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Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

FCC Funding Opportunity for Telehealth Equipment – Portal Open

Telehealth is becoming a necessary practice for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all providers have the means to institute a telehealth program. In order to help non-profit and public healthcare providers utilize telehealth, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) set aside $200 million in funds for telehealth equipment, broadband connectivity, and information services. The FCC has recently released a guidance document that describes how eligible providers can apply for this “COVID-19 Telehealth Program” and the portal for applying will open today, April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET.

Eligible providers include:

  • Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
  • Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
  • Local health departments or agencies;
  • Community mental health centers;
  • Not-for-profit hospitals;
  • Rural health clinics;
  • Skilled nursing facilities; or
  • Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities above.

These providers can apply for up to $1 million each to purchase “telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis so providers must apply for these funds as soon as they are available. The FCC has also indicated that it plans to target applicants serving high-risk and vulnerable patients, although the telehealth resources need not be directly related to treating COVID-19, and that applicants should indicate if they were under pre-existing strain (e.g., large underserved or low-income patient population; health care provider shortages; rural hospital closures; limited broadband access and/or Internet adoption). Other notable details of this funding opportunity include:

  • The requirement to conduct competitive bidding for covered purchases will be waived for covered purchases, although providers should be cost-conscious;
  • The standard prohibition on receiving gifts above nominal value will also be waived for items related to telehealth;
  • Providers may NOT receive these funds and other federal or state funds that cover the exact same services/devices;
  • Funding may NOT be used for health care provider administrative costs associated with participating in the COVID-19 telehealth Program (e.g., costs associated with completing COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications and other submissions) or other miscellaneous expenses (e.g., doctor and staff time spent on the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and outreach); and
  • Eligible providers who have purchased telecommunications and/or telemedicine equipment after March 13 can apply for funding support for those and any subsequent purchases.

The application is available starting April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET. These funds are first-come, first-served so providers should follow the following steps to be sure they are ready to apply:

  • Obtain an eligibility determination from FCC to receive funds (if a provider does not have one already, they can file an FCC Form 460 with the Universal Service Administration Company at the same time they submit their application for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program);
  • Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN); and
  • Register with System for Award Management (will help the award be processed quickly but can be done concurrently with applying for the telehealth funds).

The FCC will make an online portal available for completing and submitting applications and requests for funding here. Applicants can also use this link to find a webinar on April 13, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET to assist interested parties in navigating the application portal and answering FAQs about the program. More information will be posted on the Commission’s Keep Americans Connected page.

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 Telehealth Program please reach out to a BMD healthcare attorney.

New York, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Delaware Become the latest States to Adopt Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly created many obstacles and hardships, it also created many opportunities to try doing things differently. This can be seen in the instant rise of remote work opportunities, telehealth visits, and virtual meetings. Many States took the challenges of the pandemic and turned them into an opportunity to adjust the regulations governing licensed professionals, including for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.