Doc Caught Submitting Conflicting Patient Records to Private Payer Versus Medicare Criminally Sentence, Pays Civil Settlement

July 23, 2013

The  recent criminal sentencing and civil settlement of Illinois physician Dr. Mahmoud Yassin highlights the growing- but too often appreciated exposure of physicians and other health care providers and their billing or other management who submit conflicting claims data to private and government claims or otherwise permit in false  falsely bill or participate in the cover-up of fraudulent or other improper billings to payers.  The Yassin sentencing is notable both because Yassin incurred criminal liability for obstruction based on his presentation of altered patient records to a private payer and and civil liability for  making false claims to Medicare and others.

Yassin was sentenced July 22, 2013 to serve 30 days in prison and 3 years of probation and to pay  a fine of $10,000, a special assessment of $100, and restitution to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois in the amount of $19,615.17 in federal district court in Benton, Illinois for Obstructing a Criminal Health Care Fraud Investigator.  The felony obstruction conviction stemmed from charges that on March 2, 2012, when a FBI agent, having served a subpoena for patient records on Dr. Yassin, gave an altered patient progress note  that showed an in-office examination previously claimed to an insurance carrier, but which had not taken place.

In a separate civil settlement with the United States Attorney’s Office regarding false claims to Medicare, Dr. Yassin also previously has paid double damages for $87,348.64. The restitution and civil false claims settlement were based on claims for in person office visits in which the patient either failed to show up for an appointment or only was spoken to by telephone.

The Yassin prosecution demonstrates the importance of providers getting their records and billings straight when billing both private payers and government payers.  While most  health care providers recognize  the significant exposure they incur from overbilling Medicare or other federal programs as a result of the highly publicized, heavy-handed audit and enforcement activities of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ), many  don’t recognize their exposure from private payer billings or the potential interaction between private and government claims investigations  Amendments enacted as part of the anti-fraud provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) added private health plans to the list of plans protected by federal prohibitions against fraudulent billing by providers.  Furthermore, federal fraud investigators and private payers increasingly are working together on the investigation and redress of false billing and other aggressive practices.  These and other risks mean that providers cannot afford to be unprepared when asked to respond to investigations like one that lead to the Yassin conviction, recoupment or other audit and enforcement actions  See,  Secondary Payers Hit Physician Group With Recoupment After Medicare Audit Findings.   Rather, physicians and other health care clinics must be ready to prove and defend their billings to public and private payers.  In both cases, these preparations should ensure that records accurately and completely document the care provided, that the coding and billing applied is reflective of actual care and consistent with existing reimbursement, and otherwise defensible.  As demonstrated by Yassin, inconsistencies between records presented to different payers should be avoided.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on 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 presentations and programs include a wide range of compliance, risk management and other workshops, programs and publications.

Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, 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.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see  here.

About Solutions Law Press

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

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 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.

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Improper Billing Of Private Payers Increasing Source Of Liability & Risk For Providers

July 8, 2013

Physicians or other health care providers now have even more to worry about when a Medicare or other federal program audit reveals overpayments – repayment demands from commercial insurers and self-insured health plans, who are secondary payers.  Federal officials and private payers alike increasingly are coming after providers to recover overpayments or other inappropriate billings identified through audits or other investigations.  In the face of these actions, providers should use care to ensure that their billing and compliance programs appropriately manage and monitor the defensibility of claims billed to private payers as well as those to Medicare or other government programs.

Most  health care providers recognize  the significant exposure they incur from overbilling Medicare or other federal programs as a result of the highly publicized, heavy-handed audit and enforcement activities of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ).

Unfortunately, many health care providers don’t recognize that overbilling private payers can carry similar risks and liabilities.  Amendments enacted as part of the anti-fraud provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) added private health plans to the list of plans protected by federal prohibitions against fraudulent billing by providers.

While CMS, OIG and DOJ tend to emphasize Medicare and other federal program recoveries in media releases about their overbilling and health care fraud enforcement efforts, careful review of these actions increasingly shows that these enforcement actions often also cover overbilling of private health plans uncovered in connection with the underlying  Medicare or other federal program overpayment audit or investigation.   For instance, upcoding and other false billing of claims was the basis of the federal criminal health care fraud prosecution of the Chief Executive Officer of a small, rural Texas health care clinic.  Texas Clinic CEO Sentence Highlights Risks Of Upcoding. See, also Pharmas Face New Pressure To Put Patients Before Profits After GlaxoSmithKline Record $3 Billion Health Care Fraud & FDCA Settlement.

Unfortunately, many providers have failed to recognize and adequately respond to these and other clear indicators of their exposure to fraud, recoupment and other enforcement actions from sloppy or otherwise improper billings to private insurers and self insured plans.  With health care reform increasingly focusing on reducing health care expenditures in the private as well as public arena, already existing federal and state enforcement against providers for improper billing of private payers will inevitably grown.

Taking into account these and other trends toward stepped up enforcement against aggressive billing by providers of private insurance or self-insured plans, physicians and other providers should not be surprised or unprepared to respond to recoupment or other audit and enforcement actions like that recently reported by Nina Youngstrom in AIS Health about the recoupment demands by commercial insurers against a Kansas health care clinic based on the Medicare audit findings of overpayments. See,  Secondary Payers Hit Physician Group With Recoupment After Medicare Audit Findings.   Rather, physicians and other health care clinics must be ready to prove and defend their billings to private payers as well as Medicare and other government payers.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on 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 presentations and programs include a wide range of compliance, risk management and other workshops, programs and publications.

Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, 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.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see  here.

About Solutions Law Press

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

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 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.

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


WellPoint To Ban Coverage Rescissions Before Affordable Care Act Fall 2010 Deadline

April 28, 2010

WellPoint, Inc. will suspend the practice of rescinding patients’ coverage May 1, 2010, months in advance of this Fall’s deadline for insurers stop this practice established by the Affordable Care Act. The nation’s largest health insurer announced here its plans to implement the change in its practices regarding individual market rescissions on April 27, 2010.  

Beginning this Fall, the Affordable Care Act will prohibit insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact. Wellpoint’s termination of individual policy rescissions announced this week comes months ahead of the effective deadline for terminating rescissions contained in the legislation.  The ban against rescissions is one of a number of new federal restrictions on health insurers and group health plans enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act scheduled to take effect this Fall.  Wellpoint previously announced it also would change its dependent coverage policies to extend the period that a dependent child can remain on his parent’s coverage to age 26 before the deadline required by the Affordable Care Act.

WellPoint’s announcement comes after Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter on April 22 urging the company to immediately stop the practice of rescinding coverage for patients who become ill.  Wellpoint recently drew criticism from Secretary Sebelius and others for targeting breast cancer victims for rescission of their policies.  Secretary Sebelius’ initial letter to WellPoint can be found here or at here.

For Assistance With Health Industry Concerns

If your organization needs advice or assistance with the proposed regulation, preparing or submitting comments on the regulation or with other health care matters, contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Exempt Organization Vice-Coordinator of the Southern States IRS TEGE Council, a Council Member of the ABA Joint Committee On Employee Benefits Council, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas and former Board President of the Richardson Development Center for Children (now Warren Center), Ms. Stamer has more than 22 years experience advising health industry clients about health care operations, regulatory and compliance, reimbursement, staffing, risk management, public policy and other matters.    A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry matters, Ms. Stamer advises hospitals and other health industry clients about responding to and using these and other quality measures and other related concerns.  Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry quality, regulatory, reimbursement, and other operations, risk management and public policy concerns.  Her insights on these and other related matters 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.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

Other Recent Developments & Resources

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Updates available online by clicking on the article title:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with auditing or defending these or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (469) 767-8872 or to cstamer@solutionslawyer.net. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other internal controls and risk management matters. 

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  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 at here or e-mailing this information to here.

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


TSHHRAE Provides Health Industry Managers Employment Law Update & Other Timely Management Training At April Barnstorm 2010: Creating Effective Leaders Programs

March 23, 2010

Get Details & Registration Information here!

A Legal Update on Employment Law presentation by Attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is among 5 hours of “Barnstorm 2010: Creating an Effective Leaders-Tools of the Trade” management training that the Texas Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration and Education (TSHHRAE) will be hosting for health industry human resources and other managers in five Texas cities between April 26 and April 30, 2010. 

Interested health industry human resources and other managers can elect to participate in TSHHRAE’s Barnstorm 2010 management training at the following dates and locations:  

  • April 26 – Weslaco, Knapp Medical Center
  • April 28 – Sweetwater, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital
  • April 28 – Brenham, Trinity Medical Center
  • April 29 – Lubbock, University Medical Center
  • April 30 – Odessa, Medical Center Hospital

Update on Employment Law Program Highlights

Ms. Stamer’s Legal Update on Employment Law Program will address:

  • Recent changes in FMLA, Military Leave, wage and hour, ADA & other disability, COBRA, GINA, HIPAA and other selected federal & Texas employment laws and regulations;
  • Rising government enforcement of EEOC, HIPAA, wage & hour, worker classification, and other laws and regulations;
  • Recent developments and increases in retaliation claims;
  • Recent cases related to supervision; and
  • Other selected developments impacting health industry human resources management.

Other Barnstorm 2010 Program Highlights and Details

In addition to the Legal Update on Employment Law that Ms. Stamer is scheduled to present, the Barnstorm Program also will feature presentations on:

  • Leadership in 2010
  • Dealing with Poor Performers; and
  • Cultivating a Superstar

For registration and other information about the Barnstorm Program, see here.

About Ms. Stamer

Nationally and internationally recognized for more than 22 years of work with health industry and other organizations, publications, workshops and presentations and leadership on health industry and other labor and employment, staffing and credentialing, employee benefits, performance management and discipline, regulatory compliance and internal controls, risk management, and public policy matters, Ms. Stamer is Chair of the Curran Tomko Tarski Labor & Employment & Health Care Practice Groups, Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is.  The publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update, the Solutions Law Press Health Care Update, and Solutions Law Press Health Care Privacy & Technology Update and a former legal columnist for MD News, Ms. Stamer also is a popular speaker and author of these topics.  She regularly speaks and conducts training for the ABA, American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA), Health Care Compliance Association, Institute of Internal Auditors, Harris County Medical Society, the Medical Group Management Association, SHRM, Southwest Benefits Association and many other organizations.  Publishers of her many highly regarded writings on health industry and human resources matters include the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, ABA, AHLA, Spencer Publications, World At Work, SHRM, Business Insurance, James Publishing and many others.  You can review other highlights of Ms. Stamer’s health care experience here, and employment experience hereHer insights on these and other matters appear in Managed Care Executive, Modern Health Care, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, MDNews, Kentucky Physician, and many other national and local publications.

If you need assistance with health industry human resources or other management, concerns, wish to inquire about compliance, risk management or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com or 214.270.2402. 

Other Resources

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other updates and publications by Ms. Stamer including:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  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 at here or e-mailing this information here. To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Medicare Ends Fox Insurance Company Drug Plan Contract As CMS Turns Up Heat on Medicare Advantage & Part D Plan Enforcement & Oversight

March 16, 2010

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) terminated its Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage contract with Fox Insurance Company (Fox) on March 9, 2010.    The action highlights CMS’s growing scrutiny and enforcement of Medicare requirements against Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage Plans and other federal health care program contractors.

CMS terminated the Fox contract after CMS found the failure by Fox’s plan and services to meet Medicare’s requirements to provide enrollees with prescription drugs according to recognized standards of care jeopardized the health and safety of Fox enrollees.   When announcing the contract termination, CMS reported that an on-sight review by CMS showed that Fox committed a series of violations, including improperly denying its enrollees coverage of critical HIV, cancer, and seizure medications. CMS issued an enrollment and marketing sanction to Fox on Feb. 26, 2010, because the organization was not following Medicare’s rules for providing prescription drug coverage to its enrollees.   According to CMS, an onsite audit conducted between March 2 and March 4 showed that Fox’s problems persisted and that Fox continued to subject its enrollees to obstacles in getting sustaining medicines or other needed medications.  Among other things, CMS found Fox:

  • Failed to provide access to Medicare prescription drugs benefits by imposing unapproved prior authorization and step therapy criteria that made it more difficult for beneficiaries to get drugs that are protected by law;
  • Failed to meet the plan’s appeals deadlines; and
  • Did not comply with Medicare regulations requiring enrollees to be transitioned to new drugs at the beginning of the new plan year.
  • Failed to notify enrollees about prior authorization and step therapy determinations as required by Medicare.

CMS also found that many of the obstacles were in place to limit access to high-cost drugs, which could have led to enrollees’ clinical needs not being met.

In many cases, CMS reported that Fox required enrollees to have unnecessary and invasive medical procedures before they were able to obtain drugs. Finding that Fox was unable to satisfactorily address these compliance concerns and furnish medicines to its Medicare enrollees, CMS immediately terminated the Fox contract.

At the time of the termination, more than 123,000 Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Fox plans. Beginning March 10, 2010, CMS indicated that LI-NET, a Medicare run program administered by Humana, would replace the Medicare Part D coverage of  enrollees affected by the Fox contract termination on an interim basis. Fox enrollees will be able to choose a new Medicare prescription drug plan through May 1, 2010. Current enrollees who do not choose a plan will be enrolled into a new plan by Medicare. CMS is sending letters explaining the actions taken by CMS to enrollees and has established a 1-800 number to receive questions.

The action against Fox is part of an ongoing series of oversight, disciplinary and enforcement actions by CMS against Medicare Advantage and other federal health care program participants.  These programs and CMS’ oversight and enforcement of federal programs are drawing increasing Congressional scrutiny in connection with Congressional health care reform efforts. Amid this heightened scrutiny, Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans; health care providers, administrative services providers and others contracting with these plans and others involved with this programs should take appropriate action to maintain compliance, tighten their contracts with and oversight of actions of partners and vendors performing critical functions; review complaint reporting, investigation and response processes and procedures; and strengthen other practices to minimize exposures to audit or other enforcement actions.

For Assistance With Medicare Managed Care or Other Matters

If your organization needs advice or assistance about Medicare Part D or other Medicare Advantage contracting or other requirements or about other health plan or health care matters, consider contacting the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail here

Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee and an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council member,  Ms. Stamer has more than 22 years experience advising health plans, health care providers, and other health industry and insurance clients.  Her experience includes specific experience assisting Medicare, Medicaid and other health plan sponsors, administrators,  or administrative services providers about contracting, compliance, coverage and other matters.    A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry matters, Ms. Stamer also conducts compliance and other training on Medicare Advantage and other contract and compliance matters, as well as a broad range of other health industry related concerns.  Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry quality, regulatory, reimbursement, and other operations, risk management and public policy concerns.  Her insights on health industry matters 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.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

Other Recent Developments & Resources

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent updates available online by clicking on the article title:

You can review other recent health plan, health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  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 at here; e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com; or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other Solutions Law Press updates here. For important information concerning this communication click here.   

To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


HIPAA Heats Up: HITECH Act Changes Take Effect & OCR Begins Posting Names, Other Details Of Unsecured PHI Breach Reports On Website

February 25, 2010

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has begun posting on its website the names and certain information about health care providers, health insurers,  employer and other health plans, health care clearinghouses and their business associates (Covered Entities) reporting to OCR “breaches” of “unsecured protected health information” (UPHI) under new breach notice rules added by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act).

Covered Entities should anticipate the posting of the breach information and other HITECH Act breach notices coupled with amendments to the medical privacy and security requirements of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) effective since February 17, 2010, will heighten enforcement risks and public sensitivities about medical information privacy safeguards.  As failing to comply with the amended rules effective February 17, 2010 can trigger obligations under the Breach Regulations and other significant liability exposures, Covered Entities should act quickly to manage these emerging risks.

Covered Entity Breach Notification Requirements

The initial list of Covered Entities reporting  breaches of UPHI affecting 500 or more individuals posted by OCR on February 22, 2010 discloses the Covered Entity’s name and State, the approximate number of individuals affected, the date and type of breach and the location of the breached information. OCR’s posting of this information is required under the HITECH Act breach notification requirements as part of its implementation and enforcement of new breach notification requirements added to HIPAA by Section 13402(e)(3) of the HITECH Act.

The HITECH Act amended HIPAA to require Covered Entities to require Covered Entities provide notification to individuals, OCR and others when certain breaches of UPHI happen.  The implementing interim “Breach Notification For Unsecured Protected Health Information” regulations (Breach Regulation) published by OCR here require Covered Entities subject to HIPAA to notify affected individuals, OCR and in some cases the media within specified periods following a “breach” of UPHI occurring on or after September 23, 2009 unless the Covered Entity can demonstrate that the breach qualified as exempt from the breach notification obligation under the Breach Regulations.

Covered Entities generally should consider the need to provide breach notification under the Breach Regulation whenever electronic or non-electronic protected health  information which is not adequately encrypted or destroyed to qualify as “secured” under the breach rules is used, accessed or disclosed in violation of HIPAA.  

Since the potential need to provide breach notification is triggered by an impermissible use, access or disclosure of UPHI, up-to-date maintenance, monitoring and enforcement is at the heart of compliance with the Breach Regulation as well as HIPAA generally.

You can review the currently posted list of Covered Entities that have reported breaches on the OCR website here.  Learn more about the Breach Regulation requirements here

Broader & Stricter Medical Privacy Mandates Effective 2/17/210

The new breach notification requirements are part of a series of changes made to HIPAA under the HITECH Act that are increasing the responsibilities and liability exposures of Covered Entities. On February 17, 2010, Covered Entities and their business associates also became subject to tighter federal requirements for the use, access, protection and disclosure of protected health information under amendments to HIPAA’s Privacy & Security Standards enacted in the HITECH Act. When the HITECH Act was signed into law on February 17, 2009, Covered Entities also became subject to expanded sanctions and remedies for HIPAA violations.

To comply with the HITECH Act changes to HIPAA effective on February 17, 2010, most Covered Entities and their business associates generally will need to update their written policies, operational procedures, technical safeguards, privacy notices, vendor and other agreements, training, and other management procedures in several respects. For more details, see here.

While the HITECH Act gave Covered Entities and business associates a year to complete the necessary arrangements to comply with these HITECH Act changes, many Covered Entities and business associates have not adequately implemented the necessary arrangements. To mitigate these exposures, Covered Entities and their business associates should act quickly to review and update their policies, procedures, training, business associate and other services agreements, and other practices and procedures, as well as to implement the training, oversight, and other management necessary to comply with the HITECH Act changes and to mitigate other HIPAA risks.

Exposures Significant & Growing

HIPAA-associated exposures for Covered Entities are significant and growing. Timely action to comply with the amended HIPAA requirements and Breach Regulations is important to avoid triggering the breach notification requirements; to prevent loss of public trust and reputation;  and to minimize exposures to legal actions, administrative complaints and sanctions and the  investigation, defense and correction costs likely to result when a Covered Entity violates or is accused of violating HIPAA or otherwise mishandling medical or other personal information. 

Even before the HITECH Act changes became effective, federal regulators were stepping up HIPAA enforcement. The HITECH Act amendments further increase the risk that Covered Entities violating HIPAA face investigation and sanction. The HITECH Act amendments increase the likelihood that Covered Entities violating HIPAA will get caught and will face some form of damage or penalty assessment.  Heightened awareness of UPHI breaches resulting from HITECH Act mandated breach notifications are likely to fuel new HIPAA-related complaints, charges and demands.  Covered Entities, workforce members who wrongfully access protected health information now face potential civil penalties,  criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits and other actions. Allowing state attorneys general to bring suit adds more manpower to the enforcement team.   Furthermore, the wrongful use, access or disclosure of protected health information or other confidential information also increasingly is the basis of civil or criminal actions brought under a variety of other federal and state laws.

New Risks Created By HITECH Act Amendments

Heightened HIPAA exposures stem in part from the HITECH Act’s amendments to HIPAA’s remedy provisions.  Among other things, the HITECH Act amended HIPAA to:

  • Allow a State Attorney General to sue Covered Entities that commit HIPAA violations after February 16, 2009 for damages caused to state citizens;
  • Expand the mandate by OCR to investigate violations and audit compliance with HIPAA;
  • Require OCR to impose civil sanctions against Covered Entities and business associates involved in violations of HIPAA in accordance with tightened standards added to HIPAA by the HITECH Act;
  • Revise the criminal sanctions that the Department of Justice can seek against Covered Entities and others for violations of HIPAA; and
  • Amend HIPAA to make clear that workforce members and others improperly using, accessing or disclosing protected health information in violation of HIPAA can face criminal prosecution.

State Attorney General Lawsuit Exposures

Covered Entities must be concerned about the potential that a state Attorney General may bring civil suit to remedy damages caused to state citizens by a breach of HIPAA.  In certain situations, the HITECH Act empowers a state attorney general to sue Covered Entities for damages if their HIPAA violations harm state citizens. Statutory damages equal to the sum of the number of violations multiplied by 100 up to a maximum of $25,000 per calendar year plus attorneys fees and costs are authorized.

A HIPAA civil lawsuit demonstrates the willingness of at least some states to exercise the new authority to sue Covered Entities. On January 13, 2010 Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sued Health Net of Connecticut, Inc. (Health Net) for failing to secure private patient medical records and financial information involving 446,000 Connecticut enrollees and promptly notify consumers endangered by the security breach.   The first attorney general enforcement action brought based on amendments made to HIPAA under the HITECH Act, Connecticut charges that Health Net violated HIPAA by failing to safeguard protected medical records and financial information on almost a half million Health Net enrollees in Connecticut then allowing this information to remain exposed for at least six months before notifying authorities and consumers. The suit also names UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Oxford Health Plans LLC, who have acquired Health Net. 

Stepped Up Federal Enforcement

Even before the HITECH Act amendments, OCR and Department of Justice increased HIPAA investigation and enforcement.  The Department of Justice has obtained a variety of criminal convictions against violators of HIPAA.  See, e.g., 2 New HIPAA Criminal Actions Highlight Risks From Wrongful Use/Access of Health InformationMeanwhile, OCR also is emphasizing HIPAA enforcement.  In February, 2009, OCR announced that CVS Pharmacies, Inc. would pay $2.25 million to resolve HIPAA charges.  This announcement followed OCR’s announcement in July, 2008 that Providence Health Care would pay $100,000 to resolve HIPAA violation charges.  OCR also has taken HIPAA enforcement actions against a broad range of other Covered Entities. See more details hereWhile not resulting in the significant payments involved in CVS or Providence, all Covered Entities involved in these and other enforcement actions or investigations have incurred significant legal and other defense costs, loss of community trust, or both.

In addition to these HIPAA-specific exposures, wrongful use, access or disclosure of medical information also can expose Covered Entities, members of their workforce and others improperly using, accessing or disclosing protected health information to liability under other federal or state laws.  Federal and state prosecutors may and increasingly do bring criminal or civil actions against organizations or individuals for improperly accessing or using medical or other personal information under a variety of other federal or state laws .  See e.g., Cybercrime & Identity Theft: Health Information Security Beyond HIPAA; NY AG Cuomo Announcement of 1st Settlement For Violation of NY Security Breach Notification Law; Woman Who Revealed AIDs Info Gets A Year

State Civil Lawsuits

Covered Entities also need to prepare to defend HIPAA-related conduct in state civil actions.  Individual plaintiffs increasingly used alleged HIPAA violations in state privacy, negligence, retaliation, wrongful discharge or other lawsuits.  State courts have allowed private plaintiffs to use the obligations imposed by HIPAA as the basis of a Covered Entity’s duty for purposes of certain state law lawsuits.  In  Sorensen v. Barbuto, 143 P.3d 295 (Utah Ct. App. 2006), for example, a Utah appeals court ruled a private plaintiff could use HIPAA standards to establish that a physician owed a duty of confidentiality to his patients for purposes of maintaining a state law damages claim.  Similarly, the Court in Acosta v. Byrum, 638 S.E. 2d 246 (N.C. Ct. App. 2006) ruled that a plaintiff could use HIPAA to establish the “standard of care” in a negligence lawsuit. Meanwhile, disgruntled employees or other business partners performing services for  Covered Entities also increasingly are pointing to HIPAA as the basis for their retaliation or wrongful discharge claims. See, e.g.,  Retaliation For Filing HIPAA Complaint Recognized As Basis For State Retaliatory Discharge Claim. Read more here

Coupled with the HITECH Act changes, these and other enforcement actions signal growing potential hazards for Covered Entities that  fail to properly manage their HIPAA compliance obligations and risks. To help guard against these exposures, Covered Entities should act quickly to strengthen their HIPAA defenses by updating policies, contracts, practices, security, training, oversight, documentation and management.

Covered Entities & Business Associates Urged To Act Promptly To Manage Mitigating Expanded HIPAA Risks & Obligations

Faced with these expanding obligations and exposures, Covered Entities should prepare for the need to defend the adequacy of their HIPAA compliance efforts on paper and in operation. As part of these efforts, Covered Entities should consider:

  • Reviewing the adequacy of the practices, policies and procedures of the Covered Entities, business associates, and others that may come into contact with protected health information within the scope of attorney-client privilege taking into consideration the Corrective Action Plan, published OCR noncompliance and enforcement statistics, their own and reports of other security and privacy breaches and near misses, 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 obligations of each party; to clarify the respective rights, procedures and responsibilities of each party in regards to compliance audits, investigation, breach reporting, and mitigation; to clarify rights of indemnification; and other related relevant matters;
  • Improving technological and other tracking, documentation and safeguards and controls to the use, access and disclosure of protected health information;
  • Conducting well-documented training as necessary to ensure that members of the Covered Entity’s workforce understand and are prepared to comply with the expanded requirements of HIPAA, can detect potential breaches or other compliance concerns, and understand and are prepared to follow appropriate procedures for reporting and responding to suspected violations;
  • Tracking actual and near miss violations and making adjustments to policies, practices, training, safeguards and other compliance components as necessary to deter future concern
  • Establishing and providing well-documented monitoring of compliance;
  • 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 activities; and
  • Pursuing other appropriate strategies to enhance the Covered Entity’s ability to demonstrate its compliance commitment both on paper and in operation.

For Assistance With Compliance Or Other Concerns

The author of this article,  Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care practitioners and other businesses and business leaders to establish, administer, investigate and defend health care fraud and other compliance and internal control policies and practices to reduce risk under federal and state health care and other laws. 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 please contact the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  You can get more information about the CTT Health Care Practice  and more specifics about Ms. Stamer’s health industry experience here.

Ms. Stamer is nationally known for her work, training and presentations, and publications on privacy and security of health and other sensitive information in health and managed care, employment, employee benefits, financial services, education and other contexts. 

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 22 years experience advising clients, conducting workshops and other training, and providing policy advice about health care, privacy, data security, and other matters. She advises health care providers, health insurers and administrators, employer and other health plan sponsors, employee benefit plan fiduciaries, schools, financial services providers, governments and others about privacy and data security, health care, insurance, human resources, ERISA, technology, and other legal and operational concerns. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management matters. A widely published author on privacy, data security, health care and other related matters, Ms. Stamer is the author of “Protecting & Using Patient Data In Disease Management: Opportunities, Liabilities And Prescriptions,” “Privacy Invasions of Medical Care-An Emerging Perspective,” “Cybercrime and Identity Theft: Health Information Security Beyond HIPAA,” and a host of other highly regarded publications. Her insights on health care, health insurance, human resources and related matters appear in the Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles:

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 at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to here.

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


2010 Medicare Part B Monthly Premium Rate, Annual Part B Deductible & Actuarial RatesAnnounced

October 27, 2009

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that the monthly premiums, actuarial rates for aged (age 65 and over) and disabled (under age 65) beneficiaries enrolled in Part B of the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) program that will apply for calendar year 2010. 

The rates announced here in the Federal Register on October 22, 2009 are as follows:

  • The monthly actuarial rates for 2010 are $221.00 for aged enrollees and $270.40 for disabled enrollees. The standard monthly Part B premium rate for 2010 is $110.50, which is up from the 2009
  • standard premium rate of $96.40.)
  • The Part B deductible for 2010 is set at $155.00 for all Part B beneficiaries.

A beneficiary who has to pay an income-related monthly adjustment may have to pay a total monthly premium of roughly 35, 50, 65 or 80 percent of the total cost of Part B coverage.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with these or other health care public policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management, workforce and other staffing, transactional or operational concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters.  You can review other recent health care and related resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here

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 at here or e-mailing this information here and/or by participating in the SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group on LinkedIn.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


HIT Committee To Meet October 14 In Washington, D.C.

September 29, 2009

The next meeting of the HIT Standards Committee of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will be held on October 14, 2009, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m./Eastern Time at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, NW., Washington, DC. The hotel telephone number is 202-234-0700. Interested members of the public are invited to attend. 

Created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the HIT Standards Committee is charged with making recommendations to the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) on standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange and use of health information consistent with the implementation of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, and in accordance with policies developed by the HIT Policy Committee.   Even as Congress debates further reforms, the activities of the HIT Committee and other components of the ONC are key actors in the continuing efforts of the Obama Administration to promote health care efficiency by reengineering health care technology.

During a previous meeting on August 20, 2009, the HIT Committee finalized certain recommendations concerning meaningful use of electronic medical records, clinical quality, and privacy and security of protected health information, which are available for review here.

According to the ONC announcement regarding the upcoming meeting in today’s (September 29, 2009) Federal Register available here, the Committee plans during the meeting to:

  • Discuss reports from its Clinical Operations, Clinical Quality, and Privacy and Security Workgroups
  • Take testimony from invited experts in the field of security as it relates to health information technology

Interested persons may present data, information, or views, orally or in writing, on issues pending before the committee. Written submissions may be made to the contact person on or before October 6, 2009. Oral comments from the public will be scheduled between approximately 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Time allotted for each presentation may be limited. If the number of speakers requesting to comment is greater than can be reasonably accommodated during the scheduled open public hearing session, ONC will take written comments after the meeting until close of business.

ONC hopes to make background material available to the public at least two (2) business days prior to the meeting. However, if ONC is unable to post the background material on its Web site before the meeting, it will make that material publicly available at the location of the advisory committee meeting, and post the background material on ONC’s web site after the meeting here.

The designated person to contact for additional information is Jonathan Ishee, Office of the National Coordinator, HHS, 200 Independence Ave, SW., Room 729-G, Washington, DC 20201, 202-205-8493, Fax: 202-690-6079, e-mail: jonathan.ishee@hhs.gov.

If you need assistance preparing or presenting comments to the HIT Standards Committee or with monitoring or responding to other health care IT, privacy and data security, regulatory, operational, public policy or other health care concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Chair and Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail at CStamer@CTTLegal.com.

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Solution Law Press Updates available online by clicking on the applicable article title below:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with auditing or defending these or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com, Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters. 

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  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 at here, registering to receive updates in blog form here or e-mailing this information to support@solutionslawyer.net.

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 at here or e-mailing this information here.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Baucus’ America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 Calls For Significant Tightening of Tax Exemption Rules

September 21, 2009

Senate Finance Set To Begin Markup Session Proposal September 22 – Repeal of Rebuttable Presumption Rule In Reasonable Compensation Rules, Other Tightening of Requirements Threatened

With Senate Finance Committee meetings to mark up Chairman Max Baucus’ health care reform proposal as outlined in his 220-page “Chairman’s Mark of America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” (the “Baucus Proposal”) scheduled to begin tomorrow (September 22, 2009), tax-exempt health care and other non-profit organizations should evaluate carefully proposed amendments that could impact their tax-exempt status or related obligations in addition to the widely-discussed proposal to create “Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs).

Markup Scheduled To Begin Tuesday

The Senate Committee on Finance plans on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 to hash out how to convert into proposed legislation the health care reform proposal outlined in the “Chairman’s Mark America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” introduced by Committee Chairman Max Baucus on September 16, 2009, the text of which may be reviewed here.

Since no text of the proposed legislation itself has been released yet, it is impossible to fully evaluate the specific nature and implications of the Baucus Proposal.  While this week’s planned Senate Finance Committee mark up will further clarify these matters, a review of the description of changes proposed by Chairman Baucus in the Baucus Proposals nevertheless provides significant insight of what health care organizations can expect to be discussed and, in all likelihood incorporated into the draft legislation ultimately proposed.  Accordingly, tax-exempt health care organizations should carefully evaluate and act promptly to share their input with members of the Senate Finance Committee and other members of Congress about a series of proposed amendments that would impact their tax-treatment and other responsibilities.

Proposal To Tighten Tax-Exemption & Reporting

Requirements For Tax-Exempt Hospitals

While the Senate Finance Committee as of yet has not released text of the proposed legislation itself, a review of the description of changes proposed by Chairman Baucus in the Baucus Proposals and other subsequently proposed amendments to the Baucus Proposal reveal plans to materially change the tax-exemption qualification, governance and reporting requirements for tax-exempt hospitals beyond the proposal to create CO-OPs.  Among other things, the Baucus Proposal calls for the Internal Revenue Code § 50!(c)(3) and its related provisions to be amended to require:

  • The hospital to conduct or participate in and share with the public a community-needs analysis with input from a broad cross section of the community at least once every 3 years and thereafter to report on its implementation, including explaining where applicable why identified needs were unaddressed.  These additional requirements would supplement rather than replace existing community benefit standards already generally applicable to charitable entities
  • The hospital to provide non-discriminatory emergency care
  • The hospital to have, implement and widely disseminate a written financial assistance policy  defining among other things:
    • The rules for determining who qualifies for financial assistance
    • How the hospital determines amounts to be billed to patients in manner that provides for patient discounts to be based on Medicare rates, “best” commercial rates or other approved statutory measures rather than “chargemaster rates”
    • Require hospital to notify patients of the financial assistance policy on admission, on bills and in telephone calls of its financial assistance policy before initiating various collection actions or reporting the account to a credit rating agency
  • The hospital make its audited financial statements (and where applicable, the consolidated financial report of any entity of which it is a part) available widely
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to conduct a SEC-type review of each 501(c)(3) hospital’s community benefit activities at least once every three years based on data reported on Schedule H of the Form 990
  • The IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  to report annually to Congress on community benefit activities of non-governmental tax-exempt hospitals, charity care, bad debt, and unreimbursed costs of government programs (means-tested and non-means-tested) incurred by tax-exempt, taxable, and governmental hospitals.

In addition to the proposed amendments included in the Baucus Proposal as originally introduced, health care organizations also will need a close eye on discussions and proposals to amend the Baucus Proposal to further modify the tax-exemption requirements for tax-exempt hospitals and other health care organizations.  For instance, late last week, Ranking Member Senator Chuck Grassley submitted a proposal to amend the Baucus Proposal to further tighten requirements for tax-exempt health care organizations:

  • For the stated purpose of avoiding wasteful legal challenges to the management and governance questions on the revised Form 990, to specifically grant statutory authority to the Internal Revenue Service to ask management and governance questions on the Form 990; and
  • To make it easier for the Internal Revenue Service to challenge as unreasonable compensation payments made by tax-exempt entities by shifting the burden to the taxpayer of proving the reasonability of compensation and removing the burden currently borne by the Internal Revenue Service of going forward with the evidence on comparability.  This would be accomplished by overruling the rebuttable presumption of reasonableness currently set forth in Treasury Regulation § 53.4958-6 of the intermediate sanctions rules and replacing it with a requirement that public charities due diligence demonstrate that their compensation payments meet the 3 current elements of the presumption:
    • Review by an authorized body made of members without a conflict of interest
    • Use of appropriate data as to comparability and
    • Adequate and contemporaneous documentation. This amendment is expected to raise revenue, according to the summary.

With these provisions already targeting their tax-exempt status, tax-exempt hospitals and other non-profits and others likely to surface as the legislative discussion proceeds, tax-exempt health care and other organizations should keep a close eye on proposed tax provisions of the Baucus Proposal and other related proposals.

CO-Ops As Health Coverage Alternative

Much more widely discussed is the Chairman’s CO-OP proposal.  The Baucus Proposal calls for the creation of a new vehicle to provide an alternative source of health care coverage called  “CO-Ops.”  As contemplated by the Baucus Proposal, CO-Ops would be associations controlled by a beneficiary board unrelated to existing organizations providing health insurance as of July 16, 2009.  Subject to their meeting non-inurement and other common existing requirements for charitable status as well as other conditions, CO-Ops would be able to apply for tax-exempt status as well as federal funding.

New Taxes and Fees On Insurers & Others

The Baucus Proposal proposes to finance its health care reforms through a variety of mechanisms including, excise taxes and penalties on employers and individuals that fail to purchase the government specified health care package, taxes on premiums paid for health insurance coverage in excess of certain specified annual limits, the imposition of certain premium taxes and “sector fees” on healthcare insurers (with some exceptions possible under certain circumstances for certain 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) HMOs not providing commercial-type insurance within the meaning of Section 501(m)).

Other Baucus Proposal Highlights

In its current summary form, the 220-page Baucus Proposal includes a host of other sweeping reforms, which are certain to be further expanded and refined during this week’s scheduled Senate Finance Committee markup session.  Many of these other proposed reforms were highlighted in an overview of the Baucus Proposal published hereYou can join the discussion of these and other proposed health care forms and exchange updates and other resources about health care reform and related concerns by registering to participate in the Coalition For Responsible Health Care Policy Group on Linkedin.

 

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Solution Law Press Health Care Updates available online by clicking on the article title below:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with these or other health care public policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management, workforce and other staffing, transactional or operational concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com, Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters. 

Ms. Stamer has extensive experience in these and other health industry related representation.  You can review other recent health care and related resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here

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 at here, or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com, and/or by participating in the SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group on LinkedIn.

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 at here or e-mailing this information here.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Two Recent Criminal Prosecutions For HIPAA Privacy Rule Violations Signal Rising Criminal Enforcement Risks

September 8, 2009

Register here  To Participate In September 9 or September 17 Briefings on New HIPAA Data Breach Rules

September 8, 2009

Two recent separate criminal actions against hospital workers for wrongfully accessed medical records in violation of the medical privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996, as amended (HIPAA) are the latest reminders to health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, their business associates and members of their workforce that the criminal provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rules have teeth. 

Palmetto General Hospital Employee And Accomplice Indicted For Stealing Patient Records As Part Of Fraud

 In Miami-Dade County, federal felony charges are pending against Jacquettia L. Brown, 29, and Tear Renee Barbary, 25, prosecution on for offenses relating to the theft of patient profile records from Palmetto General Hospital to further a fraud scheme.

A seven-count Indictment announced by the Department of Justice on May 26, 2009 charges Brown and Barbary with conspiracy to commit access device fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(b)(2), and criminal violations of HIPAA. In addition, Brown is charged with aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1).  If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum of five (5) years’ imprisonment on Count 1, and a statutory maximum of ten (10) years’ imprisonment as to each of Counts 2, 3, and 7. As to Counts 4-6, Brown faces a two (2) year mandatory prison sentence per count. 

According to the Indictment, Brown, a medical records employee of Palmetto General Hospital, took records containing personal profile information of Palmetto General Hospital patients. Defendant Brown and Barbary then used the stolen personal information to further a credit card fraud conspiracy. The patient profile records that Brown stole included personal identifying information, such as patients’ names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and next of kin contacts. Brown used the stolen identifying information to obtain patients’ credit card account numbers. She gave patient profile records and credit card account numbers to Barbary, who used the information to make unauthorized credit card purchases. When law enforcement officials disrupted the scheme, Brown was in possession of 41 patient profile records and Barbary was in possession of six patient profile records.

Curiosity Check of Medical Records Results In Arkansas Doctor, 2 Former Hospital Employees Guilty Plea To HIPAA Violation

Three Arkansas health care workers could be sentenced to up to 1 year in prison, a fine of not more than $50,000, or both after pleading guilty in July, 2009 to misdemeanor violations of the health information privacy provisions of HIPAA for accessing a patient’s record without any legitimate purpose.

United States Magistrate Judge Henry L. Jones, Jr. accepted the guilty pleas of Dr. Jay Holland, age 56, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Sarah Elizabeth Miller, age 28, of England Arkansas; and Candida Griffin, age 34 of Little Rock, Arkansas after each admitted to accessing patient records to satisfy their own curiosity.

Dr. Holland, Medical Director of Select Specialty Hospital, located on the 6 floor of the St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center (SVIMC), admitted that after watching news reports on television, he logged on to the SVIMC patient records from his computer at home and accessed a patient’s files to determine if the news reports were accurate. He admitted he accessed the file because he was curious even though he had had HIPAA training and understood he was violating HIPAA when he accessed the file. SVIMC suspended Dr. Holland’s privileges for two weeks and required him to complete on-line HIPAA training.

Sarah Elizabeth Miller, formerly an account representative at SVIMC, Sherwood Campus, was responsible for checking patients in and out of the clinic and for processing patient billing. In order to perform her duties, she had access to the SVIMC patient records program which includes all locations, not just that of the Sherwood clinic. Miller admitted that on October 20 and 21, 2008, she accessed a patient’s files approximately 12 times out of curiosity. She admitted that she accessed the records without any legitimate purpose. Records show that Miller was trained on HIPAA privacy laws by SVIMC. SVIMC fired Miller from her position.

Candida Griffin was the emergency room unit coordinator at SVIMC. Her responsibilities were to order patient tests, perform data entry into electronic patient files for patients and perform other secretarial functions in the emergency room. Griffin admitted that on October 20, 2008, she was told by the charge nurse to set-up an alias for a particular patient admitted to the emergency room. On October 21, 2008, after the patient had been moved to ICU, Griffin admitted that she became curious about the patient’s status and accessed the medical chart to find out if the patient was still living. Although Griffin did not inform anyone about accessing the chart, hospital records show that the patient’s records were accessed three times that day by Ms. Griffin. SVIMC records show that Griffin was trained on HIPAA privacy laws. SVIMC fired Griffin from her position.

Pursuant to plea agreements with the United States, Holland, Miller and Griffin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor a violation of the health information privacy provisions of HIPAA based on their accessing a patient’s record without any legitimate purpose. Each faces a maximum penalty of 1 year imprisonment, a fine of not more than $50,000, or both. A sentencing date has not yet been set, but is expected within the next few weeks.

Criminal Referral and Enforcement Continues

Together with the HIPAA-related criminal convictions of in 2008 of David Gibson, Ferando Ferrer, Jr. and Andrea Smith discussed here, these new Arkansas and Florida criminal actions document the willingness of Justice Department attorneys to investigate and prosecute certain criminal violations.  Because they involved the theft of health information for use in furtherance of other health care fraud schemes, many have viewed as predictable and understandable the prosecution of Gibson, Ferrer, Brown and Barbary.  In contrast, the willingness of Jane W. Duke, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, to prosecute criminally the wrongful access by the SVIMC health care workers and Andrea Smith in the absence of other health care fraud motives challenges the perception widely held among certain segments of the health care and health plan industry that the criminal provisions of HIPAA have little teeth.  Since U.S. Attorney Duke pursued both the SVIMC and Smith prosecutions, it remains to be seen whether other U.S. Attorneys will be equally willing to pursue prosecution of HIPAA violations in the absence of evidence of other federal health care crimes.  

Less speculative is the growing readiness of the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights to pursue civil remedies for HIPAA violations.  On February 18, 2009, for instance, OCR and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued a joint announcement (the “Announcement”) ordering CVS Pharmacy, Inc., the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, to pay the U.S. government a $2.25 million settlement and to take other corrective action to ensure that it does not violate the privacy rights patients under HIPAA when disposing of patient information such as identifying information on pill bottle labels.  In a coordinated action, CVS Caremark Corp., the parent company of the pharmacy chain, also signed a consent order and agreed to a settlement with the FTC to settle potential violations of the FTC Act.  The investigation resulting in the settlement marks the first instance where the OCR formally coordinated on investigation and resolution of a case with the FTC. 

Coming as new data breach notification requirements for HIPAA-covered entities are set to take effect on September 23, 2009, these and other stepped up oversight and enforcement activities make it critical that all health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses and their business associates need to update their policies and practices, tighten their compliance and data breach monitoring processes, and strengthen their internal controls, compliance in preparation for defending their actions under the newly strengthened Privacy Rules.  Covered entities and their business associates more than ever must ensure their ability to demonstrate to federal regulators the effectiveness of their HIPAA compliance efforts by both adopting the written policies and procedures required by HIPAA and continuously monitoring and administering these safeguards.  Covered entities should consider reviewing the adequacy of their current HIPAA Privacy and Security compliance practices taking into consideration the Corrective Action Plan, published OCR noncompliance and enforcement statistics, their own and reports of other security and privacy breaches and near misses, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable.

If you need assistance with auditing, updating or defending your organizations HIPAA and other privacy and data security practices, please contact Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail at CStamer@CTTLegal.com.

Register Now For Upcoming September Health Industry Update Programs

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in one of the following upcoming health industry programs to be presented by Ms. Stamer during September:

  • HITECH ACT Health Data Security & Breach Update on September 9, 2009 hosted live or via teleconference by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP 
  • How to Ensure That Your Organization Is In Compliance With Regulations Governing Discrimination — What You Should Be Doing To Be Prepared for the New, Stepped Up Enforcement Actions on September 10, 2009 hosted via teleconference by Health Resources Publishing
  • Health Information Security & Data Breach Under HITECH Act on September 17, 2009 hosted via teleconference by the Health Care Compliance Association

To register or for other details about these and other upcoming programs and presentations by Ms. Stamer and other Curran Tomko Tarski members, see here.

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Latest in Health Care Updates available online by clicking on the article title:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with auditing or defending these or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com, Edwin J. Tomko at (214) 270-1405 or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner of your choice. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other internal controls and risk management matters. 

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  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 at here or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com.

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 at here or e-mailing this information here.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


HHS Issues Interim Final Requiring Health Care Provider, Health Plans & Other Covered Entities To Give Breach Notifications When Certain Personal Health Information Breached Beginning In September; Register to Participate In September 10th Briefing on New Rules In Person or Via Telephone

August 20, 2009

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday (August 19, 2009) issued “breach notification” regulations requiring health care providers, health plans and other covered entities (Covered Entities) under the personal health information privacy and security rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability  (HIPAA) to notify affected individuals following a “breach” of “unsecured” protected health information. Scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on August 24, 2009, the new breach notification regulations are part of a series of new rules that implement new electronic personal health information data security and data breach notification requirements for Covered Entities added to HIPAA under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act signed into law on February 17, 2009 as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  Covered entities must begin complying with the new rules no later than September 24, 2009.

Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP Health Practice leader Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will conduct a briefing on these new protected health information data security and data breach rules on Thursday, September 10, 2009 from Noon to 1:30 P.M. Central Time. For a registration fee of $45.00, registrants will have the option to participate via teleconference or in person at the offices of Curran Tomko Tarski LLP, 2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2050, Dallas Texas 75201.  For more information, e-mail here.

 HITECH Act Data Breach and Unsecured PHI Rules

The new data breach notification rules are part of a series of recent HIPAA enacted under the HITECH Act to strengthen the federal rules requiring HIPAA covered entities to safeguard electronic and certain other protected health information. Enhanced data security and data breach rules added as part of these HITECH Act amendments obligate  covered entities and business associates to provide certain notifications following a breach of “unsecured”  “protected health information” within the meaning of HIPAA, as amended.  “Unsecured protected health information” is defined as protected health information that is not secured through the use of a technology or methodology specified by the HHS Secretary.

The new data breach regulations implement the HITECH Act requirement that Covered Entities and their business associates notify affected individuals, the Secretary of HHS, and in some cases, the media, of a breach and the form, manner, and timing of that notification.  For purposes of the HITECH Act, electronic protected health information is considered “unsecured” unless the covered entity has satisfied certain minimum standards for the protection of that data established pursuant to the HITECH Act.  HHS and the Federal Trade Commission previously issued certain initial guidance concerning the HITECH Act standards for determining when electronic personal health information qualifies as secure.  To help further define when electronic health information is treated as “unsecured” and therefore subject to the breach notification requirements, the data breach rules also update and clarify the previously issued existing HHS guidance specifying encryption and destruction as the technologies and methodologies that render protected health information unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals published earlier this year by HHS to for purposes of determining when protected health information will be considered “unsecured” for purposes of the HITECH Act data breach rules.  Entities subject to the HHS and FTC regulations that secure health information as specified by the guidance through encryption or destruction are relieved from having to notify in the event of a breach of such information.  

The HHS interim final regulations are effective September 24, 2009, which is the date 30 days after the date they will be published on the Federal Register and include a 60-day public comment period. To review the interim final data breach regulations, see here.  To review the HITECH Act Breach Notification Guidance and Request for Information, see here.

For More Information

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, payors and their business associates about HIPAA and other privacy and data security matters, as well as a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns. 

Past chair of the American Bar Association Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Martindale Hubble AV-rated and recognized in International Who’s Who of Professionals, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health care providers, health care payers and administrators, employers, governments and others about health care, insurance, human resources, privacy and data security, technology, and other legal and operational concerns.  A popular lecturer and widely published author on privacy and data security and other related health care and health plan matters, Ms. Stamer also writes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management matters.  She currently serves as the Editor in Chief of the forthcoming 2010 edition of the Information Security Guide to be published by the American Bar Association Information Security Committee in 2010.  Examples of her other works include “Protecting & Using Patient Data In Disease Management: Opportunities, Liabilities And Prescriptions,” “Privacy Invasions of Medical Care-An Emerging Perspective,” “Cybercrime and Identity Theft: Health Information Security Beyond HIPAA,” and a host of others.  Her insights on health care, health insurance, human resources and related matters appear in the Atlantic Information Service Privacy Report, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a various other national and local publications.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance monitoring, evaluating or responding to these or other proposed health care or other regulatory reforms or with other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


House Democratic Leaders Work To Resolve Differences In Committee Versions of Health Care Reform Legislation and Build Public Support During August Recess

August 5, 2009

Democratic Leaders in the House of Representatives plan to hammer out differences three versions of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200) as separately passed by three key House Committees in July before House members return from their August recess in hopes of bringing the agreed to version of H.R. 3200 to the full house in September.  Regardless of which version ultimately emerges, the enactment of H.R. 3200 would result in sweeping new regulation and federal control over health care providers, health care payers, employers, and individuals.

After negotiating a last minute pre-August recess deal with certain Blue Dog Democrat Committee members, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 31, 2009 passed its version of H.R. 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200). The version of H.R. 3200 passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee incorporates a series of amendments to the language of H.R. 3200 as originally introduced.  For instance, this version of H.R. 3200 provides incentives for states to adopt certain tort reforms, provides for a public plan option that would reimburse physicians based on negotiated rates rather Medicare rates, and would allow states to offer both state-based heath insurance exchanges and health insurance co-ops. To review H.R. 3200 as amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, see here.

The approval by the Energy and Commerce Committee of its version of H.R. 3200 follows the July 17, 2009 approval by the House Ways and Means Committee and Education and Labor Committee of their own versions of H.R. 3200.  For details on the version of H.R. 3200 approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, see here.  For details on the version of H.R. 3200 approved by the House Education and Labor Committee, see here

Leading House Democrats have announced their intention to work to resolve differences between these three versions of H.R. 3200 as passed by these Committees during August recess in hopes of  bringing the agreed to version of H.R. 3200 to a vote  of the full House of Representatives in September.

Meanwhile, House members from both parties also generally are using the August recess as an opportunity to reconnect with local constituents on health care reform and other core issues.

For More Information

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance monitoring, evaluating or responding to these or other proposed health care or other regulatory reforms or with other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


Reassignment of HIPAA Security Rule Enforcement Signals Growing Seriousness About Enforcing HIPAA

August 4, 2009

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) today (August 3, 2009) transferred authority for the administration and enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  Prior to this announcement, responsibility for interpretation and enforcement of the Security Rule rested with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  The change reflects the growing seriousness of HHS and others about enforcing federal privacy and data security mandates for health information.  HHS anticipates the transfer of authority will eliminate duplication and increase efficiencies in how the department ensures that Americans’ health information privacy is protected.

HHS has the authority for administration and enforcement of the federal standards for health information privacy called for in HIPAA. The Privacy Rule provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. OCR has been responsible for enforcement of the Privacy Rule since 2003. The Security Rule specifies a series of administrative, technical, and physical security procedures for covered entities to use to assure the confidentiality of electronic protected health information. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), mandated improved enforcement of the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule.

Through a separate delegation, CMS continues to have authority for administration and enforcement of the HIPAA Administrative Simplification regulations, other than privacy and security of health information.

The transfer of Security Rule enforcement authority comes as guidance about new data breach rules for electronic protected health information is impending.  This impending guidance relates to  the implementation of new breach notification rules for covered entities and their business associates concerning their obligation to use of technologies and methodologies that render protected health information unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals, as required by amendments to HIPAA enacted under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) last February.  OCR officials have stated that they are working to publish the next set of regulations regarding these new breach notifications before the end of August, 2009. 

In addition to adding the breach notification requirements, the HITECH Act also tightened the HIPAA mandates in several other respects.  Among other things, it amended HIPAA to:

  • Broaden the applicability of the HIPAA’s Privacy Rules and penalties to include business associates;
  • Clarify that HIPAA’s criminal sanctions apply to employees or other individuals that wrongfully use or access PHI held by a covered entity;
  • Increase criminal and civil penalties for HIPAA Privacy Rules violators;
  • Allow State Attorneys General to bring civil damages actions on behalf of certain state citizens who are victims of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule violations;
  • Modify certain HIPAA use and disclosure and accounting requirements and risks;
  • Prohibits sales of PHI without prior consent;
  • Tighten certain other HIPAA restrictions on uses or disclosures;
  • Tighten certain HIPAA accounting for disclosure requirements;
  • Clarify the definition of health care operations to excludes certain promotional communications; and
  • Expand the Business Associates Agreement Requirements.

These and other developments make it imperative HIPAA covered entities and their business associates take prompt action to immediately review and update their data security and privacy practices to guard against growing liability exposures under HIPAA and other federal and state laws. Covered entities must update policies and practices to avoid these growing liabilities. Business associates that have not already done so also must appoint privacy officers and adopt and implement privacy and data security policies and procedures fully compliant with HIPAA and other applicable federal and state rules, including amendments enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law on February 17, 2009.

 

For more information about today’s announcement, see here.  See here for the initial guidance and request for comments issued by HHS regarding these new security standards.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with health care privacy and data security, technology, or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.  Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health care privacy and data security and related matters. 

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  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 at here or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


Where To Read & Share Your Feedback About The Health Care Reform Legislation

August 1, 2009

As the health care reform policy debate continues, Americans increasingly are asking where to read the text of the health care reform legislation that members of Congress are debating and how to share their input. 

 While numerous alternatives presently are pending before Congress, much of recent discussion and debate has focused around one of the following bills:

  • H.R. 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,  introduced in the House by Rep Dingell, John D. on July 14, 2009  the text of which as originally introduced may be reviewed  here.  It has been the focus of significant mark up negotiation through out July before the following House Energy and Commerce, House Ways & Means, and House Education & Labor Committees; and
  • S. __, the Affordable Health Choices Act approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the text of which as approved may be reviewed here.

When reviewing these bills, Americans should keep in mind that members of Congress are engaged in ongoing negotiations about the specific provisions and language of these bills, as well as other legislation.  Official developments generally may be monitored here.

Many American businesses and individuals also are asking about how and where to share their views, how to organize others to do the same and other questions about getting the word out. Here a some quick ideas. We encourage others to share. 

  • The Coalition For Patient Empowerment and the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform linkedin group are two one of many resources where individuals are sharing information about these matters. 
  • Concerned individuals should share their views both by faxing, e-mailing or telephoning key decisionmakers in Congress, as well as joining and participating in activities of other individuals and groups that share their concerns.  Contact and get involved with this and other groups that share your concerns.
  • Contact the offices of your Congressional representatives in the House and Senate as well as other members of Congress that support your views and ask them about other groups and ways that you can share your views. They will welcome your input and involvement.
  •  If you are aware of or involved in a group that shares your views, we encourage you to share it on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform linkedin group.  If you or others are planning a town hall or other health care reform meeting, use this or other linked in groups to spread the word.
  • If you are interested in volunteering to plan events in your region, let us know.   

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, and registering to receive these updates here.

When communicating, consider targeting your messages to members of Congress whose votes are likely to be impacted by your communications. 

For instance, with both the House and Senate in the majority in Congress, Democrats generally have greater control over what legislation moves forward.  The Democratic Leadership of the House and Sentate generally can get legislation passed by their members as long as they can maintain consensus among the members of their parties.  In connection with the health care reform proposals, however, cost and other considerations have made maintaining a consensus more difficult than on other legislation.  Certain fiscally moderate members of the Democratic Party have expressed concern about the expense and other aspects of their Leadership proposed health care reform proposals.  These Democrats in Congress generally the members of Congress whose votes are most likely to be impacted by public input and feedback generally and from voters in their districts and contributors specifically. 

In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats.”  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

  • Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565
  • Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665
  • Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161
  • Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823
  • Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076
  • Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631
  • Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701
  • Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806
  • Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235
  • Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901
  • Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131
  • Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731
  • Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706
  • Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306
  • Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311
  • Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341
  • Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640
  • Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406
  • Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831
  • Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915
  • Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636
  • Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542
  • Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231
  • Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801
  • Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220
  • Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801
  • Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315
  • Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546
  • Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311
  • McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731
  • Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531
  • Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011
  • Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031
  • Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306
  • Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611
  • Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190
  • Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865
  • Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276
  • Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215
  • Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165
  • Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611
  • Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772
  • Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
  • Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965
  • Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
  • Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939
  • Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401
  • Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265
  • Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714
  • Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772
  • Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311
  • Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Blue Dog Democrats Hold Key Voice On House Democrats Proposed Health Care Reform Plan; Contact Numbers Here

July 20, 2009

Health care providers and others concerned about the  “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009” health care reform proposal introduced by the House Democratic Leadership should target their input on the Democrats in Congress most likely to listen to those concerns. In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House.  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565

Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665

Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161

Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823

Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076

Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631

Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701

Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806

Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235

Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901

Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131

Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731

Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706

Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306

Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311

Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341

Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640

Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406

Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831

Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915

Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636

Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542

Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231

Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801

Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801

Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315

Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546

Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311

McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731

Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531

Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011

Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031

Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306

Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611

Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190

Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865

Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276

Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215

Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165

Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611

Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772

Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965

Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939

Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401

Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265

Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714

Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772

Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311

Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


House Democrats Introduce the “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009”

July 15, 2009

House Democrats introduced their proposal for health care reform this afternoon (July 14, 2009), the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (the “House Bill”).  Introduced under the sponsorship of three key House committees — Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor — the 1018 page House Bill details the sweeping and comprehensive health care reforms touted by House Democrat Leaders..  A copy of the House Bill as introduced may be reviewed here

The House Bill proposes sweeping reforms built around the establishment of a public plan option while technically continuing to permit private plans to operate but in a federally regulated form allowing for little meaningful plan design control to private payers, health care providers or the individuals choosing among the plan options.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the coverage side of the bill will cost $1 trillion and cover 97 percent of the legal population within 10 years.

The following is a brief overview of certain key provisions of the House Bill drawn mostly from a series of high level summaries released by House Democrats along with the House Bill.  Long on politically comforting phrasing and short on details, you can read these summaries here.

Public Plan Option.  The House Bill proposes the establishment of a public health insurance option that would compete with allowable private plans, both of which would be subject to sweeping federal controls.  Democrat House co-sponsors represent the House Bill:

  • Provides a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers within the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • The public health insurance option would be made available in the new Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange) along with private health insurance plans that comply with the design dictates established in the House Bill.
  • The public health insurance option and private plan options meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms
  • The public option’s premiums would be established for the local market areas designated by the Exchange.
  • Individuals with affordability credits could choose among the private carriers and the public option.
  • Require that the public health plan and private health plan options and private options each must be financially self-sustaining
  • Promote primary care, encourage coordinated care and shared accountability, and improve quality.
  • Institute new payment structures and incentives to promote these critical reforms.
  • Specify health care provider participation in the plans will be voluntary; Medicare providers are presumed to be participating unless they opt out.
  • Provides for provider reimbursements for services from the plans initially will be established using “rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to proceed immediately on mark up on the House Bill with the intention to of scheduling a vote on the House Bill by the end of July. Assuming that House leaders adhere to this schedule, the planned timetable leaves little opportunity for critical evaluation and input by members of Congress or the public who may have questions or concerns about the proposed legislation. Prompt and coordinated action is required for individuals with concerns about any of the proposed reforms.

Federal Mandates Health Plan Benefits.  In order to achieve affordable, quality health care for all, the House Bill would impose federal standards regulating the benefits that the public health plan and private health plans would be required and permitted to offer.  Under these provisions, the House Bill would:

  • Establish a standardized benefit package that covers essential health services.
  • Vest the power in the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the coverage that would be included in this mandated standardize benefit package.
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for preventive care (including well baby and well child care)
  • Impose caps annual out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families.
  • Create a new independent Benefits Advisory to recommend to the Secretary and update the core package of benefits.
  • Provide for the public health plan option to offer four tiers of benefit packages from which consumers can choose to best meet their health care needs. Each allowable plan would be required to provide the dictated core benefits.
    • The Basic Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits and cost sharing protections;
    • The Enhanced Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Basic plan;
    • The Premium Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Enhanced plan; and
    • The Premium Plus Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits, the more generous cost sharing protections of the Premium plan, and additional covered benefits (e.g., oral health coverage for adults, gym membership, etc.) that will vary per plan. In this category, insurers must disclose the separate cost of the additional benefits so consumers know what they’re paying for and can choose among plans accordingly.

The House Bill empowers the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the federally dictated, required core set of benefits provides coverage with input from a newly created Benefits Advisory Commission.  These core benefits are intended to include inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, physician services, equipment and supplies incident to physician services, preventive services, maternity services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, well baby and well child visits and oral health, vision, and hearing services for children and mental health and substance abuse services.  However, the particular, terms and scope of these benefits is left to HHS to define.

Health Insurance Exchange.  The House Bill also calls for the establishment of a “Health Insurance Exchange” meeting federal mandates through which low income individuals initially, and certain small businesses would be offered the option to purchase health care coverage through federally mandated purchasing groups.  In the first year, the House Bill provides for the Health Insurance Exchange to accept those without health insurance, those who are buying health insurance on their own, and small businesses with fewer than 10 people. In the second year, the Health Insurance Exchange could accept small businesses with fewer than 20 people. After that, “larger employers as permitted by the Commissioner.” In other words, expansion is discretionary, not mandated.

Affordability & Subsidies.  The House Bill provides sliding-scale affordability credits for individuals and families with incomes above the Medicaid thresholds but below 400% of poverty and imposes a cap on total out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families covered under the plans regardless of income.  In addition, the House Bill would broaden Medicaid coverage to include individuals and families with incomes below 133% of poverty.

Effective 2013, sliding scale affordability credits would be provided provided to individuals and families between 133% to 400% of poverty. That means the credits phase out completely for an individual with $43,320 in income and a family of four with $88,200 in income (2009).

The sliding scale credits limit individual family spending on premiums for the essential benefit package to no more than 1.5% of income for those with the lowest income and phasing up to no more than 11% of income for those at 400% of poverty.

The affordability credits also subsidize cost sharing on a sliding scale basis, phasing out at 400% of poverty, ensuring that covered benefits are accessible.

The Health Insurance Exchange would administer the affordability credits in relationship with other federal and state entities, such as local Social Security offices and Medicaid agencies.

The essential benefit package, and all other benefit options, limit exposure to catastrophic costs with a cap on total out of pocket spending for covered benefits. Special provisions would apply to Medicaid. 

Effective 2013, individuals with family income at or below 133% of poverty ($14,400 for an individual in 2009) are eligible for Medicaid. State Medicaid programs would continue to cover those individuals with incomes above 133% of poverty, using the eligibility rules states now have in place.

Paying The Tab.  House Democrats propose to finance approximately half of the estimated $1 trillion bill for their proposed reforms through projected $500 billion or so in savings from Medicare and Medicaid achieved by a variety of reimbursement and benefit cutbacks and other reforms. The rest of the financing would come from a combination of revenue expections from employer and individual mandates (an estimated $200 billion over 10 years) and a surtax on the richest 1.5 percent of Americans. The surtax is 1 percent on income between $350,000 and $500,000; 1.5 percent on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000; and 5.4 percent in income above $1,000,000. The House Bill permits the amount of this surtax to vary if the bill is less or more expensive than initially anticipated.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update in real time here, joining the LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group, and/or subscribing to receive e-mail distributions of some of these updates by sharing your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject  here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


OCR Requires Health Care Providers To Improve Services for Limited English Speakers, Hearing Impaired As HHS Steps Up Enforcement of Federal Discrimination Laws

July 14, 2009

Health care providers should review the adequacy of translation and other mechanisms required to allow limited English speakers, hearing impaired, and other language limited populations effective access to services in light of recent enforcement actions taken by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) against health care providers for discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal discrimination laws. 

As part of a broader Obama Administration initiative to make prevention and redress prohibited national origin, disabilities and other discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications a priority, HHS has announced that OCR will hold health care providers accountable for ensuring effective and adequate access by individuals seeking services having limited English language proficiency, hearing loss or other language or communication restrictions impacting on their ability to access care and services.

Medco Health Solutions, Inc. National Origination Settlement

On June 22, 2009, OCR announced that national pharmacy benefit management company Medco Health Solutions, Inc. had agreed to implement a multi-faceted plan to improve services to limited and non-English speaking members in 2009. 

The commitment to take corrective action by the nation’s largest mail-order pharmacy operation arose from OCR’s investigation of a complaint filed with OCR on behalf of a Spanish-speaking member. The complaint alleged that Medco violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) by failing to provide limited English proficiency members (LEP members) with meaningful access to mail-order pharmacy services and other pharmacy benefit management services. 

Under Title VI, health care providers and other recipients of federal financial assistance are required to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to their programs by limited English proficient individuals who are eligible to receive their services.

Under the commitment letter, Medco agreed to implement a number of measures to strengthen its provision of language assistance services to LEP members starting with those for Spanish-speaking members in 2009.  The corrective actions agreed to by Medco include:

  • Expanding its pool of bilingual customer service representatives who speak Spanish
  • Revising its systems to enhance its ability to route Spanish-speaking members who need help with prescription drug questions or problems directly to bilingual staff, including pharmacists where possible and appropriate
  • Continuing to use a telephonic interpreter service available for more than 150 other languages to communicate with other non-English speakers. 
  • Implementing a critical improvement in Medco’s internal computer systems that will flag language preference on an ongoing basis to aid effective communication with limited English proficient persons during member-Medco contact. 
  • Continuing to improve its ability to identify and track individuals’ language preferences so that important written communications and outbound telephone calls are placed to members in their primary language. 
  • Reviewing how best to notify limited English proficient members that language assistance services are available.
  • Developing an evaluation process with respect to interpreter competency.  Staff at call centers and pharmacies expected to communicate directly with members in languages other than English will be assessed as to language proficiency, and those serving as interpreters will be assessed for interpreting competency. 
  • Training all relevant staff on system changes intended to improve access to limited English proficient members, and will monitor the results of these efforts through periodic assessments.

Read the Medco Commitment Letter here.

Scottsdale Healthcare – Osborn (SHO) Voluntary Resolution Agreement

 The Medico Commitment Letter follows OCR’s April, 2008 announcement that d a signed Resolution Agreement that requiring Scottsdale Healthcare – Osborn (“SHO”) a 337–bed full–service Arizona hospital to improve access to sign language interpreters and other services required for hearing impaired patients to effectively access services.  The SHO VRA resolves a disability discrimination complaint against SHO brought by a patient with severe hearing loss, who reported that she was denied a sign language interpreter when treated in the SHO emergency room and intensive care unit.

Following OCR’s investigation of the complaint, SHO among other things agreed to: (1) affirm its compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (2) issue and post revised policies to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters or video interpretation services, are provided to deaf or hard-of-hearing patients or companions within a two hour time period; (3) develop procedures to assess the sign language interpreter needs of patients or companions; (4) train hospital personnel and physicians on its revised policies and procedures to ensure effective communication; (5) place TTY lines throughout its facility; (6) maintain a centralized telecommunication number 24-hours per day, 7-days per week for sign language interpreter requests; and (7) provide regular compliance reports to OCR. Read SHO VRA here

Health Care Providers Should Act To Manage Risks As Obama Administration Makes Enhanced Investigation and Enforcement of Federal Discrimination Laws A Priority

Health care providers and other businesses covered by Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal discrimination laws should heed the Medco and SHO actions of the advisability of taking prompt action to review and if necessary, strengthen the adequacy of reasonable accommodations necessary to enable individuals with limited English proficiency, hearing or other language impairments to access services.

Beyond the adequacy of services to address language impairments, health care providers and others also generally should anticipate that the willingness by the OCR under the Obama Administration to act on the Medco and SHO complaints reflects a heightened willingness by federal agencies to investigate and enforce disabilities, national origin and charges of federal discrimination violations by health care providers and others by OCR and other federal agencies under the Obama Administration.  Review Obama Administration Civil Rights Enforcement Agenda here. While OCR took a series of enforcement actions under the predecessor Bush Administration, this announced renewed emphasis on federal discrimination law enforcement coupled by the series of actions taken by OCR and other federal agencies since January, 2009 reflects that OCR and other agencies are acting on the direction of President Obama to make prevention and redress of disabilities and other discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications a priority. Read about other recent OCR federal discrimination enforcement activates here. See also, e.g., recent discrimination policies and enforcement activities by Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Medco and SHO actions, as well as a series of other recently announced enforcement actions reflect that OCR and other federal agencies are likely to continue to expand investigation and enforcement of disability and other violations by health care providers of federal disability and other discrimination laws in recent months.  Health care providers and others regulated by these federal discrimination laws should consider auditing the adequacy of existing practices, reaffirming their commitment to compliance to workforce members and constituents, 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.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care practitioners and other businesses and business leaders to establish, administer, investigate and federal and state discrimination and other compliance and internal control policies and practices to reduce risk under federal and state health care, discrimination and other laws. Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer’s practice emphasizes assisting health industry clients to monitor compliance and other legal and operational risks and to design, administer and defend internal controls and other risk management practices to mitigate these exposures.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance investigating the adequacy of your current compliance efforts, with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


“Health Care Government Relations and Legislative Update” Focus On July 14 North Texas Healthcare Compliance Professional Association Meeting

July 13, 2009

NORTH TEXAS HEALTHCARE COMPLIANCE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION

July 14, 2009 Meeting Reminder

Congress and federal regulators are making health care regulation and reform their latest priority.  The NTHCPA invites interested health care compliance and ethics professionals to join us on July 14, 2009 for a lively discussion about “Health Care Government Relations and Legislative Update” lead by as Sandy Pappas, from Congressman Pete Session’s Office and Cynthia Marcotte Stamer from Curran Tomko Tarski LLP.

Date:  Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Time:  2:00 p.m.

Location:  Texas Health Resources, 612 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, TX  76011

For additional information, please contact Cynthia Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or by e-mail at cstamer@solutionslawyer.net.

About the NTHCPA

NTHCPA exists to champion ethical practice and compliance standards and to provide the necessary resources for ethics and compliance Professionals and others in North Texas who share these principles.

The vision of NTHCPA is to be a pre-eminent compliance and ethics group promoting lasting success and integrity of organizations within North Texas.

To register or update your registration to receive notice of other upcoming events, e-mail your contact information to lfigueroa@cttlegal.com.

This communication may be considered a marketing communication for certain purposes.  If you wish to update your e-mail for purposes of or would prefer not to receive future e-mail concerning meetings or other activities of the North Texas Healthcare Compliance Professionals Association or other marketing and promotional mailings from it, please send an email with the word “unsubscribe” in its subject heading to lfigueroa@cttlegal.com


Comments On Definition of Meaningful Use of EMR For Purposes of HITECH Act Provider Incentives Due June 26

June 16, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time is the deadline to submit comments to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) on the recommendations about what should be considered the term “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) presented to the Health Information Technology Policy Committee today (June 16, 2009) available for review here. Comments will be received by the Committee for consideration and further recommendations to the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology on the elements and measures of Meaningful Use of a certified EHR.

The HIT Policy Committee is a Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA”) provides for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for eligible providers, such as physicians and hospitals, in order to promote the adoption of EHRs.  To receive the incentive payments, providers must demonstrate “meaningful use” of a certified EHR.  Building upon the work of the HIT Policy Committee, HHS anticipates developing a proposed rule that provides greater detail on the incentive programs and “meaningful use.”  HHS expects to issue the proposed rule in late 2009, which will be followed by a comment period.

How OCR decides to define meaningful use of EMR is likely to play a central role in determining how effective provider incentives to use EMR included in ARRA’s HITECH Act provisions work and ultimately influence how effectively those provisions and other OCR efforts to accelerate EMR and other health information technology use to promote health care efficiency and quality work.

For instructions on how to comment or additional information, see here.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance with EMR or other health care technology, privacy or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402, CStamer@CTTLegal.com or your other favorite Curan Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here. 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 at here or e-mailing this information to CStamer@CTTLegal.com.


FTC Issues FAQ Guidance On Red Flag Rules Applicable To Health Care Providers & Others

June 12, 2009

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and five other federal agencies yesterday (June 11, 2009) jointly issued a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about  federal regulations on the “Red Flags and Address Discrepancy Rules” (Red Flag Rules) implementing sections of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACT Act) now scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2009.  

Health care providers and a broad range of other entities are among the organizations generally required to comply with the broadly reaching Red Flag Rules, which require “financial institutions” and “creditors” to develop and implement written Identity Theft Prevention Programs and require issuers of credit cards and debit cards to assess the validity of notifications of changes of address.  The rules also provide guidance for users of consumer reports regarding reasonable policies and procedures to employ when consumer reporting agencies send them notices of address discrepancy.  

The sweeping reach of the definition of “creditor: and “financial institutions” in the Red Flag Rules and other confusion about the Red Flag Rules have prompted the agencies to delay the deadline for compliance several times.  The most recent delay, which extended the compliance deadline from May 1 to August 1, 2009, was announced by the FTC on April 30, 2009.  The FTC promised to issue additional guidance to help promote better understanding of the rules when it announced this latest delay in the compliance deadline on April 30, 2009.

Fulfilling this promise, the FAQs discuss numerous aspects of the Red Flag Rules, including:

  • Types of entities and accounts covered;
    Establishment and administration of an Identity Theft Prevention Program;
  • Address validation requirements applicable to card issuers; and
  • Obligations of users of consumer reports upon receiving a notice of address discrepancy.

FACTA directed financial regulatory agencies, including the FTC, to promulgate rules requiring “creditors” and “financial institutions” with covered accounts to implement programs to identify, detect, and respond to patterns, practices, or specific activities that could indicate identity theft. FACTA’s definition of “creditor” applies to any entity that regularly extends or renews credit – or arranges for others to do so – and includes all entities that regularly permit deferred payments for goods or services. Accepting credit cards as a form of payment does not, by itself, make an entity a creditor. Some examples of creditors are finance companies; automobile dealers that provide or arrange financing; mortgage brokers; utility companies; telecommunications companies; non-profit and government entities that defer payment for goods or services; and businesses that provide services and bill later, including many  doctors and other health care providers and other professionals. “Financial institutions” include entities that offer accounts that enable consumers to write checks or make payments to third parties through other means, such as other negotiable instruments or telephone transfers.  The FTC has made clear it perceives most health care providers as falling within the scope of these rules.

FACTA is only one of a growing list of the evolving privacy and data security mandates applicable to businesses under federal and state laws that organizations must address under applicable federal laws.   In addition to FACTA, most businesses also face other specific data security and data breach requirements under a tapestry of other federal and state laws which are constantly evolving.  In addition to these FACTA and other generally applicable data security and breach rules, many organizations face evolving industry specific mandates. For example, health care providers, health plans, health care and their business associates also are required to update their privacy and data security practices to comply with recent amendments to the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act Privacy & Security Standards signed into law February 17, 2009.

Many of these federal laws provide for both civil penalties as well as criminal penalties that bring violations of these regulations under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  As a consequence, most organizations need to implement and administer compliance programs to manage these Federal Sentencing Guideline risks.  Even where criminal sanctions are not triggered, noncompliance with these and other data security mandates can trigger substantial judgment awards, administrative penalties or both.

If you need assistance with auditing, updating, administering or defending your privacy, data security or other privacy and data security practices or addressing other health care compliance, risk management, transactions or operations concerns, please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402, CStamer@CTTLegal.com.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. You can find more information about the Red Flag Rules and other privacy and identity theft matters at here. You also can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here. 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 at here or e-mailing this information to CStamer@CTTLegal.com.


Democrats Unveil Comprehensive Health Care Reform Proposal, Move To Fast Track Enactment

June 10, 2009

Coalition For Responsible Health Care Reform Founded To Help Concerned Americans Respond

Americans concerned about plans of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to enact comprehensive health care reform this year must speak up now.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday (June 9, 2009) circulated a 625 page proposal to radically reform the U.S. health care system. The latest draft of the “Affordable Health Choices Act” (the “Act”) details the comprehensive health care reforms that President Obama and Democrats in Congress propose to enact before year end.  President Obama and key Congressional Democrats are moving quickly to enact their vision for “comprehensive health reform” this year.

The Act circulated yesterday by Senator Kennedy would radically change the U.S. health care system in enacted as currently proposed. Consistent with announced plans by President Obama and key Congressional Democrats to enact “comprehensive health care reform” this year, Democratic leaders in Congress are rushing to enact this legislation well before year end. In furtherance of plans to fast track enactment of the Act, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) chaired by Senator Kennedy will hold a hearing on the Act this week in anticipation of meetings to mark up of the Act on Tuesday, June 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 325.

The Act, as proposed, would make sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system and radically expand the involvement of government in the delivery and financing of health care. Among other things, the Act as proposed would:

  • Establish government provided “Gateway” health care coverage programs to provide coverage for Americans not insured under qualifying employer or other privately run “qualified health plan” to be financed in part through surcharges on private health plans and health insurers and other taxes and assessments and in part through premiums on enrolled individuals
  • Require that Americans participating in the Gateway health care coverage programs be offered the opportunity to enroll in at least one “public health insurance option”
  • Require Americans to chose either to enroll in a government run Gateway health program or enroll in qualifying coverage under a privately run qualified health plan
  • Impose sweeping new mandates on employer and union-sponsored group health plans and insurers
  • Impose newly created taxes on individuals that fail to maintain enrollment in health coverage under either a Gateway health program or a private qualified health plan
  • Tax and/or eliminate the deductibility of health coverage premiums and certain other amounts paid by certain employers and employees 
  • Impose new federal mandates for health care providers, health plans and health insurers relating to the quality standards, the use of health care technology and other matters
  • Grant federal regulators sweeping authority to define what qualifies as appropriate health care and health care coverage, the health care services that qualify for health care coverage and the payment and delivery of health care services.

You can review a copy of currently proposed provisions of the 615 page Act here. Individuals concerned about these and other proposed health care reforms must act immediately to become familiar and share their input on the proposals.

Assistance Monitoring & Responding To Health Care Reform Proposals

If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about health care reform proposals and other related legislative, regulatory, and enforcement developments, please:

  • Register for this resource at the link above;
  • Join the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy group at linkedin.com to share information and input;
  • Share your input by communicating with key members of Congress on committees responsible for this legislation and your elected officials directly and by actively participating in and contributing to other like-minded groups; and
  • Be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile here

You can register to receive future updates on legislative and regulatory health care reform proposals and other related information by registering for this resource or access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here.

Long-time health policy advocate and advisor Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has more than 22 years of experience advising and assisting clients to evaluate and respond to health care reform proposals and other proposed or adopted changes in federal or state health care, employee benefit, employment, tax and other federal and state laws.  Former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Managed Care & Insurance Section, Ms. Stamer is highly regarded legal advisor, policy advocate, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her more than 20 years of work assisting U.S. public and private employers, health care providers, health insurers, and a broad range of other clients to respond to these and other health care, employee benefit and workforce public policy, regulatory and compliance and risk management concerns within the U.S. as well as internationally.  Her work includes extensive involvement providing input and assistance about health care, workforce, pensions and social security and other reforms domestically and internationally.  In addition to her continuous involvement in U.S. health care, pensions and savings, and workforce policy matters, Ms. Stamer has served as an advisor on these matters internationally.  As part of this work, she served as a lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its social security reform as well as has provided input on ethics, medical tourism, workforce and other reforms internationally.

Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker on health plan and other human resources, employee benefits and internal controls issues.   Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association.  Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

Ms. Stamer also serves in a number of professional leadership roles including the leadership council of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Vice Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, or responding to these or other health care, employee benefit or human resources reforms,  please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here

Additional Resources & Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here.  

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


June 11 Deadline To Comment On Proposal For Establishing HITECH Act Regional Extension Centers

June 3, 2009

On May 28, 2009, the new Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Program (“ONC”) published a Federal Register Notice and Request for Comments (the “Notice”) that describes the program ONC proposes to use to establish “Regional Extension Centers” to assist health care providers seeking to adopt and become meaningful users of health information technology under Title XIII of Division A and Title IV of Division B (the “HITECH Act”) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”).  The deadline for commenting on the Notice is 5 p.m. on June 11, 2009.

The HITECH Act directs the ONC to establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers to provide technical assistance and disseminate best practices and other information to providers to support and accelerate efforts to adopt, implement and effectively utilize electronic health records and other health information technology to improve the quality and value of American health care.  ARRA appropriates a total of $2 billion in discretionary funding, in addition to incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs for providers’ adoption and meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology. 

The Notice describes how ONC plans to establish the Regional Health Program and their goals.  It also includes information and addresses needed to submit comments on this draft program description for the regional centers program. To review the Notice online, click on the following link:  Federal Register Notice.

More Information

We hope you found this information helpful.  If you are interested in commenting on the Notice or assistance with other aspects of the HITECH Act or other health care privacy or technology related laws, or wishes to inquire about services and experience of Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, please Ms. Stamer at  Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or telephone her at 214.270.2402.  

If you or some that you know would like to register to receive these updates and other helpful information on HIPAA and other health care and human resources risk management matters, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by registering at and/or sign up to receive the Solutions Law Press Health Care & IT Updates at https://slphealthcareupdate.wordpress.com.   To learn more about Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and/or access some of her many HIPAA and other publications, see here. For important information concerning this resource, see here.

©Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


HHS, Sesame Workshop, & Ad Council National Ad Campaign Reminds Americans Of Need to Continue To Protect Against H1N1 (Swine Flu) Virus

June 3, 2009

Declining press attention on the H1N1 flu virus (swine flu) pandemic does not mean the need for precautions is over for Americans, their employers, schools and other community organizations.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, recently launched a national public service advertising campaign designed to encourage American families and children to take steps to protect themselves from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus (swine flu) and continue to practice healthy habits.  The announcement of the campaign signals continuing concerns by government and other health experts that the swine flu pandemic may continue to circulate or even worsen unless proper precautions are taken.

The 2009 H1N1 flu virus is a new flu virus of swine origin that was first detected in April 2009. While press attention has died down in recent weeks, the virus is spreading from person-to-person, sparking a growing outbreak of illness in the U.S. and internationally. To date, over 5,700 cases have been reported in the United States and there are nine deaths associated with the novel H1N1 infection. Experts believe that the 2009 H1N1 flu spreads in the same way that seasonal influenza viruses spread — primarily through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the virus.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled the campaign at the HHS/Department of Education Childcare Center in Washington, D.C. The PSAs will be distributed nationwide and will be supported in airtime donated by television stations. 

The new PSA campaign focuses on the importance of providing parents, teachers and children with accurate information about how to practice healthy habits, highlighting proper hand-washing and simple everyday actions that lead to staying healthy and keeping germs away. Created by Sesame Workshop, the television PSAs encourage audiences to visit http://www.cdc.gov to get more information on how to stay healthy. The PSAs are an extension of Sesame’s Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which helps young children and their caregivers establish an early foundation of healthy habits.  As part of HHS/Ad Council campaign, Sesame Workshop produced a television PSA featuring Sesame Street’s Elmo and Gordon explaining the importance of healthy habits such as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and sneezing into the bend of your arm.

The PSAs are part of an initiative to provide practical steps recommended by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help prevent the spread of the flu virus and other infectious disease, including:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Keep your distance from others if you are sick.

When possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick, and don’t send your children to childcare or school if they are sick.

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other attorneys practicing with Curran Tomko Tarski LLP are experienced advising and representing health industry clients, community organizations and others about federal and state regulatory, reimbursement, grant, enforcement and other health industry risk management and compliance concerns.   If you have questions about these matters, please contact Ms. Stamer at 214.270.2402.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail to cstamer@CTTLegal.com.

You can review other recent updates and other publications by Ms. Stamer and other helpful health care resources and additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see Stamer Health Industry Experience. 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 at here or by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press Health Care Update blog at Health Care Update Blog. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.


Newly Enacted FERA Amendments To False Claims Act Signal New Risks For Health Industry Organizations & Others

May 26, 2009

Health care providers and other parties covered by the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 (FCA), now face expanded whistleblower and other liability under amendments to the FCA enacted under the “Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009”(FERA).  The amendments increase the likelihood both that whistleblowers will turn in health care providers and other individuals and organizations that file false claims in violation of the FCA and the liability that violators may incur for that misconduct.

Signed into law by President Obama last Wednesday (May 20, 2009), FERA immediately upon enactment:

  • Amends the whistleblower protections afforded to employees, contractors and agents who suffer retaliation for taking lawful efforts to stop violations of the FCA and to make it easier for those individuals to pursue retaliation claims;
  • Expands liability under for making false or fraudulent claims to the federal government under the FCA;
  • Applies liability under the FCA for presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval (currently limited to such a claim presented to an officer or employee of the federal government); and
  • Requires persons who violate such Act to reimburse the federal government for the costs of a civil action to recover penalties or damages 

Concurrent with President Obama’s signature of FERA into law, the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health & Human Services (HHS) jointly announced the expansion of federal health care fraud enforcement efforts.  On May 20, 2009, HHS and DOJ announced their activation of a new interagency team to combat health care fraud highlights the increasing need for health care providers and health plans to review and tighten their practices for dealing with Medicare and other federal programs to survive scrutiny under federal health care fraud initiatives.  Coupled with FERA and the already significant increase in federal health care fraud detection and enforcement activities in recent years and a proposed 50 percent increase in funding for these activities included in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget, health care providers and payers must be prepared to defend their dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care programs.

The expanded protections afforded under FERA to whistleblowers and others suffering retaliation for opposing or reporting illegal actions can be expected to serve as a key tool in these efforts. These new retaliation safeguards are designed further increase the likelihood that employees and other insiders will help government officials ferret out false claims and other fraud. Specifically with regard to retaliatory action claims Section 4(d) of FERA amends 31 U.S.C.§ 3730(h) to provide for the recovery of “all relief necessary to make that employee, contractor, or agent whole” where that individual is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment because of lawful acts he does or takes on behalf of an individual in furtherance of other efforts to stop a violation of the FCA. 

FERA expressly provides that relief to victims of retaliation will include “reinstatement with the same seniority status that employee, contractor, or agent would have had but for the discrimination, 2 times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” 

The FERA amendments to the FCA, the new TEAMS enforcement effort announced simultaneously with its signature into law mean that health care industry organizations and others covered by the FCA must implement appropriate fraud prevention, detection, redress and other procedures to help defend against possible FCA or other health care fraud claims and investigations.

The attorneys at Curran Tomko Tarski, LLC have extensive experience representing and advising health industry and other clients against FCA and other federal health care and fraud laws. 

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance with auditing or defending health care fraud concerns or other health care compliance, risk management, transactions or operations concerns, please contact Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partners Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402, CStamer@CTTLegal.com; Michael T. Tarski at (214) 270-1420 or MTarski@CTTLegal.com; Edwin J. Tomko at (214) 270-1405 or ETomko@CTTLegal.com.

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and white collar experience of the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys at http://www.CTTLegal.com. 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 at CTTLegal.com or e-mailing this information to CStamer@CTTLegal.com.


Stamer To Discuss “Making Gainsharing Work: Managing Physician Performance” At June 17, 2009 Dallas Bar Association Health Law Section Meeting

May 26, 2009

Health care organizations, health plans and regulars increasingly point to gainsharing and pay-for-performance strategies as key to securing needed key physician buy-in and performances to achieve desired health care quality and cost objectives.  Using physician gainsharing to promote desired performances within the bounds of the law without undesirable side effects involves more than staying within the STARK exceptions and anti-kickback safe harbors. 

Curran, Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will discuss key strategies and processes for designing and administering legally defensible pay-for-performance and other gainsharing arrangements that promote desired outcomes in operation at the Dallas Bar Association Health Law Section meeting on June 17, 2009. 

Former Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, attorney and author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for her legal work, publications and programs, and advocacy on health industry performance management and other health industry matters.  Ms. Stamer works extensively with health care organizations, managed care and health insurance organizations, governments and others to manage performance and legal risks.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer combines her more than 22 years of health industry regulatory and risk management experience with an in-depth knowledge of workforce management and regulation to help clients manage performance and legal and operational risks.  Her experience includes advising public and private health industry clients domestically and internationally on a wide range of matters.  A widely published author and popular speaker, Ms. Stamer’s insights on health industry matters also are quoted in HealthLeaders, Managed Care Executive, the Wall Street Journal and many other national popular, business and industry publications.

 Ms. Stamer is scheduled to begin her remarks at Noon on June 17, 2009 at the offices of the Dallas Bar Association located at 2101 Ross Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75201.  For additional information, call the Dallas Bar Association at 214-220-7400 or see http://www.dallasbar.org.


DOJ/HHS Step Up Health Care Fraud Enforcement By Announcing New Interagency Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team

May 20, 2009

Lead DOJ Health Care Fraud Enforcer Speaks In Dallas Tomorrow

The joint announcement today (May 20, 2009) by the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health & Human Services (HHS) of a new interagency team to combat health care fraud highlights the increasing need for health care providers and health plans to review and tighten their practices for dealing with Medicare and other federal programs to survive scrutiny under federal health care fraud initiatives.   Houston and Detroit are targeted for the attention of a new Strike Force.

Participants attending tomorrow’s Dallas Health Industry Council Southwest Healthcare Transaction Conference will get to hear the latest about these and other federal health care fraud prevention and enforcement activities from one of its key players. The Justice Department’s lead federal health care fraud prosecutor, John “Jay” S. Darden, the U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Chief for Healthcare Fraud is scheduled to provide an update on these and other federal regulatory and enforcement activities affecting health care transactions when he speaks at the Conference tomorrow afternoon at the Omni Mandalay Hotel Dallas at Las Colinas at 1:30 p.m.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), to combat Medicare fraud and the expansion of Strike Force team operations to Detroit and Houston.  Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, currently in operation in South Florida and Los Angeles, fight Medicare fraud on a targeted local level.  Statements made by Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Holder in connection with the announcement of HEAT and the Strike Force Expansion make clear that the Obama Administration views health care fraud enforcement and prevention as a key element of its efforts to control health care costs.

The HEAT team will include senior officials from DOJ and HHS who will build upon and strengthen existing programs to combat fraud while also investing new resources and technology to prevent fraud, waste and abuse before it happens.  Efforts will include the expansion of joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams that have been successfully fighting fraud in South Florida and Los Angeles. 

Established in 2007, these Strike Force teams have a proven record of success using a “data-driven” approach to identify unexplainable billing patterns and investigating these providers for possible fraudulent activity.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force team operating in South Florida has already convicted 146 defendants and secured $186 million in criminal fines and civil recoveries.  After the success of operations in South Florida, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force expanded in May 2008 to phase two in Los Angeles, where 37 defendants have been charged with criminal health care fraud offenses.  To date in the Los Angeles cases, more than $55 million has been ordered in restitution to the Medicare program. 

In addition to health care fraud enforcement and prosecution, HHS and DOJ also view prevention as critical to reforming the system.  Therefore, in addition to investigating and prosecuting fraud, the HEAT team will also focus critical resources on preventing fraud from occurring in the first place.  These efforts are expected to include:

  • Drawing from demonstration projects by the HHS Inspector General and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that have focused on suppliers of durable medical equipment (DME) including increasing site visits to potential suppliers to prevent imposters from posing as legitimate DME providers. 
  • Increasing training for providers on Medicare compliance, offering providers the resources and the knowledge they need to help identify and prevent fraud.
  • Improving data sharing between CMS and law enforcement to help identify patterns that lead to fraud.
  • Strengthening program integrity activities to monitor and ensure Medicare Parts C (Medicare Advantage plans) and D (prescription drug programs) compliance and enforcement.

The Attorney General and the HHS Secretary also called on the American people to visit a new Web site http://www.hhs.gov/stopmedicarefraud or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) to report suspected Medicare fraud.

The HEAT Team and Strike Force activities are part of a broader emphasis in the enforcement of federal health care fraud laws.  President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget seeks to further increase funding for fraud prevention and enforcement by investing $311 million — a 50 percent increase from 2009 funding — to strengthen program integrity activities within the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  The Obama Administration anticipates that all combined, the anti-fraud efforts in the President’s budget could save $2.7 billion over five years by improving oversight and stopping fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug programs.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail to cstamer@CTTLegal.com.

You can review other recent updates and other publications by Ms. Stamer and other helpful health care resources and additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see Stamer Health Industry Experience. 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 at here or by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press Health Care Update blog at Health Care Update Blog. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.


Sebelius Announces Key Personnel At New HHS Office of Health Reform

May 11, 2009

As the Obama Administration continues emphasis on health care reform, newly appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius today (May 11, 2009) announced the establishment of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Health Reform. to spearhead HHS efforts to pass urgently needed health reform this year and coordinate closely with the White House Office of Health Reform.  Both offices were created by an April 8 Executive Order to help deliver on one of President Obama’s top priorities.

The following key staff members have been appointed to the HHS Office of Health Reform:

 Jeanne Lambrew, Ph.D., Director of the HHS Office of Health Reform: Jeanne Lambrew will lead the health reform effort in the Office, helping the Secretary to marshal the experience and assets of the department.  Dr. Lambrew was previously an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and worked on health policy in the Clinton Administration.

Michael Hash, Senior Advisor: Michael Hash will serve as a senior advisor, running the inter-agency process for developing specific aspects of health reform legislation consistent with the President’s priorities. He will be an assignee at the White House Office of Health Reform and assist in the preparation of Administration positions and in communication with the Congress.  Prior to his appointment, Hash held senior positions at the Health Care Financing Administration (now CMS) and on the staffs of the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as a private health policy consulting firm.

 Neera Tanden, Senior Advisor: Neera Tanden will work on developing health care policies for HHS and the Administration.  She is the former domestic policy director for the Obama-Biden campaign and policy director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and oversaw health care work on both campaigns.  She has worked in think tanks, in the Senate and in the Clinton Administration.

Linda Douglass, Director of Communications: Linda Douglass will serve as the director of communications in the Office of Health Reform, working as an assignee at the White House Office of Reform, coordinating communications.  Before joining the administration, Douglass was a traveling spokesperson for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and was chief spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009.  She spent most of her career as a journalist, most recently as a managing editor for National Journal and prior to that as Chief Capitol Hill Correspondent for ABC News

 Meena Seshamani, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Policy Analysis:  Meena Seshamani will coordinate the quantitative and qualitative analyses on health reform conducted throughout HHS. Before joining the Administration, Dr. Seshamani was a resident physician in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. She is a health economist who has published widely on issues of health expenditures, health care financing, and their impact on health outcomes.  She advised Senator Kennedy on a range of issues including public health and prevention, community health centers, health professions training and health disparities. Lewis will begin work in the Office of Health Reform on May 25.

Jennifer Cannistra, Policy Analyst and Director of Special Projects:  Jennifer Cannistra will work as an assignee at the White House and will lead special projects undertaken by the HHS Office of Health Reform that require close coordination with the White House.  Previously, Cannistra served as the Pennsylvania State Policy Director for the Obama campaign.  Prior to joining Obama for America in September 2007, Cannistra served as a law clerk to the Honorable Faith S. Hochberg, D.N.J. and as an attorney in Washington, D.C.

Karen Richardson, Outreach Coordinator:  Karen Richardson will be responsible for conducting outreach to stakeholders on behalf of HHS, as an assignee at the White House Office, as it relates to advancing the President’s agenda for health reform.  She was previously the policy director at the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  She was policy director for Obama for America in Iowa and several states throughout the Presidential primary.   Richardson began working for President Obama at his Senate office in August 2005, beginning as an intern and then serving as deputy to the policy director.

Michael Halle, Special Assistant: Michael Halle will be responsible for coordinating office projects and activities as well as providing research assistance.  Halle worked for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and Obama for America, contributing to field operations in Iowa and North Carolina.  Prior to joining the Obama campaign he was an intern at the Center for American Progress with the health policy team.

 You can find more information about the evolving health care reform discussion and other health care policy and health care matters at CynthiaStamer.com.  If you need assistance monitoring health and managed care policy or other health care or health benefit matters, contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270.2402, or cstamer@cttlegal.com.  To receive future Solutions Law Press Health Care Updates, register to participate in this Solution Law Press Health Care Update blog, register at CynthiaStamer.com or join the SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group on linkedin.com.


HHS Report Highlights Rural Health Insurance Crisis

May 5, 2009

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on May 4, 2009 released a new report outlining the health care challenges facing rural communities, Hard Times in the Heartland: Health Care in Rural America.  The report available at http://healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes/ indicates that nearly 50 million people in rural America face challenges accessing health care.  Not only do these Americans face higher rates of poverty, they report more health problems, are more likely to be uninsured, and have less access to a primary health care providers than do Americans living in urban areas.  The report notes:

  • Nearly one in five of the uninsured — 8.5 million people — live in rural areas.
  • Rural residents pay on average for 40 percent of their health care costs out of their own pocket, compared with the urban share of one-third.
  • In a multi-state survey, one in five insured farmers had medical debt.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail to cstamer@CTTLegal.com.

You can review other recent updates and other publications by Ms. Stamer and other helpful health care resources and additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see Stamer Health Industry Experience. 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 at here or by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press Health Care Update blog at Health Care Update Blog. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.


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