Justia Public Benefits Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Walker-Butler v. Berryhill
The First Circuit held that the five-day grace period outlined in 20 C.F.R. 422.210(c) does not apply to final decisions on remand where the individual does not file any written exceptions to the administrative law judge's decision and the Appeals Council does not assume jurisdiction of the case.Plaintiff applied for Title II disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. On remand, an ALJ issued a partially favorable decision on Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff did not file any written exceptions to the ALJ’s decision, and the Appeals Council did not review the ALJ’s decision. Therefore, the ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Plaintiff then filed a civil action challenging the ALJ’s decision on remand. The Commissioner moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim as untimely. The district court ruled against Plaintiff and dismissed her complaint for being untimely filed. Plaintiff appealed, asking the First Circuit to hold that the five-day grace period outlined in section 422.210(c) applies to final decisions on remand. The First Circuit declined Plaintiff’s request, holding that Plaintiff cannot apply the five-day grace period under section 422.210(c) to save her civil claim from being untimely. View "Walker-Butler v. Berryhill" on Justia Law
D’Agostino v. EV3, Inc.
Plaintiff filed filed a qui tam action against a corporation and its subsidiary, both of whom manufacture and market medical devices, alleging that Defendants violated the False Claims Act in selling two particular medical devices to hospitals that seek reimbursement from the federal government through, for example, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Through two subsequent amendments, both with permission of the court, Plaintiff added several defendants and retooled his claims. Plaintiff then requested leave to amend fourth amended complaint. The district court applied the “good cause” standard from Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b) to that request and struck the amended complaint. The First Circuit originally held that the district court should have evaluated Plaintiff’s fourth amended complaint under the standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). On remand, the district court concluded that Plaintiff’s desired amendment failed under that standard. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s request for leave to file his fourth amended complaint was properly denied as futile because none of the claims in Plaintiff’s fourth amended complaint was adequately pled. View "D'Agostino v. EV3, Inc." on Justia Law
Parkview Adventist Medical Center v. United States
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) terminated its Provider Agreement with Parkview Adventist Medical Center after finding that Parkview was no longer a “hospital” under the Medicare statute. Parkview, which had filed for bankruptcy, attempted to use the Bankruptcy Code to challenge the actions of CMS in terminating the agreement. Parkview filed a motion to compel post-petition performance of executory contracts, arguing that the Provider Agreement was an “executory contract” under 11 U.S.C. 365 and accordingly within the bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction and, as such, CMS’s termination of the agreement was a post-petition termination without court authority in violation of the Bankruptcy Code. Further, Parkview argued that CMS’s termination of the Provider Agreement violated the automatic stay in 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(3) and the non-discrimination provision in 11 U.S.C. 525(a). The bankruptcy court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the motion and that CMS had not violated either the automatic stay or the non-discrimination provision. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the automatic stay did not bar CMS’s termination of the Provider Agreement; and (2) CMS’s termination of the Provider Agreement was not impermissible discrimination. View "Parkview Adventist Medical Center v. United States" on Justia Law
United States, ex rel. Escobar v. Universal Health Services, Inc.
Relators’ daughter died of a seizure after receiving mental health treatment at Arbour Counseling Services, a facility in Massachusetts owned and operated by Universal Health Services (UHS). When Relators learned that Arbour had employed unlicensed and unsupervised personnel, in violation of state regulations, they brought a qui tam action against UHS under the False Claims Act (FCA), alleging that UHS had fraudulently submitted reimbursement claims to the Commonwealth despite knowing that it was in violation of state regulations (a theory of FCA liability known as the “implied false certification theory”). The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the regulatory violations were not conditions of payment as required for a claim to be actionable under the FCA. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the regulatory violations at issue were conditions for payment and that Relators appropriately stated a claim with particularity under the FCA. On certiorari, the Supreme Court held that the implied false certification theory can be a basis for FCA liability but remanded the case for further consideration of whether the complaint sufficiently alleged that the regulatory violations were material to the government’s payment decision. The First Circuit again reversed the district court’s grant of UHS’s motion to dismiss after applying the Supreme Court’s guidance on the question of whether UHS’s misrepresentations were material, holding that Relators’ complaint sufficiently stated a claim under the FCA. View "United States, ex rel. Escobar v. Universal Health Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Maine Medical Center v. Burwell
The consolidated appeals in this case involved a dispute between the Secretary of Health and Human Services and a group of Maine hospitals about certain payments - called disproportionate share payments (DSH payments) - the hospitals had received in reimbursement from the federal government for charity care for fiscal years dating as far back as 1993. Generally speaking, the more low-income patients a hospital services, the higher the hospital’s DSH payment. In this case, the Secretary maintained that the Hospitals were overinclusive in their DSH payment calculations. An intermediary reassessed the DSH payments and recouped from the Hospitals approximately $22 million in alleged overpayments. The Provider Reimbursement Review Board, in turn, ordered the intermediary to restore approximately $17 million to the Hospitals. The Secretary reversed. The Hospitals sought judicial review, but neither side was satisfied with the district court’s ruling. On appeal, the First Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the Secretary properly reopened the disputed years and adequately demonstrated that the Hospitals had received substantial overpayments of DSH funds; and (2) the Hospitals’ defenses to repayment were unavailing. View "Maine Medical Center v. Burwell" on Justia Law
Fischer v. Colvin
In 2012, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act, alleging a disability onset date of 1995. Plaintiff’s date last insured (DLI) was in 1998. An administrative law judge (ALJ) denied benefits, concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to her DLI and was thus not eligible to receive benefits. The district court vacated the Commissioner’s decision and remanded for further proceedings, ruling that the ALJ failed to comply with Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-20 and consult a medical advisor before drawing inferences as to whether Plaintiff’s onset date preceded the expiration of her insured status. In making its ruling, the district court relied upon Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-20, which instructs an ALJ to consult a medical expert when the ALJ must infer a claimant’s date of disability onset on the basis of ambiguous medical evidence. The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court, holding that SSR 83-20 did not require the ALJ to consult a medical expert because the medical evidence was not ambiguous, and thus, the ALJ did not need to infer Plaintiff’s date of disability onset. Remanded for consideration of Plaintiff’s remaining claims. View "Fischer v. Colvin" on Justia Law
Winkelman v. CVS Caremark Corp.
The False Claims Act (FCA) forbids private parties from bringing qui tam actions on the government’s behalf alleging fraud on government programs if the complaint rests on allegations that were already publicly disclosed through certain enumerated sources. In this case, Relators brought a qui tam action under the FCA challenging certain billing practices of CVS Caremark Corp. and affiliated companies (collectively, CVS). The district court dismissed the action, concluding that previous disclosures and controversies triggered the FCA’s public disclosure bar. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the public disclosure bar forbade Relators’ suit. View "Winkelman v. CVS Caremark Corp." on Justia Law
Moriarty v. Colvin
For more than a decade, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has paid directly to qualified attorneys who bring Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims a fee of no more than twenty-five percent of the successful recovery of past-due benefits to clients. When a state chooses to administer its own payments, the amount of state payments are not included as “past-due benefits” for the purpose of attorney compensation. In 2012, Attorney represented a client in a claim for SSI benefits before the SSA. In 2013, Attorney’s client received a partially favorable decision. In 2012, however, Massachusetts changed its practice and began administering its own program of supplementary payments rather than rely on federal administration of its supplementary payments. Upon learning that the SSA attorney’s fee award did not include twenty-five percent of the Massachusetts state-administered state supplementary payments, Attorney filed a complaint for declaratory relief and petition for writ of mandamus in the federal district court. The district court granted summary judgment to the Commissioner. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Commissioner’s interpretation of 42 U.S.C. 1383(d)(2)(B) was reasonable. View "Moriarty v. Colvin" on Justia Law