According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm injuries are a serious public health problem in the United States. To combat this problem, many states have passed extreme risk protection order (“ERPO”) laws, otherwise known as “red flag laws.”

ERPO laws allow various individuals, including family members, health care providers, and law enforcement

During a press conference on Monday, March 29, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 72, which grants civil immunity to corporations, hospitals, nursing homes, government entities, schools, and churches from COVID-19-related lawsuits, except in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.  Plaintiffs who file suit in Florida alleging coronavirus-related injuries will face

On October 5, 2020, the White House issued President Trump’s Executive Order on Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental- and Behavioral-Health Needs (the “Executive Order”), which seeks to provide federal support to address mental and behavioral health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Executive Order acknowledges the exacerbating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic

Following the distribution of billions of relief aid to healthcare providers and amidst the guidance issued around reopening of nursing homes throughout the country, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) unveiled a COVID-19 Response Strategic Plan on May 26, 2020 after updating its Workplan a few days earlier.

Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of General Counsel issued Advisory Opinion 20-02, which declared that the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), combined with the HHS Secretary’s March 10, 2020 declaration, preempts state or local requirements that would prevent pharmacists from ordering or administering COVID-19 tests

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released official diagnosis coding guidance for health care encounters and deaths related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), potentially in anticipation of more frequent cases in the United States. The guidance identifies specific ICD-10-CM codes to be used to code encounters.

CDC advises that patients presenting

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although there have been imported cases of Covid-19 detected in the United States, “at this time, the virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.”[1]  However, on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, Nancy Messonier, the CDC’s Director of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, urged American businesses and families to start preparing for the possibility of a large outbreak, noting that the virus spread quickly once it appeared in other countries.[2]  Although the World Health Organization (WHO) still has not called Covid-19 a pandemic, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, suggests that countries need to be doing everything they can to contain the virus, at least in order to buy some time.[3]

To that end, the CDC has been tapping some of its quarantine powers.  CDC has authority to oversee quarantine and isolation of persons who carry communicable diseases, derived from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and codified in section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 264).[4]  The CDC’s authority, however, is limited to persons arriving in the United States or traveling between states.  Each state has its own laws regarding quarantine powers, and the CDC also relies on state authorities to implement and enforce quarantine orders.  There is some risk that state health authorities could act in a manner that is inconsistent with the intentions of the CDC (to be more or less restrictive).  The CDC has not issued a large-scale isolation and quarantine since the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.[5]

Continue Reading Potential Tensions Lie Ahead Between Federal and State Authorities Over the Application of CDC Quarantine Powers

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV, also known as “SARS-CoV-2”) has been declared a public health emergency (PHE) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This designation authorizes HHS to direct funding to: (1) enable the dissemination of information about the virus; (2) encourage research and development of diagnostic and treatment techniques; (3) improve

Health policy has been the focus of several House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings this month.  Notably, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held its first legislative hearing on cannabis policy, although much of the hearing focused on the status of marijuana research under the Controlled Substances Act, as discussed in a recent Reed

Congress has completed action on federal fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending, and President Trump has signed the two domestic and national security funding packages into law.  The major health care policy provisions included in the domestic spending package, HR 1865, the “‘Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020” (the “Act”), are summarized below.

Repeal of ACA Device, Insurance Taxes

The Act permanently repeals the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 2.3% excise tax on the sale of certain medical devices, which has been a top priority of the medical technology industry.  It also permanently repeals the excise tax on certain high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage (the so-called “Cadillac tax”) and the annual excise tax imposed on health insurer providers.

Medicare Part B Policies

The Act incorporates provisions of the Laboratory Access for Beneficiaries (LAB) Act, which delays the next round of clinical laboratory private payer data reporting for one year.  The Act also directs the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to study how to improve this data collection.

In addition, the Act excludes certain complex rehabilitative manual wheelchairs (e.g., HCPCS codes E1235, E1236, E1237, E1238, and K0008) from the Medicare durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program.  The Act also bars CMS from using competitive bidding rate information to adjust payment for certain wheelchair accessories and cushions furnished with complex rehabilitative manual wheelchairs.

The Act reimburses acute care hospitals on a reasonable cost basis for furnishing allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants.  It also extends outpatient hospital pass-through status for a number of diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Public Health Extenders

The Act extends through May 22, 2020 a number of Medicare, Medicaid, and public health programs and policies, including the following:
Continue Reading FY 2020 Government Funding Bill Repeals ACA Health-Related Taxes, Extends Expiring Health Provisions, Makes Other Health Policy Updates

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings December 10, 2019 to examine nine legislative proposals intended to expand health insurance coverage and reduce health care costs, including Medicare buy-in bills.  The Committee also recently held hearings on FDA oversight of the US drug supply chain and regulation of cosmetics, along with public health preparedness

President Trump has signed into law a short-term continuing resolution that funds the federal government and extends certain expiring health care programs through December 20, 2019.  With regard to health care programs, the measure (HR 3055) delays a scheduled $4 billion reduction in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital allotments until December 21, 2019 and

October Congressional hearings have focused on the following health policy topics:

  • A House Ways and Means Committee hearing addressed “Investing in the U.S. Health System by Lowering Drug Prices, Reducing Out-of-Pocket Costs, and Improving Medicare Benefits.”
  • A House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, “Sabotage: The Trump Administration’s Attack on Health Care,” featured testimony from CMS

On September 26, 2019 the Senate approved H.R. 4378, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020, and Health Extenders Act of 2019, which would fund the federal government through November 21, 2019.  The House has already approved the legislation, and President Trump is expected to sign the bill.  The legislation includes a number of health program

Prior to the 4th of July break, Senate and House Committees approved more than a dozen health policy bills, covering topics including:  surprise medical bills, health pricing transparency, drug prices and competition, various Medicare policies, and public health program reauthorization, among others.  The following are highlights of recent action.  Note that none of the bills has yet been considered by the full House or Senate, and all are subject to change during the legislative process.

Senate HELP Committee

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved S 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.  This high-profile, bipartisan legislation would hold patients harmless from “surprise” medical bills for out-of-network services provided at an in-network facility, with payment to out-of-network providers set at the median contracted rate for in-network providers in the geographic area (a controversial “benchmark rate” proposal).  The bill contains separate protections regarding costs for emergency room and air ambulance services.  Additionally, S 1895 seeks to improve health care transparency by, among other things, banning what are described as “anticompetitive” terms in contracts between insurers and providers; providing patients with additional information on out-of-pocket costs; and regulating certain pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) pricing practices.  The legislation also includes numerous provisions intended to promote generic drug and biosimilar biological product innovation; improve health information exchange and strengthen health entity cybersecurity practices; and authorize various public health programs.  The Committee approved the bill on June 26, 2019 on a vote of 20-3.  Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander expressed hope for full Senate consideration of the bill in July.

During the same markup, the HELP Committee also approved S 1173, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Reauthorization Act, and S 1199, the Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2019.

Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the following four bills that are intended to help reduce prescription drug prices:

  • S 1227, the Prescription Pricing for the People Act of 2019, which would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study the role of PBMs in the pharmaceutical supply chain and provide Congress with related policy recommendations.
  • S 440, the Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs Act, which would bar patent owners from asserting sovereign immunity, including the sovereign immunity accorded to an Indian tribe, in certain drug patent disputes.
  • S 1224, the “Stop STALLING Act,” to authorize the FTC to take action against entities that file “sham” citizen petitions to attempt to interfere with approval of a competing generic drug or biosimilar.
  • S 1416, Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2019, which would authorize the FTC to challenge certain brand manufacturer practices (e.g., “product hopping” and “patent thickets”) that could discourage generic drug and biological use.

House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee recently passed the following health policy bills:
Continue Reading Congressional Committees Advance Multiple Bills Addressing Surprise Medical Billing, Prescription Drug Policy, and Other Health Policy Issues

The new Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (the Act), recently signed into law by President Trump, includes extensive Medicare, Medicaid, and other health policy and payment provisions.  Policy changes that will be welcome to health care providers and manufacturers include:  repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB); elimination of the Medicare outpatient therapy caps;

A number of recent Congressional hearings focused on the opioid crisis, including the following:

President Trump has signed into law S 920, the National Clinical Care Commission Act, which establishes a national clinical care commission to improve coordination of federal programs that support care for people with complex metabolic syndromes and related autoimmune disorders.

In addition, President Trump signed HR 304, Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act

President Trump has signed into law a bill (P.L. 115-63) that extends the Medicare Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG) Demonstration through December 31, 2020. The law also extends through the first quarter of FY2018 (1) the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, and (2) the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

The President also