Health organizations tackle regulatory change at Mass. conference

The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association recently convened its Healthcare Legal Compliance Forum to update members on key areas of regulatory change, compliance and enforcement in this late COVID era. 

Current and former law enforcement officials, healthcare compliance practitioners, attorneys and consultants gave a broad view of the priorities, challenges and opportunities facing the Compliance profession.  

Federal and State Enforcement Update 

Featured speakers: Toby R. Unger, Chief of Medicaid Fraud Division, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General; and Patrick Callahan, Healthcare Fraud Unit, US Attorney’s Office. Moderated by David Schumacher, Partner, Hooper, Lundy & Bookman. 

Unger and Callahan noted that the pandemic shifted the makeup of their case load. It reduced the rate of whistleblower and other fraud complaints, and for Unger at least, abuse cases increased.  

They talked about how health organizations can effectively partner with law enforcement. They generally see the best outcomes when Compliance and Legal teams bring issues to them or work quickly with them to find data and resolve issues. 

And they shared their take on effective Compliance functions. A good Compliance department doesn’t need to be huge with a lot of people and formal processes,” Callahan said. “A good department is one that has a real effect when they ask leadership to make a change. They have a voice that gets leadership’s attention, and they can have questionable practices stopped during an investigation. When they ask to press pause, they are listened to.”  

Read More: State and Federal enforcement agencies anticipating more complex investigations as COVID-era practices emerge

Compliance Officer Roundtable  

Featured speakers:  Craig Bennett, Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, Boston Medical Center; Rachel Lerner, Esq., General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Director, Center for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Hebrew SeniorLife; Maria Palumbo, Chief Compliance & Privacy Officer, Lawrence General Hospital. Moderated by Larry Vernaglia. 

Bennett, Lerner, and Palumbo shared their experience over nearly two years of pandemic-influenced healthcare compliance. They talked about how they collaborated to manage regulatory change and reinforce their culture of compliance. They also talked about the regulatory changes they are planning for in 2022.  

Lerner said she spends a lot of time looking at regulatory changes to understand their implications to her organization. “It can take us a long time to decide ‘does this apply to us?’ And then figure out what to do with it. Then we have to figure out what to do with that information in bits and pieces. It is certainly a complex, ever-changing universe on that front.” She spoke of Compliance’s key role in knitting together all that information to help the organization act correctly and then integrate it into daily processes. 

Read More: Compliance officers reflect on COVID pivots and preparing for the end of the public health emergency

Telehealth in the Pandemic and Beyond  

Featured speakers: Marcus Hughes, Associate General Counsel, UMass Memorial Health; Meg Cosgrove, Associate General Counsel, Beth Israel Lahey Health. And moderated by Jeremy Sherer, Healthcare Attorney, Hooper, Lundy, & Bookman. 

Hughes and Cosgrove discussed interstate telehealth compliance issues. They talked about the hard adjustments providers have to make as demand for telehealth surges and scrutiny of out-of-state practice increases. They shared ways they are preparing for the regulatory changes that will come with the end of the public health emergency.  

As waivers expire, Compliance officers have to increase their efforts at making sure providers understand licensing requirements and the risk of non-compliance. 

Hughes noted that there is a common belief that there is a national framework for remote care, but actually there isn’t. “Now that we’re in the late stage of the pandemic, we have to educate our staff to dispel some of the myths that are out there. And we have to make sure they know that the COIVD waivers are coming to an end.”  

Read More: Healthcare GCs look at telehealth compliance in the Pandemic and beyond

COVID-19 Hot Compliance Topics  

Featured speaker: Martie Ross, Office Managing Principal, PYA  

Ross covered federal vaccine mandates. unwinding regulatory flexibilities, and provider relief fund audits and enforcement. Her detailed slides are available from PYA here. They provide great insight for Compliance practitioners. 

Ross recommends that you review and track changes to internal policies and practices and establish a process to completely unwind. “As a compliance officer, it’s time to back through your compliance documentation over the past two years and think about how you’re going to unwind from these changes,” she said. 

Read More: Compliance expert Martie Ross explains critical regulatory change management issues facing healthcare in 2022

YouCompli sponsored MHA’s 2021 Healthcare Legal Compliance Forum. We provide a complete solution to help healthcare compliance organizations manage regulatory change. Find out more about YouCompli.  

Subscribe to get the latest articles about healthcare regulatory changes.

Man typing on laptop
Request a demo of the YouCompli solution.