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Supreme Court OKs CMS Vaccine Mandate but Blocks OSHA Rule

On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States released two emergency opinions that change the landscape of the three federal vaccine rules. In summary:

  • A 5-4 Court majority let the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) enforce its vaccine mandate nationwide, impacting specified healthcare facilities.
  • A 6-3 majority blocked the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing its vax-or-test Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) applicable to large employers.
  • The third federal vaccine rule—the federal contractor vaccine mandate—remains subject to multiple legal challenges and, at this time, the government is blocked from enforcing the mandate nationwide. The Court has not yet weighed in on this mandate.

Read more here.




Are Out-of-Pocket Costs on Their Way Out? At-Home COVID-19 Testing and Expanded Preventative Healthcare for Women and Children

In response to a directive from the White House, based on provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that eliminated cost sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, three federal government departments—the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the US Department of Labor (Labor) and the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury)—issued guidance in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that states group health plans and insurers must also cover over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic testing. This guidance is effective beginning January 15, 2022.

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) updated the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) comprehensive preventive care and screening guidelines for women and children to cover additional services and supplies without a copay or deductible, effective 2023.

COVID-19 AT-HOME TESTING COVERAGE

On January 10, 2022, HHS, Labor and the Treasury together issued FAQs that elaborated on prior guidance and indicated that group health plans and insurers are required to cover OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests without cost sharing. Because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases resulting from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the guidance will continue for the duration of the public emergency.

Most consumers with private health coverage will be able to buy OTC COVID-19 tests and either have the cost covered upfront or be reimbursed later by submitting a claim to their health plan. The new requirement only applies to “diagnostic” OTC COVID-19 testing. It does not include the treatment of COVID-19 or testing that is for employment purposes.

The guidance provides that health plans and insurers must cover at least eight OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests per covered individual per a 30-day period. Insurers will be able to set up networks of preferred suppliers to provide OTC COVID-19 tests directly to participants without upfront costs. Insurers must still reimburse OTC COVID-19 tests purchased outside the direct coverage program, however, the reimbursable amount is limited to $12 per test if the health plan also provides tests through its preferred pharmacy network and through a direct-to-consumer shipping program without upfront costs.

Besides the risk of increasing the average cost of OTC COVID-19 tests, the new initiative raises concerns over fraud and abuse. For health plans and insurers to protect themselves, the FAQs provide several examples of permissible activities to prevent fraud and abuse, like requiring proof of purchase or an attestation that the test was purchased for proper purposes (i.e., is being used by the covered individual, is not being reimbursed by another source, is not being resold and is not for employment purposes).

HRSA UPDATES ACA PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE GUIDELINES

On January 11, 2022, HRSA announced that it updated the preventive health and screening guidelines for women, infants, children and adolescents. Under the ACA, certain group health plans and insurers must provide coverage with no out-of-pocket costs for preventive health services within these HRSA-endorsed comprehensive guidelines.

HRSA accepted the updates recommended by the Women’s Preventative [...]

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Returning to the Office?

While remote work provides many conveniences, the office offers an ‘interpersonal glue’ that is difficult to replicate when working from home. As McDermott Partner Tina Martini notes in this Chicago Lawyer article, there are countless opportunities to develop professional and personal relationships in the office.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today as an attorney and professional if I didn’t have these chances,” Martini said.

Read more here.




Staying Connected: An Update on Medicare Reimbursement for Telehealth Services After the PHE

In hopes that the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will soon end, Congress and the administration are evaluating the telehealth expansions and flexibilities put in place to respond to the PHE. As a result, the future for telehealth stakeholders remains uncertain. This article outlines various changes in Medicare telehealth reimbursement policy in effect during the PHE and identifies what actions would be required to make these changes permanent.

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Federal Vaccine Mandates Are Back in Play (For Now)

The courts continue to move the vaccine mandate goalposts on employers as dozens of legal challenges work their way through the courts. The latest developments are major game changers for employers. As of today, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) vaccine-or-test rule is enforceable nationwide, and the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Interim Final Rule (IFR) mandating vaccination, subject to exemptions, is enforceable in 25 states.

Read more here.




Fifth Circuit Brings Enforcement Back into the Mix: The Latest Court Moves with the CMS Vaccination Mandate

A flurry of litigation in federal district and appellate courts has led to an even split between states in which the COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may be implemented and states in which such implementation has been prevented. Additional appeals are expected shortly; however, the practical effect of these decisions on enforcement of the CMS mandate remains uncertain.

Read more here.




New York City Unveils COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Details

On December 13, 2021, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, published an order (the Order) requiring private employers to impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates upon all in-person employees within New York City, with limited exceptions, as of December 27, 2021. DOHMH provided a series of FAQs and additional guidance on December 15, 2021. The Order follows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s December 6, 2021, announcement of this impending mandate.

Read more here.




‘Very Fluid Situation’ as Courts Halt COVID Vaccination Rules for Healthcare Providers

While the fate of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) November 5 vaccination mandate rests in the hands of the federal courts, experts say the potential loss of healthcare employees outweighs any of the mandate’s benefits. In this Health Care Compliance Association article, McDermott Partner Sandra M. DiVarco called the situation “bonkers.”

“Almost every hospital has so many unfilled positions, and they are concerned even a small amount of forced terminations will impact their ability to staff and risk burnout in the staff they have,” DiVarco said.

Access the article (page 3).




Georgia Court Issues Nationwide Injunction Blocking Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate

On December 7, 2021, the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a nationwide injunction that blocks the federal government from enforcing the federal contractor and subcontractor vaccine mandate. The preliminary injunction issued is for the pendency of the litigation challenging the enforceability of the mandate filed by the states of Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. This injunction order may be challenged on appeal.

Read more here.




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