Posts from 2017

SynerMed, a Southern California-based physician management company, will be shutting down, per an email from its CEO earlier this month. Recently, the company had come under increasing scrutiny by health plans and California state regulators, including an investigation by the Department of Managed Health Care.

According to the company-wide email, audits conducted by health plans had found several system and control failures within medical management and other departments. Additionally, the California Department of Managed Health Care’s investigation has been publicly ...

Last Thursday, a jury in federal district court in St. Louis handed down a verdict in a False Claims Act (FCA) case that presents a laundry list of the challenges which can arise in a FCA case.  This one includes kickback allegations, Stark issues, both state and federal claims, individual liability, civil-criminal cooperation, a criminal indictment (later dropped), and even family law.  The defendants are neurologist, Dr. Sonjay Fonn, and his fiancee of nine years, Deborah Seeger, as well as their respective medical practice and medical device distributorship.

The verdict found ...

On January, 1, 2018, The Joint Commission’s (TJC) new and revised pain assessment and management standards go into effect for TJC accredited hospitals. The changes to the standards stem from a review commenced by The Joint Commission in 2016 to bring the preceding accreditation standards into alignment with leading practices in pain assessment and management, and the safe use of opioids. In light of these standards, hospitals and their medical staffs should review their current policies, protocols, and procedures to ensure their practices comply with the new TJC requirements.

When Covered Entities or Business Associates or their counsel analyze whether a particular disclosure of Protected Health Information (or PHI, as defined in HIPAA) is permissible, they should be sure also to analyze whether the disclosure complies with HIPAA’s Minimum Necessary Rule (MNR), which is oft forgot. This issue arises when disclosing PHI in response to subpoenas, which HIPAA permits as long as the disclosing party receives satisfactory assurances that the requesting party has made reasonable efforts to obtain a protective order or to notify the individual(s) who ...

On September 21, 2017, the Medical Board of California adopted new regulations related to the training of midwife assistants, the administration of midwife assistant training, and the requirements for approved, midwife assistant certifying organizations. The Board took this action to implement and interpret Senate Bill 408 (2015), which added new requirements and prohibitions to the Licensed Midwifery Practice Act of 1993 under Business & Professions Code § 2516.5.

SCOPE OF PRACTICE

Business and Professions Code § 2516.5(a)(1) defines midwife assistant as:

A person, who may ...

A new California law (AB 72) limits the amount that out-of-network surgeons and other health care professionals may bill patients for covered non-emergency services provided at a contracted facility, such as an ambulatory surgery center.  California’s surprise medical bill law went into effect on July 1, 2017.  It is intended to prevent a consumer from receiving an unexpected medical bill from a non-contracted provider as follows:

  • A patient who is enrolled (Enrollee);
  • In a health care service plan or health insurance policy (Plan);
  • Receives health care services covered by the Plan;
  • From an individual health professional (Professional);
  • Who does not have a contract with the Plan; and
  • Services are performed at (or as a result of) a contracted health facility (Facility).[1]

In such circumstances, the Enrollee may be billed no more than the same cost-sharing amount that the Enrollee would pay a contracted Professional for the same service (in-network cost sharing amount).   At the time of payment, the Plan must inform the Enrollee and the non-contracted Professional of the in-network cost-sharing amount owed by the Enrollee.

Recently, the Medical Board of California circulated an open letter, known as a Prescriber Guidance Letter to all practitioners in California who prescribe opiates.  The letter was authored by a statewide workgroup on Prescription Opioid Misuse and Overdose Prevention.  The workgroup includes the Medical Board of California, the Board of Pharmacy, the California Department of Public Health, the DEA, DMV, California Department of Justice, California Health and Human Services, California Society of Addition Medicine, and California Healthcare Foundation, among others.

The ...

On May 10, 2017, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced an agreement whereby Memorial Hermann Health System (MHHS) will pay a $2.4 million penalty for releasing a patient’s name in a press release.  According to the resolution agreement, in September 2015, a patient at an MHHS clinic presented an allegedly fraudulent identification card to office staff.  The staff notified law enforcement and the patient was arrested.  Although notification to law enforcement did not violate the HIPAA rules, it wa a violation to include the patient’s ...

Female Medical Professional Doctor or Nurse Eating Healthy Lunch

In a rare move, the California Court of Appeal reversed itself and validated a California hospital’s policy of allowing healthcare workers to waive an otherwise mandatory second meal period on shifts longer than 12 hours.  In reversing itself, the California Court of Appeal in Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (Gerard II) held that its previous decision in Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (Gerard I) [see our prior discussion re Gerard I here], partially invalidating healthcare meal waivers, was incorrect.

California Labor Code section 512(a) requires that two meal periods be provided for any employee working shifts longer than 12 hours.  However, Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order No. 5 carves out an exception to this requirement for employees in the healthcare industry.  The Wage Order permits healthcare employees to waive one of their two meal periods on shifts longer than 8 hours even when their shift exceeds twelve hours.

In Gerard I, the Court found that IWC Wage Order No. 5 was partially invalid to the extent it authorized second meal break waivers by healthcare workers on shifts longer than 12 hours.  Thus, Gerard I invalidated these meal period waivers.  In response to the uncertainty created by Gerard I, Governor Brown signed SB 327 as an emergency measure on October 5, 2015, effective immediately.  Although SB 327 confirmed that employees in the healthcare industry who worked shifts longer than eight hours could voluntarily waive their right to one of their two meal periods, even where shifts lasted longer than 12 hours, it only affected meal period waivers entered into on or after October 5, 2015.[1]  Now, as a result of Gerard II, healthcare employers in California will not face retroactive liability if they used such waivers prior to October 5, 2015.

A proposed rule intended to stabilize the individual and small group insurance markets was issued on February 17, 2017, only a week after the Senate confirmed Tom Price as the Secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS).[1] Although the proposed rule is intended to stabilize these markets, it may make it more difficult for individuals to obtain and maintain health insurance coverage, thereby reducing the number of people who are insured.

This is a turbulent time for American healthcare. Within weeks after the publication of the proposed rule, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make significant changes to federal funding for Medicaid.[2] On Friday, March 24, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill before a vote.[3]  In the aftermath of the bill’s withdrawal, President Trump predicted that if it were left in place, ObamaCare would explode.[4]  As recently as Sunday, April 2, however, the President tweeted that talks of repeal and replace of the ACA were ongoing and would continue until a deal was struck.[5] On Tuesday, April 4, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republican lawmakers are having productive talks on a new healthcare reform bill.[6]

This on again, off again, action to attack the ACA leaves a great deal of uncertainty for healthcare providers.  That uncertainty is compounded by regulatory action that will affect the ACA in ways less visible to the public.  Apparently, Secretary Price is well aware of HHS' options to make regulatory changes.  According to the Chicago Tribune, he remarked during the House Appropriations Committee hearing on his agency’s proposed budget that "[f]ourteen hundred and forty-two times the ACA said 'the secretary shall' or 'the secretary may.'[7]

Our Health Law Ticker is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in healthcare law.  We cover recent developments in healthcare legislation, healthcare reform, Medicare/Medicaid, managed care, litigation, regulatory compliance, HIPAA, privacy, peer review, medical staffs and general business operations for healthcare companies and licensed healthcare professionals.

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