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DOJ Updates Corporate Compliance Plan Guidance

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, all healthcare providers were required to adopt and implement a corporate compliance plan. Historically, having an effective corporate compliance plan in place has been key to defending healthcare providers in fraud and abuse actions by Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial payers. Over the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Division has increased the number of prosecutions against U.S. corporations, including healthcare providers. Earlier this month, the DOJ’s Criminal Division updated its “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” guidance to educate prosecutors on how a corporate compliance program will be evaluated going forward. https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/page/file/937501/download

If a healthcare provider is able to actively demonstrate its commitment to a culture of compliance as reflected in a comprehensive program, an Assistant U.S. Attorney (hereinafter “AUSA”) may elect to not file charges and/or may seek reduced charges. Regardless if an AUSA does bring formal charges, the new guidance allows a federal judge to impose a reduced sentence. Now, more than ever, it’s critically important that healthcare providers have an effective compliance program in place as it materially affects the penalties imposed for healthcare fraud and abuse violations. Having an effective compliance program can mean the difference in whether criminal charges are brought (which could result in prison time or large fines).

The June 2020 update from the DOJ covers a variety of specific topics, but essentially focuses on three questions in relation to an organization’s compliance program: 

  1. Is the compliance program well designed?
  2. Is the program applied earnestly and in good faith?
  3. Does the program work in practice?

In other words, an effective compliance plan must be a “living, breathing document” and not just a generic set of policies and procedures that is left forgotten on a shelf or computer system. 

A successful compliance program should focus on the provider’s internal compliance training program. The DOJ described an appropriately tailored training as “the hallmark of a well-designed compliance program” and periodic training helps to ensure that a compliance program is integrated into the organization. Relevant employees, as well as, senior managers (and in some situations, agents and business partners) should have training provided by the company regularly so that they may properly communicate and implement compliance policies and procedures. Furthermore, the organization must pay special attention to providing employees with the tools in which to seek assistance and/or respond to any potential compliance issues.

Throughout the update, the DOJ identifies specific areas where AUSA’s should focus in their determination of whether a compliance program is well-designed, earnestly implemented and effective. Two of these areas assist providers in designing, implementing and improving their compliance-based programs.

  1. Risk-Bask Training

Providers are expected to conduct an in-depth analysis of which employees require training and on what subjects. The organization should provide tailored trainings which reflect the specific risks in the work environment. Any employee who works in a high-risk role, has been involved in prior misconduct, or is senior management should receive ongoing trainings. 

  1. Form/Content/Effectiveness of Training

AUSA’s will not be impressed by merely having a program designed. They will instead focus on the form in which the training is being provided, including who is presenting the trainings. Real-world compliance lapses and testing by companies should be frequent.

The attorneys of Brennan, Manna & Diamond’s healthcare team are available to assist healthcare providers in drafting, implementing and improving their corporate compliance programs, trainings, and implementation processes.  Please contact Jeana Singleton at jmsingleton@bmdllc.com or 330-253-2001, Richard Crosby at rlcrosby@bmdpl.com or 614-246-7500, or your BMD healthcare attorney for more information. 

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

Looking for good news? If so, you are not alone. Aside from the collective mental, physical and emotional human toll imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, entire sectors of the economy have been ravaged, and old, familiar ways of doing business have been disrupted. Although deemed essential, the construction industry has not been immune to interruption and uncertainty during these unprecedented times. Amid new health and safety concerns, coupled with financial uncertainty, progress on projects has slowed, and the start dates for a number of new projects slated to begin in 2020 have been deferred. However, resilience has always been a trademark of contractors, subcontractors and other industry professionals. Reports indicate that while the construction industry lost more than one million jobs February through April, at least 600,000 of those jobs had been gained back by the end of June.

Yard Sign Do’s and Don’ts: How to Avoid Legal Challenges to Municipal Sign Codes this Election Season

As the nation heads into the tail end of the 2020 general election, municipalities will inevitably face challenges as they seek to regulate the seasonal proliferation of yard signs on residential property. While the matter may seem trifling, a seemingly benign yet content-based sign ordinance can result in significant legal exposure for municipalities that have not heeded recent Supreme Court decisions on content neutrality.