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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.

Telehealth, in direct response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, has undergone a massive expansion since March. Telehealth encounters are up exponentially as patients look for a safe, socially distant, option to receive health care services and providers try to keep vital hospital space available for COVID-19 care. Technical barriers, such as the lack of a strong broadband infrastructure, has limited the wide adoption of telehealth in rural areas. The FCC aims to combat the technical limitations, as this funding will help improve technology platforms and internet connectivity, so that patients have expanded access to affordable and efficient care. 

Eligible providers for the Rural Health Care Program include:

  1. post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
  2. community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
  3. local health departments or agencies;
  4. community mental health centers;
  5. not-for-profit hospitals;
  6. rural health clinics;
  7. skilled nursing facilities; and
  8. a combination of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories.

Please contact your primary BMD Healthcare & Hospital Law Group attorney if you have any questions regarding the Rural Health Care Program, this additional funding and how to apply for the use of funds, or any other general healthcare questions.

No Surprises Act Update: The IDR Portal is Open

The No Surprises Act (“NSA”) became effective January 1, 2022, and has been the subject of lawsuits and criticisms since its inception. The goals of the No Surprises Act are to shield patients from surprise medical bills, provide to uninsured and self-pay patients good faith estimates of charges, and create a process to resolve payment disputes over surprise bills, which arise most typically in emergency care settings. We have written about Part I and Part II of the NSA previously. This update concerns the Independent Dispute Resolution (“IDR”) procedure created by Part II but applicable to claims covered by Part I. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) finally opened the Portal for providers to submit disputes to the IDR process following some updated guidance regarding the arbitration process itself.

Updated FAQs for the No Surprises Act - Good Faith Estimates

The No Surprises Act (“NSA”) became effective January 1, 2022. Meant to protect consumers from surprise medical bills, the new law is good for consumers, but vexatious for health care providers and facilities. One particular source of frustration is the operationalization of the Good Faith Estimate (“GFE”) requirement, governed by Part II of the regulations that implement the NSA. The GFE requirements apply broadly to all healthcare providers and facilities that practice within the scope of their state-issued license.

IMPORTANT PRF UPDATE! HRSA Allows Providers the Opportunity to Correct Missed Period 1 Reporting

Late Wednesday, April 6, HRSA announced that it was going to allow providers with extenuating circumstances that prevented them from preventing a completed Period 1 Report to submit a Request to Report Late Due to Extenuating Circumstances.

Advanced Practice Providers and Telemedicine Start-Up Surge

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard a lot about “surges” that happened all over the country regarding the virus. One of the other interesting “surges” we have followed is the “surge” in new healthcare business start-ups, particularly businesses owned by advanced practice providers, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists (“Advanced Practice Providers” or “APPs”). One of the hottest areas in the healthcare start-up surge has been the creation of practices that are telemedicine focused.

Ohio Department of Health Releases Updated Charge Limits for Medical Records

Under Ohio law, a healthcare provider or medical records company that receives a request for a copy of a patient's medical record may charge an amount in accordance with the limits set forth in Ohio Revised Code Section 3701.741. The allowable amounts are increased or decreased annually by the average percentage of increase or decrease in the consumer price index for all urban consumers, prepared by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the immediately preceding calendar year over the calendar year immediately preceding that year, as reported by the Bureau. The Director of the Ohio Department of Health makes this determination and adjusts the amounts accordingly. The list is then published, here.