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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.

Investment Training for the Second and Third Generations

Consider this scenario. Mom and Dad started the business from the ground up. Over the decades it has expanded into a money-making machine. They are able to sell the business and it results in a multimillion-dollar payday for their labors. The excess money has allowed Mom and Dad to invest with various financial advising firms, several fund management groups, and directly with new startups and joint ventures. Their experience has made them savvy investors, with a detailed understanding of how much to invest, when, and where. They cannot justify formation of a full family office with dedicated investors to manage the funds, but Mom and Dad have set up a trust fund for the children to allow these investments to continue to grow over the years. Eventually, Mom and Dad pass. Their children enjoy the fruits of their labors, and, by the time the grandchildren are adults, Mom and Dad's savvy investments are gone.

Provider Relief Funds – Continued Confusion Regarding Reporting Requirements and Lost Revenues

In Fall 2020, HHS issued multiple rounds of guidance and FAQs regarding the reporting requirements for the Provider Relief Funds, the most recently published notice being November 2, 2020 and December 11, 2020. Specifically, the reporting portal for the use of the funds in 2020 was scheduled to open on January 15, 2021. Although there was much speculation as to whether this would occur. And, as of the date of this article, the portal was not opened.

Ohio S.B. 310 Loosens Practice Barrier for Advanced Practice Providers

S.B. 310, signed by Ohio Governor DeWine and effective from December 29, 2020 until May 1, 2021, provides flexibility regarding the regulatorily mandated supervision and collaboration agreements for physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse practitioners working in a hospital or other health care facility. Originally drafted as a bill to distribute federal COVID funding to local subdivisions, the healthcare related provisions were added to help relieve some of the stresses hospitals and other healthcare facilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS Issues Opinion Regarding Illegal Attempts by Drug Manufacturers to Deny 340B Discounts under Contract Pharmacy Arrangements

The federal 340B discount drug program is a safety net for many federally qualified health centers, disproportionate share hospitals, and other covered entities. This program allows these providers to obtain discount pricing on drugs which in turn allows the providers to better serve their patient populations and provide their patients with access to vital health care services. Over the years, the 340B program has undergone intense scrutiny, particularly by drug manufacturers who are required by federal law to provide the discounted pricing.

S.B. 263 Protects 340B Covered Entities from Predatory Practices in Ohio

Just before the end of calendar year 2020 and at the end of its two-year legislative session, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 263, which prohibits insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) from imposing on 340B Covered Entities discriminatory pricing and other contract terms. This is a win for safety net providers and the people they serve, as 340B savings are crucial to their ability to provide high quality, affordable programs and services to patients.