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CLIENT ALERT: Prohibition on Recoupment Prior to Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

In April, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Family Rehabilitation, Inc. v. Azar No. 17-11337 (5th Cir. 2018), held that district courts are authorized to enjoin the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and its contractors from recouping alleged overpayments prior to the completion of the administrative appeal process.

As many people who routinely handle government claim appeals know, recoupment on the alleged overpayment cannot be stayed after a decision is rendered at the reconsideration level (Level 2). Meaning, recoupment can begin while three (3) additional stages of appeal remain to be exhausted. See MLN Matter Number: MM6183, as revised.  This rule significantly impacts providers subject to recoupment because it often takes three (3) to five (5) years before the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Level 3) renders a decision on appeal.  Meaning, if the claims were correctly billed, the government will have already recouped the reimbursement on the claims by the time the case presents itself to the ALJ.

For many providers, including Family Rehabilitation, Inc., by the time the ALJ renders a decision, the negative impact of the recoupment will have significantly affected the operation budget of the practice. This may result in a practice or provider closing the business and/or filing for bankruptcy before the final decision on the overpayment is ultimately rendered.

The potential impact on providers from the ALJ’s backlog preventing timely decisions on appeal is demonstrated from Family Rehabilitation, Inc.’s allegations. Family Rehabilitation, Inc. is a provider in Texas that receives approximately 94% of its revenue from Medicare claims. In 2016, the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (“ZPIC”) audited claims and determined that Family Rehabilitation, Inc. had been overpaid on 93% of the 43 claims submitted for review.  The ZPIC extrapolated this amount and rendered an ultimate overpayment decision of $7.89 million. Family Rehabilitation, Inc. timely appealed to the Medicare Administrative Contractor (“MAC”), which denied the request for redetermination, and the request for reconsideration was subsequently denied. This outcome at the first two levels of appeal is not uncommon as contractors are routinely paid based on the amount of overpayments that they determine.

Thereafter, Family Rehabilitation, Inc. timely appealed the denials to the Administrative Law Judge who, because of an enormous backlog of appealed claims, determined that it would be at least three (3) to (5) years before Family Rehabilitation, Inc.’s appeal could be heard and decided. In the interim, Medicare was authorized to begin recoupment on the $7.89 million, essentially preventing any payment to Family Rehabilitation, Inc. by Medicare.

By the time the ALJ would hear the case and render a decision, Family Rehabilitation, Inc. would likely be bankrupt or shutdown because of the lack of payments from Medicare. Therefore, Family Rehabilitation, Inc. filed for a restraining order and preliminary injunction. The District Court for the N.D. of Texas decided that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because Family Rehabilitation, Inc. did not yet exhaust its administrative remedies, which would take at least another three (3) to five (5) years.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit decided that Family Rehabilitation, Inc. could proceed with its motion for injunctive relief, staying the overpayment recoupment, under the “collateral-claim” judicial exception, ultimately waiving the requirement to exhaust administrative remedies.

Although the Fifth Circuit’s decision does not require the District Court to grant the injunctive relief on overpayment recovery,[1] this decision does give providers a path to seek injunctive relief while they wait for their claims to be heard by the ALJ. If injunctive relief is granted, it may stop the recoupment of claims while appeals are pending before the ALJ.

If you are a provider or practice facing recoupment while your claims are stalled in the administrative appeal process, please contact us, and we discuss your options for appeal and to apply for injunctive relief to enjoin further recoupment efforts.

Should you have any questions concerning the recoupment process and the administrative appeal process in general, please contact Amanda L. Waesch, Esq. (alwaesch@bmdllc.com) or Bryan E. Meek, Esq. (bmeek@bmdllc.com), who are attorneys in Brennan, Manna & Diamond’s Provider Relations, Audits, and Appeals Unit, a division of BMD’s Healthcare Department.

 

[1] As of May 18, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the N.D. of Texas has yet to rule on Family Rehabilitation, Inc.’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Injunctive Relief.

DOL Proposes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status - But How Will the Election Affect Its Future?

On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposed rule regarding employee and independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The full text of the proposed rule is available here. The rule's drafters intend to reduce uncertainty and enhance the precision and predictability of the long-standing "economic reality" test, which currently relies on a multifactor balancing test.

Major Change to Franklin County, Ohio Eviction Process: Landlord Testimony Required

Although there is currently a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in place, the eviction process in Franklin County – which processes the highest number of evictions in the State of Ohio at approximately 18,000 a year – recently changed significantly.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.