Category Archives: Primary Care

2016 Is Ramping Up For Telemedicine Developments

Two months in and this year has already seen significant movement in regulatory action across the country to expand the ability to provide telemedicine services. Below please find some of the more significant items that have already gone into effect in 2016 or are under consideration, including commercial payor and Medicaid reimbursement coverage for telemedicine services, reciprocal licenses for out-of-state providers and the ability to prescribe without an in-person evaluation.

Parity Laws in New York and Connecticut

Effective January 1, 2016, New York passed a Chapter Amendment clarifying last year’s telemedicine commercial coverage statute.  Under the 2016 Chapter Amendment, private insurers are required to cover services via telemedicine if provided by hospitals, home care and hospice agencies, licensed physicians, physician assistants, dentists, nurses, midwives, podiatrists, optometrists, ophthalmic dispensers, psychologists, social workers, speech language pathologists and audiologists.  The parity law prohibits an insurer from excluding from coverage a service provided via telehealth if that service is otherwise covered in-person.

The law also provides for Medicaid reimbursement to providers for telehealth services, which is defined broadly to include real-time two-way electronic audio visual communications, asynchronous store and forward technology and remote patient monitoring. However, with the exception of remote patient monitoring, telehealth will not be reimbursed by Medicaid when the patient is located in their home.  The New York Department of Health is expected to release telemedicine regulations later this year.

Similarly, Connecticut also recently passed a new telemedicine parity law that went into effect January 1, 2016. Under Connecticut’s parity law, commercial insurers must provide coverage for services rendered via telemedicine under the same terms and conditions as would apply if that service was provided in-person.  Connecticut broadly defines telehealth to include services performed by a telehealth provider at a distant site as well as synchronous interactions, asynchronous store and forward transfers and remote patient monitoring.

Notably, Connecticut went even farther than New York in its telehealth parity law by expressly preventing a health plan from excluding a service from coverage solely because the service is provided through telehealth and not in-person. In this way, a health plan cannot exclude a telehealth service, such as remote patient monitoring, simply because it does not lend itself to an in-person professional service.

Florida’s Controlled Substance Teleprescription Law

Florida recently implemented a new rule to permit physicians to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine exclusively for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, effective March 4, 2016. Specifically, the amended regulation provides that controlled substances may not be prescribed through the use of telemedicine, “except for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.”

However, after passing this new rule, the Florida Board of Medicine recognized that it is still restricted by the Federal Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008.  The Ryan Haight Act narrowly permits the remote prescription of controlled substances for patients without an in-person evaluation so long as the patient is: (1) physically located in a hospital or clinic with a valid DEA registration; and (2) treated by a DEA registered practitioner in the usual course of professional practice and in accordance with state law.  Accordingly, while Florida is expanding its telemedicine laws, the prescription of controlled substances via telemedicine will only be broadly permissible if the American Telemedicine Association, or other organizations, are successful in amending the Ryan Haight Act.

Newly Introduced Telemedicine Bills in New Jersey and Ohio

Various other states are also in the process of trying to pass telemedicine bills. For example, New Jersey recently introduced a bill on February 8, 2016, that would require private payors to provide coverage for telemedicine to the same extent that the services would be covered if they were provided through an in-person consultation.

Additionally, another NJ telemedicine bill was introduced on January 12, 2016, which would provide a mechanism for physicians and other health care providers to obtain reciprocal licenses to practice in New Jersey if the providers are licensed by another state in their particular specialty.  The bill would also provide a parity law for telemedicine services to be reimbursed under NJ Medicaid.  As a similar bill was proposed in 2015 and has now carried over into the 2016 session, the likelihood of its passing is even greater.

An Ohio legislative bill is also headed to the Senate that would allow patients to obtain prescriptions (for non-controlled substances) without an in-person exam or visit from a health care provider.

For more information on telehealth and telemedicine legal and regulatory considerations, continued legislative developments or related issues, please feel free to contact Daniel Meier or any member of our health care practice group for a further discussion.

Office of Inspector General Issues Strategic Plan

The Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a 2014-2018 strategic plan including outlining the visions, goals, and priorities of that office for the upcoming several years. The plan sets forth four goals: 1. Fight fraud, waste and abuse; 2. Promote quality, safety, and value; 3. Secure the future; and 4. Advance excellence and innovation. Each goals is identified with several priority areas that support the stated goal. The report can be found at the OIG’s website http://go.us.gov/WdbV

OIG Publishes Special Fraud Alert regarding Physician-Owned Distributors (“PODs”) – Describes PODs as “Inherently Suspect”

Over the last several years, there has been a noted proliferation in the growth of physician-owned distributors (“PODs”). Along with this growth has come increased scrutiny and speculation as to the legality of PODs, with highly vocal critics and proponents on both sides of the debate. In fact, the Office of the Inspector General’s (“OIG”) 2013 Work Plan noted that the OIG planned to examine PODs in connection with reports of high utilization of spinal implants by hospitals associated with PODs.

Accordingly, on March 26, 2013, the OIG released a Special Fraud Alert (the “Fraud Alert”) which provides long-awaited guidance concerning the legality of PODs. Continue reading

Spring Cleaning – Dust Off Your Compliance Program Manual and Take Some Practical Steps to Reinvigorate Your Program.

Compliance program fatigue is nothing new. Over at least the last 15 years, health care organizations have jumped in head first, put together detailed manuals and taken the plunge. However, reimbursement cuts, quality initiatives, RACs, ZPICs, whistleblowers, physical plant renovations and simply significant industry challenges got in the way of sustaining an efficient and effective compliance effort. Health care organizations have also become desensitized to the barrage of compliance education, enforcement press releases, audits and reviews and other shock-value communications on the importance of regulatory compliance. In that vein, this very article may get lost in the shuffle, although, we hope it doesn’t.

An efficient and effective compliance effort with your organization is extremely important, if only as an insurance policy against government scrutiny. Additionally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, H.R. 3590 (“ACA”) includes requirements that CMS implement mandatory compliance program requirements for all providers and suppliers. In a distinct section of ACA, nursing home mandatory compliance programs were given a specific implementation timeline. Continue reading

New Ohio Law Requires Employers to Notify Patients of Termination of Physician’s Employment

Under new Ohio Revised Code § 4731.228, which becomes effective on March 22, 2013, hospitals, physician practices and other entities employing physicians in Ohio will be required to send patient notices when a physician’s employment is terminated. This notice must go to all patients seen by the physician in the previous two years and must be sent by the later of the date the physician’s employment is terminated or 30 days from when the employer has actual knowledge of the physician’s termination or resignation. The notices may be sent by the employer, or the employer may require the physician to send the notices. Continue reading

CMS Releases Final Rule to Implement Physician Payment Sunshine Act

On February 1, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the long-awaited final version of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act Final Rule (the “Sunshine Act”). The Sunshine Act will make information publicly available concerning payments or other transfers of value from applicable manufacturers to physicians. The Sunshine Act will also make information publicly available concerning physician ownership or investment interests in applicable manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (“GPOs”), including physician-owned distributors (“PODs”). Continue reading

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule – CY 2013 Proposed Rule

On July 6, 2012, CMS issued the CY 2013 Medicare physician fee schedule proposed rule.  The rule includes several key aspects discussed below, such as improvements in payment for primary care and cuts to payments for specialty care.  Continue reading