COVID-19: Orthopedic Groups Should Consider Key Legal Updates


Anjana D. Patel, Gary W. Herschman, and Denise Merna Dadika, Members of the Firm, co-authored an article in Healio, titled “COVID-19: Orthopedic Groups Should Consider Key Legal Updates.”

Following is an excerpt:

Orthopedic groups are struggling with the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on their day-to-day operations. Many groups have had to postpone non-emergency appointments and surgeries and have reduced or furloughed staff.

This article summarizes some key legal issues for orthopedic groups, including newly enacted federal laws and agency guidance.

Telehealth and OIG copayment and Stark Law waivers

The Telehealth Services during Certain Emergency Periods Act of 2020 eases Medicare restrictions on the reimbursement of telehealth services. A March 17 CMS waiver clarifies that: any Medicare patient can receive telehealth for all services (even if unrelated to COVID-19), such as office visits, prescriptions, back pain, etc.; and providers can reduce or waive cost-sharing for all telehealth visits. In addition, there are specific Stark law waivers for certain remuneration and referrals related solely to certain COVID-19 purposes regarding fair market value rent, loans to physicians and certain payments from hospitals to physicians.

Enhanced patient communications

Issued on March 20, FAQs encourage remote communications with patients and allowed technologies, including, but not limited to: Skype for Business/Microsoft Teams, Updox, VSee, Zoom for Healthcare,, Google G Suite Hangouts Meet, Cisco WebEx Meetings/WebWx Teams, Amazon Chime, Apple FaceTime, Whatsapp video chat and GoToMeeting are acceptable HIPAA-compliant vendors. The following are not acceptable: Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, and similar public facing applications.

Ambulatory surgery center options

On March 30, CMS announced that ASCs (many of which are restricted by states from performing elective surgeries) can contract with local health care systems to provide hospital space and/or services, including non-elective surgeries for hospitals, such as cancer, trauma and other essential surgeries. ASCs also can enroll and bill as hospitals subject to certain caveats.

CARES Act: Grants and forgivable loans

On March 27, President Trump signed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which provides various economic stimulus, including …