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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.

Changes to Physician Assistant Statutes in Florida

In the last year, there have been many changes to the scope of practice and collaboration/supervision requirements for advanced practice providers such as APRNs and physician assistants in the state of Florida. In a previous Client Alert we discussed House Bill 607, which expanded the autonomous practice of APRNs providing primary care services in Florida.

Ohio Senate Bill 49 – Ohio Expands Lien Rights for Design Professionals

Effective September 30, 2021, Ohio granted limited lien rights to design professionals, including architects, landscape architects, engineers, and surveyors. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 49 into law on July 1, 2021. This new law established a statutory right to lien commercial real estate by Ohio design professionals who, until now, could not file a lien for non-payment of professional services. Senator Vernon Sykes, a primary sponsor of Senate Bill 49, stated that the “legislation ensures that architects, engineers and other designers will get paid for their work, regardless of the outcome of their projects . . . It will support hardworking Ohioans by protecting the value of their labor . . ..”

Primary Care Practice Officially Defined in Florida for APRNs Practicing Autonomously

As many providers in Florida are aware, House Bill 607 (the “Bill”), which was passed in February of last year, gives certain APRNs in Florida the ability to practice autonomously. The only catch is that they must work in primary practice. When the Bill was initially passed, there was question as to what was exactly considered primary care, absent a definition from the Florida Board of Nursing. However, as of February 25, 2021, “primary care practice” has officially been defined.

Part II of the No Surprises Act

The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) published Part II of the No Surprises Act on September 30, 2021, which will take effect on January 1, 2022. The new guidance, in large part, focuses on the independent dispute resolution process that was briefly mentioned in Part I of the Act. In addition, there is now guidance on good faith estimate requirements, the patient-provider dispute resolution processes, and added external review provisions.

Safer Federal Workforce Task Force - Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued its Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors (Guidance). Note that the Guidance applies only to “covered contracts,” which are contracts that include the clause (Clause) set forth in Sec. 2(a) of Executive Order 14042 (Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors). The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FARC) is to conduct rulemaking and take related action to ensure that the Clause is incorporated into federal contracts. Until that happens, federal contractors likely will not see the Clause in its contracts. Following is a broad summary of the Guidance.