Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Report Highlights Telehealth Program Integrity Concerns

On December 1, 2022, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) Health Care Subgroup issued its report on fraud, waste and abuse risks that arose as a result of the dramatic increase in telehealth services provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PRAC was created under the CARES Act to oversee the historic spending that was part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The PRAC Health Care Subgroup comprises the offices of the inspector general (OIGs) for six federal agencies:

  • The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • The US Department of Defense (DoD)
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Labor (DOL)
  • The US Department of Justice (DOJ).

Each OIG oversees an agency that administers a federal program connected to using or paying for telehealth services.

The report highlights the increased access to services that telehealth facilitated during the pandemic and notes key focus areas with respect to program integrity and preventing fraud and abuse. The report is a resource intended to be used by stakeholders across the healthcare industry, including congressional lawmakers, federal and state agencies, and healthcare organizations. The report aims to raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding expanded telehealth services against fraud, waste and abuse.

Read more here.




Employer Benefits to Assist with Student Loan Debt

What can employers do to assist workers with student loan debt? According to this PlanSponsor article, some strategies include direct-to-worker payments or an indirect option for student debt repayment benefits. McDermott Partner Jeffrey Holdvogt said a loan consolidation or refinancing option can help workers get a lower interest rate.

“There’s an expectation that many individuals will begin repaying student loans again sometime soon and what should employers be thinking about in terms of student loan benefits [for workers]? There’s a few different buckets of options for employers to provide student loan benefits,” Holdvogt said.

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EEOC Alleges Abortion Travel Benefits Violate ADA, Title VII; Abortion Rates Tick Up; Indiana Judge Rules Ban Violates Religious Freedom

Lawyers are advising employers to beef up their health-related travel benefits to emphasize equal access for all employees as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission begins to target employers that have expanded travel coverage for abortions.

EEOC’s charges come as new data indicate the rate of abortions accessed by Americans has ticked up, reversing a years-long decline, according to a new census from the Guttmacher Institute.

While litigation over state bans simmers in several states, abortion activists scored a win in Indiana after a judge ruled the state’s ban violates religious freedom protections enacted by statehouse Republicans. Abortion access has been temporarily restored in Indiana while litigation continues.

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Prescription Drug Data Reporting: What the “Good Faith Compliance” Extension Really Means for Self-Funded Group Health Plans

We recently reported on an FAQ issued December 23, 2022 (FAQ About Affordable Care Act and Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 Implementation Part 56) by the US Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments). The FAQ provides limited, albeit welcome, relief by extending the time for reporting information under the prescription drug data collection (RxDC) rules, which were enacted by Section 204 of Title II of Division BB of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.

Under the statute, the first RxDC reports for the 2020 calendar (or reference) year, were due to be filed by December 27, 2021. However, in response to concerns expressed by stakeholders, enforcement was pushed back a full year to December 27, 2022, at which time the reports for both the 2020 and 2021 reference years were due. The RxDC reporting process required the submission of one or more “plan lists,” a series of eight data files (files D1 through D8) and an accompanying narrative response. (The contents of the plan lists, data files and narrative responses are comprehensively explained here (the Instructions).)

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Independent Contractor Rule Draws 55,000-plus Comments

A US Department of Labor proposal to toughen its independent contractor rule is generating controversy and a lot of interest. Business groups, unions, advocacy organizations and individuals seized the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule, with more than 55,000 comments received by the deadline.

The rules developed by President Biden’s administration will determine who is an independent contractor and an employee. If the government decides that a business is misclassifying workers as independent contractors, it may face fines and legal action.

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