A recent survey of top decision-makers by Crowell & Moring finds that nearly 80% of responding companies have identified and adopted environmental performance goals beyond what regulations require. Fewer than half of those surveyed measure their company’s performance against those goals—and in some cases are experiencing challenges implementing them. Continue Reading Crowell & Moring Survey Finds Companies Are Setting Environmental Goals, But Questions of Measurement Persist

On October 27, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in collaboration with Health Canada, and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), published Guiding Principles for the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) in medical devices.   The principles are designed to support good machine learning practices (GMLP) and to help promote safe, effective, and high-quality medical devices that use AI/ML. The FDA is accepting public comment on these principles on an ongoing basis.

Continue Reading FDA Publishes Principles for AI and ML in Medical Devices

Today, CMS released its strategy for the CMS Innovation Center (the “Strategy”) in a White Paper, Innovation Center Strategy Refresh. This Strategy and the connection to broader CMS priorities was outlined by CMS Administrator Brooks-LaSure and CMS Innovation Center Director, Liz Fowler, in a webinar and is intended as a blueprint for the next 10 years.  While the Innovation Center’s overarching goal continues to be expansion of successful models that reduce program costs and improve quality and outcomes for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, CMS highlights five strategic objectives: Drive Accountable Care, Advance Health Equity, Support Innovation, Address Affordability, and Partner to Achieve System Transformation and created a new vision: “A health system that achieves equitable outcomes through high-quality, affordable, and person-centered care.”

Continue Reading CMS Innovation Center Announces New Strategic Direction Under the Biden Administration

This article was originally published in Corporate Compliance Insights.

Both your company’s data supply chain and its physical version have fundamentally similar business risks. Given the consequences of unethical practices along both, enterprises can no longer ignore how data is sourced, how it is managed or where it is going.

While many organizations go to great lengths to monitor their physical supply chain, their data supply chain often gets short shrift. For any company interacting with large sets and various streams of information, this can represent a significant exposure to risk.

Since the first investigation under the U.S. FCPA concerning a third party acting on behalf of a U.S. company was initiated nearly 40 years ago, upholding integrity in global supply chains has garnered attention. Rightfully so, as compounding risks in physical production and movement of goods abound upstream (e.g., forced labor, conflict materials, environmental impact) and downstream (e.g., bribery, fraud, misuse). Continue Reading Is Your Data Supply Chain Ethical? Don’t Restrict Due Diligence to Physical Operations.

On May 14, 2021, CMS published FAQs addressing questions that have been raised regarding the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule published May 2020.  CMS is careful to note that the FAQs “do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way, unless specifically incorporated into a contract, as directed by a program.”  CMS has provided links and other guidance, including regarding technical standards, best practices, and privacy and security resources, and has directly addressed questions raised by trade associations and others.

We summarize some of the key points addressed in the FAQs.  We encourage you to review the full CMS response where questions arise in your implementation. Continue Reading CMS Issues First FAQs on the CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Rule

On November 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) published a final rule, demonstrating long-awaited efforts to streamline the regulatory framework governing the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) managed care programs.

According to CMS, the purpose of the final rule is to relax certain administrative burdens imposed by the Medicaid managed care rule promulgated by the Obama Administration in 2016. The 2016 rule (the “Mega Reg”), reflecting efforts to modernize the Medicaid and CHIP managed care programs and frustrate widespread fraud and abuse, was the first update to Medicaid managed care regulations in more than a decade.  The following blog post presents a brief summary of the final rule’s key changes.

Continue Reading 2020 Medicaid Managed Care Rule Summary

Earlier this month, OIG issued a Special Fraud Alert on Speaker Programs warning drug and device companies and health care providers that it has significant concerns about payments for “speaker programs.” Based on recent investigations and enforcement activity, the OIG has found that a number of speaker programs sponsored by drug and device manufacturers violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). OIG is skeptical about the educational value of speaker programs provided under circumstances that are not conducive to learning and to audience members who have no legitimate reason to attend. Additionally, OIG questions the value of such events given that health care providers can access the same or similar information online, on the product’s package insert, third-party educational conferences, medical journals, and more. Because all of this material is already available, OIG warns “that at least one purpose of remuneration associated with speaker programs is often to induce or reward referrals” in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS).

OIG defined speaker programs as drug or device “company-sponsored events at which a [outside] physician or other health care professional (collectively, “HCP”) makes a speech or presentation to other [outside] HCPs about a drug or device product or a disease state on behalf of the company” using a presentation developed and approved by the company. HCPs are paid an honorarium and attendees are paid generally through free meals and drinks, for example.

Based on its investigations to date, OIG provided an illustrative list of speaker program characteristics that result in higher level of scrutiny with respect to AKS violations:

Continue Reading OIG Sends a Special Fraud Alert on Speaker Programs

On October 29, 2020, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (“the Departments”) issued a final rule requiring private-sector health insurers and self-insured health plans to disclose treatment prices and cost-sharing information with consumers.  The Transparency in Coverage rule comes in response to President Trump’s executive order aiming to increase transparency in the healthcare industry. It is slated to become effective on January 11, 2021.

The final rule contains three main parts: (1) requirements for plans and issuers to disclose estimated costs associated with covered items or services furnished by a particular provider; (2) requirements for plans and issuers to publicly disclose reimbursement rates; and (3) amendments to the medical loss ratio program rules to allow issuers to receive credit for enrollees’ savings. Each part is discussed below.

Estimated Costs

First, insurers and employer-sponsored health plans will be required to provide price estimates, including in-network and out-of-network negotiated rates, for health care items and services upon request.  The regulation requires these estimates beginning in 2023 for the 500 most “shoppable” items and services on an internet-based self-service tool (and in paper form, if requested by the participant, beneficiary, or enrollee).  Among the 500 “shoppable services” are mammograms, physician visits, colonoscopies, and various blood tests, biopsies, and X-rays, and the full list is specified in the regulations.  Then, beginning in 2024, price estimates for all remaining items and services offered, including procedures, drugs, durable medical equipment, must be disclosed. The price transparency requirements include disclosure of the following:

Continue Reading HHS Finalizes Health Plan Price Transparency Rule

On October 29, 2020, CMS issued the Home Health Prospective Payment System final rule [CMS-1730-F, CMS-1744-IFC, and CMS-5531-IFC], which permanently authorizes use of telecommunications technology as part of patient care under the Medicare home health benefit.[1]

The final rule is another regulatory step toward CMS recognizing the critical role of virtual care in the home health and other care settings, beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.[2]

Use of Telecommunications Technology in Home Health Services

In April 2020, CMS had initiated regulatory changes proposing to expand the use of telecommunication in the provision of home health services covered by Medicare.  CMS stated that its goal in expanding this permitted use of telecommunications technology in furnishing home health care is to “improve efficiencies, expand the reach of healthcare providers, allow more specialized care in the home, and allow home health agencies to see more patients or to communicate with patients more often.”

In the final rule, effective January 1, 2021, home health agencies (HHAs) will be able to use telecommunications – and receive reimbursement for home health services – under the following conditions:

Continue Reading HHS Approves Telecommunications for Providing Medicare Home Health Services, on a Permanent Basis, Effective January 1, 2021

Last week, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)  published an Interim Final Rule: Information Blocking and the ONC Health IT Certification Program: Extension of Compliance Dates and Timeframes in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (Interim Final Rule) providing needed relief to entities working toward compliance.  In the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program Final Rule (ONC Rule), issued on May 1, 2020, ONC defines the entities that are subject to the rule’s provisions. ONC refers to these entities as Actors. Actors include health care providers, health IT developers of certified health IT, Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), and Health Information Networks (HINs). The Interim Final Rule provides these Actors with “additional flexibilities” to implement the provisions of the ONC Rule including updated compliance dates.  ONC explained that the extension is due to the outbreak of COVID-19 public health emergency; however, this will also provide ONC with additional time to provide answers to the numerous questions that the agency has received as Actors work toward compliance. ONC is accepting comments on this rule, as is typical for an interim final rule. These comments must be submitted to regulations.gov by January 4, 2021.

The Interim Final Rule extends “the applicability date for the information blocking provisions and compliance dates and timeframes for certain Program requirements, including compliance dates for certain 2015 Edition health IT certification criteria and Conditions and Maintenance of Certification requirements.” See CMS and ONC Enforcement Deadlines Chart for more information about compliance dates for the ONC Rule.

Information Blocking

Continue Reading ONC Issues Interim Final Rule Extending Compliance Dates for the Information Blocking and the ONC Health IT Certification Program