Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.
The trend that we are seeing affects both buyers and sellers in the health care sector with respect to entities that have received cash infusions from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) created pursuant to the CARES Act in response to COVID-19. Mergers and acquisitions can come to a significant slowdown, standstill or be terminated altogether if careful planning is not performed to account for the impact the PPP funds received by a healthcare target or seller will have on an anticipated merger or acquisition. While tax and legal considerations have typically followed along with the merger or acquisition and these considerations are important aspects of any merger or acquisition, they have taken a forefront position when it comes to planning for a change of ownership when the healthcare target or seller has received PPP funds.
As we learned earlier, health care entities requested and received PPP funds to sustain them during the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, allowing them to avoid a virtual economic shut-down. These funds were a welcome relief to keep health care entities afloat financially, providing a way to cover certain expenses such as a) payroll costs, b) rent, c) interest on any covered mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a covered mortgage obligation), and d) utilities. Using the PPP funds on these expenses allows for a recipient of the PPP funds to qualify for loan forgiveness under the PPP. That all seemed like welcome relief at the time. read more
On August 19, an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act was announced by HHS which allows pharmacists in every state to now administer childhood vaccinations to children ages 3 and older, subject to several requirements,
The vaccine must be approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The vaccination must be ordered and administered according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) immunization schedules.
The licensed pharmacist must complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). This training program must include hands-on injection technique, clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines, and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines.
On January 31, 2020 the US Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) declared a public health emergency surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which was renewed again for a period of 90 days effective July 25, 2020.
In an attempt to focus on patients over paperwork and to remove obstacles from access to patient care, HHS relaxed or suspended certain healthcare provider requirements. Several such changes directly impact current or prospective providers of durable medical equipment (“DME”) to Medicare Part B beneficiaries.
Here’s a high-level breakdown of some of those changes: read more
On June 30, 2020, State Surgeon General, Scott A. Rivkees, M.D., issued Emergency Order (“EO”) 20-011, which further extends EO 20-002 until the expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order No. 20-52, or any extensions thereof. Thus, EO 20-011 continues to allow out-of-state MDs, DOs, APRNs and PAs, to offer telehealth services to persons in Florida.
EO 20-011 continues to allow Florida licensed controlled substance prescribers (MDs, DOs, APRNs, PAs) to issue renewal prescriptions of controlled substances for non-malignant pain for existing patients. Additionally, EO 20-011 extends a qualified physician’s ability to recertify an existing qualified and certified patient’s continued use of medical marijuana using telehealth services. These further extensions are also tied to the expiration of Executive Order 20-52 and any extension thereof. read more
The COVID-19 virus has and will probably continue to change the way healthcare providers and business associates interact and help their patients. As many providers are aware, a HIPAA violation is a serious issue, and can cost a healthcare entity large amounts of time and money to respond to any regulatory investigation. Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every corner of the economy and is THE MOST IMPORTANT issue for almost every industry, the federal government has rolled back some HIPAA protections. It is unclear how long these rollbacks will last, and it is possible that some of them may be permanent, but for now healthcare providers and their business associates can take some comfort that they can focus on delivering care and not dealing with overly burdensome regulations and investigations. The major changes include:
Telehealth. Changes include allowing physicians and other healthcare providers to offer telehealth services across State lines, so State licensing issues should not be a concern. Additionally, Providers are essentially free to choose almost any app to interact with their patients, even if it does not fully comply with the HIPAA rules. The HHS allows the provider to use their business judgment, but of course, such communications should NOT be public facing – which means DO NOT allow the public to watch or participate in the visit!
Disclosures of Protected Health Information (PHI). A good faith disclosure of such information will not be prosecuted. Examples include allowing a provider or business associate to share PHI for such purposes as controlling the spread of COVID-19, providing COVID-19 care, and even notifying the media, even if the patient has not, or will not grant his or her permission.
Business Associate Agreement (BAA). As most healthcare providers know, a BAA agreement between a provider and an entity that may have access to PHI is required by law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of a BAA is not an automatic violation.
Earlier today, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-144 extending the State of Emergency declare in Executive Order 20-52 for another 60 days. Pursuant to the extension of Executive Order 20-52, the State Surgeon General’s Order 20-003 is also extended another 60 days as its expiration is tied to the expiration of Executive Order 20-52. Thus, telehealth providers from other states with valid and unencumbered licenses may continue to provide telehealth services to persons in Florida without registering with the Department of Health. Telehealth services must still be provided using two-way audio and video communications. Audio-only telephone calls are not permitted under Florida’s existing telehealth statute and have not been waived or suspended via the State Surgeon General’s Orders. read more
The newest relief for small business and health care providers was passed by the Senate on April 21st, by the House on April 23rd, and became law on April 24, 2020. This new Act, provides for $484 billion in additional relief to small businesses and healthcare providers. $100 billion of the relief has been allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services and of that amount $75 billion is earmarked “to reimburse health care providers for health related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to the coronavirus outbreak.” The remaining $25 billion will be used for expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 test to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19.
The $75 billion provided under the Act will remain available until expended and will be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus to reimburse necessary expense or lost revenues incurred as a result of COVID-19. However, if a health care provider has already had expenses or lost revenues incurred due to COVID-19 reimbursed from other sources or that other sources are obligated to reimburse (like the CARES Act), any funds received from the $75 billion cannot be used as a “double dip” by that health care provider.
A big difference for health care providers with this Act, is that unlike the CARES Act that provided a direct deposit to health care providers based on Medicare fee for services reimbursement, no application necessary, this Act requires the health care provider to apply for relief funds. Eligible health care providers include public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, profit and not-for-profit entities that provide diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19 (so as to accommodate the “lost revenues” provision, this could mean any patient treated since January 31, 2020, and is not necessarily limited to patients treated for COVID-19 symptoms without testing confirmation). Health care providers should act quickly and apply for funds as soon as possible as the HHS Secretary will review applications and make payments on a rolling basis. Payment may be a pre-payment, prospective payment, or a retrospective payment as determined by the HHS Secretary. Health care providers must submit an application that includes statements justifying the need of the provider for the payment. The provider must have a valid tax id number (could be an individually enrolled physician). As with the CARES Act, HHS will have the ability to audit how relief funds are expended and must start reporting obligations of funds to the House and Senates Committees on Appropriations within 60 days from the date of enactment of this Act. Reporting will continue every 60 days thereafter. read more
The Secretary of Health and Human Services issued blanket waiver of the Stark Law on March 30th in order to facilitate COVID related medical services. The waivers apply only to financial relationships and referrals related to COVID. The circumstances and conditions under which the waivers apply are strictly and narrowly described. Moreover, the waivers have no impact in the presence of fraud or abuse. With respect to physicians wanting to provide designated health services (e.g. clinical lab services) related to COVID detection and treatment, for instance–
the federal requirement that the DHS be provided in the same building as the physician office is waived; and
the financial relationship limitations between the physician (or family member) and the DHS provider is waived.
The waiver also contains specific examples of waived interactions between providers and hospitals, including— read more