Posted in Health Care
Rural Hospital Closures Are on the Rise

As the leader of the Bowles Rice Health Care Practice Group, I have the privilege of working with many of the fine rural hospitals serving underserved populations throughout West Virginia. But I am becoming increasingly worried about these important safety net providers.

Last week, it was announced that Fairmont Regional Medical Center would be closing its doors in just 60 days. Understandably, local residents were shocked, saddened and scared. But those working within the industry were not all that surprised, as rural hospital closures are on the rise – not just in West Virginia ...

Posted in Health Care, HIPAA
How Does HIPAA Apply to Employers?


Many employers wonder if they need to comply with HIPAA.  Of course, there is never an easy answer, and a fact intensive analysis should be performed to determine if HIPAA applies.  This article is intended to discuss the common situations in which HIPAA applies to employers.

General Principals of HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was adopted by Congress in 1996. HIPAA's purpose is “to improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in health ...

HIPAA and Cybersecurity - Part Two / Breach Response

As mentioned in Part One of this two-part discussion on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), HIPAA has become a pervasive force within the practice of medicine.  All health care providers should be conducting some form of meaningful annual training with their employees.  In Part One, we discussed hacking and criminal behaviors targeted at health care companies, and those will always be very difficult to anticipate and prevent.  By contrast, health care providers can do a great deal to avoid the kinds of internal HIPAA violations – usually committed by ...

HHS Issues Regulations Protecting Against Religious Discrimination in Health Care

On May 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued new guidelines expanding the provider conscience rule for health care workers and entities participating in federally funded programs. The "conscience rule" allows individuals and entities to refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services, such as birth control, abortions, or sterilization procedures, on religious or moral grounds.

The new protections, effective 60 days following pending publication in the federal register, apply to ...

Posted in Cybersecurity, HIPAA
HIPAA and Cybersecurity - Part One

Since its passage by Congress in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has become a pervasive force in the health care industry.  While most, even within the medical field, do not know exactly how HIPAA works or how far it reaches, almost everyone, especially within the medical field, has been taught to be afraid of it.  This post is part one of a two-part discussion on HIPAA, the issues to be aware of when considering patient confidentiality, and how to deal with any confidentiality breaches or HIPAA violations.

As “covered entities” under HIPAA ...

Posted in Subpoenas
What Providers are Supposed to Do When Subpoenaed

Having worked imbedded within the medical field for more than a decade before joining the health group at Bowles Rice, I can tell you that most medical practices do not know what to do when they receive a subpoena from a lawyer’s office.  Most of the time, the initial reaction will be to quickly comply in order to avoid initiating a confrontational situation with the lawyer.  However, there are many occasions in which simply answering the subpoena is the wrong answer, and it can get the health care provider in a lot of trouble.  As such, it is important that the health care provider, when served ...

Labor and Employment Pains: Navigating the Relationship Between West Virginia's Safer Workplace Act and Medical Cannabis Act

One of the more interesting legal landscapes to monitor within West Virginia will develop over the next few months as the Mountain State approaches its July 1 kickoff of the Medical Cannabis Act (which is discussed in more detail here).  The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act comes at a particularly fascinating time for employment lawyers, as it arrives almost two years to the day after the effective date of the West Virginia Safer Workplace Act on July 7, 2017.  The Safer Workplace Act was heralded by Governor Jim Justice for its dramatic (and, from an employer’s perspective, largely ...

Smoke Signals – What’s On the Horizon for Medical Cannabis in West Virginia?

As most of us in West Virginia look forward to the arrival of summer, employers throughout the Mountain State may be feeling a little bit of trepidation.  After more than two years in the waiting, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bureau for Public Health can begin issuing the patient and caregiver identification cards necessary to obtain medical cannabis on July 1, 2019. 

Posted in Medicaid
The Attempt to Employ Medicaid Work Requirements in West Virginia

As February came to an end, a bill that sought to impose work or other work-like requirements on Medicaid recipients died in the West Virginia House of Delegates.  President Donald Trump has been vocal in his support of states tying the receipt of Medicaid benefits to work, and our own GOP-led House of Delegates had hoped to implement new work requirements in the Mountain State this session.