Legislation Introduced To Expand Access To Remote Monitoring & Telehealth

Bipartisan legislation has recently been introduced to the House that would expand access to remote monitoring and telehealth. The Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2015 would make significant changes in federal laws pertaining to remote monitoring and telehealth. The legislation builds off a previous bill, the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, which sought to adjust Medicare home health payments to account for remote patient monitoring and to expand coverage to all critical access and sole community hospitals.

The major provisions in the bill include the following:

  • Incentives for Medicare’s hospital readmission reduction program;
  • Ensuring the use of telehealth in health homes and medical homes;
  • Allow flexibility in ACO coverage of telehealth; and
  • Add additional sites to be considered originating sites for purposes of payments for telehealth services under Medicare such as a ‘home telehealth site.’

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Health IT: Should HIPAA Require Encryption?

According to the Associated Press, federal officials are planning on reviewing whether HIPAA should require encryption. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee said it will take up the matter as part of a bipartisan review of health information security. Recently, information on up to 80 million consumers, including names, birth dates, addresses, email addresses, employment information and Social Security/member identification numbers, were compromised in the attack on Anthem. According to sources, Anthem’s information was not encrypted. However, Anthem has stated that the hacker also had a system administrator’s ID and password, “which would have made encryption a moot point.” Security experts have said that a stolen credential by itself should not be key to the whole data kingdom and information should always be encrypted wherever it resides.

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Federal Court Strikes Down New Overtime Rule

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated a proposed new U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) overtime rule slated to take effect on January 1, 2015. NAHC spokespeople have stated that this decision is a “huge victory for patients and their families who will be able to continue receiving home care services without interruption.” The decision is also a victory for caregivers “who will continue to be protected instead of being forced to work only part time” and agencies “that serve patients and employ caregivers.” As of yet, the DOL has not announced whether it will appeal this decision.

Click here to see our last post on the DOL rule.

Click here to read more from NAHC.

U.S. District Court Issues Order Blocking A New DOL Rule

On December 31, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) preventing a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule that defines the “companionship services” exemption from overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act from taking effect on January 1, 2015. The TRO follows an earlier ruling that restored the rights of homecare consumers to benefit from the “companionship services” and “live-in” exemptions regardless of whether the workers are employed by the person receiving the care or a homecare company. This new ruling is seen as a victory for homecare and hospice, giving our most vulnerable citizens a temporary reprieve from an increase in the cost of care.  While the TRO is in effect, homecare companies can continue to pay homecare aides and personal care attendants without added overtime compensation except where the state law requires it. The next hearing is set for January 9, 2015.

Click here to see our previous blog on the rule.

Click here to read more from NAHC.

Tiptastic Tuesday: State Attorney General Issues Guidance Regarding Reporting Of Certain Physician Transactions

October 1 was the effective date for new legislation requiring physician groups (two or more physicians) and other healthcare organizations to report certain physician group-related transactions to the State Attorney General. Public Act 14-168 requires parties to notify the Attorney General thirty days in advance of the effective date of mergers, purchase and sale transactions and employment-related arrangements between physician groups that result in groups of eight or more physicians, and mergers, purchase and sale transactions and employment-related arrangements between a physician group and a hospital, medical foundation or other hospital-related entity, regardless of the number of physicians in the resulting entity.

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Strike For For-Profit Hospitals

HMS healthcare Management SolutionsGovernor Malloy vetoed a bill that would have granted permission for a Tennessee for-profit company (Vanguard) to acquire Waterbury hospital. Vanguard would take control of Waterbury Hospital by forming a joint venture with the hospital in which Vanguard would have an 80 percent stake. Health care unions opposed the acquisition in fear of for-profit tactics that may have included terminating nurses long-standing pensions in Waterbury.  The measure warrants an extensive revision of for-profit hospital policy in Connecticut.  Currently, Sharon Hospital is the only for-profit operating in Connecticut.

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Medicaid Expansion Unpopular Amongst States

Twenty-one states are opting out of Medicaid expansion for next year while another six states’ legislators are still deciding.  Medicaid rules currently vary from state to state, but many provide little to no coverage of childless, non-disabled and non-elderly adults.  Reasons for opting out of expansion include worries involving additional costs as well as growing an already broken program.  According to CNNMoney, the federal government will pay for 100% of the expansion for the first three years, then gradually reduce its subsidy to 90% by 2020.

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Permanent Fix To SGR Introduced

Earlier this week, the House introduced legislation to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. The bill follows new data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week that significantly lowers the estimates of how much it will cost to repeal the SGR.

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Medicare Launches Pilot Project Relaxing Hospital Payment Rules

Last week, HMS reported Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) presented legislation to help patients preserve their life savings while receiving long term care. Now, Medicare has launched a pilot project to test whether relaxing its hospital payment rules could help beneficiaries.

A growing number of seniors have been forced to tap into their savings while receiving long term care after a hospital stay because they are classified as observation patients. Under Medicare rules, patients must have at least three days in the hospital as an inpatient to qualify for nursing home care upon discharge.

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