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Supreme Court Justices Agree to Hear Second FCA Issue This Term

January 19, 2023 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury, Kevin McGinty

As many of our readers are likely aware, last week the Supreme Court agreed to hear a second False Claims Act (FCA) issue this term. Having previously accepted and heard argument on a case concerning the government’s authority to dismiss an FCA whistleblower case after declining to intervene, the Court has now granted certiorari to hear two cases addressing what constitutes a “knowing” violation of the FCA. Hanging in the balance is the fate of two lower court decisions that endorsed a powerful defense to FCA liability.
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule late last year to harmonize the standard it would apply for providers to identify and refund overpayments with the “knowledge” standard under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law. Though this proposal purportedly ensures that a lack of “reasonable diligence” cannot create civil liability, it would create significant confusion as to how CMS expects providers and Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) to “identify” and quantify potential overpayments before triggering the 60-day period to refund them. The proposed rule, if adopted, would likely become part of the framework for the Department of Justice and Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General when evaluating potential liability for the alleged failure to return overpayments.
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The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), which was originally declared nearly three years ago, has been renewed through April 2023. As we’ve previously covered, the PHE allowed federal and state regulators to relax certain telehealth requirements, which has led to a rapid expansion in the availability of telehealth services. The Biden Administration has committed to provide at least 60 days’ notice prior to terminating the PHE or allowing it to expire, but several news outlets are reporting that this could be the final extension. 
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On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2023, colloquially referred to as the omnibus funding bill, that includes a similarly expansive and diverse piece of legislation called the Food and Drug Omnibus Reform Act (FDORA). This latest addition to the rich history of amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) authorizes a variety of new and important changes to the laws governing therapeutic products and medical devices, clinical trials, and (in a much rarer occurrence) cosmetics and other personal care products. Many of the statutory changes had been requested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whether formally via budget requests or more informally via its leadership. The agency also received an increase of $226 million (or 6.5%) in its congressional appropriation for fiscal year 2023 as compared to its funding level for fiscal year 2022, suggesting continued bipartisan support for its public health mission.  
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Cosmetic Regulatory Reform Finally Becomes Law

January 3, 2023 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Jean D. Krebs

As the 2022 calendar year ended, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 was signed into law by President Biden. The massive piece of legislation included the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022 (MOCRA), comprising a long-awaited update to the nation’s cosmetic laws. MOCRA amends Chapter VI of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). As noted by one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Senator Dianne Feinstein, after its passage, it finally brings the federal government’s “oversight tools” for cosmetics and personal care products “into the 21st century.”
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As illustrated by a recent Office for Civil Rights (OCR) settlement with a dental practice, health care entities continue to struggle with how to respond to negative online reviews while maintaining compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Given the significant reputational harm that negative reviews on Yelp and other social media and public platforms (Platforms) can create, providers may be tempted to respond to such negative comments with patient specifics in an attempt to mitigate harm to their businesses.
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The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) Health Care Subgroup recently published an expansive report that highlighted the sheer volume of expanded access to and use of telehealth services in certain federal health care programs during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also focused on program integrity risks related to this expanded use and included recommended safeguards for future oversight of telehealth services.
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California Legislative Update Part II: Upcoming Changes for Health Facilities

December 20, 2022 | Blog | By Lara Compton, Xavier Hardy

Governor Gavin Newsom signed 997 bills into law in 2022, including a substantial number relating to health care. In Part II of our legislative update, this blog post summarizes many of the laws relevant to health facilities, a number of which will go into effect January 1, 2023.
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As Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and providers gear up for the start of the new ACO REACH Model in 2023, CMS recently issued helpful policy updates to the model’s benefit enhancements (BEs). Under BEs, CMS waives certain Medicare payment requirements for services provided to REACH beneficiaries through the REACH ACO’s participant providers and preferred providers. REACH ACOs can opt to use one or more of the BEs, which are designed to create flexibility in managing REACH beneficiaries’ care. REACH ACOs have full control over which providers participate in any BE. As discussed below, CMS recently announced updates to two of the model’s BEs – the 3-Day Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Rule Waiver and the Nurse Practitioner (NP) Services.   
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Is Your Website Collecting PHI Under OCR's New Tracking Technologies Bulletin?

December 7, 2022 | Blog | By Dianne Bourque, Lara Compton, Kathryn Edgerton, Cassandra Paolillo, Kate Stewart

Covered Entities and Business Associates should promptly and carefully review their use of online tracking technologies on their websites and mobile apps following a bulletin (Bulletin) published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) last week.  The Bulletin addresses multiple facets of compliance with HIPAA when using online third-party tracking technologies (Tracking Technologies).  In doing so, OCR significantly expands its interpretation of the definition of Protected Health Information (PHI) to include, in some instances, identifiable information gathered by Tracking Technologies where a user visits a website and does not interact with the entity in any other way. In its Bulletin, OCR interprets the act of an individual visiting a website as evidence of a relationship or anticipated future relationship between the visitor and the entity.
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In this post, we summarize the reforms under Article 28 of the New York Public Health Law and changes to general hospital and nursing home staffing laws and discuss what these changes mean for both. 
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This post provides insights and recommendations surrounding the DOJ's charges against 10 defendants involved in business email compromise schemes.
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The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association (MHA) also recently released a survey raising similar alarm bells about health care workforce shortages in Massachusetts.  The survey, An Acute Crisis: How Workforce Shortages are Affecting Access and Costs, provided a stark overview of the challenges facing Massachusetts, including health care workforce shortages, labor costs, and capacity constraints.
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) designed to improve equity within the MSSP and increase the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries in accountable care arrangements. The changes are included in the Calendar Year 2023 Physician Fee Schedule final rule (Final Rule), which is scheduled for publication on November 18, 2022.
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Though the flurry of state PBM-focused legislation slowed down with the summer recess, there has still been plenty of noteworthy PBM news. This roundup focuses on state Medicaid enforcement activities involving Centene and provides a brief overview of recent legislative activity.
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As of the close of the 2021-22 legislative session, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law health care related legislation tackling issues from management of health care costs to reproductive rights. In Part I of our legislative update, we summarize many of the laws relevant to licensed health care professionals.
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The health omnibus trailer SB-184, which created the Office of Health Care Affordability (OHCA), is set to usher in a significant change in California’s health care regulatory landscape. In this post, we provide a preliminary review of the material changes that are set to begin in 2024.
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Effective October 1, 2022, Connecticut adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) and the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT). As of the date of this post, Connecticut joins 38 other states who have adopted the IMLC and 34 other states that have adopted the PSYPACT. This blog post provides an overview of the IMLC and PSYPACT and analyzes its impact in Connecticut. 
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This blog highlights a recently unsealed qui tam case brought by relator GNGH2, Inc against 15 entities that allegedly operated nursing homes in the Bronx, New York and in Florida and various health care staffing agencies.
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Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on False Claims Act Pleading Requirements

October 25, 2022 | Blog | By Brian Dunphy, Laurence Freedman, Ashley Markson

The Supreme Court recently denied petitions for writs of certiorari in three closely watched cases where parties asked the Court to clarify the heightened pleading standard governing fraud allegations under the False Claims Act (FCA). The heightened pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) require that, for allegations of fraud (which include FCA claims), “a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Among other things, a cause of action for “false claims” must allege the defendants submitted false claims, or caused false claims to be submitted, to the government. The crux of the issue petitioners asked the Court to address is whether, to meet Rule 9(b)’s requirements for FCA causes of action, relators must allege in the complaint specific details of false claims allegedly submitted to the government for payment. This issue typically arises in qui tam cases under the FCA after the government declines to intervene.  
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