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EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

New guidance, sort of, about COVID-19 in the workplace

By Mike O’Brien EEOC provides new COVID-19 guidance The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released some new guidance on COVID-19 issues at work. Here are the four EEOC-noted highlights of the most recent update, in late May: First, an employer can require that all employees physically entering the workplace be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the laws prohibiting disability and religious discrimination. Additionally, from the EEOC’s perspective, “employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.” Second, the federal EEO laws do not prevent/limit employers from offering incentives to employees to get… . . . read more.

ENFORCEMENT

Federal COVID-19 relief fraud crackdown begins

As with so many other businesses, federal COVID-19 relief was (and, in some cases, still is) the only thing that kept some practices afloat during the darkest days of the pandemic. But with the virus in apparent retreat, business is getting back to normal. And that includes the business of enforcing the federal laws. Among the first orders of business for federal investigators and prosecutors will be to crack down on recipients who took advantage of COVID-19 relief funds. While not uniquely a health care initiative, this new initiative will undoubtedly have a direct effect on medical practices. In fact, it already has. Colorado Physician Indicted for COVID-19 Ripoff In one of the first of what’s bound to be many cases, the U.S. Justice Department indicted a 56-year-old Colorado physician… . . . read more.

YOUR CAREER

More than one-quarter of workers say pandemic contributed to career setback

According to new research from a global staffing firm, more than one-quarter of professionals (27 per cent) said their career has stalled since the start of the pandemic—and that number jumps to 55 per cent for those ages 18 to 24. In a separate poll, 49 per cent of senior managers revealed that they postponed promoting top performers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 61 per cent of those respondents worry about staff retention as a result. How careers have taken a hit Workers experiencing a stalled career reported feeling stuck when it comes to: Salary growth: 62 per cent Career advancement: 62 per cent Skills development: 42 per cent Ability to grow their professional network: 42 per cent And some professionals shared that they’re ready for a career move:… . . . read more.

REIMBURSEMENT

CMS reweighting 2020 MIPS cost performance category

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency (PHE) on clinicians across the country and continues to offer flexibilities to provide relief where possible. Under § 414.1350(d)(3), the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) cost performance category weight is 15% of the final score for the 2020 performance period/2022 MIPS payment year. CMS wants all MIPS eligible clinicians to know it is reweighting the cost performance category from 15% to 0% for the 2020 performance period. The 15% cost performance category weight will be redistributed to other performance categories in accordance with § 414.1380(c)(2)(ii)(D). See the table below for reweighting scenarios. Analysis of the underlying data for the 2020 performance year, in comparison to prior years’ data, shows that the volume… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE WELLNESS

Survey: 60 percent of US workers concerned about their mental health in pandemic’s aftermath

Amid growing anxiety about the pandemic’s impact on wellbeing, a new survey finds that US workers rank mental and psychological wellbeing as one of their biggest wellness concerns. Despite these worries, The Conference Board survey reveals that participation in programs including mental health resources and Employee Assistance programs has dropped. On the upside, the nationwide survey found that most respondents continued routine doctor’s visits to some degree during the pandemic—although women struggled more. Employees also report that they aren’t suffering in silence: An overwhelming majority feel their supervisor genuinely cares about their wellbeing—a likely basis for their comfort speaking of wellbeing challenges at work. Conducted from early to mid-March, the online survey polled more than 1,100 US workers representing a cross-section of people across industries, from lower-level employees to the CEO. Key findings include:… . . . read more.

MANAGING STAFF

1 in 3 remote workers may quit if required to return to the office full time

More employers are calling workers back to the office, but will they readily return? A new study by a global staffing firm shows that about one in three professionals (33 per cent) currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if required to be in the office full time. What workers want More than half of all employees surveyed (51 per cent) said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide time between the office and another location. Professionals also expressed the following hesitations about working from home full time, underscoring the need for organizations to offer flexibility: Relationships with co-workers could suffer: 39 per cent Fewer career advancement opportunities due to a lack of visibility: 21 per cent Decreased productivity while… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Three White House announcements for employers

President Biden calls on employers to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated In a White House press release dated April 21, 2021, President Biden called “on every employer in America to offer full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination.” The White House statement adds that President Biden will announce “a paid leave tax credit that will offset the cost for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full payment for any time their employees need to get a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from that vaccination.” By Executive Order, President Biden increases the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15/hour On April 27 President Biden signed an executive… . . . read more.

MANAGING PATIENTS

The growing importance of value-based care during COVID-19

Lisa A. Eramo bio Quality over quantity. It’s the fundamental concept behind value-based care (VBC). Providers are paid for rendering care that improves outcomes and lowers costs. During COVID-19, VBC is critical, and in many ways, the transition couldn’t have emerged at a better time. Here are five reasons why: Skyrocketing healthcare costs Healthcare costs have been on the rise long before the pandemic struck, and they certainly haven’t slowed down. VBC incentivizes providers to cut costs by using lower-cost—but equally as effective—drugs and devices. Practices can work with their life science reps to learn more about the value proposition for certain medications, devices, and more. VBC also incentivizes providers to perform procedures in lower-cost settings (i.e., outpatient vs. inpatient facilities). Each of these actions will help level out the… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

OIG sounds the warning on improper COVID-19 vaccination billing

Providers that furnish COVID-19 vaccination and testing services need to look ahead and prepare for the massive federal false billing crackdown that is sure to come if and when the pandemic crisis finally tails off. The latest rumblings from the federal enforcement volcano occurred on April 15 when the OIG issued a relatively rare “Message From HHS-OIG Leadership” (Message) to let it be known that the agencies are hearing reports of false billing and “remain vigilant and committed to holding perpetrators of [COVID-19-related] fraud schemes accountable.” Compliance managers at vaccination facilities are well advised to audit whether their organizations are currently meeting the billing and reimbursement rules the Message summarizes. 6 things to check to ensure proper billing of COVID-19 vaccination The Message specifically reminds providers is being provided by… . . . read more.

MANAGING STAFF

Dare we ask our coworkers: Are you safe?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: We have a small eight-person medical admin office. We don’t interact with the patients. Although we’ve worked remotely for the past year, we’ll be moving back into the office in the next few weeks. We’re generally looking forward to it, Most of my coworkers have been vaccinated. We talk on Zoom about how happy we are to have gotten vaccinated and compare side-effect stories. Two of our coworkers don’t participate in these discussions. I suspect they haven’t been vaccinated and don’t intend to get vaccinated. Am I allowed to ask? Is it necessary or appropriate to have different rules regarding masks for different employees; for example, “masks aren’t required unless a meeting includes person “x”? Can we forgo masks all the time and figure any… . . . read more.


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