deadlines discussed in the prior post, the June 11 PRF updates offer providers more clarity into the the priority of eligible uses, required reporting elements, and instructions on how to return unused funds.


Continue Reading HHS Offers Increased Flexibility Regarding the Use of Provider Relief Fund Grant Money and Associated Data Reporting Obligations

This is the first of two posts discussing the June 11, 2021 updates to the PRF reporting requirements and FAQs.

On June 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) released revised COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund (“PRF”) Reporting Requirements, superseding all prior versions of reporting requirements issued by HHS, along with associated revised PRF FAQs, Reporting Portal FAQs, and a Reporting Portal Registration User Guide that each make conforming changes. The updated Reporting Requirements come just three weeks prior to when PRF recipients would have been required to expend all received funds and when reporting was scheduled to commence (July 1, 2021).

Significantly, the updates give providers a longer runway to use funds, clarify the definition of “COVID-19 patient”, and provide insight into potential upcoming PRF distributions. The updated Reporting Requirements represent the Biden Administration’s first actions to modify the PRF, which distributes federal grants to help providers offset revenue shortfalls and expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Continue Reading In Significant Update to the Provider Relief Fund, HHS Sets New Deadlines for Providers to Spend PRF Grant Money and Report Uses

On June 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced “an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from contracting coronavirus.” The standard focuses on healthcare workers that are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, aiming to increase protections for those who “continue to be at high risk of contracting the [disease] . . . while they provide us with critical healthcare services.”
Continue Reading OSHA Releases Emergency Temporary Standards to Protect Healthcare Workers from COVID-19 Infection