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Department of Labor Updates COBRA FAQs and Model Notices

On May 1, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued updated Frequently Asked Questions and revised model notices under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA is a federal law that permits individuals to continue group health plan coverage for a limited period of time following certain events, such as a termination of employment, that are coupled with a loss of coverage. Employers are required to notify individuals of their rights under COBRA. The changes in the model notices are primarily designed to help Medicare-eligible individuals understand their options for healthcare coverage. The model notices, however, do not include language that addresses DOL relief issued earlier in the week that provides additional time for individuals to elect COBRA coverage through the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Plan sponsors should work with their COBRA vendors and legal counsel to determine whether the model notice updates or coronavirus...

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DOJ’s Enforcement Activity Against Individuals: Acute Focus on Telemedicine

DOJ’s focus on individual accountability is particularly important with respect to telemedicine. Telemedicine is a burgeoning field, with a projected market increase of 18% annually over the next six years, reaching $103 billion in 2024. In light of this recent surge in profitability, DOJ has begun paying extra attention to telemedicine, with at least one recent HHS-OIG report asserting that more than one-third of all telemedicine claims are improper. Continue reading.

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Bills Ban Gag Clauses in Pharmacy Contracts

On October 10, 2018 President Trump signed two bills that ban “gag clauses” in pharmacy contracts. Congress passed the two bills—one for Medicare prescription drug plans (“Know the Lowest Price Act”) that will go into effect in January 2020, and another for commercial employer-based and individual policies (“Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act”) effective immediately—by almost unanimous vote in September 2018. While many states have already prohibited the use of these clauses, this is the first such action on a federal level. Gag clauses are sometimes found in contracts between pharmacies and insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers or group health plans and bar pharmacists from telling customers that they could save money by paying cash for their prescriptions rather than using their health insurance. If pharmacists violate the gag rule, they risk penalties and/or contract termination. Under the new legislation, pharmacists are not required to tell...

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Medicare Part D Creditable Coverage Notices due before October 15, 2018

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 requires employers who offer prescription drug coverage to provide an annual notice to all Medicare Part D eligible individuals who are participants in, or eligible for, the employer’s prescription drug coverage indicating whether such coverage is creditable before October 15th of each year. “Creditable coverage” means that the prescription drug coverage offered by an employer plan is expected to pay, on average for all plan participants, as much as the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage pays. Prescription drug coverage is “non-creditable” when it is not expected to pay, on average for all plan participants, as much as the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage pays. The notice must be furnished regardless of whether the employer plan pays primary or secondary to Medicare, and must be sent to all Part D eligible individuals including retirees, actives, COBRA beneficiaries and dependents of such...

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Universal Health Bill Faces Steep Obstacles in New York

While momentum may be building for a single-payer health care system in New York, such a dramatic shift in the way health care is financed will have to overcome a number of significant obstacles. With ERISA preemption being one of those hurdles, Andrew Liazos comments, “There will be a challenge from somewhere. I don’t know who will lead the challenge, but I don’t think employer groups will just sit by idly.” Access the full article. Originally published in Bloomberg Law, August 2018.

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Round Two: Significant Telehealth Expansion Re-Proposed in Bipartisan Senate Bill

On May 3, 2017, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act of 2017 (S. 2016) (CONNECT Act of 2017) was reintroduced by the same six senators who had initially introduced the legislation in early 2016 and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. As we previously reported on February 29, 2016, this iteration of the proposed bill also focuses on promoting cost savings and quality care under the Medicare program through the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) services, and incentivizing such digital health technologies by expanding coverage for them under the Medicare program — albeit using different terminology. Read the full article.

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OIG Reports More than $731 Million in Inappropriate Medicare Meaningful Use Payments

Amanda Enyeart and Lisa Schmitz Mazur wrote this bylined article explaining how the HHS Office of Inspector General used a survey by the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program run by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to conclude that CMS made $729 million in inappropriate EHR incentive payments to physicians out of some $6 billion in such payments during the review period. Read the full article.

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More Federal Legislation Aimed at Expanding Medicare Coverage of Telehealth Services

Shelby Buettner, Marshall Jackson, Jr., Lisa Schmitz Mazur and Dale Van Demark wrote this bylined article on a proposed US Senate bill to expand Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services. The bill would require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test the effectiveness of telehealth models, and cover through the Medicare program those models that meet criteria for effectiveness, cost and quality improvement. Read the full article.

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IRS Issues Revised Requirements for Employers to Claim FICA Tax Refunds

On March 20, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Revenue Procedure 2017-28, which provides guidance to employers on obtaining employee consents used to support a claim for credit or refund of overpaid taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA). This OTS describes the new procedures and provides valuable information regarding the rules for amending past employment tax returns due to the over- or under-payment of Social Security, Medicare and Federal income tax on employee wages. Read the full article.  

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