Health Care

Among the numerous consequences of the Covid-19 Pandemic is a well-documented emphasis on the home.  Work at home.  Exercise at home.  See your doctor or other health provider at home.  Home-based health care beyond the traditional nursing care is yet another change wrought by the pandemic that will not likely be eliminated as we come to define the new normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a wave of telehealth policy changes across the nation at both federal and state levels. Such changes have expanded access to health care and addressed underutilization in chronic disease management while minimizing the risk of exposure for individuals seeking care. One such policy change in particular has received widespread attention and support from industry stakeholders and lawmakers alike: expansion of telehealth to include audio-only telephonic communications. However, the longevity of telehealth’s expansion to audio-only services remains uncertain as states and the federal government each pursue revisions to pandemic-era policies and flexibilities.

In a report issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on March 23, 2021 (the “2021 Report”), representatives from 320 hospitals in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were interviewed on their experiences responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions were focused on the hospitals’ most difficult challenges in responding to COVID-19, strategies used by the hospitals in addressing or mitigating those challenges, and how the government could best support hospitals responding to COVID-19. This report was a follow-up to a similar OIG pulse survey released about a year ago on April 3, 2020 (the “2020 Report”), which summarized hospitals’ answers to the same questions near the start of the pandemic. The two reports, published one year apart, provide a useful snapshot into how hospital challenges have evolved in responding to the pandemic. Looking at the two reports side-by-side, we compare the challenges hospitals faced in 2020 versus the challenges they are now contending with one year later in 2021.

As is the case with most new technologies or significant industry innovations, companies embracing and driving the disruptions often move very fast in a legal and political landscape that is always playing catch-up. This is very true for the fast-growing telemedicine and digital health industries. However, likely motivated by COVID-19, state governments are moving faster than they traditionally do to pass new regulations and to extend certain regulatory waivers.

COVID-19 required a shift in the delivery of medical care with the state and local lockdowns. During the pandemic, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued guidance on various compliance waivers and enhanced flexibility. Governors across the country issued executive orders to help address the requirements of providing ongoing medical care while maintaining proper social distancing (e.g., New Mexico, Texas, etc.). The result was more people receiving medical care remotely. Similar to the realization by many that working from home was not only feasible but in some cases preferable, many also came to the conclusion that a trip to the doctors’ office was not necessary for the treatment of certain conditions.

Although vaccine rollout began slowly in the United States, millions of people are now being vaccinated against COVID-19 per day. As individuals receive the vaccine, states have been collecting personal health data in individual immunization registries. Experts say this data collection is essential to effectively monitor vaccination progress, report adverse reactions, compare vaccine efficacy in cross sections of the population, and keep track of who needs second doses and when.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers have faced unique challenges in the delivery of health care. As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, the CDC advised health care providers, especially in areas with widespread COVID-19 transmission, to offer care via telemedicine technologies where appropriate. As a result, although telemedicine has been emerging as an important player in the delivery of health care over the past several years, the pandemic has caused the use of and access to telemedicine to grow to an unprecedented scale. During the pandemic, telemedicine has materialized as an especially useful tool in triaging patients in emergency care settings. This “tele-triage” model provides significant opportunity for the health care industry.

The latest COVID-19 stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (the “Act”), enacted on March 11, 2021, provides $1.9 trillion in funding for various COVID-19 relief measures. However, while the Act includes many funding provisions, including those funding direct assistance to lower-income individuals and families, expanding “Obamacare” insurance subsidies and availability, increasing federal medical assistance percentage (“FMAP”) rates for Medicaid programs under certain circumstances, supporting public health workforce development, funding technical assistance to skilled nursing facilities (“SNFs”), and bolstering COVID-19 vaccine and testing efforts, it also has a few provisions that create new or directly augment existing financial supports available to providers and hospitals that have sustained losses during the pandemic.

Health care providers’ receipt of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act funds creates significant areas of potential liability for providers as these programs continue to change and evolve. As an accompaniment to our full in-depth guide, this is an overview of tips that providers can

CARES Act, Payroll Protection, and Medicare Advance Payment Programs
This document was last updated on July 20, 2020 to reflect changes made by the Department of Health and Human Services to its existing guidance.

In response to widespread cash flow issues resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress enacted two key pieces of legislation: