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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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The “New” Digital Healthcare Delivery System

Although digital health solutions have long been a key area of strategic growth for the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 crisis accelerated what it means to deliver safe and effective digitally-based care. As the United States shifts focus from short-term crisis response to longer-term solutions, what does a digitally-driven healthcare industry look like, and how can healthcare entities maintain the highest standards of care and meet patient expectations while constructively disrupting out-of-date practice patterns? During a recent virtual conversation, McDermott Partners Michael W. Ryan and Jennifer S. Geetter addressed these questions and more.

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Women and the Pandemic Workplace: Corporate Leadership’s Important New Challenges

While a recent McKinsey and LeanIn.org women and the workplace study pointed to positive gains for women in corporate leadership roles in 2020, women continue to face substantial burdens in their careers. According to this Forbes article, McDermott Partner Michael Peregrine says such burdens pose a “significant threat to the economic and cultural health of an organization.” These burdens include hierarchical validation, burnout, and significant bias and discrimination for women of color.

“Ideally, boards can use the 2020 progress as evidence that their leadership on gender equity can—and does—make a difference,” Peregrine notes.

Access the article.




When Is COVID-19 a Disability? Courts Tackle Issue in Bias Cases

A Pennsylvania federal judge recently allowed an employee to move forward with a discrimination lawsuit after her employer terminated her following a positive COVID-19 test result. According to this Bloomberg Law article, the judge noted that COVID-19 could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, it’s unclear if the ADA also protects infected workers before they display long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. McDermott Partner Brian Mead said the employee’s presentation of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms (including loss of smell and taste) was also key in the judge’s ruling.

“The difference between having a cough or a substantial lung impairment is the difference between being covered by the ADA or not covered,” Mead said.

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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.

Read more here.




Corporate Governance and the Permanency of COVID-19

As COVID-19 becomes an endemic threat, corporate officers should accept the fact that the virus will be a permanent enterprise risk for the indefinite future.

In this FT Specialist article, McDermott Partner Michael Peregrine says corporate boards should place their focus on business and operational challenges that result from the pandemic. These include:

  • Enhanced workplace safety in response to delta’s extreme transmissibility;
  • An equitable, enforceable and sustainable approach to employees who do not get vaccinated;
  • The feasibility of current return-to-work plans;
  • Work-from-home arrangements as a more permanent employment model; and
  • The pandemic’s outsize impact on female employees.

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Just How Many Employers Will Mandate Vaccines?

An August Willis Towers Watson poll found that 52% of 961 surveyed companies intend to implement at least one vaccine mandate by 2021’s fourth quarter. In a poll in May, 72% of respondents said they had no plans to require vaccines.

To encourage vaccination, some employers—like Delta Air Lines—are introducing or considering company healthcare plan surcharges for unvaccinated employees. However, in this article published via Advisory Board, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall said few employers have actually “pulled the trigger” on such a move.

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Protecting the Telehealth Consumer: FTC and State-Based Considerations

Telemedicine in the United States is facing an important crossroads. While telehealth services have demonstrated their value as an integral part of care delivery, federal and state waivers instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to expire soon. As lawmakers and agency officials consider updated or expanded digital health rules, regulators are expected to intensify their scrutiny of providers.

In this webinar, McDermott partners Jiayan Chen and Brian J. Boyle explore consumer protections for telehealth consumers, including the following:

  • Privacy considerations beyond the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, including Federal Trade Commission requirements;
  • How to prepare for the Health Breach Notification Rule;
  • The ins and outs of advertising telehealth, including claims, endorsements and social media;
  • Strategies for engaging with users in the digital environment; and
  • Increased fraud enforcement.

Access the webinar.




Four Things To Know About COVID ‘Long-Haulers’ At Work

Research continues to shed light on COVID-19’s long-term health effects for some people, and these “post-COVID conditions” will create additional challenges for employers.

In this Law360 article, McDermott partner Carole A. Spink says employers should be aware that long-haul COVID symptoms mean additional accommodations for employees.

“As they have done throughout the pandemic, employers should have a plan for addressing potential long-term absences as a result of post-COVID effects. On the practical side, at some point employers may need to determine whether a particular situation has become such that providing a continuing reasonable accommodation would pose an undue burden,” Spink notes.

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Pfizer’s Full Approval Triggers New Vaccine Mandates

The full US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has led to vaccine mandates by both governments and businesses. More companies will implement their own vaccine requirements in light of the FDA approval, according to McDermott partner Michelle Strowhiro in this The Hill article.

“What employers are trying to balance right now is implementing the right safety standards for their workforce while also being cognizant of the fact that the labor market is so difficult and many employers are already struggling with having the right number of people on staff,” Strowhiro said.

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