News from the Health Law Gurus™ is a weekly summary of notable health law news from around the country with helpful links to related content.
Passwords Affected from Heartbleed – HealthCare.gov, the website for the federally-facilitated health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, reset user passwords in the aftermath of Heartbleed, a security flaw in the encryption standards used by many websites. HealthCare.gov claims there is no reason to believe that Heartbleed was used against the website, but is still advising users to create new passwords. Read more here.
Blum Stepping Down – On April 22, 2014, it was announced that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) Principal Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum will be stepping down from his post after five years with the agency. Blum, who will officially end his tenure with CMS on May 16, 2014, is credited with overseeing a huge release of physician Medicare data with the aim of improving transparency about billing and reimbursement. To read more about Blum’s resignation, click here. To view the data released, click here.
$2 Million HIPAA Settlements – On April 22, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced settlements totaling nearly $2 million with two covered entities for alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for failing to encrypt personal health information (“PHI”) on mobile devices. HHS investigated the covered entities when it received notice that unencrypted laptops had been stolen. The HHS message was clear: encryption is the best defense to PHI breaches. Read more here.
$150 Million Settlement for FCA Allegations – On April 23, 2014, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a $150 million settlement with Amedisys Inc. arising out of allegations of False Claims Act violations. Amedisys operates in 37 states and provides home health care services. While not admitting fault in the settlement, Amedisys was accused of billing Medicare for medically unnecessary services, among other allegations. In announcing the settlement, which dealt with seven separate whistleblower suits, Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Division stated, “It is critical that scarce Medicare home health dollars flow only to those who provide qualified services.” Read the full DOJ press release here.
FDA Proposed Rule for E-Cigarettes – On April 24, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) released a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) that will expand its authority to regulate items like electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”). The Proposed Rule essentially makes currently unregulated tobacco products subject to FDA regulation under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In other words, the FDA will “deem” subject to FDA oversight e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, hookah tobacco, and other dissolvable products that meet the definition of a tobacco product. Read more here.