The year 2020 is one for the history books from the start of a global pandemic, COVID-19 shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses to a rise in telemedicine fraud schemes. Join Board certified healthcare attorney Jeff Cohen for insight on 2021 healthcare business preparation topics and lessons from 2020.
Florida is the latest state to expand the practice of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. In March 2020, autonomous practice was passed and signed into law, with the law going into effect in July. In October, the Board of Nursing promulgated rules and provided the application for NP’s seeking to practice autonomously.
Before qualifying for autonomous practice, however, an NP must meet the following requirements:
Attorney Jacqueline Bain is part of a select group of Florida attorneys who have achieved both Florida Bar Board Certification in Health Law and a Certification in healthcare compliance by the Health Care Compliance Association. Ms. Bain routinely advises her clients about statutes and regulations that govern healthcare businesses, including regulatory compliance, fraud and abuse, and healthcare marketing. During this webinar she will review with attendees the regulatory compliance considerations specific to the behavioral healthcare and treatment center businesses.
DME suppliers are integral in keeping patients healthy and out of the hospitals, now so more than ever with the spread of the coronavirus.
In this discussion, we’ll explore some of the laws and standards that have been temporarily relaxed to assist patient access to DME during the Public Health Emergency, as well as a compliance refresher on those regulations that have not changed.
Join Attorney Michael Silverman for a Q&A “live online” through zoom. Come prepared with your questions!
When COVID-19 passes and the world begins to return to normal, you can be guaranteed that many of your old “friends” will come to visit you. To minimize future liability, pain and time, you should be preparing today for tomorrow’s visitors:
The Lawyers. Lawyers come in many flavors, and can bring good or bad news. Depending on your initial reaction to the pandemic, and your subsequent actions as the panic started to die down you may see three types of lawyers: (1) Those that represent past or present employees who have lost their job or contracted COVID-19; (2) Those that represent patients who claim malpractice based on the care that you did or did not deliver, and also those patients who assert that they contracted COVID-19 at your office; and finally (3) Those that represent creditors or debtors of your practice. The actions you should take today are many and varied and beyond the scope of this overview, however, you should be asking the following questions of yourself: (i) did you file a claim for business interruption despite the fact that your insurance broker said you were wasting your time? (ii) does your malpractice carrier cover you for liability outside of the normal scope of providing care? (iii) are your documenting your actions throughout the pandemic to demonstrate that you were acting reasonably at a time when you did not have all the facts? (iv) did you look at your business insurance policies for coverage for employee claims, or workers comp claims, or OSHA claims? (v) did you research what other similarly situated companies are doing, as you will most likely be held to the same standards? (vi) did you follow guidance from State and Federal entities? and (vii) did you provide notice during the pandemic to debtors or other parties who have breached their obligations?
Florida Healthcare Law Firm is offering advisement by way of webinars to dentists and dental professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm, which offers legal assistance to medical professionals and businesses, is working in the dental law field and assisting professionals who are currently not working due to the coronavirus so that they can continue to provide assistance to their patients. With education top of mind for the firm, the telehealth and teledentistry campaign is to inform dental professionals on how to directly stay in contact with patients and offer services via audiovisual telecommunications.
“The coronavirus has hit our country hard and most small businesses. Dentistry is at the top of the list and even though dental law is one of our top fields, we wanted to make sure that we adapted to the times and offered a reliable service to our clients and those in the field impacted by this pandemic. Technology allows doctors to connect with patients from anywhere in the world and knowing that you can reach a medical professional who you’ve trusted for years is important, especially right now.” Florida Healthcare Law Firm Representative. “Although dental services have been deemed “non-essential business,” we know how important dental health is. Patients will still have dental questions or concerns during the office shut-downs.”
Because telemedicine is not a service usually offered by dentist offices, many doctors and business owners are finding it difficult to adjust and offer remote service. The law firm has stepped in and is offering free information webinars and other forms of digital content which can provide clarity and guidance for these small businesses so that they can stay open and provide care for their patients. With a limitation elective services, as well as many in the public not wanting to leave their homes right now, telehealth provides a bridge where patients can still get reliable care and advisement from someone they trust.
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.
The Paycheck Protection Program under the CARES Act (the “Act”) allows a small business to apply for a low interest rate loan to sustain the business during the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. This program focuses on payroll costs as opposed to revenues of the small business. Allowable uses of the PPP loan funds include the following:
costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums;
employee salaries, commissions, or similar compensating;
payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation);
rent (including rent under a lease agreement);
interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period.
The Act defines payroll costs as follows:
the sum of payments of any compensation with respect to employees that is a:
salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation;
payment of cash tip or equivalent;
payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave;
allowance for dismissal or separation;
payment required for the provision of group health care benefits, including insurance benefits;
payment of any retirement benefit; or
payment of State or local tax assessed on the compensation or employees; and
the sum of payments of any compensation to or income of a sole proprietor or independent contractor that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation and that is in an amount that is not more than $100,000 in 1 year, as prorated for the covered period; and shall not include the compensation of an individual employee in excess of an annual salary of $100,000, as prorated for the covered period; taxes imposed or withheld under chapters 21, 22, or 24 of the Internal Revenue Code for the covered period; compensation for employees outside of the US; qualified sick leave wages for which credit is allowed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act; or qualified family leave wages for which credit is allowed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
COVID is proving to be so burdensome on employers that we are seeing lay-offs and furloughs all over the country. As the virus curve bends back in a positive direction and physician and patient concerns for safety wane, patients will stream back to office. But what happens to the laid off (or furloughed) employees and contractors with non-competes? Will they come back or will they have moved on, possibly in a way that violates their noncompetes? And will a court think a noncompete has been violated when an employee or contractor was let go and there is no specific provision in their written contract that allows the employer to immediately let someone go without notice due to this type of situation? How will the COVID based lay-offs and furlough affect noncompetes? The short answer is we don’t yet know, but widespread lay-offs and furloughs may result in a flood of cases being filed because (1) many have been let go, (2) there likely isn’t a provision in their contract with the employer that specifically authorizes that sort of termination, and (3) a contract’s “breach” (e.g. no contract based allowance for the prompt termination) is traditionally a defense to an action to enforce a noncompete.
The COVID Issue
Though there is an exception for unusual specialties or where there is essentially a community need, noncompetition covenants are generally enforceable in Florida with respect to doctors and other healthcare professionals. Many people think doctors in particular can’t be restricted from practicing medicine under any circumstances. That is just not true.
Getting to the bone of the issue, noncompetes are enforceable in Florida if:
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.