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We’ve written previously about the role of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in regulating wireless medical devices, chiefly in determining the operating frequency and certain technical rules that ensure co-existence with other devices and wireless users. As part of that process, manufacturers must submit prototypes of new devices for testing and review by independent third party test labs and certification bodies (TCBs). The FCC prohibits responsible parties, such as manufacturers and resellers, from importing, marketing, or selling any device subject to this equipment approval process prior to obtaining approval from a TCB, which comes in the form of a grant of equipment certification.
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As many of our readers know, as a result of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, effective March 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued blanket waivers of its authority under Section 1877(g) of the Social Security Act (which authorizes the imposition of certain sanctions for violations of the Stark Law) with respect to 18 categories of remuneration and/or referrals (the “Blanket Waivers”).
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In response to the spread of COVID-19, on March 23, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order 13910 (Order) to prevent the hoarding of health and medical resources necessary to respond to the spread of COVID-19 within the United States. Through the Order, the President delegated his authority under the Defense Production Act of 1950, 50 U.S.C. § 4512 (Act) to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Order authorizes HHS to protect scarce and threatened health care and medical items by designating particular items as protected under the Act (Designated Items). Once an item is designated, the Act makes it a crime for any person to accumulate Designated Items: (i) in excess of the reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption; or (ii) for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of prevailing market prices. In this post, we discuss four things to know in connection with the Order.
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Law Enforcement Stays Active During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 13, 2020 | Blog | By Hope Foster

Last Tuesday, we blogged about the arrest of the owner of a Georgia-based marketing company who was charged with health care fraud and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. The government has alleged that laboratories paid the company kickbacks for Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing leads.

The very next day, the United States Attorney’s Office in San Antonio, Texas charged 39 year-old Christopher Perez with allegedly perpetuating a COVID-19-related hoax by posting a false threat on Facebook in which he claimed to have paid someone to spread COVID-19 at grocery stores in Texas. These prompt actions to implement Attorney General William Barr’s March 16 call to prioritize the detection, investigation, and detection of all criminal conduct related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to wonder what the federal government is doing about enforcement. The answer is: a lot.
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Today's post is the last in our series on the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the Congress that passed the ACA recognized that health care delivery reform was necessary, the law included few mechanisms to address the deeper problems in this area. In this post, we will look at the changes that were made and what may lie ahead. 
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This post is the third installment in our blog series looking back the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the 10 years since it was passed. We will cover the ACA's market reforms, including the establishment of essential health benefits, as well as risk adjustment and other programs designed to mitigate some of the financial risk that insurance companies would face as a result of a potential influx of individuals with pre-existing conditions into the marketplaces. 
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CARES Act Creates and Updates Drug and Medical Device Shortage Requirements

April 9, 2020 | Blog | By Elizabeth Conti, Aaron Josephson

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 25, 2020. In addition to the $2 trillion made available for medical countermeasure development, business relief, and other measures, the CARES Act amends the drug shortage reporting requirements and creates new requirements related to medical device shortages. With increased demand for products used to diagnose and treat COVID-19 patients and the stress placed on the manufacturing and delivery of vital products, having more information about drug, drug ingredient, and device shortages is becoming more critical.
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A Review of the Affordable Care Act at 10 Years, Part 2: Medicaid Expansion

April 8, 2020 | Blog | By Xavier Hardy, Thomas Crane

This post is the second installment in our blog series looking back on the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will cover Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Medicaid is joint federal-state program that provides health insurance coverage to people with low incomes.  State participation in the program is voluntary, although all states currently participate.  The program has historically provided states with a significant amount of flexibility and autonomy in how it is administered.  However, in exchange for federal matching funds, states are required to comply with federal Medicaid laws and guidance. 
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On March 16th, Attorney General William Barr issued a memorandum to all United States Attorneys directing each U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) to “prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic,” noting that “the pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic.”  It appears that USAOs have wasted no time in prioritizing such cases, as the owner of a Georgia-based marketing company that generated leads for medical-testing companies was arrested earlier this week and charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.
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A Review of the Affordable Care Act at 10 Years, Part 1: The Individual Mandate

April 7, 2020 | Blog | By Xavier Hardy, Thomas Crane

This post is the first installment in our blog series looking back on the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The most controversial of the ACA's reforms has been the individual mandate, which requires that individuals maintain health care coverage that meets certain standards (known as “minimum essential coverage”) or pay a penalty in the form of a tax.  Even as the law was winding itself through the legislative process, the individual mandate received a fair amount of attention outside the typical industry specific publications that cover the minutia of health care reform.  While  there were some critics of the individual mandate who, even prior to enactment, specifically argued the individual mandate was unconstitutional, most of the coverage dealt with a more basic underlying question: was it appropriate for the government to mandate that everyone pay for health insurance? 
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On April 2, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a revised temporary enforcement policy regarding the manufacture and distribution of face masks and filtering facepiece respirators during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The revisions address two key omissions from the initial policy, which was released on March 25, 2020 and which we summarized in a prior blog post. Specifically, the agency has now provided guidance on: (1) the importation of respirators not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and (2) the manufacture and distribution of face shields. FDA also added a question and answer about respirators manufactured in China to the KN95 air filtering standard (the Chinese equivalent of the U.S. government’s N95 standard) to its FAQ page on the personal protective equipment shortage and issued an emergency use authorization for non-NIOSH-approved respirators made in China.
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The Department of Justice recently filed suit against Anthem, Inc. (Anthem) alleging that the Medicare Advantage Organization (MAO) violated the False Claims Act when it knowingly failed to delete inaccurate diagnosis codes submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for risk adjustment purposes. As predicated in our 2020 outlook post, we continue to see enforcement activity and ongoing litigation against Medicare Advantage plans. Notably, this trend is referenced in SDNY’s complaint, alleging that the government has “sought to enforce” data accuracy in the risk adjustment system by “actively pursuing legal remedies against [] MAOs that have knowingly submitted inaccurate and untruthful diagnosis data to CMS[.]” The complaint provides four examples of settlements obtained from 2012-2019 against MAOs and healthcare providers who, purportedly like Anthem, submitted inaccurate diagnosis codes to CMS or allegedly failed to delete unsupported diagnosis codes.
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A Review of the Affordable Care Act at 10 Years

April 6, 2020 | Blog | By Xavier Hardy, Thomas Crane

Two weeks ago marked the tenth anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which Mintz has been closely monitoring, it is understandable why the anniversary has largely flown under the radar.  However, now is as good a time as any to reflect on all the controversy that has surrounded the law over the last decade, as well as how much the law has accomplished. While far from comprehensive, our upcoming blog series will review some of the impacts the law has had on the U.S. healthcare system, in particular focusing on the legal issues and debates that have surrounded the law.  Mintz has previously covered many of these items, and links to our prior coverage is included throughout.
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We’ve been blogging periodically on the various actions taken and enforcement policies being developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support and expand the national response to the declared COVID-19 public health emergency. At the same time, however, the agency has also been taking various steps to help medical product sponsors and consumer product manufacturers and distributors prioritize their ongoing regulatory compliance activities during this challenging period for business-as-usual.

As we’ve already covered in depth (see prior post here), on March 18, 2020 the agency issued guidance for clinical trial sponsors regarding how to ensure the continued safety and informed consent of human subjects. That critical guidance document was updated on March 30 to add a new appendix with common sponsor questions, and FDA has stated that it plans to further update the appendix as new questions arise. Over the past several weeks, the agency has issued the following important policies on other issues that also seek to provide some much-needed regulatory relief to FDA-regulated manufacturers and distributors.
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As we’ve previously discussed on the blog, telehealth is playing a critical role in delivering care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Congress and states continue to take action to expand the use and reimbursement of telehealth services. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed by Congress last Friday includes many provisions that further expand the use and reimbursement of telehealth during this public health emergency. Congress previously took action to start waiving certain telehealth requirements in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (Appropriations Act) passed on March 6, 2020, which we previously discussed here. In this post, we’ll cover the key ways that the CARES Act continues to remove barriers to telehealth, in addition to other recent federal and state actions.
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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently allowed a False Claims Act (FCA) case based on an alleged lack of medical necessity to proceed, rejecting the lower court's decision that subjective medical opinions about the necessity of hospitalization cannot be "objectively false." The Ninth Circuit joins several other circuits (including the Third Circuit, which recently issued the Druding decision that we posted about a few weeks ago) in reaching this decision, which has been a rapidly evolving area of FCA law.
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Five Suggested Updates for 340B Covered Entities Facing COVID-19 Challenges

April 2, 2020 | Blog | By Ellyn Sternfield, Daryl Berke

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently published guidance regarding the evolving impact of COVID-19 on 340B stakeholders. This new guidance is one part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ broader effort to maximize regulatory flexibility for health care providers scrambling to meet patient needs during the COVID-19 crisis. While HRSA’s new guidance begins by acknowledging “it is appropriate to take into account the realities of the COVID-19,” HRSA offers little in the way of substantive relief when it comes to 340B. Long on generalities and short on specifics, HRSA merely advises entities to ensure they “have policies and procedures in place to address the proper dispensing of 340B drugs.”
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CMS Releases Several Stark Law Waivers for Use during the COVID-19 National Emergency

April 1, 2020 | Blog | By Theresa Carnegie, Rachel Yount

On March 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued blanket waivers to the Stark Law that permit certain arrangements between physicians and health care providers implemented in response to COVID-19 that would otherwise violate the Stark Law. The waivers, which are numerous and fairly broad, offer health care entities significant flexibility to combat COVID-19 in ways that may have otherwise violated the Stark Law, such as the ability to pay physicians hazard pay and provide personal protective equipment to physicians at a price that is below fair market value (FMV). Importantly, the waivers only apply to remuneration and referrals related to COVID-19 purposes.
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FCC Chairman Proposes Plan to Implement CARES Act Funding for Telehealth Program

March 31, 2020 | Blog | By Jane Haviland, Ellen Janos

On Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a plan to his fellow Commissioners detailing how the $200 million the agency will receive via the CARES Act should be deployed for a telehealth program to combat COVID-19.  The telehealth program will enable eligible healthcare providers to purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity and information services, and devices necessary to provide telehealth services to beneficiaries.  The increased access to the tools needed to provide care via telehealth will allow COVID-19 patients to receive care and providers to give it, while reducing opportunities for further exposure.
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As a follow up to our recent blog post, FDA User Fees: Highlights from FDARA & Our Forecast for the Next Round, President Trump signed the bipartisan over-the-counter (OTC) monograph teform bill into law on March 27, 2020.  The passage of the OTC monograph reform bill is a surprise addition into the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the third COVID-19 stimulus bill enacted since the pandemic began. The reform legislation represents the first significant update to federal oversight of OTC drug products since 1972. It enables the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to quickly respond to safety concerns and keep pace with innovation in hopes of protecting consumers from unsafe drugs and permitting manufacturers to market new products more expeditiously. 
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