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Major Health Systems, Hospital-at-Home Company Launch Advocacy Effort

A coalition launched by several major health systems and a hospital-at-home company aims to continue delivering hospital-level-at-home care in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. McDermott+Consulting Vice President Mara McDermott said providers have demonstrated that the model is “of high value to patients.”

“At the end of the pandemic, without some sort of extension, the new model is at risk of going away or dramatically shrinking,” McDermott said. “Action by the federal government will ensure that this important and innovative source of care can continue.”

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Hospitals Push Back Against HHS Slashing of Reimbursement Rates

Hospitals are pushing back after the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cut Medicaid reimbursement rates to participating hospitals under the 340B drug discount program.

According to this article published in The Well News, 340B program supporters have filed a petition with the Supreme Court, arguing that HHS failed to collect sufficient data and that the department overstepped its authority with the cuts. McDermott Partner Emily Jane Cook said that the cuts will mean rural hospitals are “deprived of an important source of support for the services that they provide to their communities.”

Read more here.




The “New” Digital Healthcare Delivery System

Although digital health solutions have long been a key area of strategic growth for the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 crisis accelerated what it means to deliver safe and effective digitally-based care. As the United States shifts focus from short-term crisis response to longer-term solutions, what does a digitally-driven healthcare industry look like, and how can healthcare entities maintain the highest standards of care and meet patient expectations while constructively disrupting out-of-date practice patterns? During a recent virtual conversation, McDermott Partners Michael W. Ryan and Jennifer S. Geetter addressed these questions and more.

Read more here.




Whistleblowers, Fears of Losing Funds Key to Enforcing US Vaccine Rules

Even though the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccination rule for employers (though not for the healthcare sector), businesses should continue preparing for important OSHA deadlines.

According to this Reuters article, workplace whistleblowers and fears of disappearing federal funds will likely help with vaccination mandates within businesses, hospitals and nursing homes. However, OSHA is unlikely to demand proof from every healthcare provider of vaccination and testing protocols. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also typically does not survey accredited healthcare providers unless there is a complaint or a need for recertification, McDermott Partner Sandra DiVarco noted.

“On a stakeholder call, CMS reiterated their desire to work with providers to come into compliance and not to sort of send SWAT teams to go out and look for problems,” DiVarco said.

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Businesses Left in Limbo on COVID-19 Mandate

Following a US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decision to temporarily block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new vaccine requirement rule, many employers have found themselves in a state of confusion. According to this article published in The Hill, businesses could face steep penalties if they willfully violate the rule, such as fines of more than $130,000. But even though the rule is temporarily blocked, McDermott Partner Michelle Strowhiro said businesses should continue preparing for important OSHA deadlines.

“I think it’s prudent for employers to proceed with planning assuming that the OSHA rule, at least in some form or fashion, will be implemented pending final resolution of the various court cases,” Strowhiro said.

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Artificial Intelligence Myth Versus Reality: Where Do Healthcare Experts Think We Stand?

As the healthcare industry evaluates how to pay for artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, industry experts say data and real-world evidence are essential for reaching any payment decisions. In this Forbes article, McDermott Partners Dale C. Van Demark and Jiayan Chen provide insight into some of the regulatory challenges AI presents.

“For AI to be paid for, you need data that shows your product is making a difference,” Chen notes. “To do that, you need massive quantities of data to develop the tool or algorithm, but you also have to show that it works in a real-world setting.”

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Vaccine Exemption Requests Put Legal Departments in Tricky Spot

As more employers mandate vaccines for their workforces, in-house legal departments are encountering a host of challenges, including understanding religious accommodations and minimizing litigation exposure. According to this article published in Law.com, employers should have the ability to navigate Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII-related accommodation requests. However, McDermott Partner Carole Spink said many employers have never encountered the current breadth of religious exemption requests from their workforces.

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IRS Announces 2022 Employee Benefit Plan Limits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced the cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits for various employer-sponsored retirement and welfare plans for 2022. Most of the dollar limits currently in effect for 2021 will increase.

View the adjustments here.




Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks New OSHA Rule

On November 6, 2021, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued on November 4, 2021, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement COVID-19 vaccination policies. The ETS is stayed until further notice, halting its implementation temporarily. While the future of the ETS remains uncertain, employers may want to continue preparing for the ETS as if it is going to take effect while litigation continues.

Read more here.




OSHA and CMS Vaccination Rules Released: Here Are the Details

On November 4, 2021, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect employees of large employers in all industries from COVID-19. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) simultaneously released its Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule, applicable to most Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers, which must be met to continue participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Finally, the White House announced that its previously published federal contractor vaccination mandate would be updated to move the compliance deadline from December 8, 2021, to January 4, 2022.

Read more here.




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