“The guidance reminds the public that the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to employers or employment records.”[1]

On September 30, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released guidance (the “Guidance”) entitled, “HIPAA, COVID-19 Vaccination, and the Workplace,” regarding the applicability of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule (“Privacy Rule”) to disclosures and requests for information regarding COVID-19 vaccination status. In a frequently-asked-questions format, the Guidance sets forth a series of workplace-related scenarios involving the confidentiality of an employee’s vaccination status, an employer’s ability to obtain vaccination information from its employees, and the confidentiality of such information.


Continue Reading HIPAA and COVID-19 Vaccination Status: The Office of Civil Rights Issues Workplace Guidance

On October 4, 2021, the California Senate Bill 650 (“SB 650”), also known as the Corporate Transparency in Elder Care Act of 2021, was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. As described below, SB 650 is designed to provide the public with greater transparency as to skilled nursing facility (“SNF”) ownership and finances.

Continue Reading What Price Transparency? California SB 650 Shines Light on Skilled Nursing Facility Ownership while Creating New Reporting Burdens for California Skilled Nursing Facilities

On October 4, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed California bill SB-664 “Hospice licensure: moratorium on new licenses” (the “Bill”) into law.  The Bill, which passed the California Assembly on September 8, 2021 and the California Senate on September 9, 2021, imposes a moratorium on the California Department of Public Health (the “Department”) issuing new hospice licenses on or after January 1, 2022.  Under the California Hospice Licensure Act of 1990, a person, political subdivision of the state, or other governmental agency must obtain a license from the Department to provide hospice services to an individual who is experiencing the last phase of life due to a terminal disease.  The moratorium will end either three hundred and sixty five (365) days from the date the California State Auditor publishes a report on hospice licensure or when the provisions of the Bill are repealed on January 1, 2027, whichever is sooner.  The Department may grant an exception to the moratorium upon making a written finding that an applicant for a new license, or with a license application pending on January 1, 2022, has shown a ‘demonstrable need’ for hospice services in the area.  However, the Bill does not affect the Department’s ability to renew existing licenses.

Continue Reading New California Law Imposes Moratorium on New Hospice Licenses

As the world continues to shift and adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the digital health sector has experienced tremendous growth and the momentum has only accelerated in 2021.

Continue Reading Trends in Digital Health Funding and Transactions: A Tremendous Year So Far

As reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-6) on April 22, 2021 after originally being introduced on September 19, 2019, H.R. 3, also known as known as the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, proposes to grant the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) the authority to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies in order to lower drug prices in Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D (the “Proposal”).  The Proposal would require that 125 brand-name drugs that cost Medicare the most to be subject to negotiation by Medicare, with a cap on the price for each drug set at 120% of the average price paid in six other countries.  The Proposal is part of a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that, as of this writing, faces an uncertain future in Congress.  While not a novel idea, the Proposal is controversial and faces strong opposition from pharmaceutical companies in particular.

Continue Reading Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act: The Long and Winding Road to Drug Pricing Reform

A major California-based health care system, Sutter Health, and several of its medical practice foundation affiliates have agreed to pay a total of $90 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”) by knowingly submitting inaccurate information about the health status of beneficiaries enrolled in Sutter Health’s contracted Medicare Advantage (“MA”) Plans.[1]  The Sutter Health settlement is the largest FCA settlement ever paid by a health care provider for alleged MA fraud.

Continue Reading Sutter Health Settles Medicare Fraud Case For $90 Million: The Largest Settlement For Medicare Advantage Fraud

On August 2, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued its hospital inpatient prospective payment system (“IPPS”) final rule (“Final Rule”) for fiscal year 2022. In addition to a number of other changes, the Final Rule repeals the price transparency requirement for hospitals, discussed in our September 2, 2020 blog post, obligating hospitals to report certain contract terms with Medicare Advantage (“MA”) plans for cost reporting periods ending on or after January 1, 2021.

Continue Reading CMS Backs Off Price Transparency for Providers and Plans

Health plans and issuers racing to implement overlapping price transparency and disclosure requirements in response to the Transparency in Coverage final rule (TiC Final Rule) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) received a welcome reprieve via guidance published August 20. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) announced that they would exercise enforcement discretion and defer enforcement of requirements that plans and issuers publish machine-readable files for in-network rates and out-of-network allowed amounts and billed charges until July 1, 2022 instead of January 1, 2022. The Departments also explained that they would reconsider whether the TiC Final Rule’s requirement to publish negotiated rates and historical net prices for covered prescription drugs in a machine-readable file remains appropriate given the subsequent enactment of the provisions in the Division BB, Title II—Transparency of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which requires plans and issuers to report similar prescription drug pricing information to the Departments by December 27, 2021.

Continue Reading Federal Government Announces Enforcement Discretion, Deferral For Certain Price Disclosures And Future Rulemakings

On August 10, 2021, the Senate passed H.R. 3684, a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill (the “Infrastructure Bill”) that authorizes funds for federal-aid highways, transit, broadband access and other infrastructure purposes.  Notably, the Infrastructure Bill is paid for in part through changes to several healthcare policies, including delaying a Medicare Part D rebate rule for an additional three years and reducing Medicare payment amounts to providers.  The Infrastructure Bill’s changes to healthcare policies provide a mixed impact to health care industry stakeholders, with both expected benefits and burdens to providers, payers, and drug manufacturers.

Continue Reading The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Potential Impact on Healthcare Policy and Spending

On August 10, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (“CMS”) published a proposed rule (“Proposed Rule”) to rescind the Most Favored Nation Model (“MFN Model”) interim final rule that was published on November 26, 2020 (“Interim Final Rule”).  As described in our December 2020 blog post, the Interim Final Rule established a seven-year nationwide, mandatory MFN Model that would test an alternative way for Medicare to pay for certain Medicare Part B single source drugs and biologicals.  The MFN Model, originally set to begin January 1, 2021, would have tied the prices for certain Part B single-source drugs and biologics to the average price paid by several overseas countries and remove incentives to use higher cost drugs, in order to determine whether this could “control unsustainable growth in Medicare Part B spending without adversely affecting quality of care for beneficiaries.”  Had the Interim Final Rule been implemented, Medicare Part B reimbursement would have been significantly reduced starting January 1, 2021.

Continue Reading Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy: The Biden Administration Considers Drug Pricing Strategies While Keeping the “Most Favored Nations” Drug Reimbursement Program on the Sidelines

On July 30, 2021, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (“SIGPR”), Brian D. Miller, submitted his quarterly report to Congress.  SIGPR was created as an independent watchdog of the Department of the Treasury under the CARES Act.  It is tasked with investigating fraud and abuse of federal stimulus funds in response to COVID-19, and works in collaboration with law enforcement and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country.  These investigative efforts have resulted in civil and criminal enforcement actions against recipients of federal funding throughout the country, and such enforcement action investigations are sure to continue.  The quarterly report showed that the federal government has been active in investigating fraud and abuse related to stimulus funds, and its call for additional funding signals an increase in future enforcement against recipients of federal stimulus funds.

Continue Reading The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Calls For Increased Funding and Expanded Jurisdiction In Its Quarterly Report To Congress