June 21, 2024
Providers | Tea Leaves
  • In a significant legal decision, a federal district court in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), stating that HHS had exceeded its authority by issuing guidance that warned hospitals against tracking visitors to their websites, citing it as a violation of health privacy rules. The ruling, delivered by Judge Mark T. Pittman, marks a victory for the American Hospital Association, which had filed a lawsuit challenging the guidance issued by HHS the previous year. Judge Pittman criticized HHS for attempting to redefine “individually identifiable health information” to include website visits, a move he deemed unjustifiable. The guidance had prompted health systems to hastily remove ad-targeting technology from their websites in an effort to comply, amidst broader regulatory actions against web-based health care data tracking by the Federal Trade Commission. (Articles here and here)
  • The U.S. government has halted the processing of new visa applications for international nurses until fiscal year 2025, creating uncertainty for thousands who are crucial for filling staffing shortages in health care systems. Announced by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, the decision comes amid high demand for employment-based visas, the primary category for foreign nurses. Only applications with petitions filed on or before December 1, 2021, will be considered for the remainder of fiscal 2024, effectively freezing new visa approvals. This move exacerbates an existing backlog, with potential further delays anticipated, as processing times have already doubled since May 2023. Despite challenges, stakeholders emphasize the importance of international nurses in meeting health care workforce needs, urging continued preparation among applicants for when visa processing resumes. (Article here)