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California Health Care Legislative Update

June 15, 2021 | Blog | By Lara Compton

Not surprisingly, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, California legislators proposed hundreds of health-related bills in 2021. For those who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Golden State’s legislative process, June 5, 2021 was the deadline for the California Legislature to pass bills introduced in their house of origin. Accordingly, during the week of June 7th, the Senate and Assembly resumed policy committee hearings, reviewing measures from the opposite house.

Along with proposed legislation addressing health care funding, health care access, mental health and substance abuse treatment, disaster preparedness, and other issues brought to the forefront by the pandemic, there are multiple bills that seem to be aimed at various concerns raised by corporate involvement in the provision of health care. Below is an update on a few of the bills that fall into the latter category, including SB 642, which we discussed in more detail in a prior post.
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On May 3, 2021, the California Senate Health Committee approved SB-642 “Health care: facilities: medical privileges.” The bill is currently pending in the California Senate. AB-705, which is substantially similar to SB-642, is also pending in the California Assembly. If passed, the law will curtail hospital governing bodies’ ability to make decisions about the medical services provided at the facility without medical staff approval, impose new limitations on arrangements between management services organizations and professional corporations, and add additional factors to the Attorney General’s review and approval of nonprofit health care facility transactions.
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Biden Administration Throws Down Its First Gauntlet on 340B

May 18, 2021 | Blog | By Ellyn Sternfield

On May 17, 2021, the Biden Administration took its first major action impacting the 340B Drug Discount Program.  In a forceful statement, the Administration made plain its views on a major controversy that has pitted drug manufacturers against 340B covered entities for the past year - proclaiming that drug manufacturers are violating the 340B statute by restricting covered entity access to 340B discounts for drugs dispensed through 340B contract pharmacies. 
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The American Families Plan & A Call for Drug Pricing Legislation

May 10, 2021 | Blog | By Theresa Carnegie, Cody Keetch

On April 28, 2021, President Biden gave his first address to Congress and announced the American Families Plan (AFP). The AFP follows the 1.9 trillion-dollar stimulus, the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on March 11, 2021. Notably, in his speech, President Biden called upon Congress to pass drug pricing legislation; however, the current White House Fact Sheet on the AFP does not include specific drug pricing provisions. This blog post discusses the health-related portions of the AFP and provides an overview of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act which seeks to lower prescription drug prices.
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FTC Engages in First Enforcement Action under COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act

April 27, 2021 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Samantha Kingsbury

In its first exercise of a newly granted authority, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or the Commission) on April 15, 2021 charged a St. Louis-based chiropractor and his company (the Defendants) with violating the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act (the COVID-19 Act) and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act).  The Commission’s allegations focus on the deceptive marketing of products containing Vitamin D and Zinc as being scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 and as being equally as effective as or more effective than currently available COVID-19 vaccines.
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On April 16, 2021, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published twin notices in the Federal Register effectively reversing a move by the Trump administration Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on January 15, 2021 purporting to exempt 91 medical device types from the premarket notification requirement under Section 510(k) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. HHS’s actions on January 15, signed by then-HHS Secretary Alex Azar, sought to make permanent FDA’s grant of temporary enforcement discretion for the 91 device types for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
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The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced that it will exercise its enforcement discretion for health care providers’ and their business associates’ noncompliance with the HIPAA rules with respect to their good faith use of online or web-based scheduling applications for scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments. OCR will not impose penalties for such noncompliance during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
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Webinar Recording: Health Care Enforcement Year in Review & 2021 Outlook

February 24, 2021 | | By Eoin Beirne, Brian Dunphy, Hope Foster, Karen Lovitch

In our annual webinar, Mintz’s Health Care Enforcement Defense team reviewed the key policy developments, settlements, and court decisions from 2020 and assessed their likely impact in 2021 and beyond.
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As our readers know, we have long been closely watching False Claims Act (FCA) cases across the country alleging the submission of false claims based on the lack of medical necessity, particularly as a possible circuit split seemed to be developing with respect to requiring “objective falsity” to allege such FCA violations.  And we have likewise been waiting to see if the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court.  On February 22, 2021, we got an answer – at least for now – when the Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari in RollinsNelson LTC Corp. et al v. U.S. ex rel. Winters, a FCA case out of the Ninth Circuit in which the defendant was accused of submitting claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary hospital admissions (which we have been following since last year).
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Health Care Enforcement Year in Review & 2021 Outlook

February 18, 2021 | | By Eoin Beirne, Brian Dunphy, Karen Lovitch, Kevin McGinty, Samantha Kingsbury, Keshav Ahuja, Grady Campion, Jane Haviland, Caitie Hill, Rebecca Zeidel

Despite the threat of COVID-19 paralyzing much of the country in 2020, government health care fraud enforcement continued even though the Department of Justice (DOJ) had the added burden of pursuing COVID-19 related fraud. Mintz’s Health Care Enforcement Defense team has reviewed the key policy issues, statistics, settlements, and court decisions from 2020, and in this report we reflect on those developments and also predict the trends in health care enforcement in 2021 and beyond.
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340B Administrative Dispute Resolution Goes Live Amid a Flurry of 340B Litigation

January 18, 2021 | Blog | By Daryl Berke, Ellyn Sternfield

The U.S. Department of Health and Human’s Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) long-awaited administrative dispute resolution (ADR) final rule went into effect last week, on January 13, 2021. The ADR regulations, which have lingered in HHS since 2010, arrive amid increasing tensions and a flood of 340B-related litigation between covered entities, manufacturers, and HHS.
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HIPAA 2021 – What Can We Expect?

December 28, 2020 | Blog | By Dianne Bourque, Ellen Janos

As we’re all painfully aware, public health issues dominated 2020 and with the country’s attention focused on COVID-19 testing, status, transmission and care, HIPAA went mainstream. Health information became critical not only for health care providers, but for all manner of businesses, employers, property owners, and the national media. HIPAA – or more often than not “HIPPA” – was frequently touted in the news and on social media as the reason why COVID-related information could or could not be shared. As we head into 2021 with the pandemic raging on, the vaccination program underway, and a new administration taking over, here is a look at what we expect for “HIPPA” in 2021.
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is pushing ahead in its Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care with a new proposed rule, announced by HHS’ Office for Civil Rights on December 10, to modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This proposed rule follows HHS’ 2018 Request for Information on Modifying HIPAA Rules to Improve Coordinated Care, which sought to identify regulatory impediments to value-based care presented by HIPAA. With this proposed rule, HHS aims to “reduce burden on providers and support new ways for them to innovate and coordinate care on behalf of patients, while ensuring that [HHS] uphold[s] HIPAA’s promise of privacy and security,” according to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. It would achieve these objectives through a variety of updates to the Privacy Rule, which we highlight in this blog post, along with initial reactions from our HIPAA privacy team.
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As you know, we have been parsing through the HHS rules that finalize important changes to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law) regulations, which go into effect January 19, 2021. Today, we are taking a look at changes to existing AKS safe harbors and Stark Law exceptions, and, an extra add-on: a new Stark Exception for Limited Remuneration to a Physician. Mintz is also hosting a webinar during which we will review the key provisions from the final rules and provide practical examples of how the industry can take advantage of these significant changes. We hope you can join us.
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This third post in our multi-part series on the final rules examines the three new AKS safe harbors and four new Stark Law exceptions that offer protection for value-based arrangements. The primary goal of these final rules is to reduce regulatory barriers and advance the health care industry’s transition to value-based care. Value-based care, often referred to as pay-for-performance, is a payment model that offers health care providers and suppliers financial incentives to meet certain performance measures that improve quality of care or appropriately reduce costs, as opposed to traditional fee-for-service or capitated payments healthcare reimbursement.

Plus, we have prepared easy-to-read comparison charts breaking down the current, proposed, and final regulations. These comparison charts offer a quick way to get up to speed on these voluminous final rules and their many historic changes to the AKS and Stark Law.
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Are Speaker Programs a Thing of the Past? OIG’s Fraud Alert Indicates It Thinks They Should Be

November 25, 2020 | Blog | By Laurence Freedman, Elizabeth Conti

In the midst of the pandemic emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a stern warning about in-person educational programs for health care professionals (HCPs), known as “speaker programs.” The OIG’s Special Fraud Alert (Alert) highlights what it deems the “inherent fraud and abuse risks” associated with the offer, payment, solicitation, or receipt of remuneration related to speaker programs by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. The OIG expressed that is skeptical of the educational value of such programs, and thus the Alert sends a clear signal that such programs will undergo intense scrutiny under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). OIG is using the pandemic as an opportunity to caution the pharmaceutical and medical device industry to limit or eliminate in-person speaker programs once such programs are able to resume.
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On November 20, 2020, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) finalized significant changes to the regulations implementing the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), the Physician Self-Referral Law (commonly known as the Stark Law), and the civil monetary penalty rules regarding beneficiary inducements (Beneficiary Inducements CMP). The final rules are part of HHS’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care and are designed to offer the health care industry more flexibility and to reduce the regulatory burden associated with the AKS and the Stark Law, particularly with respect to value-based arrangements and care coordination. Offering a number of industry-friendly changes, the final rules will have a far-reaching impact on the health care industry.
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An Update on FDA’s Contribution to COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing

November 5, 2020 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana

Back in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we published a post outlining the different kinds of diagnostic tests that were being marketed and the different roles of the two main federal regulators that oversee the quality of different subsets of tests. Since then, there have been some important policy developments affecting diagnostic and antibody testing. There also has been significant growth in the number of tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for point-of-care uses in various patient settings such as clinics, emergency departments, and physician offices. Read on for an update about these developments.
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On October 29, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the first publicly-available settlement involving alleged violations of CMS’s Open Payments Program, otherwise known as the Sunshine Act. The $9.2 million settlement resolved allegations that Minnesota-based medical device manufacturer Medtronic USA Inc. violated (i) the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the False Claims Act (FCA) by paying kickbacks to a South Dakota neurosurgeon, Wilson Asfora, M.D., and (ii) the Open Payments reporting requirements by failing to accurately report payments it made to Asfora to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS). While this settlement is the first public enforcement action involving Open Payments violations, more enforcement actions may be expected in the near future.
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CMS recently issued a proposed rule that would grant breakthrough medical devices Medicare coverage immediately upon FDA approval. The rule also proposes to codify a new definition of “reasonable and necessary” for Medicare national coverage determinations that takes into account commercial insurance coverage of items and services. It is unclear how broadly this new "reasonable and necessary" definition will apply if the proposed rule is finalized.
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