Joining the rolling chorus of states across the country, Connecticut’s Governor issued two executive orders related to the COVID-19 public health crisis in early April. Order No. 7U (EO7U) grants healthcare professionals and facilities immunity from certain civil liabilities related to services provided during the public health crisis.
This section was replaced in its entirety by Executive Order No. 7V (EO7V) two days later. EO7U also lays down health insurance financial protections for people with and without healthcare insurance. Executive Order No. 7V (EO7V replaces Section 1 of EO7U regarding healthcare professional and facility civil liability immunity. It also relaxes temporary permitting and licensure requirements for certain healthcare professionals and calls for issuance of statewide protective measures and rules to govern businesses operating during the pandemic.
Healthcare Provider and Facility Civil Liability Immunity
EO7V Section 6 grants healthcare professionals or healthcare facilities (Healthcare Entities) immunity from civil liability lawsuits related to “any injury or death alleged to have been sustained because of the individual’s or health care facility’s acts or omissions undertaken in good faith while providing health care services” in support of the State’s COVID-19 response. The order specifies that such immunity holds true for Healthcare Entities’ acts and omissions committed due to a lack of resources attributable to COVID-19 that impacted their level of care and resulted in the damages at issue.
The executive order is clear that this immunity does not apply where crimes, fraud, gross negligence, willful misconduct, or false claims are involved on the part of Healthcare Entities.
The immunity applies to acts or omissions occurring at any time during the public emergency that started on March 10, 2020, and any extension or renewal thereof, or acts or omissions that happened before the order that are attributable to the COVlD-19 response effort.
Who Gets Immunity?
Under Section 6 of EO7V, “health care professionals” are individuals who are “licensed, registered, permitted, or certified in any state in the United States to provide health care services.” Retired professionals, professionals with an inactive license, or volunteers approved by relevant Connecticut health officials are also included in this definition.
A “licensed or state-approved hospital, clinic, nursing home, field hospital or other facility designated by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health for the temporary use for the purposes of providing essential services in support of the State’s COVID-19 response” qualifies as a “health care facilities” under the order.
Insurance Coverage and COVID-19 Fees
The Governor’s EO7U aims to help COVID-19 patients with the costs of health care related to the virus. For example, under this Order health insurance carriers must reimburse out-of-network providers at in-network rates for COVID-related emergency services. EO7U also orders hospitals to wait to bill COVID-19 patients without public or private health insurance until further executive orders clarify whether federal funding for the services may be available. Hospitals, health systems or hospital-based facilities must keep fiscal records on services provided to uninsured COVID-19 patients, and made available to support any applicable federal reimbursement.
Executive Order 7U also modifies additional existing Connecticut General Statutes regarding health care fees, namely:
- Modified Section 19a-673(b) prohibits hospitals from collecting a facility fee in full for services provided to an uninsured COVID-19 patient that is greater than the Medicare rate. This stipulation also applies to a patient’s estate.
- Adjustments to Section l 9a-508c(l) additionally provide: “Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, no hospital, health system or hospital-based facility shall collect a facility fee for services received by a patient for the treatment and management of COVID-19 who is uninsured of more than the Medicare rate.”
- Section 38a-477aa(b)(3)(B) is suspended.
Temporary Relaxation of Professional Healthcare Provider License and Fee Requirements
Executive Order 7V seeks to solve the shortage of healthcare workers needed to combat COVID-19 in Connecticut with modifications to statutes that govern the licensing of health professionals.
Duration of temporary permits for Athletic Trainer, Respiratory Care Practitioner, Physician Assistant, Occupational, Therapist/Assistants, Master Social Worker (as defined in the relevant CT Statute) are extended during the health crisis, and application fees are waived. Another group of healthcare providers —physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, radiographers, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, client nurse specialists and nurse anesthetists—can practice prior to licensure. Marital and family therapists that have completed training at specified types of educational institutions can practice without a license. Lastly, professional counselors can practice without a license so long as they have completed the statutory requirements.
All these modifications are in effect only during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Workplace Safety Rules for Essential Businesses
EO7V also directs Connecticut economic development and public health commissioners to issue statewide rules on protective measures that all essential businesses, nonprofit organizations and any other businesses permitted to operate must follow to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19. These rules must be issued by April 7, 2020.