Among the numerous consequences of the Covid-19 Pandemic is a well-documented emphasis on the home. Work at home. Exercise at home. See your doctor or other health provider at home. Home-based health care beyond the traditional nursing care is yet another change wrought by the pandemic that will not likely be eliminated as we come to define the new normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a wave of telehealth policy changes across the nation at both federal and state levels. Such changes have expanded access to health care and addressed underutilization in chronic disease management while minimizing the risk of exposure for individuals seeking care. One such policy change in particular has received widespread attention and support from industry stakeholders and lawmakers alike: expansion of telehealth to include audio-only telephonic communications. However, the longevity of telehealth’s expansion to audio-only services remains uncertain as states and the federal government each pursue revisions to pandemic-era policies and flexibilities.
As is the case with most new technologies or significant industry innovations, companies embracing and driving the disruptions often move very fast in a legal and political landscape that is always playing catch-up. This is very true for the fast-growing telemedicine and digital health industries. However, likely motivated by COVID-19, state governments are moving faster than they traditionally do to pass new regulations and to extend certain regulatory waivers.
COVID-19 required a shift in the delivery of medical care with the state and local lockdowns. During the pandemic, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued guidance on various compliance waivers and enhanced flexibility. Governors across the country issued executive orders to help address the requirements of providing ongoing medical care while maintaining proper social distancing (e.g., New Mexico, Texas, etc.). The result was more people receiving medical care remotely. Similar to the realization by many that working from home was not only feasible but in some cases preferable, many also came to the conclusion that a trip to the doctors’ office was not necessary for the treatment of certain conditions.
As promised, this is a follow-up to our first blog post on the new federal transparency requirements. In our prior post, we summarized the Hospital Price Transparency rule which went into effect on January 1, 2021, and here we discuss the transparency rules contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “Act”), which apply to both health plans and health care providers.
Beginning January 1, 2022, the Act requires providers (individual practitioners and facilities) to send the health plan a “good faith estimated amount” of scheduled services, including any expected ancillary services and the expected billing and diagnostic codes for all items and services to be provided. This notice then triggers the health plan’s obligation to send enrollees an “Advanced Explanations of Benefits” (“AEOB”) prior to scheduled care (or upon patient request). If the patient is uninsured, the provider must send the notice directly to the patient.
This post is part one of two in a series on new transparency requirements impacting both health plans and health care providers.
In an effort to assist patients in understanding the cost of hospital services, the Hospital Price Transparency rule at 45 C.F.R. § 180.10 et. seq., effective January 1, 2021, requires all hospitals to make public the following pricing information: