DOJ Withdraws Health Care Antitrust Policy & Enforcement Statements

February 3, 2023

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division is withdrawing three healthcare antitrust policy statements it says are outdated:

The withdrawal follows growing activity by DOJ in challenging certain other health industry conduct as anticompetitive under Fdderal antitrust laws in recent years as well as new policies challenging noncompetition and other workforce practices used widely within the health care industry. (These developments were discussed in a September, 2022 Joint Committee on Employee Benefits webinar on Department of Justice Enforcement Update webinar moderated by Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.)

Following an uptake in DOJ health care and workforce antitrust enforcement in recent years, the announcement of the antitrust statement withdrawals confirms the Biden Administration led DOJ plans changes to care antitrust and other competition policies and enforcement impacting health care providers, payers, employers and other plan sponsors. In lieu of the principles previously provided by the withdrawn guidelines, DOJ says it will evaluate mergers and conduct in healthcare markets that may harm competition on the case-by-case basis. The announced plan to interpret antitrust law in health care on a case by case basis creates significant uncertainty about the scope of risk and safety of many contracting, business transaction and other activities in the health care industry. All segments of the marketplace should monitor developments and proceed cautiously to avoid inadvertently triggering challenges or liability as a result of the newly created ambiguity.

In the face of these developments, health industry providers, payers, employers and other plan sponsors and others concerned about health industry competition should proceed cautiously and carefully monitor developments at DOJ and FTC. Stay tuned for further developments.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Chair-Elect of the ABA TIPS Section Medicine & Law Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care and employer benefits legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. Her work has included ongoing involvement in health industry and workforce competition and antitrust issues.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2023 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Banner Health Pays $1.25 Million To Settle Cybersecurity Breach Impacting Nearly 3 Million Individuals

February 3, 2023

Phoenix-based nonprofit health system Banner Health and its affiliates (“Banner Health”) paid $1.25 million and agreed to take corrective actions to resolve its exposure to potentially much greater Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule civil monetary penalty exposure for a 2016 cyber hacking breach that compromised the person health information of 2.81 million consumers. OCR used its February 2 announcement of the Banner Health settlement to warn health care providers, health plans, health care clearing houses (“covered entities”) and business associates covered by HIPAA to guard their own system containing protected health information against breach by cyber hacking.

Banner Health Settlement

Banner Health is one of the largest non-profit health systems in the country, with over 50,000 employees and operating in six states. Banner Health is the largest employer in Arizona, and one of the largest in northern Colorado.

In November 2016, OCR initiated an investigation of Banner Health following the receipt of a breach report stating that a threat actor had gained unauthorized access to electronic protected health information, potentially affecting millions.  The hacker accessed protected health information that included patient names, physician names, dates of birth, addresses, Social Security numbers, clinical details, dates of service, claims information, lab results, medications, diagnoses and conditions, and health insurance information.

OCR’s investigation found evidence of long term, pervasive noncompliance with the HIPAA Security Rule across Banner Health’s organization, a serious concern given the size of this covered entity. Organizations must be proactive in their efforts to regularly monitor system activity for hacking incidents and have measures in place to sufficiently safeguard patient information from risk across their entire network.

The potential violations specifically include: the lack of an analysis to determine risks and vulnerabilities to electronic protected health information across the organization, insufficient monitoring of its health information systems’ activity to protect against a cyber-attack, failure to implement an authentication process to safeguard its electronic protected health information, and failure to have security measures in place to protect electronic protected health information from unauthorized access when it was being transmitted electronically.

Under the Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan negotiated to resolve these potential violations, Banner Health paid $1,250,000 to OCR. Banner Health also agreed to implement a corrective action plan, which identifies steps Banner Health will take to resolve these potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule and protect the security of electronic patient health information that will be monitored for two years by OCR to ensure compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule. Under the corrective action plan, Banner has agreed to take the following steps:

  • Conduct an accurate and thorough risk analysis to determine risks and vulnerabilities to electronic patient/system data across the organization
  • Develop and implement a risk management plan to address identified risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI
  • Develop, implement, and distribute policies and procedures for a risk analysis and risk management plan, the regular review of activity within their information systems, an authentication process to provide safeguards to data and records, and security measures to protect electronic protected health information from unauthorized access when it is being transmitted electronically, and
  • Report to HHS within thirty (30) days when workforce members fail to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.

OCR Warns Other HIPAA-Covered Entities

In the health care sector, hacking is now the greatest threat to the privacy and security of protected health information. OCR’s announcement of the serrlement reports 74 percent (74%) of the breaches reported to OCR in 2021 involved hacking/IT incidents.

The announcement also notes OCR offers an array of resources to help health care organizations bolster their cybersecurity posture and comply with the HIPAA Rules,

The settlement and OCR’s announcement warn other covered entities and business associates to use these and other necessary resources to protect their systems with protected health information from cyber hacking and other breaches.

In conjunction with reminding other covered entities of these resources, the settlement announcement quotes OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer as warning, ‘Hackers continue to threaten the privacy and security of patient information held by health care organizations, including our nation’s hospitals, … It is imperative that hospitals and other covered entities and business associates be vigilant in taking robust steps to protect their systems, data, and records, and this begins with understanding their risks, and taking action to prevent, respond to and combat such cyber-attacks. … Cyber security is on all of us, and we must take steps to protect our health care systems from these attacks.”

OCR’s enforcement record confirms these are not idyl threats. Breaches of the Security or Breach Notification Rules often result in significant civil monetary penalty assessments or negotiated settlements to mitigate civil liability exposures arising out of such breaches. See e.g., Clinical Laboratory Pays $25,000 To Settle Potential HIPAA Security Rule Violations (May 25, 2021); Health Insurer Pays $5.1 Million to Settle Data Breach Affecting Over 9.3 Million People (January 15, 2021); Aetna Pays $1,000,000 to Settle Three HIPAA Breaches(October 28, 2020); Health Insurer Pays $6.85 Million to Settle Data Breach Affecting Over 10.4 Million People (September 25, 2020); HIPAA Business Associate Pays $2.3 Million to Settle Breach Affecting Protected Health Information of Over 6 million Individual – (September 23, 2020); Lifespan Pays $1,040,000 to OCR to Settle Unencrypted Stolen Laptop Breach (July 27, 2020); Small Health Care Provider Fails to Implement Multiple HIPAA Security Rule Requirements (July 23, 2020).

Alerts issued by OCR regarding heightened security risks in recent months and a growing tide of highly publicized breaches send a strong warning to other covered entities and their business associates to reconfirm the adequacy of their own HIPAA privacy, security, breach notification and other procedures and protections by among other things:

  • Reviewing and monitoring on a documented, ongoing basis the adequacy and susceptibilities of existing practices, policies, safeguards of their own organizations, as well as their business associates and their vendors within the scope of attorney-client privilege taking into consideration data available from OCR, data regarding known or potential susceptibilities within their own operations as well as in the media, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable.
  • Updating policies, privacy and other notices, practices, procedures, training and other practices as needed to promote compliance and defensibility.
  • Renegotiating and enhancing service provider agreements to detail the specific compliance, audit, oversight and reporting rights, workforce and vendor credentialing and access control, indemnification, insurance, cooperation and other rights and responsibilities of all entities and individuals that use, access or disclose, or provide systems, software or other services or tools that could impact on security; to clarify the respective rights, procedures and responsibilities of each party in regards to compliance audits, investigation, breach reporting, and mitigation; and other relevant matters.
  • Verifying and tightening technological and other tracking, documentation and safeguards and controls to the use, access and disclosure of protected health information and systems.
  • Conducting well-documented training as necessary to ensure that members of the workforce of each covered entity and business associate understand and are prepared to comply with the expanded requirements of HIPAA, understand their responsibilities and appropriate procedures for reporting and investigating potential breaches or other compliance concerns, and understand as well as are prepared to follow appropriate procedures for reporting and responding to suspected 
    violations or other indicia of potential security concerns.
  • Tracking and reviewing on a systemized, well-documented basis actual and near miss security threats to evaluate, document decision-making and make timely adjustments to policies, practices, training, safeguards and other compliance components as necessary to identify and resolve risks.
  • Establishing and providing well-documented monitoring of compliance that includes board level oversight and reporting at least quarterly and sooner in response to potential threat indicators.
  • Establishing and providing well-documented timely investigation and redress of reported 
    violations or other compliance concerns.
  • Establishing contingency plans for responding in the event of a breach. 
  • Establishing a well-documented process for monitoring and updating policies, practices and other efforts in response to changes in risks, practices and requirements.
  • Preparing and maintaining a well-documented record of compliance, risk, investigation and other security activities.
  • Pursuing other appropriate strategies to enhance the covered entity’s ability to demonstrate its compliance commitment both on paper and in operation.

Because susceptibilities in systems, software and other vendors of business associates, covered entities and their business associates should use care to assess and manage business associate and other vendor associated risks and compliance as well as tighten business associate and other service agreements to promote the improved cooperation, coordination, management and oversight required to comply with the new breach notification and other HIPAA requirements by specifically mapping out these details.

Beyond these HIPAA exposures, breaches and other HIPAA noncompliance carries other liability risks. Leaders of covered entities or their business associates also are cautioned that while HIPAA itself does not generally create any private right of action for victims of breach under HIPAA, breaches may create substantial liability for their organizations or increasingly, organizational leaders. For instance, the Department of Health & Human Services has warned health care providers participating in Medicare or other federal programs and Medicare Advantage health plans that HIPAA compliance is a program term of participation.

Health care providers and health insurers can face liability under state data privacy and breach, negligence or other statutory or common laws. In addition, physicians and other licensed parties may face professional discipline or other professional liability for breaches violating statutory or ethical standards.

Health plans also face a myriad of other exposures from failing to use appropriate cyber safeguards. Plan fiduciaries of employment based health plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”} risk liability under ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility rules. The Department of Labor Employee Benefit Security Administration (“EBSA”) now audits the adequacy of the cybersecurity and other HIPAA compliance of health plans and their third party administrators and other business associates as part of EBSA’s oversight and enforcement of ERISA. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for EBSA Lisa Gomez confirmed audit and enforcement of cybersecurity obligations is a key priority in EBSA’s current work plan in her February 4, 2023 comments to the American bar Association.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission has indicated that it plans to pursue enforcement against leaders of public health care or other public companies that fail to use appropriate care to ensure their organizations comply with privacy and data security obligations.

Furthermore, appropriate cyber security practices also may be advisable elements for organizations to include in their Federal Sentencing Guideline Compliance Programs to mitigate potential organization liability risks under federal electronic crime and related laws.

In the face of these risks and warnings, all covered entities and their business associates should reassess and confirm the adequacy of their and their business associates’ cyber security defenses and breach response preparations.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health, health plan and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 35 year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. As an ongoing component of this work, she regularly advises, represents and defends HIPAA covered entities, business associates and other organizations on HIPAA and other cyber, privacy and data security concerns and has published and spoken extensively on these concerns.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2023 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


9 Arrested In Federal Opiate Sting

February 2, 2023

Nine Texas individuals were arrested this week in Houston on criminal charges related to their alleged involvement in the unlawful distribution of 1.5 million opioid pills and other controlled substances as a result of a joint federal-state investigation. 

According to court documents, Kent Lyons, 52, of Houston; Roquel Turner, 47, of Manvel; and Traunce Alfred, 43, of Baytown, are charged with illegally distributing controlled substances, including oxycodone and hydrocodone. From August 2017 until late 2022, Lyons and Turner allegedly operated pill-mill pharmacies as fronts to obtain opioids in their highest-strength and immediate-release pill form. They then allegedly sold the drugs on the black market – without the involvement of patients, prescriptions, or doctors – to drug traffickers like Alfred. Lyons and Turner allegedly concealed the drug proceeds using numerous bank accounts and real estate transactions. Lyons also allegedly used some of the proceeds to purchase luxury items, including a Rolls Royce, a Ford F-250, and a Mercedes Maybach.

Court documents allege starting around December 2020, Dwain Ross and Delores Mackey-Ross both of Pearland, and licensed pharmacist Ann Nguyen, of Stafford, allegedly used pharmacies to illegally distribute and dispense nearly half a million pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone. Dwain Ross and Mackey-Ross and David Ross of Houston; Kevin Peterson of Pearland; and Eleanor Marsh of Fulshear, also allegedly illegally ordered the opioid potentiators alprazolam, carisoprodol, promethazine with codeine – which are reported to enhance the high from opioids – from a pharmaceutical wholesaler and a pharmaceutical sales representative then allegedly illegally distributed the opioid potentiators in bulk. Dwain Ross and Mackey-Ross allegedly used numerous bank accounts and real estate transactions to conceal their ill-gotten gains. Dwain Ross also allegedly used some of the drug proceeds to purchase a Lamborghini.

The pharmacies alleged in the indictments to have been controlled by the defendants’ drug trafficking organizations are K Med Pharmacy, Nex Gen Pharmacy, TX United Pharmacy, Power Center Pharmacy #2, DR Pharmacy, and Nu Care Pharmacy. Several other pharmacies, including P&A Pharmacy and Pearland Holistic Pharmacy, voluntarily surrendered their DEA Registration numbers, which a pharmacy needs to legally purchase pharmaceutical opioids and other controlled substances.

Lyons, Turner, Alfred, Dwain Ross, Mackey-Ross, and Nguyen are each charged with illegal distribution of Schedule II opioids. Dwain Ross, Mackey-Ross, David Ross, Peterson, and Marsh are each charged with the illegal distribution of Schedule IV drugs. Lyons, Turner, Dwain Ross, and Mackey-Ross are also charged with money laundering crimes.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the current charges, the indictments demonstrate the continuing commitment by the Department of Justice and other federal and state agencies to investigate and prosecute opiate prescription and distribution.

If convicted, Lyons, Turner, Alfred, Dwain Ross, Mackey-Ross, and Nguyen face up to 20 years on the top counts. David Ross and Peterson each face up to five years. Marsh faces up to 10 years if convicted. Court documents allege that over 15 bank accounts, four real properties, and several luxury vehicles – including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, and a Lamborghini – were involved in, or acquired with proceeds from, the scheme, and are subject to forfeiture if the defendants are convicted.

Of course, the facts alledged in the indictments are allegations ll defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If a conviction happens, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Regardless of the outcome, the prosecution demonstrates the prioritization of the investigation and prosecution of abusive opiate prescribing or distribution.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Chair-Elect of the ABA TIPS Section Medicine & Law Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care and employer benefits legal, public policy and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2023 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Lab Nailed For HIPAA Right Of Access Violation

January 3, 2023

A medical laboratory is the latest health care provider nailed under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Right of Access Initiative for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule’s right of access requirements.

OCR announced the 43rd access rule settlement with Life Hope Labs, LLC (“Life Hope Labs”), a full-service diagnostic laboratory in Sandy Springs, Georgia Tuesday.

In August 2021, a complaint was filed with OCR alleging that Life Hope Labs would not provide a personal representative with a copy of her deceased father’s medical records. The personal representative first requested access to her father’s records on July 7, 2021, but did not receive them until February 16, 2022, over seven months later. OCR’s investigation determined that Life Hope Labs’ failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access provision.

The access rule requires that patients be able to access their health information in a timely manner.

In its Resolution Agreement, Life Hope Labs agreed to pay $16,500 to resolve this investigation. In addition to the monetary settlement, Life Hope Labs also agreed to implement a corrective action plan that includes two years of monitoring by OCR.

In announcing its filing of the settlement, OCR warned other labs and health care providers to ensure their right of access compliance.

“Access to medical records, including lab results, empowers patients to better manage their health, communicate with their treatment teams, and adhere to their treatment plans. The HIPAA Privacy Rule gives individuals and personal representatives a right to timely access their medical records from all covered entities, including laboratories,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer in OCR’s announcement of the settlement. “Laboratories covered by HIPAA must follow the law and ensure that they are responding timely to records access requests.”

If your organization would like to learn more about the concerns discussed in this update, contact management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

An attorney Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is recognized for work helping organizations management people, operations and risk as  a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, a “Top Woman Lawyer,” “Top Rated Lawyer,” and “LEGAL LEADER™” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Care Law; a “Best Lawyers” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law.”

For 35 years, Ms. Stamer’s work has focused on advising and assisting businesses and business leaders with these and other employment and other staffing, employee benefit, compensation, risk, performance and compliance management and other operational solutions and concerns. Her experience includes helping management both manage performance and manage legal risk and compliance.  While helping businesses define and manage the conduct and performance of their employees, contractors and vendors, she also assists employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, leave, and other labor and employment laws, advises and defends businesses against labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, fraud and other regulatory compliance and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, SEC,  Federal Trade Commission, HUD, HHS, DOD, Departments of Insurance, and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer also speaks, coaches management and publishes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see hereor contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

If you found this article of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other Breaking News, articles and other resources available including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, unsubscribe by updating your profile here.

NOTICE: Terms. These materials are for general informational and educational purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, a substitute for legal advice, an offer or commitment to provide legal advice or an admission. The information and statements in these materials may not address all relevant issues or apply to any situation or circumstances. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law evolves and in ways that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author disclaims and has no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation considering the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any time. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Nonexclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.


Chiropractor, Modern Vascular Office-Based Labs and Modern Vascular Corporate Entities Face False Claims Act Prosecution

December 19, 2022

Three consolidated False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuits against chiropractor Yury Gampel (“Gampel”), 15 Modern Vascular office-based labs owned primarily by Gampel located across the United States, and five Modern Vascular-affiliated companies owned by Gampel alert other chiropractic, physician and other medical providers using office-based labs send a clear warning to other health care providers and suppliers for services covered or billed to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or other federal health care programs about the necessity to ensure their arrangements don’t involve illegal financial relationships or transactions.

False Claims Act Liability Arising From Participation In Or Filing Claims Involving Improper Inducements

The Justice Department suit against the defendants alleges the defendants both arose from the defendants participation in arrangements involving the offering and payment of illegal remuneration in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) and that the claims for benefits made to Medicare and other federal programs for care provided involving the arrangement violated the FCA.

The AKS generally prohibits any person or entity from soliciting, receiving, offering, or paying any direct or indirect prohibited remuneration as an inducement or reward for referring, recommending, ordering, or arranging for the purchase of any item or service for which payment may be made in whole or in part by a federal health care program. Parties violating the AKS commit a felony punishable with a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 10 years or both.

In addition to any criminal liability arising under the AKS, filing claims derived or involving transactions prohibited by the AKS also can trigger liability for violation of the FCA. The FCA makes it unlawful for any person to submit, directly or indirectly, false or fraudulent claims for payment to the Government by among other things:

  • Knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(A) (the “presentment provision”); or
  • Knowingly making, using, or causing to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(B).

The FCA defines the term “knowingly” under the FCA very broadly. As defined, “knowingly” means that a person, with respect to information, (i) has actual knowledge of the information, (ii) acts in deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information, or (iii) acts in reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(b). No proof of specific intent to defraud is required to show that a person acted knowingly under the FCA.

Violations of the FCA subject the defendant to mandatory civil penalties per FCA violation, plus three times the amount of damages that the Government sustains as a result of the defendant’s actions. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(7), health care providers submitting claims to Medicare or other federal health care programs also can face exclusion from participation in federal health care programs for FCA violations.

Health care providers filing claims for Medicare or other federal health plans can violate the FCA by knowingly presenting or causing to be presented claims for items or services that the person knew or should have known were not medically necessary, or were false or fraudulent. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1320a-7a(a)(1).

Moreover, health care providers under the Medicare statute have an affirmative duty to familiarize themselves with the statutes, regulations, and guidelines regarding coverage for the Medicare services. As a condition of program participation, Medicare regulations require providers and suppliers to certify that:

  • The provider or supplier meets, and will continue to meet, the requirements of the Medicare statute and regulations, 42 C.F.R. § 424.516(a)(1), including that any claims and underlying transactions made in a claim for Medicare comply with the Federal anti-kickback statute and the Stark law), and on the supplier’s compliance with all otherwise applicable conditions of participation in Medicare; and
  • The provider or supplier will not knowingly to present or cause to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for payment by Medicare, or to submit claims with deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.

Additional certifications of continued compliance with these requirements also are required when claims are filed. Accordingly, since health care providers and suppliers are responsible for taking appropriate steps to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations applicable to their claim and the transactions underlying it and certify in connection with the filing of the claim that the claim and its underlying transactions comply with the law, health care providers filing claims involving prohibited financial incentives or other transactions prohibited by law risk FCA liability.

Gampel, Modern Vascular FCA Complaint

Derived from the Justice Department’s assumption and consolidation of various qui tam lawsuits separately brought by various physicians, the United States filed its complaint in three consolidated lawsuits pending in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733 (“FCA”) which allow a private citizen to sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. The United States is also entitled to intervene in the lawsuits, as it did in these cases.

The resulting consolidated three consolidated Justice Department lawsuits seek to recover treble damages and civil penalties, and under common law and equitable theories of recovery from defendants for their billing of Medicare, TRICARE and other federal health care programs for claims resulting from transactions involving prohibited remuneration offered and provided in violation of the AKS under Gampel’s alleged schemes Nobility Management LLC; Modern Vascular LLC; Modern Vascular of South Florida LLC; Modern Vascular Management LLC; Modern Vascular Management – East LLC; Modern Vascular Management – West LLC; Modern Vascular Institute LLC; Modern Vascular of Mesa LLC; Modern Vascular of Glendale LLC; Modern Vascular of Sun City LLC; Modern Vascular of Tucson LLC; San Antonio Vascular Specialists Corp. dba Modern Vascular; Fort Worth Vascular Specialists Corp. dba Modern Vascular; Modern Vascular of Denver LLC; Modern Vascular – Navajo LLC; Modern Vascular of Fairfax LLC; Modern Vascular of Houston LLC; Modern Vascular of Indianapolis LLC; Modern Vascular of Southaven LLC; Modern Vascular of St. Louis LLC; and Modern Vascular of Kansas LLC. 

The Justice Department complaint alleges Defendant Yury Gampel, a chiropractor, is the founder and former Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of a franchise of office-based labs (“OBL”) located in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia operating under the name Modern Vascular (collectively, the “Modern Vascular OBLs”). The Modern Vascular OBLs – each its own separate legal entity – focus on the treatment of peripheral arterial disease (“PAD”), particularly through an aggressive use of vascular intervention procedures, such as angioplasty and atherectomy. The complaint claims Gampel and the Modern Vascular defendants designed and promoted the franchises that incorporated a package of management and other services provided by various Modern Vascular defendant companies.

Defendant Nobility Management, LLC, provides management services to the Modern Vascular OBLs. Defendants Modern Vascular Management, LLC; Modern Vascular Management – East, LLC; and Modern Vascular Management – West, LLC, offer
IT and management support to Modern Vascular OBLs. Defendants Modern Vascular, LLC, and Modern Vascular of South Florida, LLC, are corporations controlled by Gampel that have various ownership interests in Modern Vascular OBLs. Through Modern Vascular, LLC, and Modern Vascular of South Florida, LLC, and in his own capacity, Gampel is the majority owner of the Modern Vascular OBLs. (These entities that own and manage the Modern Vascular OBLs are referred to collectively below as “Modern Vascular Corporate.”)

The complaint alleges that Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate designed and implemented a fraud scheme at Modern Vascular OBLs at the expense of patients and federal payors from at least January 1, 2018 through June 30, 2022. Among other things, the complaint charges Gampel and the Modern Vascular defendants offered physicians the opportunity to invest in Modern Vascular office-based labs to induce them to refer their Medicare and TRICARE patients to Modern Vascular for the treatment of peripheral arterial disease. More specifically, Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate opened Modern Vascular OBLs in new markets where referring physicians and vascular surgeons had established relationships. Prior to opening an OBL in a particular location, Gampel sought out up to 20 local physicians – usually podiatrists and pain management physicians – who traditionally referred to vascular surgeons and offered each up to a two percent ownership interest in the OBL in order to induce the physicians to refer to the OBL. Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate selected these particular physicians (hereinafter “physician investors”) to offer ownership investment because Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate identified them as potential high-referral sources. Once they invested in an OBL, Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate further required the physician-investors to make referrals to Modern Vascular OBLs as a condition for remaining as a physician-investor. The complaint also alleges that Gampel pressured vascular surgeons and interventional radiologists employed at the Modern Vascular office-based labs to increase the number of invasive surgical procedures performed by tracking procedures and setting aggressive weekly and monthly goals for such procedures. In particular, Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate provided remuneration to physician investors in Modern Vascular OBLs to induce those investors to refer patients to the Modern Vascular OBL.

The Justice Department charges that using this scheme, Defendants between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2022 submitted, and caused to be submitted, tens of millions of dollars in false or fraudulent claims to Medicare, TRICARE and other federal health care programs by offering and providing illegal remuneration to health care providers to induce referrals to the Modern Vascular OBLs in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b. To induce referrals, Gampel and Modern Vascular Corporate provided remuneration to physician-investors in the form of equity ownership interests in an OBL, which also included distributions, the prospect of future distributions, and/or the prospect of a cash-out of the equity ownership amounts when
the Modern Vascular OBLs were sold. During the relevant time period, the Justice Department also claims Modern Vascular
OBLs received over $50 million from Medicare Part B alone for claims submitted for patients referred by physician-investors in violation of the FCA.

Warning To Other Heath Care Providers & Suppliers

In announcing its filing of the Gambrel FCA lawsuit, the Justice Department warned other federal health program providers and suppliers and their business partners, investors, employees and agents from violating the AKS, FCA or both in the provision of or billing of health care services or supplies. “As part of our mission to protect the American people, the FBI remains committed to safeguarding patients who rely on our healthcare systems,” said Deputy Assistant Director Aaron Tapp of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate those who abuse our healthcare systems, place patients at risk, and waste taxpayer dollars.” 

This warning, along with the ever-lengthening list of federal criminal and civil prosecutions, convictions and settlements by the Justice Department, the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General and other agencies provide a strong warning to health care providers, suppliers and others involved in creating or administering transactions and other arrangements for the delivery and billing for health are to be billed to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE and other health care arrangements covered by the AKS, the FCA or other federal or state health care fraud laws to take well documented care to ensure the care delivery arrangement does not involve transactions prohibited under the AKS or other federal or state health care fraud transactions and the care billed qualifies for reimbursement before submitting the claim. Parties who know or suspect that they may have participated in an arrangement prohibited under these laws or submitted prohibited claims should contact experienced legal counsel within the scope of attorney-client privilege for assistance in reviewing those concerns and exploring options for correction or mitigation.

For More Information

If your organization would like to learn more about the concerns discussed in this update or seeks assistance auditing, updating, administering or defending its human resources, compensation, benefits, corporate ethics and compliance practices, or other performance related concerns, contact management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

An attorney Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is recognized for work helping organizations management people, operations and risk as  a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, a “Top Woman Lawyer,” “Top Rated Lawyer,” and “LEGAL LEADER™” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Care Law; a “Best Lawyers” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law.”

For 35 years, Ms. Stamer’s work has focused on advising and assisting businesses and business leaders with these and other employment and other staffing, employee benefit, compensation, risk, performance and compliance management and other operational solutions and concerns. Her experience includes helping management both manage performance and manage legal risk and compliance.  While helping businesses define and manage the conduct and performance of their employees, contractors and vendors, she also assists employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, leave, and other labor and employment laws, advises and defends businesses against labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, fraud and other regulatory compliance and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, SEC,  Federal Trade Commission, HUD, HHS, DOD, Departments of Insurance, and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer also speaks, coaches management and publishes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see hereor contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

If you found this article of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other Breaking News, articles and other resources available including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, unsubscribe by updating your profile here.

NOTICE: Terms. These materials are for general informational and educational purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, a substitute for legal advice, an offer or commitment to provide legal advice or an admission. The information and statements in these materials may not address all relevant issues or apply to any situation or circumstances. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law evolves and in ways that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author disclaims and has no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation considering the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any time. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Nonexclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.


Religious Discrimination Suit Against Hospital For Denying COVID Vaccine Exemption Shows Health Industry COVID Compliance Challenges

December 15, 2022

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), a pediatric healthcare system in Georgia, faces a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that charges CHOA violated federal law by firing a maintenance assistant for requesting a religious exemption to its influenza vaccination policy. The suit illustrates the narrow tightrope health care providers walk negotiating vaccination and other COVID-19 safety protocols without violating religous accommodation or other employment discrimination requirements.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits firing an employee because of his religion and requires that employers accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs unless the employer proves accommodation would impose an undue hardship. EEOC COVID guidance warns employers of the EEOC’s interpretation of the continued applicability of Title VII’s religous accommodation requirements to employers enforcement of COVID and other vaccine mandates. Other related guidance also warns employers to avoid retaliation against employees for expressing religous objections to vaccination policies or engaging in other protected actions in violation of Title VII.

The EEOC’s suit states the maintenance employee, in accordance with CHOA’s procedures, requested a religious exemption to CHOA’s flu vaccination requirements based on sincerely held religious beliefs. CHOA previously granted the employee a religious exemption in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, however, CHOA changed its policy and denied the employee’s request for a religious accommodation and fired him, despite the employee’s extremely limited interaction with the public or staff.

The EEOC asserts it would not have been an undue burden for CHOA to continue accommodating its employee as it had in 2017 and 2018. However it instead changed its stance on flu vaccination exemptions for this maintenance employee in 2019 and failed to consider any meaningful reasonable accommodations for his sincerely held religious beliefs.

Charging the refusal to grant accommodation arges this alleged conduct violates Title VII, the EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:22-CV-4953 MLB RDC) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its conciliation process. The EEOC lawsuit seeks back pay, front pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

The suit against CHOA follows through on the EEOC’s commitment to investigate and enforce Title VII against employees failing to grant exemptions to otherwise applicable COVID or other vaccination requirements to employees with sincerely held religous beliefs against vaccination unless the employer proved undue hardship preventing the accommodation. 

The lawsuit warns health industry and other employers with vaccination requirements to provide accommodations for employees with deeply held religous beliefs against the vaccine unless the employer can prove undue hardship sufficient to excuse the accommodation. The prosecution of the suit against a health care organization subject to the tightest vaccination and other COVID safety mandates under Centers for Disease Control, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations demonstrates the high burden the EEOC expects employers refusing accommodation to meet. In light of these EEOC CHOA and other enforcement actions, employers should proceed carefully before refusing accommodation. See e.g., CMS Updates COVID-19 Guidance For Visiting Nursing Homes & LTC Facility Vaccination During Omicron Surge; CMS/CDC Mandating COVID Vaccination For All Nursing Home Staff; Health Provider Fined $273K+ For COVID Safety Violations; Dentists Face OSHA Retaliation Suit For Retaliating Against Workers Asking About COVID Safety. As COVID and other pandemic and epidemic outbreaks continue to threaten health care worker, patients and community safety, organizations must tred carefully and be prepared to defend the adequacy of their actions regardless of whether choosing to allow or deny accommodation from applicable communicable disease protocols.

For Help With Comments, Investigations Or The Other Needs

If your organization would like to learn more about the concerns discussed in this update or seeks assistance auditing, updating, administering or defending its human resources, compensation, benefits, corporate ethics and compliance practices, or other performance related concerns, contact management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

An attorney Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is recognized for work helping organizations management people, operations and risk as  a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, a “Top Woman Lawyer,” “Top Rated Lawyer,” and “LEGAL LEADER™” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Care Law; a “Best Lawyers” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law.”

For 35 years, Ms. Stamer’s work has focused on advising and assisting businesses and business leaders with these and other employment and other staffing, employee benefit, compensation, risk, performance and compliance management and other operational solutions and concerns. Her experience includes helping management both manage performance and manage legal risk and compliance.  While helping businesses define and manage the conduct and performance of their employees, contractors and vendors, she also assists employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, leave, and other labor and employment laws, advises and defends businesses against labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, fraud and other regulatory compliance and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, SEC,  Federal Trade Commission, HUD, HHS, DOD, Departments of Insurance, and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer also speaks, coaches management and publishes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

If you found this article of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other Breaking News, articles and other resources available including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, unsubscribe by updating your profile here.

NOTICE: Terms. These materials are for general informational and educational purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, a substitute for legal advice, an offer or commitment to provide legal advice or an admission. The information and statements in these materials may not address all relevant issues or apply to any situation or circumstances. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law evolves and in ways that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author disclaims and has no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation considering the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any time. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Nonexclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.


FTC-HHS Seek To Help Mobile Health App Developers Assess When Certain Federal Rules Apply

December 8, 2022

Developers of mobile applications for healthcare and fitness must identify and negotiate a diverse array of federal and state laws, regulations and rulings when designing and deploying their apps.

Since figuring out which federal rules apply often proves challenging, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in conjunction with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintain and have just updated the Mobile Health App Interactive Tool intended to help developers of health-related mobile apps understand when and federal laws and regulations might apply.

While not covering all relevant legal risks, the guidance tool does highlight certain key regulatory concerns by asking developers a series of high-level questions about the nature of their app, including about its function, the data it collects, and the services it provides to users. Based on the developer’s answers to those questions, the guidance tool points the app developer toward detailed information about certain federal laws that might apply to the app. These include the FTC Act, the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FD&C Act), and the 21st Century Cures Act and ONC Information Blocking Regulations.

Using the tool can help to clarify the potential applicability of these rules to a proposed app and help focus the developer on issues to consider regarding these laws as they design in administer their apps. Running through the tool also could help reduce legal fees and other consulting anniversary costs by helping developers of these apps gather helpful information and be more prepared to participate in informed manner when working with the legal team on their compliance. Additionally documented use of the tool could prove helpful in the event of a compliance audit or investigation by capturing evidence helpful to establish a culture of compliance or mitigate other potential liability concerns.

Of course app developers using these tools need to keep in mind that they are not legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. The tools only are intended to provide guidance regarding the potential likely application of the rules covered by the tool. They do not cover broad range of other federal and state Laws, regulations, rulings, and contractual commitments that also can impact the use and design of these apps and their defensibility and a broad range of circumstances. Moreover developers also should keep in mind that the use of the tools and their discussion may uncover existing or past compliance concerns, which might best be conducted within the protection of attorney-client privilege. Consequently, developers and users should consult and closely worked with experienced, qualified legal counsel to address these and other legal risks and compliance.

For Help With Comments, Investigations Or Other Needs

If your organization would like to learn more about the concerns discussed in this update or seeks assistance auditing, updating, administering or defending its human resources, compensation, benefits, corporate ethics and compliance practices, or other performance related concerns, contact management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

An attorney Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is recognized for work helping organizations management people, operations and risk as  a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, a “Top Woman Lawyer,” “Top Rated Lawyer,” and “LEGAL LEADER™” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Care Law; a “Best Lawyers” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law.”

For 35 years, Ms. Stamer’s work has focused on advising and assisting businesses and business leaders with these and other employment and other staffing, employee benefit, compensation, risk, performance and compliance management and other operational solutions and concerns. Her experience includes helping management both manage performance and manage legal risk and compliance.  While helping businesses define and manage the conduct and performance of their employees, contractors and vendors, she also assists employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, leave, and other labor and employment laws, advises and defends businesses against labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, fraud and other regulatory compliance and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, SEC,  Federal Trade Commission, HUD, HHS, DOD, Departments of Insurance, and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer also speaks, coaches management and publishes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

If you found this article of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other Breaking News, articles and other resources available including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, unsubscribe by updating your profile here.

NOTICE:   Terms. These materials are for general informational and educational purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, a substitute for legal advice, an offer or commitment to provide legal advice or an admission. The information and statements in these materials may not address all relevant issues or apply to any situation or circumstances.  The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law evolves and in ways that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author disclaims and has no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation considering the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any time. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.  Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.  Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Nonexclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.


HHS’ Proposed Changes Broadening Substance Use Confidentiality Rules, Consistency With HIPAA Requirements Raise Compliance Concerns For Health Care, Insurance & Other Businesses

November 28, 2022

Mental health and other healthcare providers, health plans and issuers, employers, health care professional associations, consumer advocates, community organizations, state and local government entities, patients and caregivers and others concerned with mental health and substance abuse treatment and management should review and comment by January 30, 2023 on proposed changes to rules on unauthorized disclosures the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Patient Records under 42 CFR part 2 (“Part 2”) proposed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) made public November 28, 2022 here and scheduled for publication in the December 2, 2022 Federal Register. If adopted as proposed, mental health and substance abuse providers, as well as other health care providers and insurers should prepare to meet new responsibilities and manage new liabilities under the revised rules.

On November 28, 2022, OCR and SAMHSA issued the NPRM to revise the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulations at 42 CFR part 2 (“Part 2”), which seek to address concerns that concerns about discrimination or prosecution might deter people from entering treatment for SUD by protecting “records of the identity, diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment of any patient which are maintained in connection with the performance of any program or activity relating to substance abuse education prevention, training, treatment, rehabilitation, or research, which is conducted, regulated, or directly or indirectly assisted by any department or agency of the United States.”(“SUD Records”).

Currently, the Part 2 protections of patient privacy and records concerning treatment related to substance use challenges from unauthorized disclosures differ from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy, Breach Notification, and Enforcement Rules (“HIPAA”) rules.  These distinctions create barriers to information sharing by patients and among health care providers and create dual obligations and compliance challenges for regulated entities. To address this concern, Congress mandated in Section 3221 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that HHS to bring Part 2 into greater alignment with certain aspects of the HIPAA Privacy rule.

The NPRM seeks to address the CARES Act mandate as Americans and their leaders struggle to continue to provide pathways for victims of substance abuse and other mental health challenges to pursue treatment and maximize their participation and enjoyment in our communities while addressing safety concerns about a growing series of rare but notorious acts of violence committed by certain inadequately diagnosed or managed victims of mental health or substance abuse.  See, e.g., Fact Sheet: President Biden To Announce Strategy To Address Our National Mental Health Crisis, As Part Of Unity Agenda In His First State Of The Union; President Biden Releases National Drug Control Strategy to Save Lives, Expand Treatment, and Disrupt Trafficking; Actions Taken by the Biden-⁠Harris Administration to Address Addiction and the Overdose Epidemic; Colorado Springs LGBT Nightclub Shooting Leaves Five Dead and 25 Injured; Virginia Walmart Shooting Gunman “Was Picking People Out,” Witness Says; Opinion: Leaders Blamed the Uvalde Shooting on a Mental Health Crisis. Gun Violence Is Making That Crisis Worse; Nancy Pelosi Husband Attack Suspect David Depape Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Charges.

Amid these challenges, the NPRM proposes to implement this CARES Act mandate through the following changes to Part 2 that HHS says will help safeguard the health and outcomes of individuals with SUD while creating greater flexibility for information sharing envisioned by Congress in its passage of Section 3221 of the CARES Act:

  • Permit Part 2 programs to use and disclose Part 2 records based on a single prior consent signed by the patient for all future uses and disclosures for treatment, payment, and health care operations;
  • Permit the redisclosure of Part 2 records as permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule by recipients that are Part 2 programs, HIPAA covered entities, and business associates, with certain exceptions;
  • Expand prohibitions on the use and disclosure of Part 2 records in civil, criminal, administrative, or legislative proceedings conducted by a federal, state, or local authority against a patient, absent a court order or the consent of the patient;
  • Create two patient rights under Part 2 that align with individual rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule:
    • Right to an accounting of disclosures; and
    • Right to request restrictions on disclosures for treatment, payment, and health care operations;
  • Require disclosures to the Secretary for enforcement;
  • Apply HIPAA and HITECH Act civil and criminal penalties to Part 2 violations;
  • Require Part 2 programs to establish a process to receive complaints of Part 2 violations;
  • Prohibit Part 2 programs from taking adverse action against patients who file complaints;
  • Prohibit Part 2 programs from requiring patients to waive the right to file a complaint as a condition of providing treatment, enrollment, payment, or eligibility for services;
  • Apply the standards in the HITECH Act and the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule to breaches of Part 2 records by Part 2 programs;
  • Modify the Part 2 confidentiality notice requirements (“Patient Notice”) to align with the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices;
  • Modify the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices requirements for covered entities who receive or maintain Part 2 records to include a provision limiting redisclosure of Part 2 records for legal proceedings according to the Part 2 standards; and
  • Permit investigative agencies to apply for a court order to use or disclose Part 2 records after they unknowingly receive Part 2 records while investigating or prosecuting a Part 2 program, when certain preconditions are met.

While the Department is undertaking this rulemaking, the current Part 2 regulations remain in effect.  However, once the comment period ends, the Biden Administration-led HHS is expected to finalize the proposed changes quickly.  Consequently, in addition to sharing any concerns or other input about the proposed changes during the comment period, health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, employers, community agencies, state and local governments, patients and other caregivers and other concerned parties also should begin planning and preparing to respond to the anticipated changes in the requirements. 

Implications For Health Care Providers, Health Insurers & Other Businesses

The NPRM’s extension of HIPAA and HIPAA-like requirements to the Part 2 substance abuse confidentiality provides clarification by adding new obligations for health care providers and others involved in substance abuse treatment or recordkeeping. Health care providers, health insurance, and others involved with these activities will need to assess and plan to meet these new responsibilities and the steps they can be expected to take to fulfill them.

Beyond these more obvious burdens, mental health and substance abuse and other health care providers and businesses also should carefully assess the potential implications of the proposed changes on their worker and vendor credentialing and workplace safety practices as well as their health and other benefit programs. Assuming the changes are adopted in their current form, businesses sponsoring health benefit programs, and health care organizations and providers specifically should prepare to modify their HIPAA required notices of privacy practices and associated practices to comply with the proposed updates.

Businesses required to comply with Department of Transportation Drug Free Workplace or other alcohol and substance abuse requirements also should consider the potential implications of the proposed changes on their ability to secure relevant substance abuse treatment and related history. In assessing these implications, businesses also should be cognizant of a new proactivity on behalf of certain uses of drugs by workers in the workplace under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). For instance, the EEOC recently has sued Eagle Marine Services Electrical & Refrigeration, LLC for allegedly violating the ADA by refusing to hire or accommodate a worker because he used medication prescribed by his doctor to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) without making any individual assessment of the worker’s medication use or whether it would affect his ability to safely perform the marine electrician position, and instead relied on general stereotypes about disability and medication use to justify its decision not to hire him. Businesses seeking to investigate or deny employment opportunities to workers based on the worker’s past or current medication use will want to use care to ensure that their practices are tailored to defend against similar challenges.

Health plan sponsors and insurers also should assure their mental health and substance abuse treatment coverage documents and practices are defensible under the latest mental health and substance abuse parity mandates of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and coverage requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). Along with a host of statutory changes since the original parity mandates took effect, implementing regulations and guidance about non-qualitative limitations and exclusions and heightened agency enforcement are ramping up enforcement and liability risks. In addition to exposing the health plan administrators and other fiduciaries to potential claims denial or fiduciary responsibility claims brought by participants or beneficiaries, the Department of Labor or both, administrative penalties by the EBSA, or both, the MHPAEA mental health and substance abuse parity rules are among 40 federal mandates that when violated can trigger the automatic $100 per violation per day employer excise tax penalty under Internal Revenue Code Section 6039D. Consequently, violations of the MHPAEA are particularly risky and potentially expensive for private employers, their health plans and the plan administrators and fiduciaries that administer it.

For Help With Comments, Investigations Or Other Needs

If your organization would like to learn more about the concerns discussed in this update or seeks assistance auditing, updating, administering or defending its human resources, compensation, benefits, corporate ethics and compliance practices, or other performance related concerns, please contact management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

An attorney Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is recognized for work helping organizations management people, operations and risk as  a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, a “Top Woman Lawyer,” “Top Rated Lawyer,” and “LEGAL LEADER™” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Care Law; a “Best Lawyers” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law.”

For 35 years, Ms. Stamer’s work has focused on advising and assisting businesses and business leaders with these and other employment and other staffing, employee benefit, compensation, risk, performance and compliance management and other operational solutions and concerns. Her experience includes helping management both manage performance and manage legal risk and compliance.  While helping businesses define and manage the conduct and performance of their employees, contractors and vendors, she also assists employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, leave, and other labor and employment laws, advises and defends businesses against labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, fraud and other regulatory compliance and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, SEC,  Federal Trade Commission, HUD, HHS, DOD, Departments of Insurance, and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer also speaks, coaches management and publishes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

If you found this article of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other Breaking News, articles and other resources available including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, unsubscribe by updating your profile here.

NOTICE:   Terms. These materials are for general informational and educational purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, a substitute for legal advice, an offer or commitment to provide legal advice or an admission. The information and statements in these materials may not address all relevant issues or apply to any situation or circumstances.  The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law evolves and in ways that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author disclaims and has no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation considering the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any time. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.  Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.  Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Nonexclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.


5 Ex-Methodist Hospital Employees Charged with Criminal HIPAA Violations

November 11, 2022

Fuve former Methodist Hospital Employees face criminal charges for conspiring with Roderick Harvey, to unlawfully disclose patient information in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) under indictments announced by the Justice Department today.

HIPAA was enacted by Congress in 1996 to create national standards to protect sensitive patient information from being disclosed without a patient’s knowledge or consent. HIPAA’s provisions make it a crime to disclose patient information, or to obtain patient information with the intent to sell, transfer or use such information for personal gain.

According to the indictment, between November 2017 and December 2020, Harvey paid defendants Kirby Dandridge, Sylvia Taylor, Kara Thompson, Melanie Russell and Adrianna Taber, to provide him with names and phone numbers of Methodist patients who had been involved in motor vehicle accidents. After obtaining the information, Harvey sold the information to third persons including personal injury attorneys and chiropractors.

However, if convicted, the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and three-year period of supervised release.

Harvey was also charged with seven counts of obtaining patient information with the intent to sell it for financial gain on various dates between November 12, 2017, and September 7, 2019. Each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and three years’ of supervised release.

Dandridge, Taylor, Thompson, Russell, and Taber were each charged with separate violations of disclosing the information to Harvey in violation of HIPAA. That charge carries a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment, a $50,000 fine and a one-year period of supervised release.

The Justice Department announcement reminds that charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The. Indictments demonstrate the criminal liability that health care providers and others can face for willfully misappropriation or other misuse of medical records or other information in violation of HIPAA. Because these violations are federal felonies, Employing organizations like Methodist could face liability under the federal sentencing guidelines unless they have implemented and administered appropriate preventing procedures and taken timely and appropriate corrective action to mitigate that liability under federal criminal law. When the organization investigates in response promptly and has taken appropriate reasonable steps, the Justice Department generally does not pursue criminal charges against the organization. Rather, the organizations liability typically is handled by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). If it determines that the organization’s deficiencies in compliance with HIPAA contributed to or failed timely to remediate the violations, OCR can pursue civil monetary penalties. In most cases, however, OCR charges are resolved through resolution agreement settlement processes.

The indictments and associated investigations remind other healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouse as a business associates of the importance of ensuring that they maintain and administer appropriate processes to prevent breaches of their data by internal personnel and others as well as comply with post breach investigation over mediation and reporting obligations.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


CDC Eases Opiate Prescription Guidelines

November 3, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control released updated opiate prescription guidance today, loosening restrictions on prescription of the pain management narcotics under certain conditions.

Ironically the new guidance loosening opiate prescription guidelines comes on the heels of the announcement yesterday of sellements of opiate litigation against CVS and Walgreens brought by multiple states’ seeking to recover states’ costs arising from citizens ‘ addicted to opiates.

CDC’s revised opiate guidance is intended to give providers more flexibility to prescribe under various situations in response to criticism that the original more narrow guidelines harmed patients legitimately needing the pain management treatment.

Guideline changes are likely to implicate prescribing practices as well as some prescription drug coverages, as well as electronic recordkeeping and prescribing systems.

Slay tuned for more details about the new guidelines and other health care and life sciences relevant developments.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


11/1 ABA TIPS Medicine & Law Committee Learning Session Explores Implications of Recent BCBS Antitrusts Settlement On Health Insurance Competition & Provider Contracting, Relations

October 31, 2022

The November 1, 2022 American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Section Medicine & Law Committee November Learning Session will focus on the details and likely implications of the groundbreaking August 8, 2022 settlement of the long-running In Re Blue Cross And Blue Shield Litigation on the commercial health insurance market and the health care provider contracting, payment and other relations by Blue Cross Blue Shueld Association and its member insurers.

The August 8, 2022 settlement requires the Association and its members to make substantial changes in longstanding market and business practices that have helped the Association and its member insurance organizations establish and protect their market dominance from external and internal competition, and use that market dominance in its contracting and other dealings with health care providers.

After nine years of litigation challenging the provider contracting and business contracting rules and practices of the Association as anticompetitive, the reforms by the Association and its member insurance organizations agreed upon in the settlement agreement are expected to foster freer market competition of insurance products and services to customers, and provide health care providers greater strength when dealing with the Association and its members on provider contracting and claims.  Meanwhile, the more than nine years of litigation leading up to the settlement produced several significant procedural and substantive rulings likely to shape future antitrust litigation.

During Tuesday’s Committee Learning Session, Medicine & Law Committee Chair-Elect Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, Managing Shareholder, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. will share a brief overview and selected resources about the litigation and settlement, before leading a discussion among call participants of their thoughts about the significance and implications of these developments on the marketplace and future antitrust litigation and enforcement. 

For more information about the Learning Session or other opportunities for involvement with the Medicine & Law Committee, e-mail Chair Elect Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or see the Medicine & Law Committee webpage.


Pharmacies Pay $6.8+ Million To Settle False Claims Act Civil Claims

October 14, 2022

The $6.8 million plus settlement that four compounding pharmacies will pay highlights the federal health care fraud risks of co-payment and misrepresenting the charge for compound pain creams used by some compounding pharmacies and other health care providers.

DermaTran Health Solutions, LLC; Pharmacy Insurance Administrators, LLC; Legends Pharmacy; TriadRx; and the former owners of Lake Side Pharmacy and related entities, agreed to pay $6,876,564 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by waiving copays, charging the government higher prices than permitted, and trading federal healthcare business with other pharmacies, according to an October 12, 2022 Justice Department announcement.

The government alleged that in 2012, pharmacy DermaTran Health Solutions, LLC (“DermaTran”), opened in Rome, Georgia, for the purpose of making and selling custom “compound” pain creams. DermaTran’s owners during the relevant time include DIII Consulting, LLC; SRM Holdings, LLC; Gussenhoven Holdings, LLC; Sam Moss; and Robert Gussenhoven. At the same time, another company named Pharmacy Insurance Administrators, LLC (“PIA”), was created to handle the billing for DermaTran. During the relevant time, PIA was a subsidiary of Insurance Administrative Solutions, LLC; which was a subsidiary of Gulfcoast Administrators, LLC; which was majority-owned by Life & Health Holdings, Inc.; which was a subsidiary of State Mutual Insurance Company.

The massive civil settlement resolves a lawsuit originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by a former accountant for DermaTran, under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act. United States ex rel. Doe v. DermaTran Health Solutions, LLC, et al., Civil Action No. 1:17-CV-1765.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens may bring suit for false claims on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery obtained by the government. The whistleblower will receive $1,434,775 from the settlements. PIA will also pay her attorney’s fees.

According to the complaint, the settling defendants used prohibited practices to cash in on lucrative coverage for compound pain creams provided by government backed health insurance programs such as TRICARE (for the military) and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (for federal workers). These programs would reimburse hundreds of dollars for these prescriptions, provided that certain restrictions to limit spending were met. For example, patients were required to contribute to the cost of the prescription in the form of copays. The government programs also limited payments to the “usual and customary price”—the price charged to a cash-paying, uninsured patient.

The Government alleged that DermaTran and PIA found ways to avoid these restrictions. DermaTran and PIA created a copay-waiver program where the providers would waive patients’ copayments based on a brief, unverified statement of economic need. DermaTran and PIA also misled the government programs about the price being charged to uninsured, cash-paying patients by falsely stating that that price was high when, in fact, it was only $30. As a result, there were days that veterans were charged $600+ for pain creams, while uninsured patients were charged only $30.

Eventually, various auditors uncovered these problems and began to terminate DermaTran from their networks. The Government alleged that DermaTran, looking for a way to continue to earn money, began selling its out-of-network prescriptions to other pharmacies. The other pharmacies could fill the prescriptions because they were still in network. After filling the lucrative prescriptions, the other pharmacies remitted a portion of the proceeds to DermaTran and PIA. The government alleged that this arrangement constituted an illegal kickback. The other pharmacies that participated in this prescriptions-for-money scheme included Legends Pharmacy (in Texas), Lake Side Pharmacy (in Alabama), and TriadRx (in Alabama).

The Government’s False Claims Act claims based on the above allegations are being settled. PIA will contribute $6.5 million to the settlement. DermaTran is no longer operating and was sold in an arm’s-length transaction to a third-party buyer last year for the price of $40,000. That amount will be turned over to the government as part of the settlement. MLDP of Texas, LP (a/k/a “Legends Pharmacy”) will pay $59,293. TRIAD Rx, Inc. will pay $166,547. Lake Side Pharmacy is no longer in business, but former owners of Lake Side Pharmacy will pay $110,724. The former owners include Titan Medical Marketing, LLC; Donald Wayne Bogue; George Takashi Elkins; James Bernard Bogue, Jr.; Robert Joseph Puckett, Jr.; Robert Joseph Puckett, Sr.; Stephen Weston Wilson; and Charles Franklin Taylor, Jr.

Statements by agencies involved in the investigation and prosecution of the DermaTran and PIA cases send a strong warning to other pharmacies and health care providers against engaging in similar copay waiver or billing practices. “Fraud through compounding pharmacies bilked billions out of TRICARE and undermined the integrity of our healthcare system designed to care for our service members and their families,” stated Cynthia Bruce, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).  “I appreciate the partnership among involved law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring this matter to justice.”

“The OPM OIG has no tolerance for businesses that knowingly take advantage of FEHBP, violating the rules to make a profit,” said Amy K. Parker, Special Agent in Charge, OPM OIG. “I am extremely proud of the hard work of our investigators, analysts, and other law enforcement partners because overcharging the government is not a victimless crime – it contributes to higher premium prices and harms the financial integrity of the FEHBP.”

“The U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, will continue to tirelessly investigate those who commit frauds against federal benefit programs and the U.S. Postal Service. This settlement is a clear message that the USPS OIG is dedicated to rooting out corruption and bringing to justice those responsible for these crimes, said Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General Northeast Area Field Office. The USPS OIG would like to thank our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice for their efforts in this investigation”.

“Health care providers that try to boost their profits by submitting fraudulent claims to Federal health care programs threaten the integrity of those programs and drive up prices for everyone,” said Tamala E. Miles, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “We work tirelessly alongside our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of Federal health care programs and to ensure the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

Compound pharmacies and other providers not only should not engage in these practices, but also should take steps to correct any past copayment waiver or billing practices that in retrospect could be found to have violated these or other Federal health program rules.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


4 Pharmacies Pay $6.8+ Million To Settle Copayment Waiver Civil False Claims Act Claims

October 14, 2022

The $6.8 million settlement paid by four pharmacies to settle False Claims Act civil claims warns other pharmacies and other health care providers against improper copayment or other cost sharing waiver, billing and referral practices.

The Department of Justice announced October 12, 2022 that DermaTran Health Solutions, LLC (“DermaTran”); Pharmacy Insurance Administrators, LLC; Legends Pharmacy; TriadRx; and the former owners of Lake Side Pharmacy and related entities, agreed to pay $6,876,564 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by waiving copays, charging the government higher prices than permitted, and trading federal healthcare business with other pharmacies.

The government alleged that in 2012, pharmacy DermaTran opened in Rome, Georgia, for the purpose of making and selling custom “compound” pain creams. DermaTran’s owners during the relevant time include DIII Consulting, LLC; SRM Holdings, LLC; Gussenhoven Holdings, LLC; Sam Moss; and Robert Gussenhoven. At the same time, another company named Pharmacy Insurance Administrators, LLC (“PIA”), was created to handle the billing for DermaTran. During the relevant time, PIA was a subsidiary of Insurance Administrative Solutions, LLC; which was a subsidiary of Gulfcoast Administrators, LLC; which was majority-owned by Life & Health Holdings, Inc.; which was a subsidiary of State Mutual Insurance Company.

Compound pain creams were very lucrative. Government-backed health insurance programs such as TRICARE (for the military) and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (for federal workers) would reimburse hundreds of dollars for these prescriptions. But the government programs imposed certain restrictions to limit spending. For example, patients were required to contribute to the cost of the prescription in the form of copays. The government programs also limited payments to the “usual and customary price”—the price charged to a cash-paying, uninsured patient.

The Government alleged that DermaTran and PIA found ways to avoid these restrictions. DermaTran and PIA created a copay-waiver program where patients would have their copays waived based on a brief, unverified statement of economic need. DermaTran and PIA also misled the government programs about the price being charged to uninsured, cash-paying patients by falsely stating that that price was high when, in fact, it was only $30. As a result, there were days that veterans were charged $600+ for pain creams, while uninsured patients were charged only $30.

Eventually, various auditors uncovered these problems and began to terminate DermaTran from their networks. The Government alleged that DermaTran, looking for a way to continue to earn money, began selling its out-of-network prescriptions to other pharmacies. The other pharmacies could fill the prescriptions because they were still in network. After filling the lucrative prescriptions, the other pharmacies remitted a portion of the proceeds to DermaTran and PIA. The government alleged that this arrangement constituted an illegal kickback. The other pharmacies that participated in this prescriptions-for-money scheme included Legends Pharmacy (in Texas), Lake Side Pharmacy (in Alabama), and TriadRx (in Alabama).

This settlement resulted from a joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the US Office of Personnel Management – Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, and the Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General.

This civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by a former accountant for DermaTran, under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act. United States ex rel. Doe v. DermaTran Health Solutions, LLC, et al., Civil Action No. 1:17-CV-1765. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens may bring suit for false claims on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery obtained by the government.

Under the settlement, PIA will contribute $6.5 million to the settlement. DermaTran is no longer operating and was sold in an arm’s-length transaction to a third-party buyer last year for the price of $40,000. That amount will be turned over to the government as part of the settlement. MLDP of Texas, LP (a/k/a “Legends Pharmacy”) will pay $59,293. TRIAD Rx, Inc. will pay $166,547. Lake Side Pharmacy is no longer in business, but former owners of Lake Side Pharmacy will pay $110,724. The former owners include Titan Medical Marketing, LLC; Donald Wayne Bogue; George Takashi Elkins; James Bernard Bogue, Jr.; Robert Joseph Puckett, Jr.; Robert Joseph Puckett, Sr.; Stephen Weston Wilson; and Charles Franklin Taylor, Jr. The whistleblower will receive $1,434,775 from the settlements. PIA will also pay her attorney’s fees.

The settlement documents the commitment of the Justice Department, the Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) and other federal agencies to enforce the False Claims Act to recover government payments that result from improper waiver of copays, charging the government higher prices and other improper practices in violation of the False Claims Act. The agencies made a point of including their respective warnings in their announcement of the settlement.

“Health care fraud abuse like this case erodes the trust patients have in the health care system,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI will not stand by when there are allegations of companies operating corporate wide schemes to illegally line their pockets.”

“Fraud through compounding pharmacies bilked billions out of TRICARE and undermined the integrity of our healthcare system designed to care for our service members and their families,” stated Cynthia Bruce, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). “I appreciate the partnership among involved law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring this matter to justice.”

“The OPM OIG has no tolerance for businesses that knowingly take advantage of FEHBP, violating the rules to make a profit,” said Amy K. Parker, Special Agent in Charge, OPM OIG. “I am extremely proud of the hard work of our investigators, analysts, and other law enforcement partners because overcharging the government is not a victimless crime – it contributes to higher premium prices and harms the financial integrity of the FEHBP.”

“The U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, will continue to tirelessly investigate those who commit frauds against federal benefit programs and the U.S. Postal Service. This settlement is a clear message that the USPS OIG is dedicated to rooting out corruption and bringing to justice those responsible for these crimes, said Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General Northeast Area Field Office. The USPS OIG would like to thank our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice for their efforts in this investigation”.

“Health care providers that try to boost their profits by submitting fraudulent claims to Federal health care programs threaten the integrity of those programs and drive up prices for everyone,” said Tamala E. Miles, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “We work tirelessly alongside our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of Federal health care programs and to ensure the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Doctor, Three Pharmacists Among 8 Charged With Illegally Distributing More Than 1.2 Million Oxycodone Pills

October 13, 2022

Criminal inditements unsealed October 12, 2022 against a Brooklyn area doctor, three pharmacies and four employees illustrate federal authorities’ continuing war against providers for wrongfully distributing oxycodone or other controlled substances.

The 10-count indictment unsealed charges Dr. Somsri Ratanaprasatporn, her office manager Leticia Smith, pharmacists Bassam Amin, Omar Elsayed, and Yousef Ennab, Michael Kent, Anthony Mathis, and Raymond Walker with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and related crimes. Smith and Kent are also charged with money laundering in connection with their alleged efforts to hide the proceeds of their illegal oxycodone distribution operation. All eight defendants were arrested this morning and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy.

As set forth in the indictment and publicly filed documents, between December 2018 and October 2022, the defendants operated a drug distribution ring out of a medical practice on Linden Boulevard in East New York, Brooklyn. Together, they unlawfully distributed more than 11,000 prescriptions for oxycodone.

According to the unsealed inditements, the structured drug trafficking ring’s operations started in a doctor’s office and ended with more than 1.2 million dangerously addictive opioids worth $24 million supplied to the streets of New York City,. Ratanaprasatporn, a pediatrician and general practitioner, and Smith, issued the prescriptions; Amin, Ennab and Elsayed filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and Kent, Mathis, and Walker oversaw “crews” of sham patients who received medically unnecessary prescriptions. Together, the defendants made millions of dollars from the scheme. During the execution of a search warrant this morning, members of law enforcement recovered several hundred thousand dollars in U.S. currency from Smith’s residence. Law enforcement also recovered two handguns that Kent was observed tossing from a rear door of his residence.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the drug charges, the defendants face up to 20 years’ imprisonment. If convicted of the money laundering charges, Smith and Kent face up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each count.

Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. Addition and other abuse often starts from medications prescribed by or otherwise made available by health care providers.

Every year, millions of Americans abuse oxycodone. Misuse of painkillers like oxycodone leads to hundreds of thousands of annual emergency room visits. More than 16,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2020. Oxycodone prescriptions have enormous cash value to drug dealers. For example, one oxycodone 30 mg tablet, which was the dosage prescribed in this case, can be sold by dealers on the street for between $20 and $30 in New York City.

The growing epidemic of abuse of oxycodone and other prescription pain medications have prompted federal and state authorities to partner in their fight against pain medication abuse.

The charges are the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the DEA. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Like many other recent prosecutions, these inditements target health care providers profiting off of the illegal prescription or other distribution of oxycodine or other controlled substances.

In announcing the inditements, representatives of each participating agency reintegrated their agencies commitment to continue investigation and prosecuting health care providers improperly distributing controlled substances.

“Doctors and medical professionals have a professional obligation to do no harm, but, as alleged, the defendants callously supplied more than one million pills to traffickers for distribution, resulting in dangerous opioids flooding the streets of this district,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s charges demonstrate this Office’s continued commitment to stemming the availability of illegal drugs and holding to account those who contribute to the epic tragedy that is the opioid epidemic.”

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Tarentino warned the “DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold DEA Registrants and other medical professionals to the highest possible standards and also hold them accountable when they knowingly endanger members of the community.”

“With this multi-million-dollar criminal scheme, it’s alleged the defendants made their profits off the vulnerabilities and addictions of their customers throughout New York City.  Law enforcement partnerships like those seen here today have been and continue to be an integral part of stopping the flow of highly addictive narcotics into our communities,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Fattorusso.

“Today’s charges show how diverted prescription drugs still fuel the opioid epidemic in New York. The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement remains resolute in its commitment to work together with our federal and local law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle the criminal organizations that abuse the public’s trust in health care practitioners to move these dangerous and addictive pills from pharmacies to our neighborhoods,” stated BNE Director Vinciguerra.

Along with vigorous investigation and enforcement of providers and others involved in illegal distribution, federal and state authorities also have worked to tighten rules, standards and records keeping requirements for the legal prescription of opioids and other narcotics by physicians and other prescribers and stepped up disciplinary investigation and enforcement of these requirements. Billing for prescriptions of opioids beyond the parameters of tightened parameters also can trigger overprescribing and other allegations. Physician and other prescribers, pharmacists and pharmacies and other health industry participants should use care to establish and ensure they and their staff meticulously follow appropriate protocols and procedures to ensure their ability to defend their handling of opioid and other narcotic painkillers.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


OCR Dental Practices Settlements Warn Providers To Honor HIPAA Access Rights

September 20, 2022

Today’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announcement of resolution agreements with three separate dental practices warns all health care providers, health plans and health care clearinghouses of the importance of complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule’s patient right of access and other federal and state mandates about providing patients and health plan members access to their records.

The following three resolution agreements OCR announced September 20, 2022 underscore the importance and necessity of compliance with the right of access and other HIPAA requirements:

Chicago-based Family Dental Care, P.C. (“FDC”), paid $30,000.00 to resolve potential OCR charges aiding from OCR’s investigation located in Chicago, Illinois. OCR received a complaint on August 8, 2020, alleging that FDC failed to provide a former patient with timely access to her complete medical records. The former patient requested her entire medical records in May 2020, but received only portions. The former patient filed a complaint with OCR, and during OCR’s investigation, FDC provided her with the remainder of her records in October 2020. Thus, FDC did not provide a complete copy of the records until more than five months after the request was made. OCR’s investigation determined that FDC’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access provision. FDC agreed to pay $30,000 and implement a corrective action plan.

Georgia based dental and orthodontics provider Great Expressions Dental Center of Georgia, P.C. (“GEDC-GA”) paid $80,000 to resolve concerns arising from OCR’s investigation of a November 2020 complaint alleging that GEDC-GA would not provide an individual with copies of her medical records because she would not pay GEDC-GA’s $170 copying fee. The individual first requested her records in November 2019, but did not receive them until February 2021, over a year later. OCR’s investigation determined that GEDC-GA’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records, and its practice of assessing copying fees that were not reasonable and cost-based, were potential violations of the HIPAA right of access provision. GEDC-GA agreed to pay $80,000 and implement a corrective action plan.

Las Vegas, Nevada dental practice B. Steven L. Hardy, D.D.S., LTD, doing business as Paradise Family Dental (“Paradise”) paid $25,000 to resolve potential violations uncovered after OCR investigated an October 26, 2020 complaint alleging that Paradise had failed to provide a mother with copies of her and her minor child’s protected health information. The mother submitted multiple record requests between April 11, 2020, and December 4, 2020, but Paradise did not send the records until December 31, 2020, more than eight months after her initial request. OCR’s investigation determined that Paradise’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access provision. Paradise agreed to pay $25,000 and implement a corrective action plan.

The three newly announced resolution agreements bring to 41 the number of resolution agreements OCR has announced since announcing its program targeting access right violations. OCR call Rosov call Riedel access violations are the most common of all reported HIPAA violations.

OCR made clear its announcements of these resolution agreements to “send an important message to dental practices of all sizes that are covered by the HIPAA Rules to ensure they are following the law,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “Patients have a fundamental right under HIPAA to receive their requested medical records, in most cases, within 30 days. I hope that these actions send the message of compliance so that patients do not have to file a complaint with OCR to have their medical records requests fulfilled.”

Health care providers as well as health plans should heed thus strong warning by ensuring their compliance with the HIPAA right of access as well as other applicable rules about providing patient and plan members copies of records or other data. for healthcare providers, you can please but are not limited to State medical records, ethics, and other rules and regulations. Or health plan, the HIPAA Records access rules are in addition to the Employee Retirement Invome Security Act mandates to provide plan records when requested.

If circumstances come to light that indicate a breach of the access or any other HIPAA standards, Covered Entities also promptly should work with legal counsel timely to investigate, determine and provide any required notifications or other corrective action and document their actions to meet applicable HIPAA and other legal obligations and mitigate liability.

Of course, all HIPAA-covered entities and their leaders always must keep in mind that their responsibilities and potential liability for mishandling protected health information could extend well beyond HIPAA. In addition to the civil monetary penalties HIPAA authorizes, mishandling the collection, protection or disposal of PHI or other sensitive data also can trigger other legal exposures. For instance, as HIPAA compliance is part of the Conditions of Participation that Medicare participating Covered Entities and Medicare Advantage Plans must meet to qualify for program participation, noncompliance could trigger program exclusion, False Claims Act or related exposures. Deficiencies in security or destruction of credit card, banking or other PHI that also qualifies as personal financial information could trigger exposure under Federal Trade Commission, state identity theft and privacy or other laws. Public companies and their leaders also may need to evaluate if deficiencies in their security or destruction protocols trigger investor disclosure obligations under Securities and Exchange Commission rules or other federal or state laws. Considering these and other exposures, documented, compliance and defensibility of PHI and other sensitive information use, protection, disclosure and destruction should rank high among the priorities of all Covered Entities and their leaders.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Criminal IV Tampering Charges Against Anesthesiologist Highlight Exposures Providers And Their Facilities Can Face From Team Members Retaliatory or Other Misdeeds

September 15, 2022

The arrest and criminal charges against Dallas anesthesiologist Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. (“Dr. Ortiz”) announced September 15, 2022 highlight the advisability of health care facilities and providers to use care to use appropriate monitoring and other safeguards to protect patients and other critical operations against potential retaliatory misconduct during professional peer review or other investigation or discipline of health care professionals or other members of their workforces.

Dr. Ortiz was arrested in Plano, Texas on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Friday, September 16, 2022 on federal felony criminal charges that he caused the death of a patient and surgical emergencies of other patients by intentionally tampering with a consumer product and intentional drug alteration.

According to the by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham, Dr. Ortiz was arrested and charged via criminal complaint with tampering with a consumer product causing death and intentional drug adulteration.

According the criminal complaint, on June 21, 2022, a 55-year-old female coworker of Dr. Ortiz, experienced a medical emergency and died immediately after treating herself for dehydration using an IV bag of saline taken from a Baylor Scott & White operated surgical center. An autopsy report revealed that she died from a lethal dose of bupivacaine, a nerve blocking agent that is rarely abused but is often used during the administration of anesthesia.

Two months later, on August 24, 2022, an 18-year-old male patient experienced a cardiac emergency during a routine sinus surgery. The teen was intubated and transferred to a local ICU. Chemical analysis of the fluid from a saline bag used during his surgery revealed the presence of bupivacaine, epinephrine (a stimulant), and lidocaine, drugs that could have caused the patient’s sudden symptoms.

According to the complaint, surgical center personnel concluded that the incidents involving both patients suggested a pattern of intentional adulteration of IV bags used at the surgical center.

The surgical center personnel also identified 10 additional unexpected cardiac emergencies that occurred during otherwise unremarkable surgeries between May and August 2022, which the criminal complaint alleges is an exceptionally high rate of complications over such a short period of time. According to the criminal complaint, medical personnel in each of those additional 10 cases only were able to stabilize the patient through use of emergency measures. Most of the incidents occurred during longer surgeries that used more than one IV bag, including one or more bags retrieved mid-surgery from a stainless steel bag warmer.

Surveillance video from the center’s operating room hallway allegedly also shows Dr. Ortiz placing IV bags into the stainless-steel bag warmer shortly before other doctors’ patients experienced cardiac emergencies. The complaint alleges that in one instance captured in the surveillance video, agents observed Dr. Ortiz walk quickly from an operating room to the bag warmer, place a single IV bag inside, visually scan the empty hallway, and quickly walk away. Just over an hour later, according to the complaint, a 56-year-old woman suffered a cardiac emergency during a scheduled cosmetic surgery after a bag from the warmer was used during her procedure. The complaint also states that in another instance, agents observed Dr. Ortiz exit his operating room carrying an IV bag concealed in what appeared to be a paper folder, swap the bag with another bag from the warmer, and walk away. Roughly half an hour later, a 54-year-old woman suffered a cardiac emergency during a scheduled cosmetic surgery after a bag from the warmer was used during her procedure. 

According to the complaint, none of the cardiac incidents occurred during Dr. Ortiz’s surgeries, and that the series of emergencies began just two days after Dr. Oritz was notified of a disciplinary inquiry stemming from an incident during which he allegedly “deviated from the standard of care” during an anesthesia procedure when a patient experienced a medical emergency. The complaint alleges that all of the incidents occurred around the time Dr. Ortiz performed services at the facility, and no incidents occurred while Dr. Ortiz was on vacation.

The complaint further alleges that Dr. Ortiz, who had a history of disciplinary actions against him, expressed concern to other physicians over the disciplinary action at the facility and complained the center was trying to “crucify” him. A nurse who worked on one of Dr. Ortiz’s surgeries allegedly told law enforcement that Dr. Ortiz refused to use an IV bag she retrieved from the warmer, physically waving the bag off.

“Our complaint alleges this defendant surreptitiously injected heart-stopping drugs into patient IV bags, decimating the Hippocratic oath,” said U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham in the Department of Justice announcement of the charges. The criminal charges stemmed from these findings.

The Justice Department announcement reminds readers that a criminal complaint is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Dr. Ortiz is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted, however, Dr. Ortiz faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Both Dr. Ortiz and the surgical facility are exposed to potential liability as a result of the alleged charges. Aside from the pending criminal charges, Dr. Ortiz also almost certainly could face potential peer review and licensing board disciplinary investigation, as well as civil lawsuits.

In addition to these liability exposures for Dr. Ortiz, the surgical facility and other providers also could face civil or potentially even criminal liability.

It seems almost inevitable that the facility and potentially some other providers might be drawn into civil lawsuits brought by affected patients and their families allegedly injured or place at risk by the alleged actions by Dr. Ortiz, as well as licensing and/or accreditation investigation arising from the alleged events.

Because Dr. Ortez’s alleged Actions constitute federal felonies, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines sentencing and organizational liability rules apply. The Sentencing Guidelines will apply to determine the sentence imposed if Dr. Ortez ultimately is convicted. In addition, the Sentencing Guidelines organizational liability provisions also raise a risk of criminal charges against the facility or other parties with knowledge or other imputed responsibility. Under the organizational guidelines, organizations can have imputedliability for the criminal acts committed by the members of their workforce. However whether criminal charges will be pursued against the organization and the level of culpability and resulting liability is determined based upon both whether the organization took appropriate steps to prevent the misconduct before it happened and the extent to which the organization acted promptly in its investigation and redress of the conduct. The apparent actions of the surgical center and its leader ship to investigate, report, and cooperate in the investigation with federal officials are likely to mitigate if not resolve their criminal exposure.

Organizations and their leaders should treat the charges against Dr. Ortiz as a reminder, at minimum carefully to credential and monitor team members including doctors or other non-employer actors working in or with their facilities, to establish appropriate safeguards to prevent and identify quickly mistakes or intentional conduct, to monitor and enforce those safeguards, and to take appropriate prompt action to investigate concerns and redress and if necessary report misconduct with the advice of counsel.

When dealing with position performance and discipline concerns, facilities typically must carefully negotiate applicable contractual and workforce issues as well as the procedural and due process requirements of applicable medical staff bylaws and federal and state peer review and discipline statutes and regulations and medical staff discipline rules.

When a medical staff member protected by peer review or other procedural safeguards commits behaviors that raise a material and continuing threat to the health and safety of patients or the public, summary suspension may be necessary. When considering or taking an action to summarily suspend a healthcare provider, however, facilities and their medical staff leaders should document both the grounds for the patient safety concerns and need for immediate action and scrupulously follow the summary suspension procedures.

Along with seeking to prevent and mitigate these legal risks, Facilities and other providers also need to consider white reporting obligations they may bear under applicable statutes, regulations and contracts.

While managing these legal risks, facilities and other involved parties also need to anticipate media and public concern about the occurrences. Facilities and their leaders should anticipate and be prepared to work in conjunction with qualified legal counsel and experienced qualified public relations experts to decide when, what, and how to communicate with the public in the media about these types of events to avoid is there a bold minefield of traps created by privacy laws, evidentiary and other legal risk management concerns, and the management of relationships with other members of the medical staff and workforce, business partners, insurance, and the public.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 35 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. In the course of this work, she has worked extensively on workforce and medical staff credentialing, management, investigation, peer review and discipline, and reporting and remediation of criminal or other activity to regulatory officials.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Act Promptly To Comment On ONC’s Proposed Electronic Clinical Quality Measure Draft Changes

September 14, 2022

Health care providers, health plans and insurers and other stakeholders concerned about the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information (“ONC”) electronic clinical quality measures (“eCQMs”) have the opportunity to review and comment on draft changes to the eCQM specifications and supporting resources  under consideration by ONC as part of ONC’s 2022 Change Review Process (CRP) for the ONC Project Tracking System. Interested stakeholders must monitor the posting of issues and act quickly to share their feedback, however, as stakeholders have only two weeks to comment after a ONC posts a new proposed eCQm change.

eCQMs As Measure of Health Care Quality

Electronic clinical quality measures or “eCQMs” are tools that ONC develops with stakeholder input to help Medicare and Medicaid measure and track the quality of health care services that eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) provide, as generated by a provider’s electronic health record (EHR). CMS Measuring and reporting eCQMs helps to ensure that our health care system is delivering effective, safe, efficient, patient-centered, equitable, and timely care. CMS’ eCQMs measure many aspects of patient care, including:

  • Patient and Family Engagement
  • Patient Safety
  • Care Coordination
  • Population/Public Health
  • Efficient Use of Healthcare Resources
  • Clinical Process/Effectiveness

To successfully participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Programs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) requires eligible providers, eligible hospitals, critical access hospitals and dual-eligible hospitals electronically to report on eCQMs determined by CMS that require the use of data from the provider’s certified electronic health record (“EHR”) technology (CEHRT) or other health information technology systems to measure and report quality measures in a standardized manner. For calendar year (CY) 2022, Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program participants are required to report on three self-selected eCQMand the Safe Use of Opioids – Concurrent Prescribing eCQM from the set of nine available for at least three self-selected quarters of CY 2022 data. To report eCQMs successfully, health care providers must use an EHR and adhere to the requirements identified by the CMS quality program. Failing to meet these eCQM reporting requirements can prevent the provider from meeting meaningful use requirements and trigger reductions in reimbursements for care.

Health care quality, credentialing, accreditation, and other provider, health plan and other organizations also use the eCQMs data alone or with other quality measures and tools to set standards and assess and enforce quality goals and performances.

As the proposed changes on a relevant eCQM could materially impact the reporting responsibilities of the reporting providers, the quality and meaning of a proposed data measure, or both, impacted stakeholders should monitor the system for possible changes impacting the eCQMs used or applicable to their organizations and its activities and if appropriate, comment promptly.

2022 eCQMs Updates

Each year, CMS makes updates to the eCQMs approved for CMS programs to reflect changes in:

  • Evidence-based Medicine
  • Code Sets
  • Measure Logic

Conducted annually as part of OCN’s eCQM Issue Tracker project, the CRP provides eCQM users the opportunity to review and comment on draft changes to the eCQM specifications and supporting resources under consideration by the measure stewards. The goal of the CRP is for eCQM implementers to comment on the potential impact of draft changes to eCQMs so CMS and measure stewards can make improvements to meet CMS’s intent of minimizing provider and vendor burden in the collection, capture, calculation, and reporting of eCQMs. 

Stakeholders with an account on the ONC Project Tracking System can monitor, review and comment on proposed eCQM changes through the eCQM Issue Tracker project during the two week period following the date the issue is posted in the eCQM Issue Tracker. To participate in the CRP, users must have an ONC Project Tracking System account. New users can create an account via the ONC Project Tracking System website.

The following table reflects the eCQM issues open on the eCQM Issue Tracker as of September 14, 2022 and their scheduled comment closing dates

Issues Open for Public Comment As of 9/14/2022

CMS eCQM Identifier and Measure TitleCRP Issue TitleIssue Number and LinkIssue TypeGoal of ReviewPublic Comment Open DatePublic Comment Close Date
Multiple measuresIncorporate ‘Diagnosis’ datatype to capture Hospice CareCQM-5561Logic; Value SetObtain clinical and technical feedback09/07/202209/21/2022
CMS128: Anti-depressant Medication Management; CMS136: Follow-Up Care for Children Prescribed ADHD Medication (ADD); CMS156: Use of High-Risk Medications in Older AdultsUpdate Cumulative Medication Duration function to calculate maximum daily frequencyCQM-5562LogicObtain technical feedback09/07/202209/21/2022
Multiple measuresExpand codes using ‘Diagnosis’ datatype to capture Palliative CareCQM-5563Logic; Value SetObtain clinical and technical feedback09/07/202209/21/2022
Multiple measuresRequire 2 indications of frailty to meet exclusionCQM-5564Header; Logic; Measure Intent ClarificationObtain clinical feedback09/07/202209/21/2022
CMS127: Pneumococcal Vaccination Status for Older AdultsExpand numerator to allow for pneumococcal vaccination since 19 years of ageCQM-5565Header; Logic; Measure Intent ClarificationObtain clinical feedback09/07/202209/21/2022
eCQM Issue Tracker Open Issues As Of September 14, 2022

As proposed eCQM changes are posted for public comment as CRP issues. ONC informs eCQM accountholders of the proposed change or eCQM issue by posting for review in the ONC Project Tracking System. Accountholders only have two weeks after ONC posts a proposed eCQM to comment on the posted issue. Stakeholders interested in commenting on a particular issue must submit their comment in accordance with the directions within this two week period.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

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Learn About DOJ Federal Antitrust Health Industry Market Competition Enforcement & Latest On $2.67 Billion BCBS Class Action Antitrust Settlement In 9/8 JCEB Webex

September 2, 2022

As qualifying individuals and companies that purchased or received health insurance await instructions on how to claim their share of the $2.67 billion In re: Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation private federal class action civil antitrust lawsuit settlement (“Settlement”) finally approved August 9, 2022 against the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (“BCBSA”) and other settling individual Blue Cross Plans, employers and other plan sponsors, health care systems and providers, health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, brokerages, and other health and health insurance market participants need to keep in mind that the private antitrust judgements are not their only exposure under federal antitrust laws. Health insurance and health industry market participants that engage in anticompetitive conduct or business transactions also risk investigation and prosecution under federal antitrust laws by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and state regulators or attorneys general.

Market participants and others with health or health insurance industry market competitiveness concerns or interests should register and attend the September 8, 2022 Justice Department Health Industry Antitrust Enforcement Update to learn about key federal antitrust statutes regulating or prohibiting anticompetitive conduct and business transactions and hear how the Department of Justice uses these laws to promote market competition in the health care and health insurance marketplaces.

Hosted by the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, the webinar will feature a discussion by U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division Healthcare and Consumer Products Section Antitrust Attorney Natalie Melada of basic federal antitrust rules and principles the Justice Department relies upon to safeguard market competitiveness and discusses selected Justice Department antitrust litigation and other compliance and enforcement initiatives the Department of Justice has undertaken to protect competition in the healthcare industry. Attorney and Solutions Law Press, Inc. editor and author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer also will provide an update on the In re: Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation and resulting $2.67 billion settlement approved August 9.

For more details and to register for the program, see here.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and following and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


HIPAA Covered Entity Nailed With $300,000+ HIPAA Settlement For Improper PHI Disposal

August 23, 2022

A Massachusetts dermatology practice’s Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) $300,000 plus settlement with the Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reminds health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses and their business associates (“Covered Entities”) to use proper practices and safeguards when disposing of protected health information (“PHI”).

Following up on other OCR enforcement involving improper protection and disposal of paper and electronic PHI, the settlement with New England Dermatology P.C., d/b/a New England Dermatology and Laser Center (“NDELC”) OCR announced today (August 23, 2022) resolves charges that NDELC violated the HIPAA Privacy Rules when it placed specimen containers with patient identifying PHI in its parking lot garbage bin.

OCR interprets HIPAA as requiring Covered Entities to appropriate steps to ensure that safeguards are in place when disposing of patient information to keep it from being accessible by the public. ”Improper disposal of protected health information creates an unnecessary risk to patient privacy,” said Acting OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer.

On May 11, 2021, NEDLC filed a breach report with OCR that reported empty specimen containers with the PHI on labels were placed in a garbage bin in their parking lot. The containers’ labels included patient names and dates of birth, dates of sample collection, and name of the provider who took the specimen. On March 31, 2021, a third-party security guard found one specimen container bearing a label containing patient names, dates of birth, dates of sample collection, and name of the provider who took the specimen.  During the investigation, NEDLC stated that from February 4, 2011 until March 31, 2021, it regularly discarded specimen containers with an attached label that contained PHI as regular waste, bagged and placed in an exterior dumpster accessible via the parking lot, without alteration to the PHI containing label.

OCR’s New England Regional Office found the practice of disposing of specimen containers with their labels containing PHI violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule including the impermissible use and disclosure of PHI and failure to maintain appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of PHI.

Under the NEDLC Resolution Agreement negotiated to settle the alleged violations, NEDLC paid $300,640 to OCR and agreed to implement a “robust” corrective action plan that includes two years of  OCR monitoring.  Among other things, the corrective action plan requires NEDLC to:

  • Within 60 days, develop, maintain, and revise, as needed and present for OCR review its written policies and procedures to comply with the physical safeguard and disposal of PHI created, received or maintained by or on behalf of NEDLC and all other HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification and training protocols to ensure workforce member compliance with these policies; and sanctions for workforce members violating these requirements;
  • Implement the updated policies and procedures within 30 days of receipt of HHS approval;
  • Distribute the policies to existing members of its workforce within 30 days of receipt of HHS approval of the policies and subsequently to new members of the workforce within 30 days of their beginning of service and obtain a signed written or electronic initial compliance certification from all members of the workforce and relevant business associates stating that the workforce members have read, understand, and shall abide by such policies and procedures;
  • Assess, update, and revise, as necessary, the policies and procedures at least annually or as needed, provide the revised policies and procedures to HHS for review and approval, and redistribute to and obtained new compliance certifications from workforce members and business associates within 30 days of HHS approval;
  • If it receives information during the Compliance Term that a workforce member or business associate may have failed to comply with its policies and procedures for safeguarding PHI, promptly investigate and it the investigation finds a violation, notify HHS within 30 days of the violation and corrective action taken;
  • Comply with specified breach investigation and notification requirements;
  • Provide reports certified by a designated leader of the organization its implementation of the corrective action plan, annually and upon the occurrence of certain other events during the two-year monitoring period.

The NEDLC Resolution Agreement is not the first time OCR has nailed a Covered Entity for improper disposal of PHI. In 2015 Cornell Prescription Pharmacy paid OCR $125,000 and implemented a correction action plan to correct alleged HIPAA violations after an OCR investigation of a local news report confirmed unsecured paper documents containing PHI of more than 1600 patients were disposed of in an unlocked, open container on Cornell’s premises. The documents were not shredded and contained identifiable information regarding specific patients. See Cornell Prescription Pharmacy Resolution Agreement. See also $800,000 HIPAA Settlement in Medical Records Dumping Case.

To reduce their own exposure to potential HIPAA liability arising from improper disposal of PHI, covered entities should evaluate the adequacy of the PHI handling, security and disposal policies, procedures, training and compliance for potential weaknesses and take appropriate, timely documented corrective action to tighten their compliance with OCR’s regulations, OCR’s Frequently Asked Questions About the Disposal and other OCR enforcement actions and guidance on PHI disposal.   

Since these evaluations could uncover past or ongoing compliance concerns, Covered Entities and business associates should consider engaging legal counsel experienced with HIPAA compliance to advise and aid the Covered Entity to structure, conduct, evaluate findings and determine and implement any corrective actions that the review reveals as required or advisable within the scope of attorney client privilege.

Effective protection and disposal of PHI requires that Covered Entities recognize and keep track of all PHI in the various phases of its lifecycle in the organization including when it is being disposed or or migrating through various systems. Sanctions for disposal of specimen bottles containing PHI labels should raise the need for awareness of disposal practices for other patient labeled items including identification bracelets, medication containers and labels, meal trays and the plethora of other items containing patient specific information. PHI disposal issues also can arise out of the disposal of files, storage containers, computers, copiers or other devices. For instance, under the Affinity Health Plan, Inc. Resolution Agreement, Affinity Health paid OCR $1,215,780 to settle potential HIPAA Civil Monetary Sanctions after OCR found it exposed the PHI of up to 344,579 individuals by returning photocopiers to a leasing agent without erasing the data contained on the copier hard drives. 

Because HIPAA obligations continue even when a Covered Entity or business associate goes out of business, Covered Entities also need to take appropriate steps to provide for ongoing management, protection and disposal of PHI when they or a business associate ceases business. Thus, in the FileFax Resolution Agreement, for instance the receiver appointed to liquidate the assets of Filefax, Inc. agreed to pay $ 100,000 out of the receivership estate to OCR to settle potential HIPAA violations after Filefax shut its doors during the course of OCR’s investigation into alleged HIPAA violations.

Covered Entities must understand that these responsibilities generally cannot be met merely through adoption of a standard set of policies and procedures from a third-party. The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires all Covered Entities to prepare and document risk assessments and develop and enforce appropriate privacy and security policies and procedures. Security and disposal practices and procedures are among the elements of HIPAA compliance that OCR expects Covered Entities to address in the documented risk assessments the regulations require Covered Entities to prepare and maintain. See $750,000 HIPAA Settlement Underscores the Need for Organization Wide Risk Analysis. As with other HIPAA compliance responsibilities, OCR regulations require that Covered Entities include their documented assessment and decision-making about the adequacy and reasonableness of their PHI protection and destruction practices under HIPAA as part of their overall HIPAA risk assessment plan and practices.

While OCR guidance provides some examples of several practices that a Covered Entity might use that could or could not meet the destruction standards, these examples are not safe harbors. The regulations and guidance expect Covered Entities to conduct a documented review and assessment “of their own circumstances to determine what steps are reasonable to safeguard PHI through disposal and develop and implement policies and procedures to carry out those steps.”  OCR guidance directs that Covered Entities should assess potential risks to patient privacy, as well as consider such issues as the form, type, and amount of PHI to be disposed. Covered entities are responsible for conducting and documenting their analysis as well as their adoption, implementation and enforcement of the resulting policies and procedures.

If circumstances come to light that indicate a breach of the standards in the course of the disposal compliance assessment or otherwise, Covered Entities also promptly should work with legal counsel timely to investigate, determine and provide any required notifications or other corrective action and document their actions to meet applicable HIPAA and other legal obligations and mitigate liability.

Of course, Covered Entities and their leaders always must keep in mind that their responsibilities and potential liability for mishandling PHI could extend well beyond HIPAA. In addition to the civil monetary penalties HIPAA authorizes, mishandling the collection, protection or disposal of PHI or other sensitive data also can trigger other legal exposures. For instance, as HIPAA compliance is part of the Conditions of Participation that Medicare participating Covered Entities and Medicare Advantage Plans must meet to qualify for program participation, noncompliance could trigger program exclusion, False Claims Act or related exposures. Deficiencies in security or destruction of credit card, banking or other PHI that also qualifies as personal financial information could trigger exposure under Federal Trade Commission, state identity theft and privacy or other laws. Public companies and their leaders also may need to evaluate if deficiencies in their security or destruction protocols trigger investor disclosure obligations under Securities and Exchange Commission rules or other federal or state laws. Considering these and other exposures, documented, compliance and defensibility of PHI and other sensitive information use, protection, disclosure and destruction should rank high among the priorities of all Covered Entities and their leaders.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


OCR Kentucky Disaster Relief and Resources

August 4, 2022

The Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) has declared a public health emergency for Kentucky due to consequences of severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides.

The Declaration of a Public Health Emergency (PHE) provides limited relief from certain otherwise applicable privacy and civil rights rules under the conditions specified in the Waiver.

OCR’s bulletin on the Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties as a Result of the Consequences of Flooding in the Commonwealth of Kentucky available here.

Information about how the HIPAA Privacy Rule applies in a public health emergency is provided on the OCR’S HIPAA Emergency Preparedness, Planning, and Response page or by using the HIPAA Disclosures for Emergency Preparedness Decision Tool.

OCR’s HHS OCR Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Ensuring Language Access and Effective Communication also provides guidance to officials so on ensuring individuals have equal access to emergency services, including access and effective communication,

Information on emergency requirements for long-term care facilities also appears on the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule page.

Healthcare providers and other covered entities, their business associates and others with data security responsibilities or sensitivities should keep in mind their general obligations under these requirements continue during the disaster except as provided in the Declaration guidance.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Unemployment Rose Slightly Last Week

July 14, 2022

Unemployment is slightly up according to just released U.U. Department of Labor (“DOL”) data.

DOL reports the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims rose by 9,000 from 235,000 to 244,000, In the week ending July 9, 2022. The 4-week moving average was 235,750, an increase of 3,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 232,500.

Review the latest data here.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Protect Remote Desktop Protocols From Malware Threat

July 1, 2022

As Americans prepare to celebrate the July 4th holiday, CISA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) are warning of a cyber threat for Remote Desktop users. Health care, health plan, healthcare clearing houses, their business associates and other security sensitive organizations using remote access technology should perform and document their risk assessment and any corrective actions taken as part of their continuing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), Fair and Accurate Credit Transactioms Act (FACTA”), government contracting, securities law, and other data security compliance.

The joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA), #StopRansomware: MedusaLocker, published July 1 alerts of the risk of MedusaLocker ransomware. MedusaLocker actors target vulnerabilities in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to access victims’ networks.

CISA, FBI, Treasury and FinCEN are encouraging network defenders to examine their current cybersecurity posture and apply the recommended mitigations in this joint CSA, which include:

  • Prioritize remediating known exploited vulnerabilities.
  • Train users to recognize and report phishing attempts.
  • Enable and enforce multifactor authentication.

When assessing Remote Desktop protocol risks, covered entities, business associates and other security concerned organizations also should examine their exposures to other vulnerabilities.

A key resource for monitoring some of these vulnerabilities is the CISA Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog, which lists exposures based on evidence of active exploitation. These types of vulnerabilities are a frequent attack vector for malicious cyber actors and pose significant risk federal enterprises. CISA strongly urges all organizations to reduce their exposure to cyberattacks by prioritizing timely remediation of Catalog vulnerabilities as part of their vulnerability management practice. CISA will continue to add vulnerabilities to the Catalog that meet the specified criteria.

The Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (‘“OCR”) guidance and enforcement makes clear covered entities and business associates must monitor and take appropriate actions to update their security in response to emerging cyber security threats.

Along with monitoring and responding to this and other security threats, covered entities also should add reviewing and updating their HI-AA practices in response to new guidance OCR issued this week in response to the Supreme Court Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion ruling. The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Disclosures of Information Relating to Reproductive Health Care guidance generally addresses when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule restricts or allows individuals’ private medical information (known as “protected health information” or “PHI”) relating to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care. For more details, see here.

Beyond HIPAA, malware and other data or system security breaches and susceptibilities can create liability risks under tax, securities, government contracting, FACTA and a wide range of federal and state laws. For instance, with cybersecurity threats and compliance concerns growing, the SEC is prioritizing cybersecurity regulation, investigation and enforcement against public companies and other market participants for lack cybersecurity governance, safeguards or disclosures. See e.g., SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations Cybersecurity and Resiliency Observations. Along announcing its commitment to hold market involved and impacting regulated entities accountable for failing to maintain and enforce appropriate internal and external controls to prevent, detect and redress cybersecurity threats, including appropriate board governance and risk management, access rights and controls, data loss prevention, mobile security, incident response and resiliency, vendor management, training and awareness, investor disclosures and other practices.

Healthcare providers and other covered entities, their business associates and others with data security responsibilities or sensitivities should respond promptly and carefully document their risk analysis and response in response to these emerging concerns.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Providers Should Use Care To Comply With New OCR HIPAA Reproductive Rights Disclosure Guidance

June 29, 2022

In response to the Supreme Court Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion ruling the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued new guidance discussing when the protects patient reproductive health care records and information by health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses (“covered entities”) and their business associates.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Disclosures of Information Relating to Reproductive Health Care guidance generally addresses when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule restricts or allows individuals’ private medical information (known as “protected health information” or “PHI”) relating to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care. The guidance does not discuss responsibilities if any of providers or other covered entities under other federal or state laws. Instead, the guidance directs concerned about their obligations to disclose information concerning abortion or other reproductive health care to seek legal advice regarding their responsibilities under other federal and state laws.

Regiarding HIPAA, the guidance begins with the reminder that HIPAA covered entities and business associates can use and disclose PHI without an individual’s signed authorization, only on the narrow circumstances expressly permitted or required by the Privacy Rule.

The guidance goes on to explain when the Privacy Rule allows disclosures of PHI when required by law, for law enforcement purposes, and to avert a serious threat to health or safety. In keeping with the Biden Administration announced commitment to work to preserve the availability of abortion against restriction by state laws banning or restricting abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s decision, the guidance invites health care providers to resist disclosures HIPAA permits by making a point of saying that these exceptions are permitted but not required in bold language.

Disclosures Required by Law

The Privacy Rule permits but does not require covered entities to disclose PHI about an individual without the individual’s authorization, when the disclosure is required by another law and the disclosure complies with the requirements of the other law.9

The guidance states the HIPAA permission to disclose PHI as “required by law” is limited to “a mandate contained in law that compels an entity to make a use or disclosure of PHI and that is enforceable in a court of law.”10 Further, where a disclosure is required by law, the disclosure is limited to the relevant requirements of such law.11 Disclosures of PHI that do not meet the “required by law” definition in the HIPAA Rules,12 or that exceed what is required by such law, do not qualify as permissible disclosures.13

The guidance provides the following example:

An individual goes to a hospital emergency department while experiencing complications related to a miscarriage during the tenth week of pregnancy. A hospital workforce member suspects the individual of having taken medication to end their pregnancy. State or other law prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but does not require the hospital to report individuals to law enforcement. Where state law does not expressly require such reporting, the Privacy Rule would not permit a disclosure to law enforcement under the “required by law” permission. Therefore, such a disclosure would be impermissible and constitute a breach of unsecured PHI requiring notification to HHS and the individual affected.

Disclosures for Law Enforcement Purposes

The guidance also discusses when HIPAA allows disclosure of PHI for law enforcement purposes.

The Privacy Rule permits but does not require covered entities to disclose PHI about an individual for law enforcement purposes “pursuant to process and as otherwise required by law” only under certain conditions.14. As an example, the guidance states a covered entity may respond to a law enforcement request made through such legal processes as a court order or court-ordered warrant, or a subpoena or summons, by disclosing only the requested PHI, provided that all of the conditions specified in the Privacy Rule for permissible law enforcement disclosures are met.15

In the absence of a mandate enforceable in a court of law,16 the Privacy Rule’s permission to disclose PHI for law enforcement purposes does not permit a disclosure to law enforcement where a hospital or other health care provider’s workforce member chose to report an individual’s abortion or other reproductive health care. That is true whether the workforce member initiated the disclosure to law enforcement or others or the workforce member disclosed PHI at the request of law enforcement.17 OCR states this is because, state laws generally do not require doctors or other health care providers to report an individual who self-managed the loss of a pregnancy to law enforcement.18 Also, state fetal homicide laws generally do not penalize the pregnant individual, and “appellate courts have overwhelmingly rejected efforts to use existing criminal and civil laws intended for other purposes (e.g., to protect children) as the basis for arresting, detaining, or forcing interventions on pregnant” individuals.19 ,20

OCR illustrates its position with the following examples.

  • A law enforcement official goes to a reproductive health care clinic and requests records of abortions performed at the clinic. If the request is not accompanied by a court order or other mandate enforceable in a court of law, the Privacy Rule would not permit the clinic to disclose PHI in response to the request. Therefore, such a disclosure would be impermissible and constitute a breach of unsecured PHI requiring notification to HHS and the individual affected.
  • A law enforcement official presents a reproductive health care clinic with a court order requiring the clinic to produce PHI about an individual who has obtained an abortion. Because a court order is enforceable in a court of law, the Privacy Rule would permit but not require the clinic to disclose the requested PHI. The clinic may disclose only the PHI expressly authorized by the court order.

Disclosures to Avert a Serious Threat to Health or Safety

The guidance also points out that the Privacy Rule permits but does not require a covered entity, consistent with applicable law and standards of ethical conduct, to disclose PHI if the covered entity, in good faith, believes the use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public, and the disclosure is to a person or persons who are reasonably able to prevent or lessen the threat.21 OCR’s guidance states that the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other professional bodies, professional standards of ethical conduct treat as unethical a disclosure of PHI to law enforcement or others regarding an individual’s interest, intent, or prior experience with reproductive health care.22

OCR illustrates its interpretation with the following example:

A pregnant individual in a state that bans abortion informs their health care provider that they intend to seek an abortion in another state where abortion is legal. The provider wants to report the statement to law enforcement to attempt to prevent the abortion from taking place. However, the Privacy Rule would not permit this disclosure of PHI to law enforcement under this permission for several reasons, including:

  • A statement indicating an individual’s intent to get a legal abortion, or any other care tied to pregnancy loss, ectopic pregnancy, or other complications related to or involving a pregnancy does not qualify as a “serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public.
  • It generally would be inconsistent with professional ethical standards as it compromises the integrity of the patient–physician relationship and may increase the risk of harm to the individual.

Accordingly the guidance concludes, such a disclosure would be impermissible and constitute a breach of unsecured PHI requiring notification to HHS and the individual affected.

Disclosures in Litigation

Healthcare providers another covered entities also should anticipate becoming parties to or being asked to provide testimony or records for private litigation among parties over abortion or other reproductive rights as a result of the recent decision.

Whether participating as a party to litigation or responding to request to provide testimony or other evidence that includes confidential health information or other protected health information on reproductive rights, Healthcare providers and other HIPAA covered entities in business associates should be careful to ensure all requirements of HIPAA are met before sharing any information or records.

When a plaintiff or defendant in a legal proceeding, the covered entity may use or disclose protected health information for purposes of the litigation as part of its health care operations under 45 CFR 164.501. Covered entities and business associates must keep in mind, however, that they cannot share protected health information with their legal counsel until the legal counsel enters into a business associate agreement that meets the requirements of HIPAA.

Before sharing PHI in response to a subpoena or other litigation associated request, covered entities and business associates also generally must provide notice to the subject of the PHI and must make reasonable efforts to limit such uses and disclosures to the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended purpose. See 45 CFR 164.502(b), 164.514(d). In light of these requirements, covered entities and business associates dealing with these requests generally will want to seek the advice of a lawyer and may need to consider pursuing a protective order for requests for testimony or evidence containing PHI without authorization from the subject.

Covered Entities Should Use Care To Protect & Prevent Improper Disclosure

Providers, health plans and other covered entities and business associates should exercise height in Care when dealing with the use or disclosure of records or information on abortion or other reproductive rights and their activities associated with that care.

HIPAA is one of many legal land mines providers and other covered entities must avoid when addressing abortion or other reproductive care following the Dobbs decision. The Supreme Court decision holding the Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion creates many more questions than answers. With parties on all sides of the question energized with activism, covered entities and business associates dealing with abortion and other reproductive health concerns should prepare to defend their actions both against legal challenges and political harassment. In this charged environment, healthcare providers and other covered entities and business associates healthcare providers and other covered entities and business associates handling records or other abortion or reproductive health concerns should prepare to face questions and demands for information regardless of how they choose to proceed. Accordingly, most healthcare providers and other covered entities will want engage legal counsel with experience with HIPAA and other health care experience to discuss these concerns and develop a plan of action within the scope of attorney-client privilege.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


6 Texas Physicians Face Federal Health Care Fraud Charges For Alleged Improper Kickbacks & Lab Testing Claims

May 29, 2022

The Department of Justice sent another strong warning to physicians and other health care provides not to violate the False Claims Act by making improper patient referrals in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law, billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary laboratory testing or other services or both when charged six Texas physicians with federal health care fraud this week.   The prosecution of the physicians for laboratory tests arranged and billed through management services organizations also reminds physicians and other providers that reliance upon management services or other third-party service providers generally does not protect a physician participating in prohibited laboratory or other testing, durable medical equipment, facility, physical therapy or other health care billing or referral arrangements from liability.

Charges Against Texas Physicians

This week, the Justice Department added the following six physicians as defendants to criminal charges filed in a False Claims Act complaint filed in January 2022 against former True Health Diagnostics LLC (THD) CEO Christopher Grottenthaler, former Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation (BHD) CEO Susan Hertzberg, former LRH CEO Jeffrey Madison, and others:

  • Doyce Cartrett, Jr., M.D., of Silsbee, Texas, allegedly received over $320,000 from LRH and two management services organizations or “MSOs,” Ascend MSO of TX LLC (Ascend) and Eridanus MG LLC (Eridanus), in return for his referrals.
  • Elizabeth Seymour, M.D., of Corinth, Texas, allegedly received over $280,000 from two MSOs, Ascend and Eridanus, in return for her referrals.
  • Emanuel Paul “E.P.” Descant, II, M.D., of Spring, Texas, allegedly received over $125,000 from two MSOs, North Houston MSO and Tomball Medical Management Inc., in return for his referrals.
  • Frederick Brown, M.D., of Missouri City, Texas, allegedly received over $190,000 from two MSOs, Ascend and Indus MG LLC (Indus), in return for his referrals.
  • Heriberto Salinas, M.D., of Cleburne, Texas, allegedly received over $75,000 from two MSOs, Ascend and Herculis MG LLC (Herculis), in return for his referrals.
  • Hong Davis, M.D., of Lewisville, Texas, allegedly received over $70,000 from two MSOs, Ascend and Herculis, in return for her referrals.

The complaint in United States, et al. ex rel. STF, LLC v. True Health Diagnostics, LLC, et al., No. 4:16-cv-547 (E.D. Tex.) charges that small Texas hospitals including Rockdale Hospital dba Little River Healthcare (LRH), THD, BHD, the six physicians and others conspired to pay physicians to induce referrals to the hospitals for laboratory testing performed by THD or BHD.  The charges stem from allegations made under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by STF LLC by Felice Gersh, M.D. and Chris Riedel. The United States intervened in the qui tam action in December 2021.

The complaint alleges the charged hospitals paid a portion of their laboratory profits to recruiters, who in turn kicked back those funds to the referring physicians through MSOs allegedly set up by the recruiters to make payments to referring physicians.  The Justice Department charges the alleged kickbacks were disguised as investment returns but actually were based on, and offered in exchange for, the physicians’ referrals. The complaint alleges that laboratory tests resulting from this referral scheme were billed to various federal health care programs, and that the claims not only were tainted by improper inducements but, in many cases, also involved tests that were not reasonable and necessary.

The Justice Department reports that before adding charges against the six physicians to the complaint this week, the Justice Department recovered more than $31 million relating to conduct involving BHD, THD and LRH, including False Claims Act settlements with 29 physicians, two health care executives and a laboratory company.

Health Care Fraud Liability Under False Claims Act, Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark Law

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other federally-funded programs. The Stark Law forbids a hospital or laboratory from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians that have a financial relationship with the hospital or laboratory. The Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law seek to ensure that medical providers’ judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives and are instead based on the best interests of their patients. 

The False Claims Act prohibits health care providers from billing federal health care programs for services resulting from referrals prohibited by the Anti-Kickback Statute or the Stark law.

Under the False Claims Act, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the recovery. The False Claims Act also allows the Justice Department to intervene in such lawsuits and add claims and defendants, as happened in this litigation. The qui tam case is captioned United States, et al. ex rel. STF, LLC v. True Health Diagnostics, LLC, et al., No. 4:16-cv-547 (E.D. Tex.). If a defendant is found liable for violating the act, the United States may recover three times the amount of its losses plus applicable penalties.

The United States’ pursuit of this lawsuit illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud generally with a special emphasis on physicians.  For instance, U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston is quoted as saying, “Schemes that funnel health care referrals do not work without the participation of physicians. … They are not merely passive players in these elaborate schemes, but an integral part, without which the scheme could not exist. Our office is committed to rooting out health care fraud by pursuing all players involved the scheme, from the laboratories and their leaders to the marketers and the physicians who make it all possible. Naming these physicians in the complaint is evidence of that commitment.”

Given this clear warning, physicians and other prescribers, as well as recruiting, billing and management services organizations, laboratories and others involved in recruiting and marketing, providing or billing for laboratory or other services to double check the appropriateness of their referral and other practices keeping in mind that the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law prohibitions against direct and indirect compensation can reach to a wide range of subtle value and benefits in addition to the obvious payment of cash or gifts delivered in a multitude of ways.  The prosecution of these physicians for referrals made and compensation delivered under management services contracts also clearly warns physicians and other providers against expecting their reliance upon billing, management services or other staff or management service providers to shield them from liability if an improper referral or payment happens.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


SCOTUS: Emotional Injury Damages Not Recoverable In Patient’s Private Rehab Act and ACA Disability Discrimination Lawsuit But Other Significant Liability Risks Remain

May 2, 2022

Today’s Supreme Court ruling that emotional distress damages are not recoverable in a private action to enforce the disability discrimination and accommodation requirements of either the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”) or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) prevents health care and other businesses subject to these requirements against the risk of large emotional injury awards in private actions for discrimination based on these laws. However, health care providers and other organizations subject to these requirements should use care to maintain compliance to avoid large actual damage awards to plaintiffs bringing private lawsuits, program exclusion, penalties or other governmental sanctions or both.

Cummings Supreme Court Ruling

The May 1, 2022 United States Supreme Court ruling in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller authored by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts resulted from a suit that sought emotional distress damages brought by filed by a deaf and legally blind woman, Jane Cummings against Premier Rehab Keller after it denied her request that it provide an American Sign Language interpreter at her physical therapy sessions.  Premier Rehab told Cummings the therapist could communicate with her through other means,  Claiming Premier Rehab’s failure to provide an ASL interpreter constituted discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Rehab Act and Section 1557 of the ACA, Cummings sued Premier Rehab seeking various damages and other relief, including emotional distress damages.

The Supreme Court took notice that Premier Rehab was subject to these laws because its receipt of Medicare and Medicaid payments qualified as federal financial assistance triggering their applicability.

The Supreme Court affirmed the previous District Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ rulings that emotional distress damages are not recoverable in a private action to enforce either the Rehab Act or the ACA.

The Supreme Court Majority based its decision on its finding that the Rehab Act and Act both are spending statutes that condition their offer of federal funding on a promise by the recipient not to discriminate creating what amounts essentially to a contract between the Government and the recipient of funds.  Following previously established Supreme Court precedent for “private spending clause actions,” the Court ruled the emotional distress or other remedy is not available unless “the funding recipient is on notice that by accepting federal funding, it exposes itself to liability of that nature.”

To decide whether emotional distress damages are available under the Spending Clause statutes in this case, the Court therefore asked if a prospective funding recipient deciding whether to accept
federal funds would have had “clear notice” regarding that liability. Because the two statutes are silent on the availability of emotional injury damages, the Supreme Court followed prior precedent by looking to whether the emotional damages sought by Cummings were the type of damages traditionally available in suits for breach of contract so as to put Premier Rehab and other defendants on notice of their exposure to such damages from actions under the Rehab Act or ACA.  While acknowledging some exceptional circumstances where punitive damages may be recovered where “the conduct constituting the breach is also a tort for which punitive damages are recoverable,” the Court found such damages “are generally not available for breach of contract.” Concluding that the recognized exception to the general rule was insufficient to give funding recipients the requisite notice that they could face such damages. the Supreme Court ruled that funding recipients under the Rehab Act and the ACA “have not, merely by accepting funds, implicitly consented to liability for punitive damages.” 

To read the full Majority opinion and related consenting and dissenting opinions, see here. 

Liability Risks Remain Substantial Despite Cummings Ruling

While the Supreme Court’s ruling means private litigants cannot recover emotional injury damages in discrimination actions brought to enforce the Rehabilitation Act or the ACA, health industry and other organizations remain subject to other substantial liability risks for improper discrimination in violation of those laws.  Beyond recoveries for actual damages, attorneys’ fees and costs recoverable by private litigants, covered organizations also can face substantial civil monetary penalties, program disqualification, in some instances even False Claims Act liability for billing in violation of program conditions of participation and other risks.  As federal agencies continue to make enforcement of these sanctions a priority, organization covered by either of these laws should use care to maintain appropriate compliance and risk management to ensure their ability to defend against any potential charges.  

For instance, HHS recently reaffirmed its continued commitment and prioritization of protecting disabled individuals against disability discrimination by its publication of its February 4, 2022 FAQs for Healthcare Providers during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Federal Civil Rights Protections for Individuals with Disabilities under Section 504 and Section 1557. Published to remind health care providers of their obligations under law and provide examples of applicability, HHS clarifies in that guidance that federal civil rights laws apply to health care providers, including those administering COVID-19 testing, medical supplies, and medication. These rules also apply to entities providing hospitalization, long-term care, intensive treatments, and critical care, such as oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilators. HHS also confirm that federal civil rights laws apply to state Crisis Standard of Care plans, procedures, and related standards for triaging scarce resources that hospitals are required to follow. HHS Issues New Guidance for Health Care Providers on Civil Rights Protections for People with Disabilities. See also New Guidance to Boost Accessibility and Equity in COVID-19 Vaccine Programs (December 22, 2021); HHS Takes Action to Prevent Discrimination and Strengthen Civil Rights (November 18, 2021); HHS and DOJ Issue Guidance on “Long COVID” and Disability Rights Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557 (July 26, 2021); OCR Provides Technical Assistance to the State of Arizona to Ensure Crisis Standards of Care Protect Against Age and Disability Discrimination (May 25, 2021); HHS Announces Prohibition on Sex Discrimination Includes Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (May 10, 2021); New Legal Guidance and Resources to Ensure — and Expand — Access to COVID-19 Vaccines for People with Disabilities and Older Adults (April 13, 2021).

HHS’ guidance announcements all include a warning like the one from OCR Director Lisa J. Pino in the February 4, 2022 announcment that “OCR will continue our robust enforcement of federal civil rights laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination, including when Crisis Standards of Care are in effect.”

The current and historical enforcement record of HHS demonstrates the teeth behind this commitment. OCR has a long and continuing history of extracting substantial settlements or civil monetary penalties from health care or other organizations receiving Medicare, Medicaid or other federal funds administered by HSS for engaging in conduct OCR finds inconsistent with the ACA or Rehabilitation Act discrimination requirements. See, e.g., Settlement Agreement Reached with Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families to Address Discrimination Against Parents with Disabilities (March 30, 2022); Massachusetts Healthcare Provider Resolves Allegations of Discriminatory Practices Regarding Patients Needing Opioid Use Disorder Treatment (December 22, 2021); HHS Office for Civil Rights and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts Settle Disability Discrimination Case with Baystate Medical Center (November 17, 2021); HHS Office for Civil Rights and U.S. Attorney’s Office Settle Disability Discrimination Case with Backus Hospital (October 5, 2021); Rhode Island, Massachusetts Healthcare Provider Resolves Allegations of Discriminatory Practices Regarding Patients Needing Opioid Use Disorder Treatment (August 9, 2021).

These OCR guidance and enforcement actions and similar activities by other federal agencies send a strong message that OCR and other federal agencies will continue and expand their zealous investigation and enforcement of disability and other violations by health care providers and other public and private organizations covered by the Rehabilitation Act, the ACA or other federal discrimination and civil rights laws. Health care providers and others regulated by these federal discrimination laws should consider auditing the adequacy of existing practices, reaffirming their own and their business partners’ compliance, retraining workforce and taking other appropriate steps to help prevent illegal discrimination within their organization and to position their organization to respond and defend against potential discrimination investigations or charges.

For Additional Information Or Assistance

If you need have questions or need assistance with health, health or other insurance, employee benefit, payroll, investment or other data, systems or other privacy or security related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer may be able to help.  Longtime scribe for the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits agency meeting with OCR and author of leading publications on HIPAA and other privacy and data security concerns, Ms. Stamer regularly assists clients and provides input to Congress, OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and cybersecurity, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns.

Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance frequently appear in medical privacy related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications.  She also is a highly-sought out speaker on privacy and data security who serves on the planning faculty and speaks for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here.  If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters, e-mail Ms. Stamer or call (214) 452-8297.  

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

Important Information About This Communication

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Health Care Providers & Other HIPAA Regulated Entities Encouraged To Share Input To OCR On HITECH Act Rules Impacting HIPAA Security Breach Audit & Penalty Exposures

April 29, 2022

June 6, 2022 is the deadline for health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrative and other business associates and others to provide input to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that OCR says it seeks to help shape how it defines and implements the “recognized security standards” requirements of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH Act), as amended in 2021 for purposes of its administration and enforcement of civil monetary penalty and other provisions of of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“”HIPAA”). The regulatory and enforcement decisions that OCR makes could significantly impact the civil monetary penalty liability, compliance, audit and recordkeeping responsibilities that health plans, health care providers, health care clearinghouses and their business associates (“Covered Entities”) face under the HIPAA Security and Breach Notification Rules.

OCR is inviting public input on two issues under the OCR Request for Information on Considerations for Implementing the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, as Amended (RFI) released April 6, 2022:

  • The definition and administration of the “recognized security practice” factor the HITECH Act requires OCR to consider when assessing audit results, civil monetary penalty and settlement amounts and other HIPAA Security and Breach Rule enforcement; and
  • The rules that OCR will follow to determine when and how OCR will share portions of amounts it receives from civil monetary penalties or settlements with individuals harmed by breaches of electronic protected health information, 

Recognized Security Practices

Section 13412 of the HITECH Act requires HHS to take into consideration certain recognized security practices of covered entities (health plans, health care clearinghouses, and most health care providers) and business associates1 when determining potential fines, audit results, or other remedies for resolving potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule pursuant to an investigation, compliance review, or audit. 

A primary goal of the requirement, which took effect January 5, 2021, is to encourage covered entities and business associates to do “everything in their power to safeguard patient data.”

The RFI solicits comment on how covered entities and business associates are implementing “recognized security practices,” how they anticipate adequately demonstrating that recognized security practices are in place, and any implementation issues they would like OCR to clarify through future guidance or rulemaking.

Civil Money Penalty (CMP) and Settlement Sharing

Section 13410(c)(3) of the HITECH Act requires HHS to establish by regulation a methodology under which an individual harmed by a potential violation of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and/or Breach Notification Rules may receive a percentage of any CMP or monetary settlement collected with respect to that offense.

Section 13140(d)(1) of HITECH requires that OCR base determinations of appropriate penalty amounts on the nature and extent of the violation and the nature and extent of the harm resulting from such violation. The HITECH Act does not define “harm,” nor does it provide direction to aid HHS in defining the term.

The RFI solicits public comment on the types of harms that should be considered in the distribution of CMPs and monetary settlements to harmed individuals, discusses potential methodologies for sharing and distributing monies to harmed individuals, and invites the public to submit alternative methodologies.

Comments Due 6/6

Health plan and other Covered Entity input could significantly impact how OCR implements and administers these two important aspects of the HIPAA Security Rule going forward.  As these decisions are likely to significantly impact the policies, practices, recordkeeping, breach investigation and other obligations that Covered Entities would need to meet in the event of an audit, breach or other investigation or enforcement, timely, thoughtful input from all Covered Entities and affected stakeholders is important.  In addition, its decisions on how to distribute CMPs.

For more information about the RFI or instructions for submitting comments, see here.

HITECH & Other HIPAA Security Exposures Already Significant & Growing

Regardless of how OCR choses to respond to the comments received in response to the RIF, Covered Entities, their business associates and those responsible for their leadership already face significant exposure from breaches of protected health information and other lax cybersecurity practices, policies and management.

This is a lesson Texas Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists (“Texas ENT”) and a multitude of other coveered entities have learned the hard way in recent years.

HIPAA generally requires that health care providers like Texas ENT, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses Covered Entities safeguard the privacy and security of individually identifiable protected health information (“protected health information”) in paper, electronic or other form against use, access or disclosure other than as allowed by HIPAA.  Along with its general restrictions upon use, access or disclosure of protected health information, HIPAA also requires that covered entities and their business associates take the special precautions to protect electronic protected health information (“ePHI”) against improper access, use, disclosure or loss required by the OCR HIPAA Security Rule.  Meanwhile, the OCR HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires that covered entities notify affected individuals, OCR and in the case of breaches involving records of more than 500 individuals, the media in accordance with the OCR Breach Notification Rule following breach of unsecured protected health information. Breaches of the Security or Breach Notification Rules often result in significant civil monetary penalty assessments or negotiated settlements to mitigate civil liability exposures arising out of such breaches.  See e.g.,  Clinical Laboratory Pays $25,000 To Settle Potential HIPAA Security Rule Violations (May 25, 2021); Health Insurer Pays $5.1 Million to Settle Data Breach Affecting Over 9.3 Million People (January 15, 2021); Aetna Pays $1,000,000 to Settle Three HIPAA Breaches (October 28, 2020); Health Insurer Pays $6.85 Million to Settle Data Breach Affecting Over 10.4 Million People (September 25, 2020); HIPAA Business Associate Pays $2.3 Million to Settle Breach Affecting Protected Health Information of Over 6 million Individual – (September 23, 2020); Lifespan Pays $1,040,000 to OCR to Settle Unencrypted Stolen Laptop Breach (July 27, 2020); Small Health Care Provider Fails to Implement Multiple HIPAA Security Rule Requirements (July 23, 2020).  While various factors can influence whether and the amount of any fine that Texas ENT will face as a result of OCR’s ongoing investigation of the breach, OCR’s enforcement record strongly suggests Texas ENT may seek to negotiate a resolution agreement or other arrangement with OCR to mitigate its exposure to potential civil monetary penalties.

Alerts issued by OCR regarding heightened security risks in recent months and a growing tide of highly publicized breaches send a strong warning to other covered entities and their business associates to reconfirm the adequacy of their own HIPAA privacy, security, breach notification and other procedures and protections by among other things:

  • Reviewing and monitoring on a documented, ongoing basis the adequacy and susceptibilities of existing practices, policies, safeguards of their own organizations, as well as their business associates and their vendors within the scope of attorney-client privilege taking into consideration data available from OCR, data regarding known or potential susceptibilities within their own operations as well as in the media, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable.
  • Updating policies, privacy and other notices, practices, procedures, training and other practices as needed to promote compliance and defensibility.
  • Renegotiating and enhancing service provider agreements to detail the specific compliance, audit, oversight and reporting rights, workforce and vendor credentialing and access control, indemnification, insurance, cooperation and other rights and responsibilities of all entities and individuals that use, access or disclose, or provide systems, software or other services or tools that could impact on security; to clarify the respective rights, procedures and responsibilities of each party in regards to compliance audits, investigation, breach reporting, and mitigation; and other relevant matters.
  • Verifying and tightening technological and other tracking, documentation and safeguards and controls to the use, access and disclosure of protected health information and systems.
  • Conducting well-documented training as necessary to ensure that members of the workforce of each covered entity and business associate understand and are prepared to comply with the expanded requirements of HIPAA, understand their responsibilities and appropriate procedures for reporting and investigating potential breaches or other compliance concerns, and understand as well as are prepared to follow appropriate procedures for reporting and responding to suspected
    violations or other indicia of potential security concerns.
  • Tracking and reviewing on a systemized, well-documented basis actual and near miss security threats to evaluate, document decision-making and make timely adjustments to policies, practices, training, safeguards and other compliance components as necessary to identify and resolve risks.
  • Establishing and providing well-documented monitoring of compliance that includes board level oversight and reporting at least quarterly and sooner in response to potential threat indicators.
  • Establishing and providing well-documented timely investigation and redress of reported
    violations or other compliance concerns.
  • Establishing contingency plans for responding in the event of a breach. 
  • Establishing a well-documented process for monitoring and updating policies, practices and other efforts in response to changes in risks, practices and requirements.
  • Preparing and maintaining a well-documented record of compliance, risk, investigation and other security activities.
  • Pursuing other appropriate strategies to enhance the covered entity’s ability to demonstrate its compliance commitment both on paper and in operation.

Because susceptibilities in systems, software and other vendors of business associates, covered entities and their business associates should use care to assess and manage business associate and other vendor associated risks and compliance as well as tighten business associate and other service agreements to promote the improved cooperation, coordination, management and oversight required to comply with the new breach notification and other HIPAA requirements by specifically mapping out these details.

Depending on how OCR responds to the input it receives from its April 6, 2022 RFI, additional safeguards also may be advisable in the future.  Covered Entities, and their leaders and insurers should carefully monitor OCR’s actions in this regard.  

Cybersecurity & Breach Exposures Beyond HIPAA

Covered entities, their business associates and their leaders should keep in mind that their cybersecurity responsibilities and liability exposures likely extend well beyond HIPAA. Health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, business associates and other service providers and other businesses and their leaders also generally face significant risk for failing to properly handle cybersecurity and breaches under a myriad of federal and state laws, regulations, common law, contracts and other sources. Examples include the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“FACTA”), the Federal Trade Act (the “FTA”), the False Claims Act liability for violating Medicare, Medicaid, government contractor and other conditions of participation, various federal and state cybersecurity, identity theft, electronic crimes and other statutes and regulations, shareholder, business partner, and customer claims and others.

Where the business is a public company regulated by the Security and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), these risks and their implications on shareholder and investor risk from cybersecurity deficiencies also could create securities exposures for organizations and their leaders as the SEC now is prioritizing cybersecurity investigation and enforcement against public companies and other market participants for lack cybersecurity governance, safeguards or disclosures.  See e.g., SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations Cybersecurity and Resiliency Observations.  Along announcing its commitment to hold market involved and impacting regulated entities accountable for failing to maintain and enforce appropriate internal and external controls to prevent, detect and redress cybersecurity threats, including appropriate board governance and risk management, access rights and controls, data loss prevention, mobile security, incident response and resiliency, vendor management, training and awareness, investor disclosures and other practices. 

Where the Covered Entity is a health plan or health plan business associate, these risks also could include fiduciary liability risk under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. See e.g., HIPAA & ERISA Fiduciary Rules Drive Imperative To Protect Health Plan Data & Systems From Hacking & Other Cyber Threats.

These are just some of the emerging cybersecurity risks and responsibilities that covered entities, their leaders, service providers and insurers need to watch and manage. Amber M. Rivers, Director of the Employee Benefit Security Administration Office of Health Plan Standards and Compliance will discuss these and other risks during the “Department of Labor Health Plan Compliance and Enforcement Update” at a virtual program hosted by the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits from Noon to 1:30 p.m. Central Time on May 5, 2022 to be moderated by Solutions Law Press, Inc. author and publisher, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will moderate the program. For additional information about or to register for this program, see here.

Considering these and other developments, Covered Entities, their leaders, insurers and other impacted parties should seriously consider submitting thoughtful comments to OCR in response to its April 6, RFI as well as tightening and using careful, well-documented practices to ensure their ability to demonstrate their use and administration of appropriate cybersecurity, breach investigation and other data security practices.  

For Additional Information Or Assistance

If you need have questions or need assistance with health, health or other insurance, employee benefit, payroll, investment or other data, systems or other privacy or security related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer may be able to help.  Longtime scribe for the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits agency meeting with OCR and author of leading publications on HIPAA and other privacy and data security concerns, Ms. Stamer regularly assists clients and provides input to Congress, OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and cybersecurity, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns.

As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies.  She also has extensive experience dealing with OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement; and other strategic and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer also provides leadership through her extensive professional, civil and community involvement such as her service as the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting, current ABA TIPS Medicine and Law Chair-Elect and Vice Chair and former Employee Benefits and Worker’s Compensation Committees Vice Chair, current RPTE Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair and former Chairpersonship of its Employee Plans and Executive Compensation Group,  Fiduciary Responsibility, Plan Terminations and Distributions and Defined Contribution Plan Committees, fa former JCEB Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former SHRM Consultants Board and Region IV Chair, former Texas Association of Business Board, BACPAC Board and Dallas Chapter Chair, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas.

Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance frequently appear in medical privacy related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications.  She also is a highly-sought out speaker on privacy and data security who serves on the planning faculty and speaks for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here.  If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters, e-mail Ms. Stamer or call (214) 452-8297.  

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

Important Information About This Communication

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Federal Convictions Of Physicians Highlight Need For Care In Opiate & Other Pain Management Prescribing & Billing

March 4, 2022

Physicians and other health care prescribers must remain hyper vigilant when prescribing, documenting, billing and managing opiate and other pain management prescriptions and patients.  That’s the clear message sent by the ever-growing wave of federal prosecutions and convictions like the March 2, 2022 federal conviction of Tennessee physician Mark Murphy and his wife, Jennifer Murphy and his wife for unlawfully distributing opioids, providing unnecessary services and defrauding insurers from their now-shuttered North Alabama Pain Services clinics (“NAPS”) and March 1, 2022 sentencing of former physician Patrick Titus to 20 years in prison for his conviction of unlawful distribution of opioid drug outside the usual scope of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes as part of the his internal medicine practice.

Tennessee Doctor & Wife Convicted of Pain Management Related Unlawful Opioid Distribution, Health Care Fraud & Other Criminal Charges

The March 2 federal jury conviction of Dr. and Ms. Murphy stemmed from their ownership and operation of their now-defunct pain management clinics resulted from evidence gathered through a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

During the resulting jury trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence that during the five-year period leading up to the clinic closing its Alabama locations in 2017, Dr. Murphy and Ms. Murphy, who was the office manager, caused over $50 million in fraudulent or unnecessary medical services to be charged to Medicare, TRICARE, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and others. Evidence at trial showed that NAPS provided pre-signed prescriptions to thousands of patients a month, including prescriptions written outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose. Federal prosecutors also introduced evidence that the Murphys also solicited and received unlawful payments for referring fraudulent or unnecessary services to patients.

Based on the evidence, the jury found both Dr. and Ms. Murphy guilty on numerous criminal charges including:

  • Conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and unlawful distribution of controlled substances;
  • Conspiracy to commit and commission of health care fraud;
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States; and
  • Receiving illegal kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Ms. Murphy also was convicted of tax-related charges for underreporting clinic income.

Currently scheduled for sentencing in June, the Murphys each face a maximum of 20 years in prison for the drug charges and a maximum of 10 years in prison for the health care fraud charges. Both defendants also face a maximum of five years in prison for charges stemming from violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, and Ms.  Murphy faces up to three years in prison for the tax charges.

Former Delaware Doctor Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Unlawful Opioid Distribution

The Murphy’s jury conviction came one day after the sentencing of former  to 20 years in prison for his July 2021 federal jury conviction on 13 counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances and one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises.

Federal prosecutors presented evidence in court documents and trial that Dr. Titus unlawfully distributed or dispensed  opioid drugs including fentanyl, morphine, methadone, OxyContin and oxycodone outside the usual scope of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes as part of the his internal medicine practice.  The Justice Department charged Dr. Titus frequently prescribed these dangerous controlled substances in high dosages, sometimes in combination with each other or in other dangerous combinations, mostly in exchange for cash. Evidence at trial showed he distributed over 1 million opioid pills without providing any meaningful medical care and to patients he knew were suffering from substance use disorder and/or who demonstrated clear signs that the prescribed drugs were being abused, diverted or sold on the street.

Health Care Fraud Task Force Targeting Opioid Distribution, Billing, & Related Misconduct

Both the Murphy and Titus prosecutions and convictions are two of a growing series of convictions resulted from investigations into opioid and other pain management prescribing conducted as part of efforts targeting physicians and other health care providers involved in prohibited  the federal Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program. See e.g., Medical Director Convicted in $110 Million Addiction Treatment Fraud Scheme

The Federal agencies made a point of warning to other physicians not to overprescribe, bill or engage in other prohibited dealings involving opioids or other controlled substances when announcing the Titus sentencing.

 “As we continue the fight against the opioid crisis, this case serves as an important reminder that health care professionals have a duty to prescribe medication responsibly to ensure the well-being of individuals under their care. Failing to do so can endanger patients and undermines critical, ongoing public health measures,” said Special Agent in Charge Maureen Dixon of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold bad actors accountable.”

 “This sentence is a reminder that the Department of Justice will hold accountable those doctors who are illegitimately prescribing opioids and fueling the country’s opioid crisis,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Doctors who commit these unlawful acts exploit their roles as stewards of their patients’ care for their own profit.”

“DEA-registered medical practitioners have an important role in our communities to treat patients compassionately and responsibly,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that medical professionals who recklessly prescribe opioids and endanger the safety and health of patients will be held accountable.”

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Justice Department Antitrust Suit Seeks To Block UnitedHealth Acquisition Of Change Healthcare As Anticompetitive

March 3, 2022

The U.S. Department of Justice along with the Minnesota and New York Attorneys General (collectively “Justice Department”) are suing to stop UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (“United”) from acquiring Change Healthcare Inc. (“Change”) on February 24, 2022 in an announced $13 billion transaction as prohibited by antitrust laws.  The suit is the latest in a series of Justice Department suits that seek to prevent continued consolidation of the health industry giants following decades of industry consolidation.

United, headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is an integrated health care enterprise that includes, among other subsidiaries, UnitedHealthcare, the largest health insurer in the United States; Optum Health, a large network of health care providers located throughout the country; OptumRx, a large pharmacy benefit manager; and OptumInsight, a health care technology business. United’s revenues were $288 billion in 2021.

Change Healthcare Inc. headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, is a leading independent health care technology company providing health care analytics, software, services and data to health care providers, health insurers and other software and services firms in the health care industry.  Today, Change markets itself as a partner to a wide variety of other health care ecosystem organizations including United’s major health insurance competitors as providing vital software and services need for innovation and problem solving. These services include electronic data interchange (EDI) clearinghouse services, which transmit claims and payment information between insurers and providers, and first-pass claims editing solutions, which review claims under the health insurer’s policies and relevant treatment protocols. Change’s revenues were $3.4 billion in 2021.

In the civil antitrust complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on February 24, 2022, the Justice Department charges United’s acquisition of this neutral player would allow United to tilt the playing field in its favor, harming current competition and allowing United to control and distort the course of innovation in this industry for the foreseeable future.

Among other things, the Justice Department alleges allowing United to eliminate a significant independent and innovative competitor firm by acquiring Change will undermine competition in the commercial health insurance market, stifle innovation in the employer health insurance markets and suppress competition in the market for a vital technology used by health insurers to process health insurance claims and reduce health care costs by giving United control of a critical data highway through which about half of all Americans’ health insurance claims pass each year.

As alleged in the complaint, the proposed transaction would give United, a massive company that owns the largest health insurer in the United States, access to a vast amount of its rival health insurers’ competitively sensitive information. Post-acquisition, United would be able to use its rivals’ information to gain an unfair advantage and harm competition in health insurance markets. The Justice Department also claims the proposed transaction would eliminate United’s only major rival for first-pass claims editing technology — a critical product used to efficiently process health insurance claims and save health insurers billions of dollars each year — and give United a monopoly share in the market.

A Justice Department press release about the lawsuit quotes Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division as saying, “Unless the deal is blocked, United stands to see and potentially use its health insurance rivals’ competitively sensitive information for its own business purposes and control these competitors’ access to innovations in vital health care technology. The department’s lawsuit makes clear that we will not hesitate to challenge transactions that harm competition by placing so much control of data and innovation in the hands of a single firm.”

The suit is the latest in a series of civil antitrust lawsuits challenging proposed mergers or acquisitions of between health insurance industry giants as anticompetitive in recent years.  Stay tuned for more details.  

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


OIG Findings Signal Tighter Non-Hospice Hospice Care

February 16, 2022

Watch for the Department of Health & Hunan Services (“HHS”) to step up scrutiny and regulation of non-hospice reimbursements for hospice care in response to recommendations from a just-announced Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) findings of cost increases.

OIG’s analysis of trends and patterns in payments for items and services provided to Medicare beneficiaries outside the Medicare hospice benefit during a hospice period of care (“nonhospice payments”) showed an increase in Medicare nonhospice payments for beneficiaries. Nonhospice payments for Medicare Part A services and Part B items and services totaled $6.6 billion from 2010 through 2019. OIG is concerned if providers bill Medicare for nonhospice items and services that potentially should be covered by hospices, Medicare could pay for the same items or services twice.

Learn more about the OIG findings at Medicare Payments of $6.6 Billion to Nonhospice Providers Over 10 Years for here and Services Provided to Hospice Beneficiaries Suggest the Need for Increased Oversight

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Past Board President of the Richardson Development Program for Children ECE and Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Biosecurity Advisory Board To Meet 2/28

February 16, 2022

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) is scheduled to virtually meet via video cast on February . 28, 2022, from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. EST to discuss next steps for the committee in fulfilling its purpose to provide advice, guidance and recommendations to the U.S. government regarding biosecurity oversight of dual use research.

In January 2020, the NSABB was charged with providing recommendations on balancing security and public transparency when sharing information about research with enhanced potential pandemic pathogens (ePPP). The board was also tasked with evaluating and analyzing the U.S. Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) policies. Due to the rapid escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the activities of the NSABB were paused to allow members to prioritize response activities at their home institutions.

The NSABB is being reconvened to help ensure that the U.S. government oversight framework is keeping up with rapid advances in science that may raise biosecurity concerns.

Interested persons should tune in.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Past Board President of the Richardson Development Program for Children ECE and Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


CMS Updates COVID-19 Guidance For Visiting Nursing Homes & LTC Facility Vaccination During Omicron Surge

January 13, 2022

CMS recently updated its Nursing Home Resource Centerwith new pieces of informational guidance on visitation and vaccines in response to the recent surge in Omicron cases.

Visitation

As of January 6, CMS updated the Nursing Home Visitation FAQs (PDF) to give additional guidance about visitation during the Omicron surge and also created an infographic (PDF) to graphically represent how to safely conduct visits to nursing homes during this time of spiking COVID cases around the country. Nursing home providers, patients, caregivers, and CMS partners can use these 2 new resources to stay informed about CMS’ latest thinking for keeping nursing homes safe in the current COVID climate.

CMS also continues to urge long-term care settings, like nursing homes, assisted living, residential care communities, group homes, and senior housing, to ensure residents and staff get COVID-19 vaccine primary series and booster shots.

Vaccination

while long-term care and other Medicare and Medicaid participating healthcare providers continue to await the Supreme Court’s decision on the enforceability and validity of the Biden administration vaccine mandate for program participation, CMS continues to urge long-term care providers to coordinate access to COVID-19 vaccines, either in the local community or on-site using the newest CDC resources.

As a reminder, through enforcement discretion, CMS allows Medicare-enrolled immunizers, including but not limited to pharmacies working with the U.S., to bill directly and get direct reimbursement from the Medicare program for vaccinating Medicare skilled nursing facility residents. See, Medicare billing and payment information.

Long-term care another healthcare providers also need to continue to ensure that they meet all other contagious disease and related requirements for participation in these federal programs as well as our meeting and managing their occupational health and safety, occupational injury, sick and disability leave, employee benefit, accommodation and anti retaliation mandates. See, e.g. SCOTUS To Hear Oral Arguments on OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination Rule Enforceability On January 7; COVID-19 Vaccination Rule Injunctions Leave Employers With Significant Liability Challenges Even As OSHA Extends Comment Period on OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine ETS

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Past Board President of the Richardson Development Program for Children ECE and Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies. 

This involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, schools, ECEs, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology, data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care; internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement; and other strategic and operational concerns. 

Author of a multitude of health industry and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Texas ENT Data Breach Warning To Other HIPAA Entities To Tighten Security Safeguards

December 20, 2021

A server hacking incident at Texas Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists (“Texas ENT”) allowed hackers to access and copy patient records containing patient names, dates of birth, medical record numbers, and procedure codes used for billing purposes and in some cases, patient Social Security numbers of 535,489 Texas ENT patients, according to a breach notification report filed with the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). With cybersecurity incidents reaching pandemic levels, health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, their business associates and leaders need to take careful, well-documented steps to protect their data, organizations and leaders against disruptions and liabilities arising from these risks.

A Notice of Security Incident (the “Announcement”) posted to the Texas ENT website reports Texas ENT set letters notifying affected of the breach of their personal health information on December 10, 2021 and advises patients to review the statements from healthcare providers for accuracy, and to contact their provider if their review identifies services that were not received. The Announcement also states that Texas ENT is offering complimentary monitoring services through Experian to patients whose Social Security numbers were in the improperly accessed files.

The notifications to OCR, the patients and the media are required to comply with breach notification the Federally imposed breach notification requirements of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) as data breach notice requirements of the Texas Medical Records Privacy Act (“TMRPA”) and the Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act (TITEPA).

The Texas ENT breach notification filed to OCR is one of a hundreds of large breach notifications recently reported to OCR.  HIPAA generally requires that health care providers like Texas ENT, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and their service providers that qualify as business associates (hereafter “covered entities”) safeguard the privacy and security of individually identifiable protected health information (“protected health information”) in paper, electronic or other form against use, access or disclosure other than as allowed by HIPAA.  Along with its general restrictions upon use, access or disclosure of protected health information, HIPAA also requires that covered entities and their business associates take the special precautions to protect electronic protected health information (“ePHI”) against improper access, use, disclosure or loss required by the OCR HIPAA Security Rule.  Meanwhile, the OCR HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires that covered entities notify affected individuals, OCR and in the case of breaches involving records of more than 500 individuals, the media in accordance with the OCR Breach Notification Rule following breach of unsecured protected health information. Breaches of the Security or Breach Notification Rules often result in significant civil monetary penalty assessments or negotiated settlements to mitigate civil liability exposures arising out of such breaches.  See e.g.,  Clinical Laboratory Pays $25,000 To Settle Potential HIPAA Security Rule Violations (May 25, 2021); Health Insurer Pays $5.1 Million to Settle Data Breach Affecting Over 9.3 Million People (January 15, 2021); Aetna Pays $1,000,000 to Settle Three HIPAA Breaches (October 28, 2020); Health Insurer Pays $6.85 Million to Settle Data Breach Affecting Over 10.4 Million People (September 25, 2020); HIPAA Business Associate Pays $2.3 Million to Settle Breach Affecting Protected Health Information of Over 6 million Individual – (September 23, 2020); Lifespan Pays $1,040,000 to OCR to Settle Unencrypted Stolen Laptop Breach (July 27, 2020); Small Health Care Provider Fails to Implement Multiple HIPAA Security Rule Requirements (July 23, 2020).  While various factors can influence whether and the amount of any fine that Texas ENT will face as a result of OCR’s ongoing investigation of the breach, OCR’s enforcement record strongly suggests Texas ENT may seek to negotiate a resolution agreement or other arrangement with OCR to mitigate its exposure to potential civil monetary penalties.

Alerts issued by OCR regarding heightened security risks in recent months and a growing tide of highly publicized breaches send a strong warning to other covered entities and their business associates to reconfirm the adequacy of their own HIPAA privacy, security, breach notification and other procedures and protections by among other things:

  • Reviewing and monitoring on a documented, ongoing basis the adequacy and susceptibilities of existing practices, policies, safeguards of their own organizations, as well as their business associates and their vendors within the scope of attorney-client privilege taking into consideration data available from OCR, data regarding known or potential susceptibilities within their own operations as well as in the media, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable.
  • Updating policies, privacy and other notices, practices, procedures, training and other practices as needed to promote compliance and defensibility.
  • Renegotiating and enhancing service provider agreements to detail the specific compliance, audit, oversight and reporting rights, workforce and vendor credentialing and access control, indemnification, insurance, cooperation and other rights and responsibilities of all entities and individuals that use, access or disclose, or provide systems, software or other services or tools that could impact on security; to clarify the respective rights, procedures and responsibilities of each party in regards to compliance audits, investigation, breach reporting, and mitigation; and other relevant matters.
  • Verifying and tightening technological and other tracking, documentation and safeguards and controls to the use, access and disclosure of protected health information and systems.
  • Conducting well-documented training as necessary to ensure that members of the workforce of each covered entity and business associate understand and are prepared to comply with the expanded requirements of HIPAA, understand their responsibilities and appropriate procedures for reporting and investigating potential breaches or other compliance concerns, and understand as well as are prepared to follow appropriate procedures for reporting and responding to suspected
    violations or other indicia of potential security concerns.
  • Tracking and reviewing on a systemized, well-documented basis actual and near miss security threats to evaluate, document decision-making and make timely adjustments to policies, practices, training, safeguards and other compliance components as necessary to identify and resolve risks.
  • Establishing and providing well-documented monitoring of compliance that includes board level oversight and reporting at least quarterly and sooner in response to potential threat indicators.
  • Establishing and providing well-documented timely investigation and redress of reported
    violations or other compliance concerns.
  • Establishing contingency plans for responding in the event of a breach. 
  • Establishing a well-documented process for monitoring and updating policies, practices and other efforts in response to changes in risks, practices and requirements.
  • Preparing and maintaining a well-documented record of compliance, risk, investigation and other security activities.
  • Pursuing other appropriate strategies to enhance the covered entity’s ability to demonstrate its compliance commitment both on paper and in operation.

Because susceptibilities in systems, software and other vendors of business associates, covered entities and their business associates should use care to assess and manage business associate and other vendor associated risks and compliance as well as tighten business associate and other service agreements to promote the improved cooperation, coordination, management and oversight required to comply with the new breach notification and other HIPAA requirements by specifically mapping out these details.

Leaders of covered entities or their business associates also are cautioned that while HIPAA itself does not generally create any private right of action for victims of breach under HIPAA, breaches may create substantial liability for their organizations or increasingly, organizational leaders under state data privacy and breach, negligence or other statutory or common laws.  In addition, physicians and other licensed parties may face professional discipline or other professional liability for breaches violating statutory or ethical standards.  Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission has indicated that it plans to pursue enforcement against leaders of public health care or other companies that fail to use appropriate care to ensure their organizations comply with privacy and data security obligations and the Employee Benefit Security Administration recently has issued guidance recognizing prudent data security practicces as part of the fiduciary obligations of health plans and their fiduciaries.  

For Additional Information Or Assistance

If you need have questions or need assistance with health, benefit, payroll, investment or other data, systems or other privacy or security related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer may be able to help.  Longtime scribe for the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits agency meeting with OCR and author of leading publications on HIPAA and other privacy and data security concerns, Ms. Stamer also regularly assists clients and provides input to Congress, OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance frequently appear in medical privacy related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications.  She also is a highly-sought out speaker on privacy and data security who serves on the planning faculty and speaks for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here.  If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters, e-mail Ms. Stamer or call (214) 452-8297.  

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

Important Information About This Communication

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


CMS Releases Updated 2022 CMS QRDA III Implementation Guide and Sample Files for Eligible Clinicians and Eligible Professionals Programs

December 16, 2021

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published an update to the 2022 CMS Quality Reporting Document Architecture (QRDA) Category III Implementation Guide (IG) and Sample Files (zip). The 2022 CMS QRDA III IG outlines requirements for eligible clinicians and eligible professionals to report electronic clinical quality measures for the calendar year (CY) 2022 performance period.

The updates include:

  • CMS added to Table 14: UUID List for MIPS 2022 CY Performance Period eCQM Specifications Eligible Professionals and Eligible Clinicians
    • The missing UUID of population 2 numerator exclusion for CMS156v10. This issue was reported in QRDA Known Issue QKI-6
    • Missing measure CMS646v2
  • CMS added these tables based on the CY 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule.
    • Table 15: Improvement Activities Identifiers for the MIPS CY 2022 Performance Period
    • Table 16: Promoting Interoperability Objectives and Measures Identifiers for the MIPS CY 2022 Performance Period
    • Table 17: Promoting Interoperability Attestation Statements Identifiers
  • CMS also made minor edits to the 2022 CMS QRDA III Sample Files header comments.

Find additional QRDA-related resources, as well as current and past IGs, on the Electronic Clinical Quality Improvement (eCQI) Resource Center QRDA page. For questions related to this guidance, the QRDA IGs, or Schematrons, visit the ONC Project Tracking System (Jira) QRDA project. See the QRDA Known Issues Dashboard for solutions under development for both QRDA I and III known technical issues. These known issues supplement the information in QRDA IGs and other supporting documents.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Past Board President of the Richardson Development Program for Children ECE and Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies. 

This involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, schools, ECEs, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology, data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care; internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement; and other strategic and operational concerns. 

Author of a multitude of health industry and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. 

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Justice Department COVID & Other Health Care Fraud Enforcement Thriving Despite Pandemic Emergency

November 23, 2021

Federal health care fraud prosecution continues to thrive despite the ongoing COVID-19 health care emergency.

Recently announced prosecutions and other enforcement actions include Fraud & Abuse, False Claims Act and other health care fraud prosecutions commonly pursued by the Justice Department in recent decades as well as a host of new prosecutions of abuses of Covid-19 relief programs. Examples include:

These and other actions send a clear message to health care and life science organizations to continue vigorous health care fraud compliance and risk management activities as well as stay vigilant for signs of new audit and enforcement activities.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Past Board President of the Richardson Development Program for Children ECE and Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. 

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies. 

This involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, schools, ECEs, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology, data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care; internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement; and other strategic and operational concerns. 

Author of a multitude of health industry and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Child Care Providers Should Update COVID-19 Protocols For Revised CDC Guidelines

November 16, 2021

Child care centers, home-based and family child care programs, Head Start programs, and other prekindergarten programs (“ECE”) should review and update Infectious disease and other protocols in response to updated COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released today.

The updated version of the CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs guidance outlines strategies for ECE programs to implement to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain safer operations including:

  • Emphasizes the importance of universal masking for everyone ages 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status;
  • Provides more information on screening testing;
  • Updates guidance for fully vaccinated staff; and
  • Encourages ECE programs to promote vaccinations among staff and families, including pregnant women, by providing information about COVID-19 vaccination, encouraging vaccine trust and confidence, and establishing supportive policies and practices.

Although fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared with adults during the pandemic, the CDC says children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, get sick, and spread the virus to others. CDC’s science brief on transmission in schools includes scientific evidence about the spread of the virus among children and in school and ECE settings.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Past Board President of the Richardson Development Program for Children ECE and Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. 

As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies. 

This involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, schools, ECEs, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology, data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care; internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement; and other strategic and operational concerns.

Author of a multitude of health industry and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. 

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Medicare Provider Enrollment Fee Increases To $639 On January 1, 2022

October 24, 2021

Effective on January 1, 2022, the application fee for institutional providers initially enrolling in the Medicare or Medicaid program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); revalidating their Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP enrollment; or adding a new Medicare practice location will increase to $631.00.

The application fee applies to “institutional provider,” which Section 424.502 defines to include “any provider or supplier that submits a paper Medicare enrollment application using the CMS-855A, CMS-855B (not including physician and non-physician practitioner organizations), CMS-855S, CMS-20134, or associated internet-based PECOS enrollment application” as well as skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IID), psychiatric residential treatment facilities; and certain other institutional provider types designated by a state. See 76 FR 5914.

The current application fee is $599. The $639 application fee applicable after December 31, 2021 reflects the the adjustment by 5.4 percent based on the change in the Consumer Price Index.

The $631.00 application fee will be required with any enrollment application submitted on or after January 1, 2022 and on or before December 31, 2022.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.  

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns.

As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies.

This  involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve  sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology,  data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care;  internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement;  and other strategic and operational concerns.  

Author of a multitude of health industry and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication. Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™.




ONC Extends SVAP Comment Period To May 2, 2022; Announces Schedule For Future Regulatory Updates

October 6, 2021

May 2, 2022 is the new deadline for comments on the office of the National Coordinator (“ONC”) Standards Version Advancement Process (SVAP).

ONC has established the voluntary Standards Version Advancement Process (SVAP)1 to enable health IT developers’ ability to incorporate newer versions of Secretary-adopted standards and implementation specifications, as part of the “Real World Testing” Condition and Maintenance of Certification requirement in Section § 170.405 of the 21st Century Cures Act.

Using SVAP, certified health IT developers may voluntarily use a more advanced version of the standard(s) and implementation specification(s) approved by the National Coordinator, than adopted in the ONC 2015 Edition Certification Criteria. Currently, ONC limits flexibility to standards and implementation specifications adopted in the certification criteria required to meet “Real World Testing” condition of certification, which include Act § 170.315(b), (c)(1) through (c)(3), (e)(1), (f), (g)(7) through (g)(10), and (h).

Health IT developers taking advantage of the SVAP flexibility must ensure their real world testing plans and results of the certified health modules use these updated standards and implementation specifications and provide advance notice to their clients and their ONC-Authorized Certification Body (ONC-ACB) before adopting the new standards.

Beginning with the current (2021) SVAP and continuing into future years, ONC says it plans to announce annual approved standards for SVAP in June followed by a comment period from January to May each year with adopted standards taking effect in August.

In anticipation of this schedule, ONC extended the SVAP public comment period to May 2, 2022 to align with the planned schedule for standards development activities.

Interested developers and others wishing to review comment on the entire SVAP or on individual standards may access them here.

Interested persons wishing to monitor future developments also may wish to register to receive updates and calendar the scheduled ONC activities for upcoming year as part of their ongoing compliance plans.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.  

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications. As a significant part of her work, Ms. Stamer has worked extensively on pandemic, business and other crisis planning, preparedness and response for more than 30 years.

Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and other privacy and data security and other health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.  Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns.  As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies.  

This  involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve  sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology,  data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care;  internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement;  and other strategic and operational concerns.  

Author of “Privacy and the Pandemic Workshop” for the Association of State and Territorial Health Plans, as well as a multitude of other health industry matters, workforce and health care change and crisis management and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.  

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE:   These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.  Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.  Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2020 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™.


Confirm Health & Fitness App Breach & Security In Face Of New Enforcement Risks

October 1, 2021

Health care providers, health plans, employers and others tapping into the growing popularity of consumer and patient fitness, patient portal and other health apps, health care providers, health plans, vendors and developers of mobile health apps and connected devices (“health apps”) that track or collect fitness or other health information that contain individually identifiable health information created or received by health care providers (“personal health records” or “PHR”) and their service providers (“collectively “PHR Vendors””) should verify their data security and breach notification policies and processes comply with applicable federal data breach rules in light of a September 15, 2021 Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) policy statement.

In a September 15 FTC policy statement, the FTC signaled it plans to enforce the FTC Health Breach Notification Rule; Final Rule, 16 C.F.R. Part 318 (“Health Breach Rule”) by cautioning health app vendors and their service providers that that they are responsible for complying with the Health Breach Rule unless the breach is covered by and addressed in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) Breach Notification for Unsecured Protected Health Information, 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164 (“HIPAA Breach Rule”) applicable to health plans, health care providers, health care clearinghouses and their service provider business associates  (“HIPAA Entities”) experiencing breaches of protected health information (“PHI”).

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule and the Health Breach Rule implement enhanced health information data security and breach notification requirements added to federal law by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) enacted by Congress as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.  Widely recognized, the HIPAA Breach Rule adopted and enforced by the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) implements breach notification and other requirements for the protection of electronic PHI applicable to HIPAA Covered Entity.  In contrast, the FTC Health Breach Rule implements the HITECH Act’s requirements for breaches not subject to the HIPAA Breach Rule of individually identifiable consumer health information in “personal health records” and falls under the FTC’s jurisdiction to investigate and enforce.

Awareness of the HIIPAA Breach Rule is much more widespread, largely due to OCR’s long and ever-growing list of settlements and prosecutions of violations of its HIPAA Breach Rules.  See e.g., Pennsylvania OCR Settlement Warns Others Against Disability Or Other Civil Rights Discrimination In COVID-19 Resource Allocation & Other ResponseGastroenterology Practices Pays $100K For HIPAA NoncomplianceOCR Warns HIPAA Entities To “Get Serious” About HIPAA Compliance In Announcing Latest Settlement Against Ambulance Company$1.6M HIPAA Penalty Mostly Due To Inadequate Security Assessment & Oversight. However the FTC’s lack of enforcement or other meaningful action of the Health Breach Rules since its adoption has fostered both a lack of awareness and concern about compliance with its requirements regarding reporting of breaches of PHR.

FTC Health Breach Rule For PHR Breaches

The FTC Health Breach Rule applies to breaches of electronic PHR. For purposes of the Health Breach Rule, “personal health record” or “PHR” generally means an electronic record any information, collected from an individual, that:

  • Is not subject to the HIPAA Breach Notification rules applicable to HIPAA Entities when a breach of electronic PHI happens;
  • Is created or received by a health care provider, health plan, employer, or health care clearinghouse;
  • Relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual, the provision of health care to an individual, or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual; and
  • Either identifies the individual or with respect to which there is a reasonable basis to believe that the information can be used to identify the individual; and
  • Is managed, shared, and controlled by or primarily for the individual.

Where applicable, the Health Breach Notification Rule requires that the Health App vendors or related entities notify consumers, the FTC, and, in some cases, the media when that data in a Personal Health Record is disclosed or acquired without the consumers’ authorization. In addition, a third party service provider of such vendors or entities that experiences a breach must notify such vendors or entities of the breach, so that they can in turn notify their customers.   Beyond requiring notification of breaches of Personal Health Records, the Health Breach Rule also contains specific requirements governing the timing, method, and contents of the breach notice to consumers. In general, it requires entities to provide breach notices by first class mail, or if specified as a preference by the individual, via e-mail “without unreasonable delay,” and in no case later than 60 calendar days after discovering a breach.  Substitute notice, through the media or a web posting, also may be required when there is insufficient contact information for ten or more individuals.

Violations of the Health Breach Rule can be costly.  The HITECH Act authorizes the FTC to seek civil penalties for violations. Companies that fail to comply with the rule could be subject to monetary penalties of up to $43,792 per violation per day.

FTC Signals Health Rule Enforcement Impending

The FTC Commission’s adoption of a Statement of the Commission on Breaches by Health Apps and Other Connected Devices (the”Statement”) at its September 15, 2021 meeting signals the FTC is preparing to begin enforcing the Health Breach Rule after taking no enforcement action in the decade since its adoption. 

Responding to the explosive growth Health Apps and their use, the Statement notes that Health Apps such as wearable fitness tracking devices that collect consumers’ health information are covered by the Health Breach Notification Rule if they can draw data from multiple sources, and are not covered by the HIPAA Breach Rule.  The Statement warns PHR Vendors not covered by HIPAA are responsible for protecting PHRs from unauthorized access and face civil monetary penalties of up to $43,792 per violation per day for failing to provide breach notification in accordance with the Health Breach Notification Rule when their PHRs experience a “breach of security” of PHRs on a Health App.  

The Statement also urges PHR Vendors, health app developers, and others involved with the creation, provision or use of mobile devices collecting or accessing fitness or other individually identifiable health information to examine their obligation and recommends using the Developing a Mobile Health Act Tool (the “Tool”) to help determine what laws apply.  For example, the Statement states a Health App would be covered under the FTC’s Health Breach Rule if it collects health information from a consumer and has the technical capacity to draw information through an API that enables synching with a consumer’s fitness tracker, but cites to cross references to the HIPAA Breach Rule in the Health Breach Rule to explain that a Health App developer is a “health care provider” subject to the HIPAA Breach Rule because it “furnish[es] health care services or supplies.”  

Comments made by FTC Commissioner Lina M. Khan regarding the need for the Statement add weight to the credibility of concerns about impending enforcement. While noting the Health Breach Rule “imposes some measure of accountability on tech firms that abuse our personal information, Ms. Khan identified “the commodification of sensitive health information, where companies can use this data to feed behavioral ads or power user analytics” as an even “more fundamental problem.”  She also stated “Given the growing prevalence of surveillance-based advertising, the Commission should be scrutinizing what data is being collected in the first place and whether particular types of business models create incentives that necessarily place users at risk.”

ALL HEALTH APP VENDERS & PROVIDERS SHOULD VERIFY COMPLIANCE WITH APPLICABLE BREACH REQUIREMENTS

In the face of OCR’s ongoing enforcement of HIPAA and the Statement’s signal of the FTC’s new commitment to the Health Breach Rule enforcement PHR Vendors, HIPAA Covered Entitles, and others involved with the development, provision, use or management of mobile apps or other devices that collect or access individually identifiable health information should take documented steps to evaluate their responsibilities and risks and address potential compliance exposures promptly. As PHI Vendors also could face exposure from service providers, this review should include assessment of those compliance risks and exposures.  PHR Vendors also may wish to consider reviewing and strengthening contractual requirements for compliance, notification, audit and other vendor safeguarads. Given the potential of enforcement based on current or past practices or events and the likely need for candid discussion of issues and concerns associated with past and present noncompliance risks, HIPAA Covered Entities, PHR Vendors and others dealing with health apps or connected devices also should consider engaging legal counsel familiar with the various rules to help guide this evaluation within the scope of attorney-client privilege.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.  

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.  

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications. As a significant part of her work, Ms. Stamer has worked extensively on pandemic, business and other crisis planning, preparedness and response for more than 30 years.

Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and other privacy and data security and other health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.  Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns.  As a part of this work, she has continuously and extensively worked with domestic and international health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, and insurers; managed care and insurance organizations; hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; EHR, claims, payroll and other technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, self-insured health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health and managed care industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies.  

This  involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve  sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EHR, HIPAA and other technology,  data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, ant kickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care;  internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement;  and other strategic and operational concerns.  

Author of “Privacy and the Pandemic Workshop” for the Association of State and Territorial Health Plans, as well as a multitude of other health industry matters, workforce and health care change and crisis management and other highly regarded publications and presentations, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.  

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.  

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If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

NOTICE:   These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.  Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.  Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein. ©2020 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™.


CMS Releases 2019 PAC PUF Data

September 29, 2021

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) posted the annual update of the Post-Acute Care and Hospice Provider Public Use File (herein known as “PAC PUF”) with data for 2019 resulting in the PAC PUF now populated with data for years 2013-2019.

The PAC PUF presents summarized information on services provided to Medicare beneficiaries by home health agencies, hospices, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), and long-term care hospitals (LTCHs).

The 2019 PAC PUF summarizes information on nearly 15 million claims and over $69 billion in Medicare payments for 2019. It contains information on 9,001 home health agencies, 4,584 hospices, 14,532 SNFs, 1,106 IRFs, and 358 LTCHs.

It contains information on demographic and clinical characteristics of beneficiaries served, professional and paraprofessional service utilization, submitted charges, and payments at the provider, state, and national levels. Additionally, the PAC PUF includes payment information at the payment system level for home health agencies, SNFs, and IRFs.

For 2019, CMS modified the data for SNFs presented in the PAC PUF. Specifically, SNF data are reported in a separate file and only cover the period between January 1, 2019 and September 30, 2019. CMS reports it adjusted the PAC PUF for SNFs because the SNF Prospective Payment System (PPS) changed from RUG IV to the Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) on October 1, 2019. To minimize confusion, CMS states it only reported data for RUG IV in the 2019 PAC PUF. CMS says it will incorporate data for the PDPM payment system in its next annual release of the PAC PUF.

In addition, beginning with the 2019 PAC PUF, CMS applied an updated crosswalk from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to classify primary diagnoses using the Clinical Classifications Software Refined (CCSR) for ICD-10-CM version 2021.2. Previous releases of the PAC PUF used the Clinical Classifications Software (CCS) for ICD-10-CM/PCS (Beta More Read the supplemental Methodology document for more information.

More Information

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com,  on  Facebook, on LinkedIn or Twitter or e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


CMS Hosts Virtual Forum On Quality Initiative Updates

September 16, 2021

Learn more about recent changes to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) Quality Measurement and Value-Based Incentives Group (“QMVIG”) quality initiatives during its upcoming Bi-Monthly Forum on Tuesday, September 28 from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. ET.

During this webinar, CMS says attendees will learn about and have opportunities to ask CMS questions about quality reporting programs and initiatives that directly impact their organizations.

CMS says forum will include updates on the following topics:

  • Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program
  • Electronic Clinical Quality Improvement (eCQI) Resource Center
  • Clinical Quality Language Libraries
  • Annual Change Review Process
  • Quality Payment Program (QPP)
  • Alternative Payment Models (APMs) and the APM Performance Pathway

CMS requires persons desiring to participate to register using the filling link and information:

If you have questions regarding registration, want to receive future communications regarding the forum, email CMS at CMSQualityTeam@ketchum.com.

More Information

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group, HR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

More Information

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group, HR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.

This article is republished by permission of the author, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Biden-Harris Administration to Expand Vaccination Requirements for Health Care and Many Other Employers

September 9, 2021

All Medicare and Medicaid certified health care facilities, and a broad range of other employers must prepare to meet impending new federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates announced by the Biden-Harris Administration today.

According to today’s announcements all healthcare facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid or employing 100 or more employees will be required to ensure all staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Biden-Harris Administration says the new health industry COVID-19 vaccine mandates will be implemented through emergency regulations to be issued in October.

According to today’s announcement, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (“CMS”) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October that will extend vaccine mandates originally announced last month for all Medicare and Medicaid participating nursing home workers to include hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, among others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. See .

The announcement of the vaccine mandates for healthcare workers coincides with the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement of sweeping new vaccine mandates for all government workers, government contractors and employers employing more than 100 employees.

The two mandates will force most health care facilities to impose mask mandates for all staff in order to meet the requirement all staff be vaccinated.

CMS and CDC say the decision was based on the continued and growing spread of the virus in health care settings, especially in parts of the U.S. with higher incidence of COVID-19. They claim the action will protect patients of the 50,000 providers and over 17 million health care workers in Medicare and Medicaid certified facilities.

According to the CDC, nursing homes with an overall staff vaccination rate of 75% or lower experience higher rates of preventable COVID infection. In CMS’s review of available data, the agency is seeing lower staff vaccination rates among hospital and End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) facilities. To combat this issue, CMS is using its authority to establish vaccine requirements for all providers and suppliers that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Vaccinations have proven to reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and are effective against the Delta variant.

In it’s announcement of the impending vaccination requirements, CDC urged health care facilities to prepare now to meet the new mandate in October. CMS expects certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interest of patients and staff by complying with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

CDC also urged any health care workers employed in these facilities who are not currently vaccinated are urged to begin the process immediately and facilities to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to meet new federal requirements.

While legal challenges to the mandate requirements are likely, most facilities that have not already adopted vaccine mandates are expected to adopt these mandates rather than risk losing eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and other sanctions.

Beyondprogram disqualification and attendant financial pressures, announcement of the new vaccine mandates adds vaccination to the list of safety safeguards that healthcare facilities as employers can expect to be required to enforce as part of the occupational safety rules of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (”OSHA”).

OSHA already is sanctioning employers for violating COVID-19 related OSHA requirements. For instance, OSHA nailed Lakewood Resource and Referral Center Inc., dba Center for Education Medicine and Dentistry (CHEMED) with heavy fines for allegedly violating applicable COVID-19 safety guidelines in January, 2021.

In a July 23, 2021 citation letter, OSH proposes to fine CHEMED $273,064.00 for willfully violating OSHA by not providing a medical evaluation to determine each employee’s ability to use a N95 respirator, before the employee was fit tested or required to use the respirator in the workplace to protect against SARS-CoV-2 virus while testing suspected COVID-19 individuals.

In addition to the proposed fine, the citation also orders CHEMED to take a series of corrective actions and to post notices in the workplace informing workers of the violation. 

Along with the CHEMED citation, OSH also cited a staffing agency contracted to provide nursing staffing to CHEMED, Homecare Therapies for also failing to conduct medical evaluations and fit tests. It received two violations and a proposed fine of $13,653.

In the face of these potential consequences, most covered health care facilities and other employers impacted by the mandate are likely to implement mandates unless and until these requirements are struct down by the courts or withdrawn.

Assuming the Administration follows appropriate procedures to adopt the rules, most legal commentators do not expect the legal challenges opposing the mandate orders to be successful in the courts particularly after the Supreme Court refused to overturn or hear arguments for overturning a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Klassen v. Trustees of Indiana University that refused to enjoin a vaccine mandate imposed by Indiana University as a condition of student or staff in person participation in classes or other activities.

While most healthcare and other covered businesses are not expected to challenge the rules, compliance us likely to trigger backlash from some unvaccinated workers strongly opposed to becoming vaccinated. Employers may find that some employees will resign their employment or take other tactics to avoid becoming vaccinated. Even those who elect to become vaccinated to retain their employment are likely to express opposition and dissatisfaction that could create liability exposures for the employers if it becomes a basis for retaliation claim.

Employers in Texas and certain other states that have adopted rules restricting or prohibiting vaccine, mask or other mandates also may face challenges based on the state rules.

In light of these and other uncertainties and challenges, Healthcare and Other or Employers generally should seek legal advice and assistance from legal counsel experienced with the relevant health care, labor and employment, privacy and other concerns.

More Information

This article is republished by permission of the author, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  To review the original work, see here.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns.

Most widely recognized for her work with health care, life sciences, insurance and data and technology organizations, she also has worked extensively with health plan and insurance, employee benefits, financial, transportation, manufacturing, energy, real estate, accounting and other services, public and private academic and other education, hospitality, charitable, civic and other business, government and community organizations. and their leaders.

Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising, representing, defending, and training domestic and international public and private business, charitable, community and governmental organizations and their leaders, employers, employee benefit plans, their fiduciaries and service providers, insurers, and others has published and spoken extensively on these concerns. As part of these involvements, she has worked, published and spoken extensively on these and other human resources, employee benefits, compensation, worker classification and other workforce and other services; insurance; health care; workers’ compensation and occupational disease; business reengineering, disaster and distress; and many other performance, risk management, compliance, public policy and regulatory affairs, and other operational concerns. 

A former lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its pension  project, Ms. Stamer also has worked internationally and domestically as an advisor to business, community and government leaders on these and other legislative, regulatory and other legislative and regulatory design, drafting, interpretation and enforcement, as well as regularly advises and represents organizations on the design, administration and defense of workforce, employee benefit and compensation, safety, discipline, reengineering, regulatory and operational compliance and other management practices and actions.

Ms. Stamer also serves in leadership of a broad range of professional and civic organizations and provides insights and thought leadership through her extensive publications, public speaking and volunteer service with a diverse range of organizations including as Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Intellectual Property Section Law Practice Management Committee, Vice Chair of the International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group Chair and Council Representative and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, past Region IV Chair and national Society of Human Resources Management Consultant Forum Board Member,  past Texas Association of Business BACPAC Chair, Regional Chair and Dallas Chapter Chair, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation and many others.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com,  on  Facebook, on LinkedIn or Twitter or e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Comment Now On CMS Electronic Clinical Quality Measures Review Process

September 9, 2021

Now is the time health care providers and others users can give the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) feedback on its electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) using CMS’ 2021 Change Review Process (CRP).

Many physician and other healthcare providers complain misdirected or unrealistic eCQMS unfairly make them choose between quality care and reimbursement Aziz readings impact level of reimbursement Medicare and Medicaid provide to providers under Medicare‘s quality reporting and reimbursement system. Because of the impact on reimbursement and the claim of quality assurance, these readings also often have consequences well beyond reimbursement. In fact they can be used to trigger fraud and other quality investigations by government payers, private payers and facilities using these measures in their compliance and efficiency.

The goal of the CRP is for eCQM implementers to comment on the potential impact of draft changes to eCQMs so CMS and measure stewards can make improvements to meet CMS’s intent of minimizing provider and vendor burden in the collection, capture, calculation, and reporting.

The CRP provides eCQM users the opportunity to review and comment on draft changes to the eCQM specifications and supporting resources under consideration by the measure steward.

This latest installment of the CRP for eligible professional/eligible clinician and eligible hospital/critical access hospital issues will be conducted using the web-based public comment tools on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Project Tracking System eCQM Issue Tracker during fall 2021.

A reminder that an ONC Project Tracking System account is required to post a question or comment. New users can create an account via the ONC Project Tracking System website.

CRP updates regarding issues available for public comment will be posted on the ONC Project Tracking System eCQM Issue Trackersummary page.

To subscribe to weekly CRP digest emails containing updates on CRP activities, please email CRP@mathematica-mpr.com.

To find out more about eCQMs, visit the Electronic Clinical Quality Improvement (eCQI) Resource Center. To report questions and comments regarding eCQMs, visit the eCQM Issue Tracker. To submit technical questions and issues related to the development and implementation of the Clinical Quality Language (CQL) standard, visit the CQL Issue Tracker.

More Information

This article is republished by permission of the author, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  To review the original work, see here.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com,  on  Facebook, on LinkedIn or Twitter or e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


OSHA Nails NJ Transitional Housing Provider For Exposing Workers To COVID-19

August 25, 2021

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has issued two citations against AMA Health Holdings LLC, for violating an OSHA emergency COVID standard published in June at its Seaside Guest Services transitional housing facility. Like OSHA’s July 23rd $273,064.00 citation of Lakewood Resource and Referral Center Inc. (“CHEMED”), the AMA Holdings citations and proposed penalties illustrate the risks health industry and other employers face for failing to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols.

The AMA Holdings citations stem from a complaint-driven OSHA investigation at the Seaside Guest Services’ residential housing facility in Trenton, New Jersey where 11 employees and 28 residents tested positive for the coronavirus by late March found numerous violations.

The residential facility provides transitional housing for people attending area behavioral-health programs and those who have completed some level of addiction treatment.

In June OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from contracting coronavirus. In March, OSHA launched a national emphasis program focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The program also prioritizes employers who retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.

According to OSHA, its investigation of a complaint revealed that while Seaside Guest Services’ continuity of operations plan required that residents with coronavirus be isolated and workers notified, neither happened. Additionally, OSHA inspectors determined the facility provided protective masks to its employees, but did not enforce their use. Seaside also failed to enforce social distancing despite posting signs in its four housing units.

OSHA cited the facility’s operator, AMA Health Holdings LLC, with two citations for failing to develop and implement effective measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and not recording each work-related illness. The agency proposed $10,923 in penalties.

AMA Health Holdings LLC has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The AMA Holdings OSHA actions demonstrate OSHA’s commitment to investigate complaints of violations is its COVID emergency standards and fine employers that violate them.

The citations against AMA Health Holdings follow OSHA’s earlier citation of CHEMED for retaliating against employees for questioning the adequacy of COVID safety at the dental practice where they worked.

In the face of these enforcement actions, all employers should take care to ensure their ability to demonstrate and defend their operation’s compliance with all applicable emergency COVID safety standards and other safety requirements here.

As illustrated by the recently issued Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) nursing home vaccination mandate announced last week, OSHA requirements evolve are likely to evolve rapidly in response to changing CDC guidance. Consequently, employers should remain vigilant for changing requirements and respond accordingly.

Additionally, employers should keep in mind that improperly handled employee questions or statements of concern about the adequacy of workplace COVID -19 safeguards could create retaliation or whistleblower risks. Accordingly, employers should use care to investigate and respond carefully to these concerns.

More Information

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com,  on  Facebook, on LinkedIn or Twitter or e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


QHP Exchange Administrators Review 2021 QRS Reports By 9/3

August 24, 2021

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging QHP issuers and Exchange administrators to review their 2021 Quality Rating System (QRS) preview reports, QRS proof sheets, and QHP Enrollee Survey Quality Improvement Reports on the CMS Marketplace Quality Initiative (MQI) website by September 3.

CMS created the QRS to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare and more easily investigate quality. The 2021 QRS quality ratings and QHP Enrollee Survey results are available for preview from August 23rd at 9am ET through September 3rd at 5pm ET.

QHP issuers and Exchange administrators may review the QRS preview reports, QRS proof sheets, and QHP Enrollee Survey Quality Improvement Reports for their respective reporting units in CMS’ Health Insurance Oversight System Marketplace Quality Module (HIOS-MQM).

Access to HIOS-MQM is required to preview the QRS rating information. See the HIOS-MQM Quick Reference Guide for details about registering and accessing the HIOS-MQM.

Inquiries regarding the preview results should be submitted to the CMS help desk, CMS_FEPS@cms.gov, by September 3, 2021.

More Information

This article is republished by permission of the author, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  To review the original work, see here.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com,  on  Facebook, on LinkedIn or Twitter or e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


CMS/CDC Mandating COVID Vaccination For All Nursing Home Staff

August 18, 2021

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced today plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all Medicare and Medicaid-participating nursing home staff.

The joint announcement released today states the agencies are developing an emergency regulation requiring staff vaccinations within the nation’s more than 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-participating nursing homes.

The agencies view the new requirement as a key component of protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents and staff.

Today’s action is in keeping with CMS’s authority to establish requirements to ensure the health and safety of individuals receiving care from all providers and suppliers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. About 62% of nursing home staff are currently vaccinated as of August 8 nationally, and vaccination among staff at the state level ranges from a high of 88% to a low of 44%. The emergence of the Delta variant in the United States has driven a rise in cases among nursing home residents from a low of 319 cases on June 27, to 2,696 cases on August 8, with many of the recent outbreaks occurring in facilities located in areas of the United States with the lowest staff vaccination rates.

In May, the Agency issued new regulations that require Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities and Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs/IID) to educate residents, clients, and staff about COVID-19 vaccination and, when available, offer a COVID-19 vaccine to these individuals. These regulations also mandate that LTC facilities report weekly COVID-19 vaccination data for residents and staff to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

Today’s announcement states the agencies will continue to analyze vaccination data for residents and staff from the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) data as an additional method of compliance monitoring and in keeping with current practice, as well as deploy the Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs)—operated under the Medicare Quality Improvement Program—to educate and engage nursing homes with low rates of vaccinations.

Meanwhile, the announcement strongly encourages nursing home residents and staff members to get vaccinated as the Agency undergoes the necessary steps in the rule-making process over the course of the next several weeks. CMS expects nursing home operators to act in the best interest of residents and their staff by complying with these new rules, which the Agency expects to issue in September.

According to today’s announcement, CMS also expects nursing home operators to use all available resources to support employees in getting vaccinated, including employee education and vaccination clinics, as they work to meet this staff vaccination requirement.

More Information

This article is republished by permission of the author, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  To review the original work, see here.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com,  on  Facebook, on LinkedIn or Twitter or e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns.

©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


FDA Shares List Of OMB-Approved Information Collection Projects

August 10, 2021

The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has published a list of information collections that have approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in today’s Federal Register. See the list here.

More Information

This article is republished by permission of the author, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  To review the original work, see here.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you to receive future updates by registering here and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here. For specific information about the these or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at&n