On July 20, 2022, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (“OIG”) issued a special fraud alert (“Alert”) advising “practitioners to exercise caution when entering into arrangements with purported telemedicine companies.” The Alert is only one of four such “special fraud alerts” that the OIG has issued in the past decade and it illustrates the importance of OIG’s statements.
OIG Flags Seven Characteristics of Telehealth Fraud
In the Alert, OIG cautions that certain companies that purport to provide telehealth, telemedicine, or telemarketing services (collectively, “Telemedicine Companies”) have carried out fraudulent schemes by: (i) aggressively recruiting physicians and non-physician practitioners (collectively, “Providers”) and (ii) paying kickbacks to such Providers in exchange for the ordering of unnecessary items or services, including durable medical equipment, genetic testing, and other prescription items. According to OIG, the fraudulent schemes have varied in design and operation and involved a variety of individuals, Providers, and health care vendors, including call centers, staffing companies, and marketers.

On July 7, 2022, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the “Healthcare Workers Minimum Wage Ordinance” (“Ordinance”) which, effective August 13, 2022, increases the minimum wage to $25 per hour for healthcare workers employed at privately-owned healthcare facilities within the City of Los Angeles.  Beginning January 1, 2024, the minimum wage will increase annually based

On July 12, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) – the agency which investigates and enforces federal antidiscrimination laws in the workplace – updated its guidance across several different areas relating to COVID-19 and the workplace, including when employees can be required to undergo COVID-19 testing, reasonable accommodations, and parameters around mandatory vaccination programs.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and California have taken recent steps to further protect the infant formula market from price gouging. On June 7, 2022, the D.C. Council passed the “Infant Formula Consumer Protection Emergency Act.” The Act, which will remain in effect for 90 days, targets companies selling baby formula at extremely high prices. The Act provides that companies may be subject to a $5,000 fine, for first-time offenses, or a $10,000 fine, for subsequent offenses, if they sell infant formula at a price greater than 20% of what they previously sold substantially similar formula in the District over the 90-day period prior to February 17, 2022. If the retailer never sold a substantially similar formula product in that 90-day period, they would face fines if they sell infant formula at a price greater than 20% of the average price of substantially similar infant formula product from substantially similar retailers.

On July 8, 2022, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”) published its much anticipated final rule on the special financial assistance (“SFA”) available to certain troubled multiemployer plans under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”).

As we previously described in our client alert, ARPA provided for cash payments from the PBGC to

On July 6, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it has entered into a conciliation agreement with a Florida-based medical practice for violations of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) arising out of the practice’s collection of employees’ family members’ COVID-19 testing results.

In a press release announcing the agreement, the EEOC

The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), recently issued new regulatory guidance relating to covered entities’ HIPAA-compliant use of remote communication technologies for audio-only telehealth services. This guidance is a direct response to a December 2021 Executive Order that tasked HHS with developing HIPAA guidance for telehealth services, with the stated goals of improving “patient experience and convenience” as the COVID-19 public health emergency subsides. HHS has issued this guidance in anticipation of the national public health emergency ending, at which time OCR’s Telehealth Notification loses effect.

The new HIPAA guidance affects covered entities in four key ways.

Perhaps channeling the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the IRS recently released Notice 2022-27 extending through December 31, 2022 its temporary relief from the requirement that spousal consent for plan distributions or loans be witnessed in person.

As discussed in greater detail in our earlier posts (here and here