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COMPLIANCE

5 things to do when implementing a vaccine passport policy at your medical office

Like many other health providers, you might have been undecided about whether to mandate that your employees get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, now that the FDA has fully approved a coronavirus vaccine, namely, the Pfizer BioNTech, you are on much stronger legal ground in requiring that employees get vaccinated. One strategy that may work, especially for offices that aren’t administering the vaccine for their own employees, is to implement a vaccine passport, i.e., a policy requiring personnel to present proof of their vaccination status to gain entry to the workplace. What is a vaccine passport? A “vaccine passport” is a commonly accepted means of showing that a person has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Some foreign governments are creating official, uniform cards that individuals must display. (Go to this link for… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Watch for vaccine mandate and outcome of remote work lawsuit

By Mike O’Brien  Watching for OSHA’s new vaccine mandate rule President Joe Biden has instructed the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop an emergency rule that will require private-sector employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their employees be vaccinated or receive a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Employers who fail to do so will face fines. In addition, regardless of employee headcount, OSHA will require all federal contractors to mandate vaccinations for their employees with no option for employees to receive weekly testing instead. Similarly, OSHA will require all employers in healthcare settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement to mandate employee vaccinations, with no weekly testing option. President Biden’s announcement was welcomed by many business leaders but criticized by Republican… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Fraud recoveries grow as feds target telemedicine and COVID-19 add-on test scams

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and continued sequestration of enforcement funds, the federal Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program (Program) reversed recent trends and recovered more money in FY 2020 than it had the year before. In fact, recoveries for the year reached nearly $3.1 billion, the highest return since 2016. Here’s a briefing for medical office managers on the July 14 OIG report and what it says about the current state of federal health care fraud enforcement. ROI increases for second year in a row The Program was created as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) under the joint direction of the Attorney General and HHS Secretary, acting through the OIG, to coordinate federal, state and local law health care fraud and abuse… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

OSHA orders inspectors to use the hammer to enforce new COVID-19 protocols

On June 21, OSHA issued a new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring health care providers to take extensive measures to protect frontline workers against risk of COVID-19 infection. Exactly one week later, the agency issued internal Compliance Directive 2021-02 (the Directive) telling OSHA inspectors how to enforce the new ETS. The 67 pages of instructions shed light on how the agency intends to hand out penalties for violations, which, in turn, offers insights for offices on how to avoid them. What the ETS covers Responding to criticism about health care workers being left unprotected during the pandemic, the ETS lays down a laundry list of things providers must do to guard against workplace COVID-19 infections. Although most of the measures were already required under previous public health guidelines, the ETS… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

FDA reverses course on healthcare worker re-use of N95 masks

For decades, the N95 filtered mask has been a vital piece of personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers. But for months, shortages of that precious item which was previously taken for granted left countless health care workers defenseless from exposure to the coronavirus. The good news is that the N95 shortages have finally abated, with surplus stockpiles enough to last three to 12 months. As a result, federal regulators are beginning to unwind some of the health and safety shortcuts they authorized labs to take to deal with the lack of adequate N95 supplies. The FDA calls for ending N95 recycling & sharing National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standards dictate that N95 masks be used once and then thrown away. But as an emergency response to… . . . read more.

HIPAA

Could your organization’s website reveal your HIPAA non-compliance?

By Danika Brinda Did you know that your organization’s website can reveal to the world that you are out of compliance with HIPAA? A quick look at your organization’s website could reveal to a HIPAA auditor that your organization is struggling with HIPAA compliance. Wondering what I am referring to? The Notice of Privacy Practices! The regulations state that your organization must ensure that the most current version of your Notice of Privacy Practices is posted on the organization’s website (if one exists). Here is the specific language of the regulations: CFR 164.520(c)(3)(i) – A covered entity that maintains a website that provides information about the covered entity’s customer services or benefits must prominently post its notice (of privacy practices) on their website and make the notice available electronically through their website. Go… . . . read more.

FALSE CLAIMS

Provider pays $214K for violating federal COVID-19 workplace protocols

In one of the first of what will likely be a flood of enforcement actions, the Texas parent of an Iowa nursing home has agreed to repay $214,200 in federal monies for not following coronavirus safety protocols during an outbreak at the facility from April through July 2020. Among other things, the nursing home didn’t properly screen employees or require them to wear personal protective equipment. According to newspaper reports, three employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and who subsequently tested positive for the virus were allowed to come to work and be near vulnerable residents, 11 of whom died during the outbreak. The False Claims Act connection The relatively small settlement award belies the importance of this case. What the case illustrates is that failure to follow COVID-19 protocols can result… . . . read more.

QUIZ

Who Has OSHA responsibility for the health & safety of a temp?

What are your OSHA duties to temporary workers (“temps”) whom you hire from a temp agency to work at your medical office? Stated differently, are you or the temp agency responsible for the temp’s health and safety? Here’s a set of scenario quizzes that illustrate how the rules work. SCENARIO 1: RESPONSIBILITY FOR HAZCOM TRAINING The Temps R’Us Agency (Agency) assigns an employee to temporary work at XYZ Medical Office (Office). Agency is aware that Office’s workers handle and use hazardous chemicals for testing operations. But the temp has no Hazcom training whatsoever. As a result, he suffers an injury as a result of exposure to a toxic chemical while working for Office. QUESTION Who’s responsible for providing the temp the required Hazcom training? Agency Office Both Neither ANSWER Both… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Beware of privacy pitfalls when remotely monitoring telecommuters

Before the pandemic, 80 percent of U.S. employees worked primarily from an external workplace; today, only 21 percent do. Coaxing employees to return to the workplace will be an uphill battle, with recent surveys, including one from Pew Research, suggesting that 54 percent of those who are currently working remotely want to continue spending at least some of their working hours at home. In short, as with other employers, medical offices need to adjust to the realities of telecommuting. Among the biggest challenges will be maintaining productivity. One potential solution is to deploy technologies that monitor employees’ whereabouts and use of computer and other work equipment to verify that employees who work remotely are actually doing their jobs. Unfortunately, doing this exposes your office to liability risks under privacy and… . . . read more.

TOOL

Model Medical Office Employee Remote Monitoring of Telecommuters Policy

Letting employees telecommute poses significant operational and management challenges to employers, not the least of which is ensuring that employees are actually doing their jobs and meeting expected productivity standards when working from home. Software, apps and other monitoring technology can go a long way in meeting this goal; but it can also get you into hot water under privacy and other laws. The best way to manage privacy liability risk is to include specific language in your telecommuting policies and arrangements that provides for monitoring. The idea is to let employees know exactly what you’re going to do and how, and ensure they don’t have reasonable expectations in the information collected. Here’s some model language you can adapt for your own use.


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