The efforts made by professional athletes seeking workers’ compensation benefits for injuries that they sustained on the playing field has resulted in a considerable amount of drama in the press. As a result, the California legislature has amended the state Workers’ Compensation Act to include coverage for some athletes. In-state athletes are covered. Out-of-state professional athletes may be covered if (a) the athlete played at least two years for a California sports team; or (b) played more than 20 percent of his or her career for a California sports team. While the situation is unlikely to arise for most healthcare providers or institutions, if a professional athlete seeks medical treatment, it may be wise to consider asking if the injury is work-related.
Meanwhile, the debate as to whether college athletes could be considered “employees” rages on. If they are granted employee status, they could be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits as well, and their healthcare providers and the higher education institutions that they attend should note whether a presenting injury could be considered “work-related.”
Under existing law, a medical assistant is authorized to perform services “relating to the administration of medication and performance of skin tests and simple routine medical tasks and procedures” so long as they have specific authorization from and the services are performed “under the supervision of a licensed physician and surgeon or podiatrist, or “in a specified clinic upon specific authorization of a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse-midwife.” As of January 1, 2014, changes to Business & Professions Code section 2069 deleted the latter requirement—that the services performed by the medical assistant “be in a specified clinic when under the specific authorization of a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or certified nurse-midwife.” This change broadens the authority of medical assistants to perform specific tasks without direct supervision or in certain settings.
Patient records are almost exclusively stored in electronic format. Electronic storage enables healthcare providers to access information and manage patient care more effectively and efficiently. Healthcare provides often hire third party administrators or vendors to collect and store information contained in patient records. The California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act imposes statutory confidentiality obligations on all such administrators and vendors. As of January 1, 2014, those obligations are being imposed on any business (and on the employees of the business) that provides software or hardware, including mobile applications or devices, that is created or designed to collect and store medical information.
Laws that protect the confidentiality of personally identifying information (PII)—including an individual’s medical information and health insurance information and a user name or email address, in combination with a password or security question and answer—have recently been expanded. The law currently includes notice requirements for when a breach of security occurs involving PII that would permit access to an individual’s online email account.
Employees, prospective employees, contractors, subcontractors, and vendors who handle enrollment in the health care exchange and have access to financial or medical information from enrollees to the exchange, must be fingerprinted for the purpose of obtaining criminal history information. This change was made consistent with the Catalog of Minimum Acceptable Risk Standards for Exchanges (MARS-E)—a companion document to the Minimum Acceptable Risk Standards for Exchanges—both of which explain the security requirements for exchange and common program enrollment systems and the federal policy relating to health care exchange privacy and security.