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Biden Administration Takes Action to Improve Competition, Transparency and Quality for Hospitals and Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published detailed databases summarizing changes of ownership of Medicare-enrolled hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The databases currently include information from 2016 to 2022, but the data will be updated and released quarterly. CMS also released the skilled nursing facility prospective payment system (SNF PPS) proposed rule (the Proposed Rule), including proposed updates to payment based on quality and value-based care measures.

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OSHA Announces Plan to ‘Expand Its Presence’ in Certain Healthcare Facilities Treating COVID-19 Patients

Between March 9, 2022, and June 9, 2022, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will “expand its presence” in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities that treat COVID-19 patients and that were previously cited or issued Hazard Alert Letters for alleged COVID-19 violations. OSHA’s stated purpose is to “target[] high-hazard healthcare facilities” to “verify and assess . . . compliance actions taken” by employers to rectify prior allegations related to COVID-19 safety violations. The initiative is focusing on employers’ “readiness to address any ongoing or future COVID-19 surges.”

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Saga and Legal Challenges Continue Despite Vaccine Requirement for Healthcare Workers

The US Supreme Court’s January ruling allowing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to enforce its COVID-19 mandate is likely to continue to face challenges. Nevertheless, in this article published by the Health Care Compliance Association, McDermott Partner Sandra DiVarco said that the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t a surprise.

“Many of [the CMS] providers may have slow-walked their compliance and now in theory need to be fully compliant,” DiVarco noted.

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2022 Health Policy Outlook

The US healthcare system is entering the third year of a public health emergency due to COVID-19, and the challenges and enduring pressures of the pandemic will require US Congress and the Biden administration to consider new response strategies. But other health policy priorities also will garner attention. As we start a new year and new congressional session, McDermott+Consulting examines the health policy priorities and key initiatives likely to dominate the agenda in 2022.

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CMS Will Finalize Heightened Penalties, Additional Requirements Under Hospital Price Transparency Rule

On November 2, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will implement increased penalties for hospitals that do not comply with the Hospital Price Transparency Rule, effective January 1, 2022. CMS will also finalize several additional requirements for hospitals, including a requirement that hospitals ensure standard charge information is accessible to automated searches and direct downloads.

CMS will implement a sliding penalty scale based on the hospital’s number of beds. Hospitals with 30 or fewer beds will face a maximum daily penalty of $300, while hospitals with between 31 and 550 beds will face a maximum daily penalty of $10 per bed. Hospitals with more than 550 beds will face a maximum daily penalty of $5,500.

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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.”

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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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Recently Updated | COVID-19 FAQs for US Employers

How should US employers approach the Coronavirus? With rapid developments in local, state and federal guidance and law, the appropriate approach for each employer will vary depending on the nature of the work, industries served, location(s), size, amongst other considerations. We recently updated these FAQs to provide you with the latest developments and best practices for your business.

Access the FAQ here.




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