Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
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Digital Health 2021 Year in Review

The continuation of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) and consumer demand for digitally delivered healthcare not only necessitated the shift from in-person to virtual care, but also continued to drive interest, adoption, investment and transactions in digital health in 2021. Digital health funding in 2021 far surpassed 2020’s totals, with no signs of slowing down in 2022, and the potential permanence of some regulatory flexibilities beyond the PHE are charting a course for continued digital health growth in 2022 and beyond.

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

US employers have grown increasingly interested in identifying incentives that increase COVID-19 vaccination among employees. The US Departments of Labor, Treasury and Human and Human Services recently issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs. In this Employee Benefit Plan Review article, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall and McDermott Associate Sarah G. Raaii outline what this HIPPA guidance means for employers.

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

On October 4, 2021, the US Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs.

Employers have grown more interested in exploring incentives designed to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among employees. Some employers have announced plans to charge unvaccinated employees higher contributions for health coverage than vaccinated employees, while some have been considering other options, such as excluding coverage for COVID-related illnesses, charging higher cost-sharing for COVID-19-related illnesses and offering more generous plan options to employees who are vaccinated.

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Premium Surcharges for the Unvaccinated Are Lawful Within Limits

Many plan administrators expressed bewilderment at the Biden administration’s recent guidance to limit vaccine incentive or surcharge programs for unvaccinated plan participants. According to this SHRM article, which features insight from McDermott Partner Judith Wethall, any premium surcharges must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPPA) nondiscrimination rules. HIPPA nondiscrimination rules allow for participatory and health-contingent permissible wellness programs.

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FTC Issues Policy Statement Expanding Interpretation of Health Breach Notification Rule’s Scope

On September 15, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted 3–2 along party lines (with Republican commissioners dissenting) to issue a policy statement announcing an expansive interpretation of the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule, 16 CFR Part 318 (the Rule). According to the policy statement, the Rule applies to health apps and connected devices that are not subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) but are capable of drawing information from multiple sources—for example, through a combination of consumer inputs and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Read more here.




Red Tape, Legal Risk Douse Fervor for Surcharges on Unvaccinated

Companies curious about a major airline’s unvaccinated healthcare premium surcharge are discovering that it may be too complex to copy. The airline recently announced that unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s health plan would see a $200 monthly surcharge. In this Bloomberg Law article, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall said the compliance hurdles are “tricky and kind of dilute the message.”

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COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A

Can employers mandate some employees get the vaccine and not others? Is there an obligation to consider requiring a COVID-19 test before coming back to work? What are the potential workers’ compensation claims relating to possible adverse reactions to a vaccine? Should employers mandate vaccinations?

In this article, McDermott partners Carole Spink, Joseph Mulherin, Kathleen Quinn and Troy Van Dongen answer common employer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

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VIDEO: Transfers of Health Data from the European Union to the United States in a Post-Schrems II World

In this video, McDermott Will & Emery partner Amy C. Pimentel explains the significance of health data transfers from the European Union to the United States in a post-Schrems II world. The recent Schrems II ruling invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield, holding that the US legal regime on access to personal data does not contain adequate limitations and safeguards. Pimentel and McDermott’s Romain Perray recently also wrote for McDermott’s International News about this topic.

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Worker Safety, Privacy Clash as Temperature Checks Become Norm

Employers are poised to collect health data from their workforces daily as they adopt temperature checks and other screening protocols to fight the coronavirus, triggering concerns about workers’ privacy and whether the practices will continue beyond the pandemic.

“The temperature checks give employees and customers the feeling of safety and the idea that the company is doing everything possible, even if the screenings don’t protect the workplace,” said Michael Sheehan, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery, in a recent Bloomberg Law article.

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COVID-19: FAQs on Employees Experiencing Symptoms and Employee Absences

With rapid developments in local, state and federal guidance and law, the appropriate approach for each employer in relation to COVID-19 will vary depending on the nature of their work, the industries served and their location and size, among other considerations. This article outlines what employers need to know about employees experiencing symptoms and employee absences.

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