Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Approximately 30 years after Arellano’s honorable discharge from the Navy, a VA regional office granted Arellano service-connected disability benefits for his psychiatric disorders. Applying the default rule in 38 U.S.C. 5110(a)(1), the VA assigned an effective date of June 3, 2011—the day that it received Arellano's claim—to the award. Arellano argued that the effective date should be governed by an exception in section 5110(b)(1), which makes the effective date the day following the date of the veteran’s discharge or release if the application “is received within one year from such date of discharge or release.” Alleging that he had been too ill to know that he could apply for benefits, Arellano maintained that this exception’s one-year grace period should be equitably tolled to make his award effective the day after his 1981 discharge.The Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Veterans Court, Federal Circuit, and Supreme Court disagreed. Section 5110(b)(1) is not subject to equitable tolling. Equitably tolling one of the limited exceptions would depart from the terms that Congress “specifically provided.” The exceptions do not operate simply as time constraints, but also as substantive limitations on the amount of recovery due. Congress has already considered equitable concerns and limited the relief available, aware of the possibility that disability could delay an application for benefits. View "Arellano v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Act 90, passed by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico in 2019, was preempted by federal law, holding that the district court did not err.Act 90 requires that Medicare Advantage plans compensate Puerto Rico healthcare providers in Puerto Rico at the same rate as providers are compensated under traditional Medicare. Plaintiffs, several entities that managed Medicare Advantage plans, filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction barring the "mandated price provision," arguing that the Medicare Advantage Act preempted the challenged provision and that provision was unconstitutional. The district court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Act 90's mandated price provision was preempted by federal law. View "Medicaid & Medicare Advantage Products Ass'n of Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Emanuelli-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The underlying dispute before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case involved the adequacy of state funding for community participation support ("CPS") services, which were designed to help individuals with autism or intellectual disabilities live independently. The primary issue on appeal related to the exhaustion requirement. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services ("DHS") issued ODP Announcement 19-024, indicating it intended to change the rate structure for CPS services provided under the Home and Community Based Services (“HCBS”) waivers. Petitioners filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging the legality of the new fee schedule and alleged the new reimbursement rates were too low to sustain the provision of CPS services to eligible recipients. Pertinent here, the Commonwealth Court agreed with one of DHS' preliminary objections that Petitioners failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, as required by case precedent, before seeking judicial review. The court acknowledged a narrow exception to the exhaustion requirement whereby a court may consider the merits of a claim for declaratory or injunctive relief if a substantial constitutional question is raised and the administrative remedy is inadequate. It clarified, however, that the exception only applied where the plaintiff raises a facial constitutional challenge to the statute or regulation in question, as opposed to its application in a particular case. Here, the court concluded, the Petitioners were attacking the fee schedule in the Final Notice, which was produced by application of the legal authority cited in that notice, and not advancing a facial constitutional challenge. The court also found Petitioners failed to demonstrate the administrative remedy was inadequate. The Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s order insofar as it sustained the preliminary objection asserting that the Petitioners failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, and dismissed the Petition as to those parties. The order was vacated in all other respects, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association, et al. v. Dept. Human Svcs" on Justia Law

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Access Behavioral Health appeals from the district court’s judgment upholding an order of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare that demanded recoupment of Medicaid payments made to Access. The Department sought to recoup certain payments made to Access because it failed to meet the Department’s documentation requirements. Following an audit of provider billings, the Department found Access billed Medicaid for two codes for services provided to the same patient on the same day without documentation to support its use of the codes. The Department concluded the documentation deficiencies violated IDAPA Rule 16.03.09.716 and the Handbook. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Department had legal authority to issue recoupment demands to Access. Access failed to demonstrate an entitlement to payment of those funds sought to be recouped. The False Claims Act's materiality requirement was inapplicable to the Department’s administrative action. Finally, laches did not bar the Department’s administrative actions. Judgment was thus affirmed. View "Access Behavioral Health v. IDHW" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) and Yalobusha County Nursing Home (YNH) disputed four costs submitted for reimbursement by YNH in its fiscal year 2013 Medicaid cost report. The DOM appealed a Chancery Court’s judgment ordering the DOM to reverse the four adjustments at issue. Because the DOM correctly interpreted the appropriate statutes and because its decisions were supported by substantial evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s order and rendered judgment reinstating the decisions of the DOM. View "Mississippi Division of Medicaid v. Yalobusha County Nursing Home" on Justia Law

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When Plaintiff-appellant Linda Smith purchased a prescribed continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM) and its necessary supplies between 2016 and 2018, she sought reimbursement through Medicare Part B. Medicare administrators denied her claims. Relying on a 2017 ruling issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare concluded Smith’s CGM was not “primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose” and therefore was not covered by Part B. Smith appealed the denial of her reimbursement claims through the multistage Medicare claims review process. At each stage, her claims were denied. Smith then sued the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in federal court, seeking monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief. Contending that her CGM and supplies satisfied the requirements for Medicare coverage. Instead of asking the court to uphold the denial of Smith’s claims, the Secretary admitted that Smith’s claims should have been covered and that the agency erred by denying her claims. Rather than accept the Secretary’s admission, Smith argued that the Secretary only admitted error to avoid judicial review of the legality of the 2017 ruling. During Smith’s litigation, CMS changed its Medicare coverage policy for CGMs. Prompted by several adverse district court rulings, CMS promulgated a formal rule in December 2021 classifying CGMs as durable medical equipment covered by Part B. But the rule applied only to claims for equipment received after February 28, 2022, so pending claims for equipment received prior to that date were not covered by the new rule. Considering the new rule and the Secretary’s confession of error, the district court in January 2022 remanded the case to the Secretary with instructions to pay Smith’s claims. The district court did not rule on Smith’s pending motions regarding her equitable relief claims; instead, the court denied them as moot. Smith appealed, arguing her equitable claims were justiciable because the 2017 ruling had not been fully rescinded. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the Secretary that Smith’s claims were moot: taken together, the December 2021 final rule and the 2022 CMS ruling that pending and future claims for CGMs would be covered by Medicare deprived the Tenth Circuit jurisdiction for further review. View "Smith v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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Robert Procive appealed when a district court dismissed his appeal of an Administrative Law Judge’s order that denied his claim for Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) benefits. Procive submitted his first claim in 2020, alleging he suffered carpal tunnel syndrome due to injuries to both wrists, elbows, and shoulders resulting from repetitive digging, hammering and driving stakes, steel posts, and iron rods into the ground. He claimed his original injury occurred in western North Dakota, and he notified his employer of his injury in November 2004 and October 2016. WSI accepted liability for Procive’s right carpal tunnel injury, but denied for the left. Later WSI issued its order reversing its acceptance of liability for the right carpal tunnel, finding Procive willfully made false statements about whether he had prior injuries or received treatment. WSI ordered Procive to repay past benefits he received. After a hearing the ALJ affirmed WSI’s decisions denying coverage. Procive appealed to the district court in Stutsman County. WSI moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Procive was required to file his appeal in the county where the injury occurred or the county where he resided. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not have jurisdiction. View "Procive v. WSI" on Justia Law

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Morris served in the Army, 1965-1968. In 1970, he unsuccessfully sought disability benefits (38 U.S.C. 1110), alleging a disability based on a nervous condition connected to his service. The VA instead granted his claim for a pension based on a non-service-connected condition. In 2005, Morris sought compensation based on service-connected PTSD; he was eventually assigned a 100% disability rating.Morris has for many years been seeking an earlier effective date for service-connected disability compensation. The VA regional office and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals found no clear and unmistakable error. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims rejected a claim that a September 1970 notice from the VA—giving notice of the August 1970 rating decision—was constitutionally inadequate under the Due Process Clause; Morris had not presented this argument to the Board but contended that the Veterans Court was obligated to consider this constitutional question in the first instance under 38 U.S.C. 7261(a)(1). The Veterans Court exercised its discretion, under issue-exhaustion precedents, to decline to entertain the argument presented for the first time on appeal. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the appeal. The Veterans Court had the discretion to apply an issue-exhaustion analysis and correctly applied that analysis. View "Morris v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued a final rule that implemented The Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (“PAMA” or “Act”), definition of “applicable laboratory” (“2016 Rule”). The American Clinical Laboratory Association (“ACLA”) filed a lawsuit challenging the 2016 Rule as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) on the basis that it depresses Medicare reimbursement rates by excluding most hospital laboratories from PAMA’s reporting requirements. ACLA contended that because hospital laboratories tend to charge higher prices than standalone laboratories, their exclusion from reporting obligations results in an artificially low weighted median.   On remand, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court declined to reach the merits of ACLA’s APA challenge to the 2016 Rule, based on its determination that the Secretary had issued a new rule (“2018 Rule”) that superseded the 2016 Rule and mooted ACLA’s lawsuit.   The DC Circuit concluded that the case is not moot. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and reached the merits of ACLA’s APA claim. The court explained that the 2016 Rule is arbitrary and capricious because the agency “failed to consider an important aspect of the problem.” The court wrote that PAMA provides that an applicable laboratory “means a laboratory that” receives “a majority” of its Medicare revenues from the Physician Fee Schedule or Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule. Thus, hospital laboratories that provide outreach services may, in some instances, constitute “applicable laboratories” under PAMA. View "American Clinical Laboratory Association v. Xavier Becerra" on Justia Law

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Genesis Healthcare was a healthcare provider participating in the federal “340B Program,” which was designed to provide drugs to qualified persons at discounted prices. Under the Program, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) enters into agreements with drug manufacturers to sell drugs at discounted prices to entities such as Genesis Healthcare, which could, in turn, sell the drugs to their patients at discounted prices. After Genesis Healthcare purchased the covered drugs from the manufacturers, it dispensed them to patients through its wholly owned pharmacies or contract pharmacies. After the Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) conducted an audit of Genesis Healthcare in June 2017 for Program compliance, HRSA removed Genesis Healthcare from the 340B Program. The audit report found, among other things, that Genesis Healthcare dispensed 340B drugs to individuals who were ineligible because they were not “patients” of Genesis Healthcare. HRSA rejected Genesis Healthcare’s challenges; Genesis Healthcare, in turn, filed suit seeking a declaration it did not violate the requirements of the Program, and injunctive relief requiring HRSA to reinstate it into the Program and to retract any notifications that HRSA had provided to manufacturers stating that Genesis Healthcare was ineligible under the Program. In response to the lawsuit, HRSA ultimately: (1) notified Genesis Healthcare by letter that it “ha[d] voided” all audit findings and that Genesis Healthcare “ha[d] no further obligations or responsibilities in regard to the audit” and (2) filed a motion to dismiss Genesis Healthcare’s action as moot based on the letter. The district court granted HRSA’s motion, finding that the action was moot. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's finding the case was moot: Genesis Healthcare continued to be governed by a definition of “patient” that, Genesis maintained, was illegal and harmful to it. Therefore, there remained a live controversy between the parties. View "Genesis HealthCare, Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia Law