The U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) recently settled whistleblower False Claims Act (“FCA”) allegations against The University of Miami (“UMiami”) for $22 million, which resolves claims from three separate lawsuits related to billing practices at UMiami’s off-campus hospital-based facilities (“Off-Campus Hospital Facilities”) and fraudulent claims for laboratory services.
Continue Reading The University of Miami to Pay $22 Million to Settle Medicare False Claims Act Allegations

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.
Continue Reading Hold the Phone: Audio-Only Telehealth Expanding in New York and other States, but National Policies May Lag

In a prior blog post, we discussed CMS’ Hospital Price Transparency Rule at 45 C.F.R. § 180.10 et. seq., effective January 1, 2021 (the “Rule”), which requires hospitals to make public “a machine-readable file containing a list of all standard charges for all items and services.” Specifically, the Rule requires hospitals to post (1) a description of each item or service provided by the hospital; (2) the gross charge that applies to each individual item or service; (3) payer-specific negotiated rates that apply to each item or service for which a payer negotiated rate has been established. Each payer negotiated price must be clearly associated with the name of the applicable third-party payer and plan; (4) de-identified minimum negotiated rates that apply to each item or service; (5) de-identified maximum negotiated rates that apply to each item or service; (6) discounted cash prices that apply to each item or service; and (7) CPT, HCPCS, or other billing codes used by the hospital for purposes of accounting or billing for the item or service.

In a study published on March 16, 2021, Health Affairs found that out of the largest 100 hospitals in the U.S. (by certified bed count), 65 were “unambiguously noncompliant.” 12 of these 65 (18%) did not post any files or provided links to searchable databases that were not downloadable and 53 (82%) either did not include the payer-specific negotiated rates with the name of payer and plan clearly associated with the charges or were in some other way noncompliant. The data informing this study was pulled from late January 2021 to early February 2021.
Continue Reading Recent Study Shows Lack of Compliance With CMS’ Hospital Price Transparency Rule

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.
Continue Reading Propelled by COVID-19, State Governments Attempt to Keep Up With Telemedicine Innovation and Digital Health Platforms

Although vaccine rollout began slowly in the United States, millions of people are now being vaccinated against COVID-19 per day. As individuals receive the vaccine, states have been collecting personal health data in individual immunization registries. Experts say this data collection is essential to effectively monitor vaccination progress, report adverse reactions, compare vaccine efficacy in cross sections of the population, and keep track of who needs second doses and when.
Continue Reading Federal Vaccination Tracking Raises Privacy Concerns

A recent Fourth Circuit decision, United States v. Mallory (988 F.3d 730), upheld damages and penalties for more than $100 million for violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)) (the “AKS”) and the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729) by a blood testing laboratory and its contracted sales agents.  The Court held that commission payments made by the laboratory to its sales agents (sales companies that, in turn, hired and contracted salespeople to sell the laboratory blood tests), which were based on the percentage of revenue the sales agents generated for the laboratory through marketing services, constituted improper “remuneration” that intended to induce the sales agents to sell as many laboratory tests as possible. The defendants failed to show that the arrangements fit within an AKS Safe Harbor.
Continue Reading Developments Regarding Commission-Based Compensation Arrangements with Independent Contractors

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.
Continue Reading New Federal Transparency Requirements Impacting Health Providers and Plans

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers have faced unique challenges in the delivery of health care. As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, the CDC advised health care providers, especially in areas with widespread COVID-19 transmission, to offer care via telemedicine technologies where appropriate. As a result, although telemedicine has been emerging as an important player in the delivery of health care over the past several years, the pandemic has caused the use of and access to telemedicine to grow to an unprecedented scale. During the pandemic, telemedicine has materialized as an especially useful tool in triaging patients in emergency care settings. This “tele-triage” model provides significant opportunity for the health care industry.
Continue Reading “Tele-Triage”: The COVID-19 Crisis’s Transformation of Emergency Care and Potential Post-Pandemic Opportunities