On December 13, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released the Health Data, Technology, and Interoperability: Certification Program Updates, Algorithm Transparency, and Information Sharing (HTI-1) Final Rule.Continue Reading ONC Releases Final Rule on Information Blocking and Health IT Certification Program Updates, Including Requirements Related to AI

On September 14, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) published a proposed rule updating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”). The new rule entitled Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities(the “Proposed Rule”) is the first major regulatory update to Section 504 in nearly 50 years.  Section 504 prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance (“FFA”) or are conducted by a Federal agency.  Section 504 covers all health care and human services programs and activities funded by HHS, from providers, like hospitals and doctors that accept Medicare or Medicare, to state child welfare programs, as well as Medicare Advantage Plans, and Medicaid Managed Care Plans.Continue Reading HHS Aims to Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Rules for Disabled Patients in New Proposed Rule

On June 27, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a final rule (“OIG Final Rule”) that implements statutory provisions for its enforcement of the information blocking penalties created by the 21stCentury Cures Act (“Cures Act”) and assessment of civil money penalties (“CMPs”) of up to $1 million per violation of information blocking for certain individuals or entities subject to the information blocking requirements.Continue Reading HHS-OIG Releases Final Rule Implementing Information Blocking Penalties

On July 25, 2023, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services (the “Tri-Agencies”) released long awaited proposed regulations (the “Proposed Rule”) and a Technical Release, which together propose new requirements for comparative analyses of nonquantitative treatment limitations (“NQTL”) under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“MHPAEA”).  On the same day, the Tri-Agencies released their annual report to Congress on implementation of MHPAEA, as required under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“CAA 2021”). Continue Reading New Proposed MHPAEA Rule Builds on NQTL Comparative Analysis Standards

In late November, HHS proposed long-awaited changes to regulations at 42 C.F.R. Part 2 (“Part 2”) governing the confidentiality of substance use disorder (“SUD”) records as required under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. Generally, HHS is attempting to align Part 2 requirements with the HIPAA (“Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act”) Privacy Rule. The most significant changes are those to the rules governing consent for entities subject to Part 2’s restrictions to use, disclose, and redisclose Part 2 records with respect to treatment, payment, and health care operations (“TPO”) activities.Continue Reading HHS Proposed Changes Would Align Part 2 Regulations on Substance Use Disorder Records with HIPAA

President Biden signs Executive Order directing HHS to “consider additional actions to further drive down prescription drug costs”

On October 14, 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) directing the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider new healthcare payment and delivery models the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and created by the Affordable Care Act, can test to lower drug costs and promote access to innovative drug therapies for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The EO specifies the HHS Secretary should include models that may lead to lower cost-sharing for commonly used drugs and support value-based payment initiatives that promote high-quality care. The Secretary must submit its report, describing any models selected, within 90 days of the EO’s issuance.  Continue Reading White House looks to CMMI to test new ways to lower drug prices

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is increasing the risk of ransomware attacks and other cyber threats for U.S. companies, and those in the health care industry may be targeted. In a recent analyst note from the Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”), HHS describes the cyber capabilities of Russia, one of the world’s major cyberpowers, and analyzes two malware variants most likely to impact the U.S. health care and public health sector.
Continue Reading Increased Cyber Risk for Health Care Organizations Due to the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

On January 18, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the entity chosen as a contracting partner, The Sequoia Project, Inc., published the long-awaited Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) for health information exchange. In simple terms, TEFCA is a framework that health information networks (HINs) may enter into to share health data with other HINs, individuals, and entities. The stated goal of TEFCA is to develop uniform policies and technical requirements to scale health information exchange nationwide and ensure that HINs, health care providers, health plans, individuals, and other stakeholders can access real-time, interoperable health information.
Continue Reading ONC Releases a Framework for Nationwide Health Information Exchange

On August 20, 2020 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (85 Fed. Reg. 51397) on good practices for the release and maintenance of agency guidance documents. Comments must be posted by 11:59 pm on September 16, 2020.

As instructed in the October 9, 2019 Executive Order 13891 (EO), titled ‘‘Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents (84 FR 55235 (Oct. 15, 2019)), HHS proposes to issue regulations to ensure (i) there is proper notice of any new guidance, and (ii) that the guidance does not impose obligations on regulated parties that are not already reflected in duly enacted statutes or regulations.

This proposed rule appears to follow the Office of Management and Budget, “Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices,” issued on January 25, 2007 (72 Fed. Reg. 3432) with respect to the significant guidance document that may, for example “adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities” or “materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof” and generally requires a 30 day notice and comment period.

BackgroundContinue Reading HHS Proposes a New Rule to Govern Release and Maintenance of Agency’s Guidance Documents

As of October 3, 2019, the Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the proposed rules for “modernizing and clarifying” the Physician Self-Referral Regulations and revising the safe harbors under the Anti-Kickback Statute and rules regarding the Beneficiary Inducement Civil Monetary Penalties Law.

These regulations were the subject of two Requests for Information