Interest in and acceptance of telehealth services continues to grow. In 2023, a key focus by the states has been addressing questions about how to modify existing regulatory infrastructures sustaining the provision of telehealth services to support the continued use of these services in a post-public health emergency world.
However, modifications to telehealth services also increases the potential for fraudulent behavior and enforcement activity. Providers should continue to monitor developments in federal and state laws, regulations, and policies to capitalize on ...
On October 18, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), which is tasked with enforcing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), issued two new guidance documents pertaining to privacy and security risks associated with the use of telehealth services. One guidance document, entitled “Educating Patients about Privacy and Security Risks to Protected Health Information when Using Remote Communication Technologies for Telehealth,” is aimed at health care providers (the ...
On Friday, October 6, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) filed a Second Temporary Extension of the COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications (“Second Temporary Rule”), extending the full set of telemedicine flexibilities adopted during the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”) through December 31, 2024. The Second Temporary Rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register today (October 10, 2023) and scheduled to take effect on November ...
On August 4, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) announced plans to host two public listening sessions, scheduled to take place on September 12 and 13, 2023 at DEA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA, to collect additional input regarding the practice of telemedicine and specifically the remote prescribing of controlled substances without conducting an in-person evaluation of patients before prescribing.
The listening sessions will be open to the public, and those who anticipate attending must register through DEA’s Diversion Control website. The registration process opens today (August 7, 2023). DEA also plans to make the listening sessions available via livestream and copies of transcripts from the sessions also will be made available at a later date on the DEA Diversion Control Program website.
On March 22, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) updated its Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”), drafting 13 FAQs aimed at easing the transition from COVID-era flexibilities to the end of the Public Health Emergency (“PHE”) on May 11, 2023. These FAQs arrive on the tail of OIG’s March 10, 2023 COVID-19 Public Health Emergency policy statement, which announced that the expiration of the PHE in May also marks the end of flexibilities extended during the crisis. The updated FAQs offer a glimpse into how OIG investigations and enforcement might play out after the end of the PHE. These FAQs address subjects including “General Questions Regarding Certain Fraud and Abuse Authorities,” the “Application of Certain Fraud and Abuse Authorities to Certain Types of Arrangements,” and “Compliance Considerations.”
The vast majority of the principles articulated in the updated FAQs will undoubtedly be familiar to many. Generally speaking, the updated FAQs restate or clarify longstanding OIG policy. The updated FAQs are more than reiteration, however; they offer condensed policy and explanation in a single location, and demonstrate that for the most part, investigations and enforcement may return to the pre-PHE status quo.
On April 11, 2023, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced its plan for termination of the existing notifications of enforcement discretion related to the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) on May 11, 2023.
In the era of abortion regulation and the wind-down of the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”), new legislation in states such as Utah may be a sign of what is to come for online and telehealth prescribing. On February 14, 2023, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would repeal the State’s “Online Prescribing, Dispensing, and Facilitation Licensing Act” (“Online Prescribing Act”). Utah H.B. 152. The bill currently awaits Governor Spencer Cox’s signature and would take effect sixty (60) days after its signing. Originally enacted in 2010, the Online Prescribing Act has allowed health care providers to register with the State to prescribe and dispense certain FDA-approved drugs via online pharmacies and utilization of telehealth visits. Utah Code § 58-83-306. While providers have been required under the Online Prescribing Act to obtain a comprehensive patient history and assessment prior to issuing a prescription, at present, this may be done via telehealth. Utah Code § 58-83-305. Once signed into law, the effect of H.B. 152 would be to make asynchronous telehealth-only prescribing unlawful in the state, with Utah’s law on the scope of telehealth practice amended to prohibit “diagnos[ing] a patient, provid[ing] treatment, or prescribe[ing] a prescription drug based solely on . . . an online questionnaire; an email message; or a patient-generated medical history. Utah H.B. 152, amending Utah Code § 26-60-103.
Interest in and acceptance of telehealth services continues to grow. Recent events, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, have put more pressure than ever on federal and state legislators to promote access to telehealth services.
However, the greater use of telehealth services also increases the potential for fraudulent behavior and enforcement activity. Providers should continue to monitor developments in federal and state laws, regulations, and policies to capitalize on telehealth opportunities while staying compliant with applicable laws.
Since 2016, Epstein Becker Green has researched, compiled, and analyzed state-specific content relating to the regulatory requirements for professional mental/behavioral health practitioners and stakeholders seeking to provide telehealth-focused services. We are pleased to release our latest compilation of state telehealth laws, regulations, and policies within the mental/behavioral health practice disciplines.
Interest in, and acceptance of, telehealth services continues to grow. Federal and state legislators are under pressure to codify the flexibilities granted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that increased access to telehealth services. Meanwhile, increased use of telehealth has put a much greater focus on the potential for fraudulent behavior and increased enforcement activity as a result. Telehealth providers should continue to monitor developments in federal and state laws, regulations, and policies to capitalize on telehealth opportunities while at the same time ...
The New Jersey Department of Health (the “Department”) recently finalized regulations initially proposed in April 2020 that will now require all telehealth organizations providing telemedicine services to patients located in New Jersey to register their business with the Department before October 15, 2021, and annually thereafter. In addition to annual registrations, telehealth companies will also be required to submit annual reports on activity and encounter data.
On June 21, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill requiring genetic counselors to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (“FLDOH”). The new law, known as the Genetic Counseling Workforce Act (“GCWA”), became effective on July 1, 2021. FLDOH has announced a 90 day enforcement moratorium to allow counselors time to become appropriately licensed in the State. Florida now joins a growing number of states that regulate the work of genetic counselors.
On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a coordinated law enforcement action against 14 telehealth executives, physicians, marketers, and healthcare business owners for their alleged fraudulent COVID-19 related Medicare claims resulting in over $143 million in false billing. This coordinated effort highlights the increased scrutiny telehealth providers are facing as rapid expansion efforts due to COVID-19 shape industry standards.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOJ has prioritized identifying and prosecuting COVID-19 ...
On April 29, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will begin accepting applications for the second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program (the “Program”). However, the application filing window will only be open for a very short seven day period and will close on May 6, 2021. To give all applicants an equal opportunity to have their applications reviewed, the FCC announced that all applications filed during this period will be reviewed once the application filing window has closed.
Initially, in March 2020, Congress appropriated $200 million for the first round of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding under the CARES Act. An additional $249.95 million was provided to the FCC in December 2020, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), to helping address inequities in access to health care service. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program was designed to help health care providers purchase telecommunications equipment, broadband connectivity, and other devices necessary for providing telehealth services to rural, low-income and underserved populations.
The Program is limited to nonprofit and public health care providers (47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(7)(B)) that fall within the following categories:
- Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
- Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
- Local health departments or agencies;
- Community mental health centers;
- Not-for-profit hospitals;
- Rural health clinics;
- Skilled nursing facilities; or
- Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into one of the first seven categories.
Our colleague Melissa L. Jampol of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on the Commercial Litigation Update blog that will be interest to our readers: “Opioids, Sober Homes and ‘Telefraud’: An Overview of the DOJ 2020 Healthcare Fraud Takedown.”
The following is an excerpt:
As we have previously reported, opioids have been a large focus of DOJ in the past few years in an attempt to stem the opioid epidemic through increased enforcement and this takedown is a continuation of those efforts. DOJ stated that the charges involved in the opioid-related takedown involved the ...
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