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Archive for category: Lien Resolution

Update on Medicare Conditional Payment Enforcement Actions
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Update on Medicare Conditional Payment Enforcement Actions

Click here for a downloadable copy of this blog

In March 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as an enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Department of HHS and its sub agency, CMS, against an attorney in Texas alleging failure of the attorney representing a party injured in a motor vehicle collision to properly reimburse Medicare for conditional payments.  The case is U.S. v. Carrigan & Anderson, Case 4:20-cv-00991, Filed 03/18/2020 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

That would not really seem like big news as we have written about several conditional payment enforcement actions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office/Department of Justice over the past few years against plaintiff attorneys for a failure to properly inquire with CMS’s Beneficiary Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor and address amounts to be reimbursed to CMS.[1]

However, unlike some of the other cases, the plaintiff attorney in this case took proactive steps attempting to address Medicare’s past interests in the liability settlement.  Unfortunately, the steps taken were misguided.  Had the attorney requested a compromise or waiver and/or appealed the demand amount by CMS, he would have likely faired better.

Prior to settlement, the attorney properly provided notification of the claim to the BCRC triggering the search by the BCRC for claim related conditional payments.  The case settled for $70,000.00 and the plaintiff attorney provided notification of the settlement to the BCRC.  Presumably, the plaintiff and attorney had received a copy of an earlier Conditional Payment Letter.  Within a few weeks after the settlement notification was provided, the BCRC delivered a demand letter in the amount of $46,244.74, demanding payment within the standard 60 day time period  from the date of the demand and informing of the right to appeal its demand amount.

The attorney creatively filed a motion with a state court in Texas challenging the amount demanded by Medicare and provided notice of same to the BCRC.  He called the motion, Motion To Determine Portion of Plaintiff’s Settlement That Constitute Reimbursement of Medical Payments Made in and Regarding Settlement.  The court reviewed submitted evidence including an affidavit signed by plaintiff counsel suggesting the claim settled at 1/10th its full case value, and issued an order reducing the amount to be paid to Medicare by 90% to a figure of $4,700.00.  Plaintiff counsel submitted a copy of the order to the BCRC.  The full demand amount went unpaid and began accruing interest at nearly 10% APR on the 61st day post-demand (for current demands, the annual interest percentage rate is now over 10%).

As of March 18th, 2020, when the U.S. filed its recovery action in U.S. District Court, the alleged reimbursement amount had increased to $53,445.93 including interest. The U.S. requested recovery of its fees and costs but interestingly did not request double damages.

The U.S. Attorney’s position is that state courts lack authority to make determinations of federal law including amounts owned to Medicare under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1395y(b)(2) (MSP).   Furthermore the complaint asserts that because there is an administrative procedure in place under the current MSP regulations, if the plaintiff and attorney disagreed with the demand amount, the administrative appeals process should have been followed, i.e. that there was a failure to exhaust administrative remedies, an express condition precedent to seek redress in U.S. District Court for appeal of Medicare Initial Determinations such as the amount of a demand or a denial of a waiver.

Take Aways

Dispute and Appeal
  • Review each conditional payment letter to verify each reimbursement claimed is injury related
  • Dispute all non-injury related claims in a timely manner before the matter settles or before CMS issues its final demand
  • If unhappy with a CMS reimbursement of conditional payment demand, consider appealing through CMS’s administrative appeals process
  • You have 120 days to request a first level appeal in writing

In the meantime, consider one of the other post demand dispute processes allowed that may offer your client relief from what you consider to be an unreasonable demand.  Depending on the outcome, the appeal may not be necessary.

Compromise Requests 
  • Requesting a compromise to the BCRC offering a sum certain to resolve the claim laying out arguments based in equity similar to the ones made to the state court judge in the case above and/or according to regulations governing compromises by the U.S. Government existing in the CFR
  • Compromise requests are forwarded by the BCRC to the applicable CMS Regional Office (RO) and a response is provided within 45 days of the BCRC’s receipt of the request
  • Responses will either be accepted, countered, or rejected
Waivers
  • If not happy with the response to the compromise request and if the financial condition of the plaintiff is such that they have a hard time meeting their day to day living expenses, a waiver request could be an alternative option
  • Waiver requests entail filling out a detailed Social Security Administration financial form called the SSA 632-BK
  • To make its decision, CMS will evaluate resources of the plaintiff, income, the amount of the settlement, outgoing expenses, and hardship factors and may take up to 120 days from start to finish so you need to be mindful of the appeal deadline for the original demand.

 

[1] January 2020 DOJ US Attorney https://www.medivest.com/philadelphia-based-personal-injury-law-firm-agrees-to-resolve-allegations-of-unpaid-medicare-debts/ Philadelphia plaintiff firm settles for $6,604.59,

Nov 2019  US Attorney General – Baltimore plaintiff firm settles with Medicare for $91,406.98

March 2019 DOJ US Attorney  – Maryland plaintiff firm settles with Medicare for $250k

June 2018 DOJ US Attorney – Philadelphia plaintiff firm settles with Medicare for $28k

 

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Hospital Lien Collection Practices Case in Colorado (Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries Beware!)
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Hospital Lien Collection Practices Case in Colorado (Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries Beware!)

Click here for a downloadable copy of this blog

A state appellate court in Colorado just held that hospitals in Colorado may forego billing Medicare or Medicaid even when an injured party is a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary, and may proceed against the injured party as long as the hospital follows certain procedures. See Harvey v. Centura Health Corporation and Catholic Health Initiatives, — P.3d —- (2020) Court of Appeals No. 19CA0091 January 30, 2020*.

Those procedures are that the hospital must first submit charges to the “property and casualty insurer and primary medical payer of benefits available” to the injured person when that person is injured as a result of negligence or wrongful acts of another person, before filing a lien. The state appellate court clarified that neither Medicare nor Medicare are primary payers of medical benefits and because of this, held that Hospitals in Colorado do not need to bill Medicare and/or Medicaid before filing a lien.

Therefore, Colorado hospitals interested in collecting larger amounts of money than Medicare and/or Medicaid will pay will likely forego billing Medicare and/or Medicaid, and will put the at fault party on notice of its charges, will bill the liability carrier for the at fault party, and then proceed to file a lien against the injured party likely to receive a third party liability settlement.

Of course the charges must be related to the underlying third party liability injury and must be reasonable and necessary. So even if a Colorado hospital lien is perfected, the injured party has a right to dispute whether the charges are injury-related and to contest the reasonableness or necessity of the charges.

Call Medivest when your injured client is facing a hospital lien to allow our specialists to first determine if all of the requested charges are related to the underlying injury, and to negotiate with the lien holder or its recovery agent regarding the amount of reasonable and necessary charges. Don’t let your client pay unreasonable or unnecessary hospital bills even when a lien is filed!

*While this case has not been released for publication in permanent law reports and could be subject to a petition for rehearing in the Court of Appeals or for Certiori in the Supreme Court of Colorado, it is important to be aware of hospital practices in this regard.

Medicare Liens – Protecting Medicare’s Past Interests – The First Step of Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Compliance for The Plaintiff Attorney
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Medicare Liens – Protecting Medicare’s Past Interests – The First Step of Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Compliance for The Plaintiff Attorney

Note: If you would like to read the edited version of this article as it appears in Advocate Magazine you can download a copy of it here.

A. How and When Medicare Liens Arise

Under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, found at 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) (MSP), Medicare has a right to be reimbursed for payments it has made for a Medicare beneficiary’s medical treatment when the Medicare beneficiary is compensated for the treated injury by a third-party source. While Medicare’s rights to recovery under the MSP are so strong that they have been described as a super lien, that does not mean that your client has to always pay the full amount requested by Medicare.

The MSP right to reimbursement includes both a direct statutory right and a subrogation right, with a variety of recovery remedies available to the U.S. Government. In some jurisdictions, similar MSP recovery rights extend to privately administered Medicare benefits under Part C (Medicare Advantage Organizations or MAO’s) and Part D Prescription Drug Plans via the MSP’s private cause of action provision. The recovery rights described exist without regard to the date of service for the medical items, services, or expenses (medicals). Most attorneys know that they should check to see if traditional Medicare or a MAO has paid for medicals related to a compensated injury and address paying the amount or negotiating payment for same from the settlement proceeds. This article will explore ways to secure satisfactory lien resolution, focusing on traditional Medicare liens.

It should be noted that if a Medicare beneficiary begins billing Medicare or a MAO for injury related medicals after the settlement date/date compensated for the tort claim, recovery rights associated with those post settlement medicals exist in the same way that recovery rights exist for pre-settlement injury related Medicare covered medicals. Under such a post settlement scenario, the need for a Medicare lien investigation and resolution could essentially start all again.

B. Medicare Secondary Payer statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b) (MSP)

1. History of the Medicare Act and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act.

a. Background and Scope – Both arise from the Social Security Act of 1935. Medicare is a federally funded single payer national healthcare insurance administered by the U.S. federal government, through the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) under authority of the Social Security Act of 1935. Medicare is funded by a payroll tax, premiums and surtaxes from beneficiaries, and general revenue. HHS delegates running the Medicare program and interpreting Medicare law and implementing regulations to the law to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare covers medical expenses not on the list of exclusions found in 42 U.S.C. §1395y(a)(1) typically for U.S. Citizens (although exceptions exist allowing eligibility for some non-US Citizens as well), who are 65 and older, or younger than 65 with disability status determined by the Social Security Administration as well as people with end stage renal disease (ESRD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It is made up of parts such as Part A (mainly inpatient hospital insurance and skilled nursing care) and Part B (doctor visits, durable medical equipment, outpatient hospital care and some physical and occupational therapy and some home health care), the two together are known as traditional Medicare; Part C, covering Part A and B services but administered by private insurers; and Part D, covering Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) that are also administered by private insurers.

b. SSDI is for people who qualify under the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. SSDI payments start about 5-6 months after SSDI eligibility is determined depending on the date eligibility is first established. Individuals approved for SSDI also become eligible and qualify for Medicare two years after they begin receiving the SSDI payments. Both SSDI and Medicare are entitlement-based in contrast with Medicaid and SSI, that are largely needs-based.

c. Since the Medicare law’s inception in 1965, Medicare has been secondary to Workers’ Compensation. Therefore, if an injury occurred while at work, the Workers’ Compensation carrier would take responsibility for payment of those injury related medicals in accordance with the applicable state statutory rates and procedures. However, in 1965, there was no provision in the law pertaining to payment of medical bills related to liability claims for injured Medicare beneficiaries. Therefore, Medicare would (most often) pay for all medical treatment within its scope, leaving private insurers (other insurance) to work out who would cover non-Medicare covered services.

2. The Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) was Enacted in 1980.

a. In 1980, the Medicare Secondary Payer Statute (MSP) was enacted. 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) et seq. is commonly called the MSP Act or MSP Statute and is also referred to as the Medicare Secondary Payer provisions of the Social Security Act (SSA). While it has different statutory references, it is the same law and has parallel sequences of each number and letter after the section 1395y or 1862 as follows: 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b) = 42 U.S.C. §1862(b) of the SSA.

b. The MSP mandates Medicare to be a secondary payer to other forms of health insurance such as group health plans (GHPs), as well as other payment sources such as non-group health plans (NGHPs) when these primary plans are responsible for payment.

c. A “primary plan” is defined in 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2)(A) to mean “a group health plan or large group health plan to the extent that clause (i) applies, and – a workers’ compensation law or plan, – an automobile or liability insurance policy or plan (including a self-insured plan) – or no fault insurance, to the extent that clause (ii) applies. An entity that engages in a business, trade or profession shall be deemed to have a self-insured plan if it carries its own risk (whether by a failure to obtain insurance, or otherwise) in whole or in part. 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(2)(A)(ii).”

d. All plans other than the group health or large group health plans are categorized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as Non Group Health Plans (NGHPs). While the MSP applies to Group Health matters, it is in the NGHP area that the MSP compliance industry focuses its attention. NGHPs are those entities that demonstrate obligations of payment as primary payers by either statute (think workers’ compensation or no fault insurance) or by virtue of resolution of claims through settlement, judgment, award or other payment (think liability matters), regardless of whether liability is admitted. Most liability releases specifically deny liability for alleged liability claims. The payment obligation that triggers the MSP arises in the tort scenario when payment is made. There are no defenses listed in the MSP associated with how the demonstration of the obligation arises; when a party begins to make payments under a statute or contract for insurance such as workers’ compensation or under the state’s no fault law under terms of an insurance contract, or when a party settles a liability case, the payment obligation is “demonstrated” and the party responsible for payment is by the MSP, primary to Medicare.

e. The MSP was enacted to curb the rising costs of Medicare and designed to make insurers responsible for payment of injury related treatment primary payers and Medicare, the secondary payer. See Humana Medical Plan, Inc. v. Western Heritage Insurance Company, 832 F.3d 1229, 1234 (11th Cir. 2016). Regulations interpreting the MSP are found at 42 C.F.R. §411 et. seq.

f. To accomplish the goal of curbing Medicare costs, the MSP general rule – 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2)(A) – prohibits Medicare from making payment when a primary plan should make the payment. Specifically, a Medicare payment may not be made
“to the extent that –
(i) payment has been made, or can reasonably be expected to be made, with respect to the item or service as required under paragraph (1) [pertaining to GHPs], or
(ii) payment has been made or can reasonably be expected to be made under a workmen’s compensation law or plan of the United States or a State or under an automobile or liability insurance policy or plan (including a self-insured plan) or under no-fault insurance.”

g. There is only one exception to the prohibition of Medicare making payment when there is a primary payer that should make the payment. The exception authorizes Medicare to make payments called conditional payments if a primary plan “has not made or cannot reasonably be expected to make payment with respect to such item or service promptly.” 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2)(B)(i).

  • Prompt or promptly, when used in connection with primary payments, except as provided in § 411.50, for payments by liability insurers, means payment within 120 days after receipt of the claim. 42 C.F.R. § 411.21.
  • Under 42 C.F.R. §411.50, prompt or promptly, when used in connection with payment by a liability insurer means payment within 120 days after the earlier of the following:
    (1) The date a claim is filed with an insurer or a lien is filed against a potential liability settlement.
    (2) The date the service was furnished or, in the case of inpatient hospital services, the date of discharge. 42 C.F.R. § 411.50

The payments allowed to be made by Medicare are considered “conditioned on reimbursement” to Medicare by the primary plan. These payments could occur either before a settlement or after a settlement so settling parties should always address and make sure to resolve conditional payments a/k/a Medicare liens that arose prior to settlement from the settlement proceeds (even if negotiated to a compromised/reduced number) and additionally, due to the MSP, settling parties should also consider how to avoid conditional Medicare payments after a settlement.

h. Congress enacted the MSP provisions to address enforcement of Medicare as a secondary payer to WC and included the various other types of insurance as primary plans at that time.

i. Between 1980 and 2001, there was very little enforcement of the MSP.

j. CMS Memos of note. In July 2001, CMS issued the Patel memo which mentioned Medicare Set-Asides (MSAs) for the first time. In 2011 – the Stalcup Memo from the Dallas CMS Regional Office was the first time liability MSAs (LMSA’s) were mentioned in a CMS memo with the most detailed guidance on CMS’s position of a need to consider and protect Medicare’s interests for liability as well as Workers’ Compensation settlements to protect the Medicare Trust Funds in a manner consistent with the MSP.

k. The MSP gives Medicare both direct “lien rights” (42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii)) to be able to collect its conditional payments as well as subrogation rights whereby the MSP subrogates the United States to “any right under this subsection of an individual or any other entity to payment with respect to such item or service under a primary plan.” 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2)(B)(iv). This can be an important distinction when it comes to how CMS and courts interpret whether and to what extent an apportionment calculation may be performed to the outstanding conditional payment amount by discounting procurement costs including attorney’s fees and costs in securing the settlement, judgment or award. Actions by the U.S. on behalf of HHS/CMS via the MSP’s direct right of recovery (through the Department of Treasury or potentially the Department of Justice) against entities responsible for payment or those that have received some of the settlement proceeds is separate from its right of subrogation to recover reimbursement of Medicare conditional payments. The MSP’s direct right of recovery has in some cases been interpreted to not be limited by the equitable principle of apportionment stemming from the subrogation right. See Social Security Act, § 1862(b)(1), (b)(2)(B)(ii), as amended, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1395y(b)(1), (b)(2)(B)(ii); 42 C.F.R. § 411.24(c). Zinman v. Shalala, 67 F.3d 841 C.A.9 (Cal.1995).
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Law Firm Pays Over $90,000 to Settle A Failure to Reimburse Medicare Claim Brought by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland
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Law Firm Pays Over $90,000 to Settle A Failure to Reimburse Medicare Claim Brought by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland

Once again, a law firm was alleged to have failed to properly reimburse Medicare for conditional payments made by Medicare for injuries that were compensated in at least one settlement on behalf of an injured client. The press release, which can be found here involves a fact pattern a little different from a few other recent recovery actions by the U.S. Government related to alleged MSP violations. Often attorneys will refer liability cases to other attorneys or firms that handle personal injury, premises liability, and medical malpractice claims. The attorney that refers the case is typically allowed to share in the attorney’s fees obtained upon successful resolution. The fees obtained by the referring lawyer/firm are supposed to approximate and reflect a reasonable amount for the amount of work they do. Some attorneys do a thorough intake procedure and maintain contact with the client throughout the representation, are copied on all correspondence, and may provide input on strategy and procedure. After all, they have a responsibility to the injured party that originally contacted them in the first place. This matter involved six cases the U.S. Attorney’s office was investigating and of the six, four had been referred by the investigated firm to co-counsel. The firm was held responsible for the alleged failures to reimburse Medicare, regardless of whether they were a referring firm for a case handled by another firm or whether they were the handling the claim from start to finish.

We have provided other instances over the past few years where settlements were made with the Department of Justice including here and here.

However, Plaintiff attorneys in particular should be on high alert because the most recent enforcement actions have been focused on attorneys that disbursed funds to their clients after case finalization but failed to ensure that Medicare’s conditional payments were paid or otherwise resolved.

Take Aways:

  • Because the MSP grants both a direct lien right and a subrogation right to the U.S. to collect Medicare’s conditional payments, parties to a settlement should inquire, evaluate and confirm all injury-related Medicare expenditures for past medicals at the time of settlement.
  • Even if you “only” refer an injury case to another attorney who may do a majority of the work on the case, you should take an interest in verifying the existence of any liens that need to be addressed.
  • Due diligence is required for both the defense and plaintiff side to avoid unnecessary MSP legal exposure.
  • In addition to checking and verifying the correct demand amounts from CMS contractors, prior to settlement, steps should be taken by all parties to expand lien search inquiries beyond traditional Medicare (and Medicaid) to determine whether a Medicare Advantage Plan/Organization (MAP/MAO) or Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) made any conditional payments that could be recovered under the MSP. This is because the MSP private cause of action provision has been held in at least two federal circuits to apply to MAO’s and would likely be held to apply to PDP’s too.
  • There is value in evaluating Conditional Payment Summary forms that accompany the conditional payment correspondence from Medicare to confirm all entries on the form are injury-related and/or determine whether some entries should be disputed.
  • During the lien investigation process, parties should analyze whether a compromise (reduction) of a lien or potentially a waiver may be appropriate.

It is crucial for prospective settling parties to investigate conditional payment reimbursement amounts or work with an entity familiar with lien investigation procedures.
Medivest provides lien resolution services to help parties satisfactorily negotiate outstanding public and private health care matters including Medicare liens, Medicaid liens, Veterans Administration/TriCare liens, hospital liens, and doctors’ bills. Our lien resolution team works hard to dispute non-claim related bills, resolve and reduce outstanding bills/liens, and will seek refunds for amounts already paid when appropriate. Please reach out to discuss lien resolution today.

Law Firm to Pay $250,000 to U.S. For MSP Non-Compliance (Failing to Reimburse/Resolve Medicare Lien from Personal Injury Settlement Proceeds)
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Law Firm to Pay $250,000 to U.S. For MSP Non-Compliance (Failing to Reimburse/Resolve Medicare Lien from Personal Injury Settlement Proceeds)

The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announcing a Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[1] MSP non-compliance settlement with the U.S. by a plaintiff law firm from Maryland that failed to properly address or make Medicare conditional payment reimbursement (i.e. pay a Medicare lien) from the proceeds of a medical malpractice settlement secured for a firm client in 2015.  This MSP non-compliance settlement is similar to the one we wrote about from June of 2018 regarding a plaintiff law firm in Pennsylvania.

“Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 18, 2019

Maryland Law Firm Meyers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum, P.A., Agrees to Pay the United States $250,000 to Settle Claims that it Did Not Reimburse Medicare for Payments Made on Behalf of a Firm Client

Baltimore, Maryland – United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur announced that Meyers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum, P.A., a law firm with offices in Riverdale Park and Gaithersburg, has entered into a settlement agreement with the United States to resolve allegations that it failed to reimburse the United States for certain Medicare payments made to medical providers on behalf of a firm client.

“Attorneys typically receive settlement proceeds for and disburse settlement proceeds to their clients, so they are often in the best position to ensure that Medicare’s conditional payments are repaid,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We intend to hold attorneys accountable for failing to make good on their obligations to repay Medicare for its conditional payments.”

According to the settlement agreement, in and prior to 2012, Medicare made conditional payments to healthcare providers to satisfy medical bills for a client of the firm. Under the Medicare statute and regulations, Medicare is authorized to make conditional payments for medical items or services under certain circumstances, with the requirement that when an injured person receives a tort settlement or judgment, those receiving the proceeds of the settlement or judgment, including the injured person’s attorney, are required to repay Medicare for the conditional payments.

In December 2015, with the firm’s assistance and representation, the client received a $1,150,000 settlement in a medical malpractice action stemming from the client’s injuries. After Medicare was notified of the settlement, Medicare demanded repayment of the Medicare debts incurred from those conditional payments, but the firm refused to pay the debt in full, even when the debt became administratively final.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the firm agreed to pay the United States $250,000 to resolve the Government’s claims. The firm also agreed to (1) designate a person at the firm responsible for paying Medicare secondary payer debts; (2) train the designated employee to ensure that the firm pays these debts on a timely basis; and (3) review any outstanding debts with the designated employee at least every six months to ensure compliance.

This settlement reminds attorneys of their obligation to reimburse Medicare for conditional payments after receiving settlement or judgment proceeds for their clients. This settlement should also remind attorneys not to disburse settlement proceeds until receipt of a final demand from Medicare to pay the outstanding debt.

U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur commended Eric Wolfish, Assistant Regional Counsel, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the General Counsel, Region III, for his work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant United States Attorney Alan C. Lazerow, who handled the case.

# # #”

Take Aways:

  • Because the MSP grants both a direct lien right and a subrogation right to the U.S. to collect Medicare’s conditional payments, parties to a settlement should inquire, evaluate, confirm, and address all injury related Medicare expenditures for past medicals prior to, or at a minimum, at the time of settlement.
  • Because the MSP grants a private cause of action (MSP PCOA)[2] and Medicare Advantage Plans that privately administer traditional Medicare coverage for enrolled Medicare beneficiaries (MAO’s) have successfully availed themselves of this MSP PCOA against primary plans[3], parties should also inquire, evaluate, confirm, and address all injury related MAO payments for past medicals as described above.
  • While the Eleventh Circuit recently ruled that MSP private cause of action double damages could only be brought against primary plans[4], case law is not fully settled throughout the U.S. as to whether those other than primary plans like attorneys for Medicare beneficiaries would be liable for double damages under the MSP PCOA[5].  However, there is no doubt the double damages remedy clearly listed in the MSP’s direct cause of action provision applies in recovery actions by the U.S. Government against those who receive payments from primary plans, including Medicare beneficiaries and their attorneys[6].
  • When representing an injured party, doesn’t it make sense to address the issue at the time of representation instead of waiting to see whether the issue results in legal liability or a legal malpractice claim stemming from MSP non-compliance?
  • Due diligence is required for both the defense and plaintiff side to avoid unnecessary MSP non-compliance settlements/legal exposure.

[1] 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(2) et seq.

[2] “There is established a private cause of action for damages (which shall be in an amount double the amount otherwise provided) in the case of a primary plan which fails to provide for primary payment (or appropriate reimbursement) in accordance with paragraphs (1) and (2)(A).” 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).

[3] See e.g. In re Avandia Mktg., Sales Practices & Prods. Liab. Litig.685 F.3d 353 (3d Cir. 2012)Humana Med. Plan, Inc. v. W. Heritage Ins. Co., 832 F.3d 1229 (11th Cir. 2016).

[4] MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019).

[5]  In Aetna Life Ins. Co., v. Nellina Guerrera et al., No. 3:17-CV-621 (JCH), 2018 WL 1320666, (D. Conn. Mar. 13, 2018), grocery store Big Y’s motion to dismiss was denied after Big Y, the alleged tortfeasor in the liability action and thus, a primary plan, settled and paid a Medicare beneficiary. Aetna, a MAO, was allowed to proceed with a MSP private cause of action for double damages against Big Y. However, the court granted motions to dismiss by the Medicare beneficiary and the Medicare beneficiary’s attorney, because under the MSP PCOA scenario, they were not primary plans.

[6] MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 at 6 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019) (“[u]nlike the private cause of action, the government’s cause of action broadly permits lawsuits against ‘any entity that has received a payment from a primary plan’ – a grant that includes medical providers.” citing 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii)(the MSP direct cause of action by the U.S.); Haro v. Sebelius, 747 F. 3d 1099, 1116 and U.S. v. Stricker, 524 F. App’x 500, 504 (11th Circ. 2013)(unpublished)).

Medicare Advantage Plan MSP Private Cause of Action Suits – Eleventh Circuit Update
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Medicare Advantage Plan MSP Private Cause of Action Suits – Eleventh Circuit Update

Medicare Advantage Plan MSP Private Cause of Action Lawsuit Update

1. MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019).

On March 18, 2019, in MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc., the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear that while Medicare law as a whole and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[1] provisions in particular may be confusing, the MSP’s private cause of action provision [2] is clear[3]. MSPA Claims 1 (MSPA) appealed its dismissal by Defendant Tenet at the district court level in the Southern District of Florida. Because some changes had taken place since the dismissal, the appellate court indicated that MSPA was on solid legal footing if it had sued a primary plan instead of a medical provider. The take away of the Tenet case is that Medicare beneficiaries or entities such as Medicare Advantage Plans/Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) that wish to bring private cause of action claims under the MSP may not bring those claims against medical providers and must only bring those MSP private cause of action double damages (MSP PCOA) claims against primary plans that fail to timely pay or reimburse the aggrieved party.

As a reminder, the MSP makes Medicare secondary to all primary plans including both Group Health Plans and Non Group Health Plans. Non Group Health Plan primary plans include Automobile Insurers, Liability Insurance (including Self Insurance),Workers’ Compensation (WC) Plans or Insurance, and No Fault Insurance.

In many other MSP PCOA MAO cases that have been reported, MAO’s have typically sued primary plans that failed to pay. Most courts that have evaluated the issue of the right of the MAO’s to bring MSP PCOA claims have acknowledged the right of MAO’s or their assigns to bring MSP PCOA claims against primary plans. By contrast, the Tenet case involved an assignee of a MAO that sued a medical provider. The dismissal of MSPA at the district court level for this case focused on deficiencies in MSPA’s assignment chain and not on which entity could be sued under the MSP private cause of action. The key MSP PCOA language that was analyzed in the Tenet case is as follows:

There is established a private cause of action for damages (which shall be in an amount double the amount otherwise provided) in the case of a primary plan which fails to provide for primary payment (or appropriate reimbursement) in accordance with paragraphs (1) and (2)(A).

42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).

Comparing the limitations associated with the private cause of action with the public cause of action granted by the U.S. government in the MSP, the Eleventh Circuit clarified in Tenet that “[u]nlike the private cause of action, the government’s cause of action broadly permits lawsuits against ‘any entity that has received a payment from a primary plan’ – a grant that includes medical providers.” Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii)(the MSP direct cause of action by the U.S.); Haro v. Sebelius, 747 F. 3d 1099, 1116 and U.S. v. Stricker, 524 F. App’x 500, 504 (11th Circ. 2013)(unpublished)). This means that while providers, attorneys, Medicare beneficiaries, or other entities that receive payment from a primary plan can be sued by the U.S. under the MSP for double damages, only primary plans themselves can be sued under the MSP PCOA.

Before reaching its decision, the Tenet court went through an analysis to confirm subject matter jurisdiction by determining whether MSPA had standing to pursue the claim. To that end, MSPA would need to show that it suffered an injury-in-fact, that was fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct, and which was redressable by a favorable judicial decision. Id. at 2. The underlying federal claim revolved around the failure of the provider, Tenet, to pay a $286 medical bill on time. The bill was eventually paid approximately seven months late. Interestingly, the Eleventh Circuit explained that late payment was enough to show a concrete “injury-in-fact”. The Tenet court also explained why the assignment hurdles that had stopped MSPA at the district court level had been overcome at the time of the court’s decision. The district court evaluated the two-level assignment chain when the assignment chain was weak because the assignor, Florida Healthcare Plus (FHCP), had entered receivership proceedings and previously repudiated its assignment to La Ley, the entity that assigned the MSP PCOA claim to MSPA. The Eleventh Circuit in Tenet explained that just one week before its decision, FHCP entered into a settlement agreement with La Ley and MSPA that confirmed La Ley’s assignment of FHCP’s claim to MSPA and fully resolved the MSP Act assignment. Id. at 4. The court also dispelled Defendant/Appellee Tenet’s notion that an anti-assignment clause in a Hospital Services Agreement with assignee FHCP concerning the prohibition to assign hospital services would apply to the right of FHCP to assign its right (it received from the MAO) to La Ley that in turn assigned to MSPA the right to bring the MSP PCOA claim.

The Eleventh Circuit used established statutory interpretation rules to reach its final decision. MSPA argued that because paragraph (2)(A) that the private cause of action references makes a cross-reference to paragraph (2)(B), which establishes MSP conditional payment reimbursement and recovery (see MSP recovery actions by the U.S. and information on Medicare lien resolution and the new electronic payment functionality of the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal) rights, those recovery right concepts from paragraph (2)(B) should be incorporated back into the private cause of action. Essentially, MSPA was arguing that because other entities that receive payments from primary plans had obligations to reimburse Medicare for conditional payments and (2)(B) applies those recovery rights to this larger number of entities (“any entity that receives payment from a primary plan”), that the MSP PCOA could also be brought against any such entity that received a payment from a primary plan. This cross reference within a cross reference argument was shot down by the Tenet court as a “stretch.” Id. at 6. Alternatively, MSPA asked the court to rule in its favor based on authority from CMS promulgated regulations that afford MAOs the same MSP recovery rights as Medicare including the right to sue medical providers. Id. at 6 (citing 42 C.F.R.§§411.24(g), 422.108(f)). However, the Tenet court found the MSP statute to be clear and unambiguous and therefore, determined it unnecessary to look to the less authoritative CMS regulations for help with its interpretation of the MSP. Id. at 6. Because neither defendant was a primary plan, MSPA’s claim was dismissed.

2. MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Infinity Property & Casualty Group, 2019 WL 1238852 (N.D. Al. March 18, 2019).

This second case was decided on the same day as the Tenet case but was heard at the federal trial level in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Alabama. This court falls within the same appellate jurisdiction (Eleventh Circuit) that decided the Tenet case. The same MSPA plaintiff discussed in the Tenet case above filed suit as an assignee of two different MAO’s on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries identified with their initials as representative examples (exemplars) for each of the two MAO’s. The asserted claims were MSP PCOA claims against insurance company, Infinity Property & Casualty Group, an undisputed primary payer. If the facts in this Infinity case were the same as those in the Tenet case except that the Defendant in this Infinity case was a primary payer instead of a medical provider, the case would have not been dismissed. However, the facts in this case were distinguishable from those of the Tenet case beyond who was sued. In the first claim of the Infinity case, MSPA was found by the court to have failed to show that Florida Healthcare Plus (FHCP – the same entity that was involved in a chain of assignments in the Tenet case), a MAO, had paid any medical bill connected to a claim of the exemplar Medicare beneficiary identified as D.W. The court seemed perturbed in announcing that Plaintiff MSPA knew what the court required but “due to a lack of either diligence or ability” failed to produce it. MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Infinity Property & Casualty Group, 2019 WL 1238852 at 7 (N.D. Al. March 18, 2019). Without the connection to show that the MAO made a payment on behalf of the Medicare beneficiary, the Infinity court declared MSPA lacked standing to bring the claim.

The second claim of the Infinity case involved a MAO named Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc., its Management Service Organization (MSO) named InterAmerican Medical Center Group, LLC, and an exemplar Medicare beneficiary identified as B.G. The Infinity court pointed out that while the Eleventh Circuit in Western Heritage ruled that MAO’s accrue MSP PCOA recovery rights at the time they make conditional payments, the appellate court had not yet decided if the MSP statute also provides a private cause of action to MSO’s. Id. at 7 (citing Humana Medical Plan Inc. v. Western Heritage Ins., 832 F.3d 1229 (11th Cir. 2016). The Infinity court noted that district courts in the Eleventh Circuit and elsewhere overwhelmingly ruled that it does not. Id. (citing MSPA Claims I, LLC v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins., 322 F. Supp. 3d 1273, 1283 (S.D. Fla. 2018); MAO-MSO Recovery II, LLC et al. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., 1:17-CV-1541-JBM-JEH, 2018 WL 2392827, at *7 (C.D. Ill. May 25, 2018). The Infinity court cited one case in which a district court did not rule out the possibility of MSO’s having MSP PCOA rights, citing MAO-MSO Recovery II, LLC v. Mercury General, 17-2525-AB and 17-2557-AB, 2018 WL 3357493, at *7 (C.D. Cal. May 23, 2018). The Infinity court followed the Eleventh Circuit’s Western Heritage reasoning that because the MSP does not provide conditional payment reimbursement authority to MSO’s and does not obligate MSO’s to make secondary payments to be reimbursed, the obligations of a MSO would be contractual as opposed to statutory. Id. at 8. Therefore, the court declined to expand the scope of potential plaintiffs under the MSP PCOA beyond those listed in Western Heritage (a MAO when the MAO makes a conditional payment for healthcare services, by a Medicare beneficiary when the Medicare beneficiary had healthcare services paid by Medicare (or a MAO), or a healthcare provider when that healthcare provider has not been fully paid for services provided to a Medicare beneficiary).

The Infinity court also pointed out some potential flaws in the assignment chain to the MSO from another entity called IMC which by contract, needed to approve the assignment of any purported MSP rights from the MSO to MSPA unless it was “ministerial in nature.” Because the evidence presented that the assignment was ministerial in nature failed to explain how it met the definition of that term in the contract, it failed the preponderance of the evidence standard, and the Infinity court found MSPA failed to show a valid assignment under its potential MSO claim.

Take Aways:

In the Eleventh Circuit (covering Florida, Georgia and Alabama), it is now clear that the following can sue a primary plan (only) under the MSP’s private cause of action:
• (1) a MAO when the MAO makes a conditional payment for healthcare services,
• (2) a Medicare beneficiary when the Medicare beneficiary had healthcare services paid by Medicare (or a MAO), or
• (3) a healthcare provider when that healthcare provider has not been fully paid for services provided to a Medicare beneficiary
____________________________________________________________
[1] 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(2) et seq.

[2] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).

[3] MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019) (citing The Federalist No. 62, at 421 (James Madison) (Jacob E. Cook ed., 1961) and MSP Recovery, LLC v. Allstate Ins. Co., 835 F. 3d 1351, 1358 (11th Cir. 2016).

Protecting Medicare’s Past Interests (How Securing Medicare Lien Resolution Will Help Protect Dwindling Medicare Trust Funds)
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Protecting Medicare’s Past Interests (How Securing Medicare Lien Resolution Will Help Protect Dwindling Medicare Trust Funds)

During the 21 years between 1980 and 2001, it is no secret that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did very little to enforce the Medicare Secondary Payer statute (a series of provisions beginning at 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) commonly referred to as the MSP).  This is surprising because the MSP prohibits Medicare from making payment when a primary payer should pay but makes only one exception for Medicare to be able to make payments conditionally provided it gets paid back.  Therefore, in those 21 years, protecting Medicare’s past interests would seem to have been on the minds of all settling parties on either side of Non Group Health Plan (NGHP) claims – Automobile, Liability (including self-insurance), Workers’ Compensation, or No Fault cases involving Medicare beneficiaries.

With enforcement actions by the U.S. becoming a reality, most parties to settlement have come to learn the importance of identifying conditional payments made by Medicare prior to judgments, settlements, awards or other payments. However, early on, many plaintiffs and their attorneys ignored their obligations to consider and protect both Medicare’s past and future interests, most often without consequences. Regarding Medicare’s past interests, they were hoping to never hear from Medicare again. Regarding Medicare’s future interests, they hoped that Medicare would not deny injured Medicare beneficiaries’ injury related treatment. While there still seems to be some clarification on the horizon coming from CMS with respect to the legal obligations to protect Medicare’s future interests, there is no longer doubt regarding parties’ obligations to address Medicare’s past interests and satisfy conditional payments.  However, negotiating the amount that CMS will accept as full payment, often through a process called the Medicare compromise process, may actually help protect the Medicare Trust Funds that the MSP was originally designed to protect[1].

Medicare has two Trust Funds. One for Part A that covers hospital insurance for the aged and disabled and one for both Part B that mainly covers doctors’ visits and Part D that covers prescription medications, for the same population of Medicare enrollees. It was announced in June 2018 that the Part A Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is projected to be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than predicted just a year ago. The Part B and D Trust Fund is not as bad off due to a financing system with yearly resets for premium and general revenue income and is projected to have adequate funding for the next ten years and beyond.

Total Medicare expenditures were reported to be $710 billion in 2017. Medicare expenditures were projected to increase at a faster pace than either aggregate workers’ earnings or the economy, and to increase from approximately 3.7 percent in 2017 to between 6.2 percent and 8.9 percent as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2029, causing substantial strain on our nation’s workers, the economy, Medicare beneficiaries, and the Federal budget.

A 2018 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the two Medicare Trust Funds recommended a legislative response [2] to help protect the Part A Trust Fund. However, instead of waiting years for Congress to act, if parties to third party or workers’ compensation settlements involving Medicare beneficiaries [3], proactively address both past and future interests of Medicare, that could help slow Medicare Trust Fund depletion, in line with the above-described intent of the MSP.

With good reason, many MSP compliance discussions focus on considering and protecting the future interests of Medicare and the allocation and administration tools designed to protect Medicare’s future interests.  Equally, if not more important due to the enforcement mechanisms currently in place, parties should address and protect Medicare’s past interests through Medicare lien resolution.  Because we know the obligation to address Medicare’s past interests exists, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and seek opportunities to reduce/compromise the amount CMS will accept to fully resolve reimbursement of its conditional payment demands/Medicare liens? While it might seem that CMS would frown upon compromise requests, doesn’t it make more sense for CMS to encourage an open line of communication with settling parties and grant discounts to those who take the time to comply with the law as opposed to those settling parties that shirk their respective MSP responsibilities and ignore Medicare’s past interests?

CMS held a webinar today regarding an April 2019 upgrade to the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) scheduled to allow for electronic payment of conditional payments for all NGHP matters. The portal’s payment functionality should speed up the payment of known non-disputed conditional payment amounts. For parties interested in reducing exposure to high interest rates (close to 10% currently) associated with late payment of conditional payment demands, this new electronic payment functionality of the MSPRP should be welcome news. Ideally, there will be an opportunity to reduce the requested conditional payment amounts by the procurement costs associated with obtaining the settlements. However, Medicare lien resolution often involves more than just reducing the injured party’s conditional payment obligation by the procurement costs.  As even better news, the compromise and waiver processes will not be affected by the electronic payments process.  Therefore, even when conditional payment/Medicare lien amounts are paid electronically via this new MSPRP process, CMS will still consider compromise or waiver requests, and issue refunds to the party providing payment (or as directed and authorized in writing by the paying party).

 


[1] The MSP is a series of statutory amendments to the Medicare law from 1965 which in turn amends the Social Security Act of 1935.

[2] Because this is the second consecutive finding that the difference between Medicare’s outlays and its financing sources will exceed 45 percent of Medicare’s outlays within 7 years, a Medicare funding warning was issued, requiring the President to submit proposed legislation to Congress within 15 days after the submission of the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. Congress would then be required by law to consider the legislation on an expedited basis.

[3] The future interests of Medicare should be considered for any settlement regardless of claim type or Medicare enrollment status because the MSP does not make distinctions regarding Medicare’s payment status as a secondary payer for different claim types or about workload review threshold standards that currently exist in the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide published by CMS.  Those workload review thresholds allowing review by CMS are triggered for WCMSAs involving Medicare beneficiaries for judgments, settlements, awards, or other payments (“Settlements”) over $25,000, and injured parties with a reasonable expectation of becoming enrolled in Medicare within 30 months of Settlement for Settlements over $250,000.  Section 8.1 of the new WCMSA Reference Guide makes it clear that even for WC cases where the workload review thresholds are not met, Medicare’s future interests should be considered via a future care plan (using “plan for future care” to allow the reader to determine the method by which the plan for the future care of the injured party should be prepared – even if not recommending, certainly implying a method such as commonly seen in Medicare Set-Aside allocation reports), or else the settling parties will be placed “at risk for recovery from care related to the WC injury up to the full value of the settlement.”  The industry is still waiting for regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations by CMS clarifying this issue for liability cases.  This coming fall, there may be further clarification regarding consideration and protection of Medicare’s future interests via new Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the NGHP area, with the hope that any resulting regulations will address comparative/contributory negligence, causation, policy limits, non-economic damages, and other factors unique to liability cases.

 

 

Medicare Lien Investigation/Lien Resolution (Is Ignorance of MSPRP Procedures or Other CMS Access Channels a Valid Defense?)
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Medicare Lien Investigation/Lien Resolution (Is Ignorance of MSPRP Procedures or Other CMS Access Channels a Valid Defense?)

Not following proper lien investigation procedures for the investigation and negotiation of Medicare liens can have far-reaching consequences on settling parties. Lien investigation means finding the dollar amount of conditional payments made by Medicare that are related to an injury for which another entity has the primary responsibility to pay under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[1].  For a plaintiff and their attorney or even a defendant paying a third party settlement, there could be MSP conditional payment exposure with potential recovery actions from the U.S. government. In many areas of law, a party seeking to enforce a lien needs to first file a document in court, providing notice to the party against whom it seeks to enforce the lien.  The U.S.’s direct[2] statutory right to reimbursement of its conditional payments pursuant to the MSP does not require the filing of a document in court prior to becoming enforceable but does have a 60-day notice period from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs Medicare, after which interest begins accruing for parties that fail to pay CMS contractor final demands.  While the procedures establishing Medicare’s conditional payment reimbursement rights differ from other lien procedures, this direct reimbursement right of the U.S. under the MSP is often referred to as a lien right.

The Plaintiff in Mayo v. NYU Langone Medical Center, a New York state trial court case, seems to have gotten a second chance at settlement when the court vacated a Settlement Agreement in the amount of $725,000 when Plaintiff’s counsel received a letter soon after settlement requesting a much higher Medicare reimbursement than was originally discovered. While the court’s decision worked in favor of the Plaintiff this time, (giving the Plaintiff and attorney a second crack at a higher settlement or trial), if the motion was denied, the attorney might have been accused of committing legal malpractice.

In Mayo, the Plaintiff and Defendant each received different conditional payment letters from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). While not ideal, this can occur when duplicate files are generated from the two different contractors that CMS uses for collecting conditional payment reimbursements, often referred to as Medicare liens, stemming from liability/auto/self-insured, workers’ compensation and/or no-fault cases. The Plaintiff’s letter from the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC) indicated that Medicare’s conditional payment amount was $1,811.95. The Defendant’s letter from the Commercial Recovery Center (CRC) indicated that Medicare’s then existing lien amount for conditional payments was $2,824.50. Before requesting or obtaining a Final Demand from the CMS web portal, the parties created a written Settlement Agreement, agreeing to settle the matter in its entirety for $725,000 inclusive of what the parties contemplated as a “Medicare-final” conditional payment reimbursement of no more than $2,824.50. The Defendant never signed the Settlement Agreement. Prior to settlement funds being disbursed, a Final Demand from CMS was received by the Plaintiff, the Executor of an Estate of a Medicare beneficiary, asking for repayment of the shocking amount of $145,764.08.

The Plaintiff attempted to appeal the Final Demand amount at the first few administrative stages but was not able to be heard by a U.S. District Court because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.  Instead of completing all four administrative appeals before seeking federal court review, the Plaintiff went to state court and asked the court to void the Settlement Agreement. The Plaintiff argued that despite being in writing, the Settlement Agreement was unenforceable because it had not been signed by a representative for the Defendant and that there was a mutual mistake of fact concerning the Medicare lien amount. The court agreed with both arguments.

The CMS web portal, called the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal or MSPRP, was improved in July of 2018, to make it even easier for settling parties to obtain up to date conditional payment/lien reimbursement amounts. Congress, through the SMART Act amendments to the MSP[3], regulated by 42 C.F.R. § 411.39 of the Code of Federal Regulations, contemplated parties being able to rely on a download of a time and date stamped Final Conditional Payment Letter from the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) provided there was proper notification/reporting of a pending settlement within 120 days prior to the anticipated settlement and after giving CMS at least 65 days to search for conditional payments to be reimbursed. The updated functionality of the web portal provides a tool allowing authorized users to view conditional payment correspondence and request electronic or paper copies of same.

On November 19, 2018, CMS announced a webinar on upcoming self-reporting functionality that will be added to the MSPRP in January 2019.  Medivest will monitor this MSPRP enhancement and has representatives that regularly communicate with CMS via phone, fax, mail and the CMS MSPRP web portal to help parties stay up to date with CMS and avoid misunderstandings like the one that occurred in the Mayo case.

Take Aways:

• It is crucial for prospective settling parties to investigate conditional payment reimbursement amounts or work with an entity familiar with lien investigation procedures.

• There is value in evaluating Conditional Payment Summary forms that accompany the conditional payment correspondence from Medicare to confirm all entries on the form are injury-related and/or determine whether some entries should be disputed[4].

• In addition to checking and verifying the correct demand amounts from CMS contractors, prior to settlement, steps should be taken by all parties to expand lien search inquiries beyond traditional Medicare (and Medicaid) to determine whether a Medicare Advantage Plan or Organization (MAP/MAO) made any conditional payments that could be recovered under the MSP.

• If a Claimant/Applicant is a Medicare Advantage Plan member and any payments by the Medicare Advantage Plan should have been paid by a primary payer, steps should be taken to get those conditional payments reimbursed promptly.

• During the lien investigation process, parties should analyze whether a compromise (reduction) of a lien or potentially a waiver may be appropriate.

• Medivest provides lien resolution services to help parties satisfactorily negotiate outstanding public and private health care matters including Medicare liens, Medicaid liens, Veterans Administration/TriCare liens, hospital liens, and doctors’ bills. Our lien resolution team works hard to dispute non-claim related bills, resolve and reduce outstanding bills/liens, and will seek refunds for amounts already paid when appropriate. Please reach out to discuss lien resolution today.


[1] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et. seq.

[2] The MSP also provides the U.S. subrogation rights, subrogating the U.S. to the rights of any Medicare beneficiary as follows:

(iv) Subrogation rights

The United States shall be subrogated (to the extent of payment made under this subchapter for such an item or service) to any right under this subsection of an individual or any other entity to payment with respect to such item or service under a primary plan.

42 U.S.C.A. § 1395y (West)

[3] The MSP law says,

(III) Use of timely web download as basis for final conditional amount
If an individual (or other claimant or applicable plan with the consent of the individual) obtains a statement of reimbursement amount from the website during the protected period as defined in subclause (V) and the related settlement, judgment, award or other payment is made during such period, then the last statement of reimbursement amount that is downloaded during such period and within 3 business days before the date of the settlement, judgment, award, or other payment shall constitute the final conditional amount subject to recovery under clause (ii) related to such settlement, judgment, award, or other payment.

42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(vii)(III).

The protected period defined in subclause (V) is a 65-day period that can sometimes be extended another 30 days after a party, their attorney or other representative (such as a MSP Compliance company) has notified CMS through the MSP recovery web portal of a pending liability insurance (including self-insurance), no-fault insurance, or workers’ compensation settlement, judgment, award or other payment (“Settlement”). The entire process is outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) at 42 C.F.R. § 411.39. If after the 65 day Protected Period, the date/time stamped Final Conditional Payment Letter is downloaded within three days of a settlement, parties may reasonably rely on that Final Conditional Payment Letter. There seems to be some uncertainty whether the MSPRP Final Conditional Payment Letter may be re-requested at a later date if the settlement occurs later.

[4] There should be primary diagnosis codes obtained from the insurance carrier’s/Responsible Reporting Entity’s report of the claim under Section 111 of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP). It is important to parse out payments for co-morbid and other non-injury related payments made by Medicare that don’t count as conditional payments because disputes may only be made once during this process. Once disputed, unless CMS responds within 11 days from receipt, the dispute will be considered granted.

Does Self-Administration Ever Make Sense?
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Does Self-Administration Ever Make Sense?

Injured parties receiving lump sum settlements tend to spend their settlement money quickly. This quick spend risk is often described as dissipation risk. Statistics in a personal injury practice guide by The Rutter Group indicate that somewhere between 25 and 30% of accident victims spend all settlement money within two months of receiving the funds and that up to 90% of accident victims use all settlement proceeds within five years[1]. It would, therefore, seem prudent for attorneys representing injured parties to caution their clients about the quick spending tendency and to discuss ways to reduce that risk. One method to help reduce dissipation risk is the use of structured settlements with regular tax-free annuity payments, discussed in footnotes 4-6 of a prior blog article. Another option is using a professional administrator for payment of medical needs through Medical Custodial Accounts (MCAs) or via Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) accounts specifically designed to protect Medicare’s Trust Funds by preventing premature billing of Medicare for future injury related Medicare covered medical items and services (future medicals).  MSAs, which can and are often funded via structured settlement arrangements, are most often considered when the injured party is a Medicare beneficiary or has a reasonable expectation of becoming one within 30 months of judgment, settlement, award or other payment (settlement) (30-month Medicare window[2]), and the settlement compensates future medicals that would ordinarily be covered and reimbursable by Medicare.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) suggests in section 17.0 of its Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide, currently in Version 2.8, that WCMSAs “should be administered by a competent administrator” and provides examples such as a professional administrator, a representative payee, the claimant, etc. Other than cases with traumatic brain injuries for which a court may render a person legally incompetent, the question becomes whether there should be a minimum level of competence for a person to be deemed capable of self-administering a WCMSA or a Liability MSA (LMSA).

CMS explains the administration process in section 17.5 of the WCMSA Reference Guide. Requirements for administration are summarized by CMS as follows:

• Claimants should submit annual self-attestations, just as professional administrators would.

• WCMSA funds must be deposited into interest-bearing accounts separate from any personal savings or checking accounts.

• WCMSA funds may only be used for medical services and prescription drug expenses related to the workers’ compensation injury that would normally be paid by/otherwise reimbursable by Medicare.

• CMS provides some examples of care/items that Medicare does not pay for including acupuncture, routine dental care, eyeglasses or hearing aids, and suggests that claimants get a copy of the booklet entitled “Medicare & You” for a more detailed list of non-Medicare covered items.

• CMS cautions that “if funds from the WCMSA are used to pay for services other than Medicare-allowable medical expenses related to medically necessary services and prescription drug expenses, Medicare will not pay injury-related claims until these funds are restored to the WCMSA account and then properly used up.”

• Even if a person is not a current Medicare beneficiary, the requirements and prohibitions are the same as if the injured party were a Medicare beneficiary.

• While whether to submit a WCMSA to CMS for review is voluntary, Claimants that lose Medicare entitlement after such CMS approval, “. . . are not entitled to release of WCMSA funds if they lose their Medicare entitlement. However, the funds in the WCMSA may be used for medical expenses specified in the WCMSA until Medicare entitlement is re-established or the WCMSA is exhausted.”

Are the above bullets easy to understand and follow? Does the WCMSA Reference Guide language clearly explain what is expected? Even if a person can understand what they are reading, are injured parties likely to comply with the described procedures?

Regarding WCMSAs, The National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) published a February 2018 research brief updating its 2014 study on WCMSA reviews. According to the 2018 NCCI brief, approximately 98% of all WCMSAs (from the study’s 11,000 MSA data sample between 2010 and 2015) were self-administered.

Shouldn’t CMS want to try to plug this 98% administration compliance hole? CMS has “highly recommended that settlement recipients consider the use of a professional administrator for their funds”, does that language go far enough to protect the Medicare Trust Funds, one of which (covering Medicare Part A hospital insurance) is on track to be exhausted in 2026, three years earlier than projected just a year ago?

Are injured parties flying blind when self-administering their MSA funds? How does the dissipation risk described above affect injured parties’ decision-making process? There is an entire industry devoted to helping injured parties consider and protect Medicare’s interests in accordance with the Medicare Secondary Payer Act[3] and that keep up with CMS policies on WCMSAs, LMSAs, and administration. Regardless of whether CMS might ever mandate professional administration, insurance carriers and attorneys for injured parties should want competent and professional compliance partners to dispute and negotiate Medicare conditional payment reimbursements, estimate future injury related Medicare covered medicals, and above all else, to help injured parties competently administer their Medicare Set-Aside funds.

After all, should injured parties really be the ones making payments, coordinating benefits and/or negotiating bills? Can they really be expected to keep up with the detailed accounting and  reporting expected by CMS? CMS has shown a rekindled interest in both review of WCMSAs and LMSAs with the increased scope of work and dollar amount of its awarded WCRC Contract and in its recoveries of conditional payments. Because best in class administrators provide network discounts for Durable Medical Equipment and Prescription Drug pricing through Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), professional administration can help ease the burden of MSP compliance and save injured parties money.

Take Aways:

• Professional administration should be thoroughly discussed with injured parties by their attorneys. After all, lawyers are not only attorneys, but “Counselors at Law”.

• Insurance carriers and their attorneys should see also see value in minimizing MSP exposure.

• Even when outside the commonly referred to 30-month Medicare window, when future medicals are in play, parties to a settlement should strongly consider the use of a professional administrator, regardless of whether the primary driver is to coordinate and negotiate bills, or to reduce dissipation risk.

• The need for professional administration becomes even more apparent when the injured party is within the 30-month Medicare window, now combining the advantages of wiser spending with reduced MSP exposure.

• Allowing non-competent individuals to self-administer MSA funds turns a blind eye on our nations’ at-risk Medicare Trust Funds.

• MSP enforcement by CMS regarding past medicals will likely continue to proceed via the conditional payment recovery process. MSP enforcement by CMS regarding future medicals will likely be addressed through denial of Medicare coverage for injury related medicals when beneficiaries ignore the law or don’t keep accurate records of their Medicare covered medical spending.


[1] The Rutter Group, “California Practice Guide: Personal Injury” Chapter 4.

[2] CMS workload thresholds established for suitability of review of WCMSAs, as listed in the current WCMSA Reference Guide, have one tier for claimants who are Medicare beneficiaries and one for claimants with a reasonable expectation of becoming enrolled in Medicare within 30 months of judgment, settlement, award or other payment.

[3] 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2) et. seq.

 

Conditional Payment Collections – Make It Stop!
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Conditional Payment Collections – Make It Stop!

When Medicare makes a payment for medical items, services or expenses that another entity (Primary Plans or Primary Payers[1]) should pay under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) [2], the payments that are made by Medicare are called conditional payments.  Under the MSP provisions and its regulations, Medicare is entitled to be reimbursed for its conditional payments. The U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury) has authority to collect conditional payments after being referred MSP debt cases from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs the Medicare program, when Primary Payers/settlement parties fail to timely pay final demands for conditional payments issued by CMS contractors.  Treasury collection tools include the Treasury Offset Program, that allows Treasury to divert tax refunds or government benefits that would otherwise flow to Medicare beneficiaries or Primary Plans, as well as Private Collection Agency actions. If conditional payments are not timely paid to Treasury, the U.S. may also file lawsuits directly under the MSP through the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Secretary). Appealing the amount of the debt and/or requesting a reduction of the conditional payment demand amount via the compromise process is supposed to stop or at least delay the collections process while the appeal/compromise request is pending.

At the October 2018 educational conference of the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals in Baltimore, during a presentation led by Ted Doyle, V.P. Healthcare Markets for Performant Recovery, Inc., the Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) contractor for CMS, several members of the audience voiced concerns over the CRC prematurely referring conditional payment collections cases to Treasury. The frustration focused on the difficulty of getting prematurely referred debt recalled from Treasury. It seems that even when people take steps to appeal the debt and/or request reductions via the compromise (or waiver) process, collections can sometimes mistakenly proceed. Jacqueline Cipa, the Deputy Director for the CMS Division of MSP Program Operations, recommended diligent follow up by requesting an internal “elevation”/review with the appropriate CMS contractor and suggested that if a Treasury referral error is not corrected, to reach out to her via e-mail at Jacqueline.cipa@cms.gov.

The CRC contractor is usually the entity in charge of collecting conditional payment reimbursements from commercial Primary Payers prior to any Treasury involvement[3].  The Benefits Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor for CMS, on the other hand, is the only entity to initiate collection attempts for reimbursement of conditional payments from Medicare beneficiaries. Primary Payers such as insurance carriers or Third Party Administrators (TPAs) sometimes use reporting agents for their MSP Section 111 Mandatory Insurance Reporting obligations under the MSP[4].  Those reporting agents are often the ones that are sent conditional payment correspondence, demand letters, intent to refer letters, and potentially, Treasury collection letters. If a reporting agent fails to provide notification to the respective carrier or TPA it reports for, a conditional payment collection could develop and be referred to Treasury before the carrier/TPA knows about it. Under that scenario, a lack of communication between the reporting agent and its client might lead to a referral of conditional payment debt without it technically being premature.  However, if a debt is referred to Treasury as a result of an error, the responsible party should take immediate steps to recall the debt. If using a third party for reporting purposes, consider setting up a calendar system to follow up with any reporting agents to help prevent an inadvertent Treasury referral.

Regardless of whether a referral to Treasury has been made or not, it is wise to make a written request for a Redetermination (first level appeal) and to also consider whether a compromise (or even waiver in cases regarding Medicare beneficiaries) might be appropriate. There is a five-level appeal process if a party decides to appeal conditional payment reimbursement debt. The first four levels of appeal are administrative remedies and the fifth is a court based remedy, with a review by a U.S. District (federal) Court. If the matter is timely appealed at any level, collection action through the BCRC, CRC, or Treasury should stop until the respective appeals stage is completed.

A party is timely with its first level of appeal by providing a written request for a Redetermination within 120 days of a final demand. The appeal phase directly after a Redetermination is called a Reconsideration.  It must be requested within 180 days of the Redetermination, may include new evidence, and is decided by a Qualified Independent Contractor (QIC). The third level of appeal must be requested within 60 days of the Reconsideration decision, is generally only based on the evidence previously presented during the first two appeal phases (unless good reason is shown why it was left out previously), and is heard before an Administrative Law Judge(ALJ). If the ALJ decision is unfavorable, the fourth appeal level is a request for Council Review within 60 days of the decision and takes place before the Medicare Appeals Council.  The final appeal goes before a U.S. District Court and must be filed within 60 days of the Medicare Appeals Council Review. The entire process of exhausting administrative remedies takes a minimum of 420 days and is required before a party is allowed to appear before a federal judge.

Because going to federal court takes so much time and can become quite expensive, especially during the last two stages of appeal, parties have found it beneficial to enter into negotiations with the appropriate CMS contractor/CMS Collection Officer/Regional Office as appropriate for compromises of the conditional reimbursement amounts while the appeals process is taking place. The compromise/negotiation process can be established and run at the same time as the appeals process. Many times, matters can be satisfactorily resolved before having to move to even the second level of appeal. Medivest is available to help parties negotiate conditional payment reimbursement amounts/liens and appeal conditional payment amounts. Please contact us to discuss best practices regarding conditional payment negotiations/appeals.


[1] Both Group Health Plans and Non Group Health Plans (NGHPs) are Primary Plans under the MSP. Entities in the NGHP category include Liability Insurance (including Self-Insureds), Workers Compensation Plans, and No Fault Insurance.

[2] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et seq.

[3] For commercial matters, it is most often the CRC contractor that sends these letters, although for matters prior to October 2015, and more recently during backlogs associated with the changeover to the new CRC contractor, the BCRC has initiated files for some commercial repayment matters. Parties are urged to pay careful attention to which entity sends each letter and to provide development information or other responses and/or requests to the respective entity that sends the letter.

[4] Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA) (P.L. 110-173), found within the MSP at 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(8).

Updated Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) and User Guide
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Updated Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) and User Guide

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a web portal called the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) used by settling parties or those with authorization[1], to investigate and confirm the dollar amount of injury related medicals paid by Medicare. When Medicare makes injury related payments for medical items and services prior to a judgment, settlement, award or other payment to a Medicare beneficiary, those payments are called conditional payments and need to be reimbursed to Medicare, or otherwise resolved via lien resolution. CMS uses its Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor to both gather information about claims and their pending resolutions from beneficiaries and carriers and to most often pursue collection of the Medicare beneficiaries for recovery of conditional payments contemplated to be paid back pursuant to the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP)[2]. CMS uses its Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) to develop recovery cases against commercial entities that are primary to Medicare under the MSP including both Group Health Plans (GHPs) and Non Group Health Plans (NGHPs). An entity classified under the NGHP designation would include any liability insurance plan including an auto-insurer or a self-insured entity, a workers’ compensation plan, or a no fault insurer.

Therefore, parties involved in resolving liability, workers’ compensation or no fault claims should continue to focus their attention on and use the MSPRP. This July, CMS released an updated version of the MSPRP User Guide (Version 4.2) after increasing the functionality of the portal to help provide a more efficient process for both beneficiaries and insurers (and respective representatives/recovery agents) to obtain updated conditional payment information. Changes to the MSPRP, discussed in a CMS webinar on August 16, 2018, included allowing authorized persons/entities access to view correspondence sent and received on files in chronological order, to request electronic or paper copies of conditional payment correspondence, to confirm primary diagnosis codes on payment summary forms, and to even request a waiver for lien resolution (only after a recovery demand has been issued) and/or file a first level appeal concerning a determination of the conditional payment amounts to be reimbursed to Medicare. Future enhancements to the MSPRP may include a more convenient way for Medicare beneficiaries or authorized agents to notify the BCRC of pending cases and a way to make conditional payment reimbursements via the portal.

For cases that arose prior to October 1, 2015 and anytime that a backlog may exist, the BCRC also may pursue collections from commercial entities for recovery of conditional payments. For example, the BCRC is currently helping the CRC contractor, Performant Recovery, Inc. with a backlog it inherited when it took over the CRC contract from CGI in February of 2018[3]. While slightly confusing, case numbers are based on what entity sends the letter instead of based on the type of case. Therefore, the BCRC uses its traditional numbering system for all of its cases regardless of whether it is pursuing a beneficiary or a commercial entity, so it is important to pay attention to who sends the letter and what the letter is requesting, instead of concentrating on the case number. The entity that sends the letter is the entity to which you should address responses and follow up correspondence. The CRC on the other hand, is solely focused on commercial collections. When the CRC initiates a NGHP collection, the MSPRP is the web portal to access to check on the conditional payment reimbursement.

CMS recently announced that it will host a webinar providing an overview of the functions of a currently existing web portal called the Commercial Repayment Center Portal (CRCP) that involves claims outside the NGHP scope. While the CRCP involves the CRC, this upcoming CMS webinar (September 19, 2018) only pertains to CRC’s recoveries in the Group Health realm. There has been no indication from CMS that the CRCP functions would or even might be expanded to accommodate CRC collections for NGHP matters that will instead remain with the MSPRP.

In addition to the authorization backlogs referenced above, there seems to have been a delay in obtaining conditional payment amounts in writing from the new CRC contractor via phone communication or traditional written correspondence. Hopefully, the updates to the MSPRP web portal will begin to help alleviate some of the delays that have been experienced by prospective settling parties by allowing for timely electronic confirmation of receipt of authorizations and access to updated conditional payment information.


[1] All authorizations are forwarded to the BCRC. Authorization for a Medicare beneficiary will typically require a Proof of Representation form signed by the Medicare beneficiary (or someone legally authorized to act on their behalf if they are incapacitated) in favor of the representative along with written documentation from the attorney for the Claimant/Applicant/Plaintiff documenting the chain of representation and intent for the representative to be able to transmit and receive information and act on behalf of the beneficiary for CMS purposes. Authorization for a commercial entity will typically require a Consent to Release form signed by the Medicare beneficiary and a Letter of Authority from the commercial entity/carrier demonstrating the intent for the representative to be able to openly communicate and act on the commercial entity’s behalf with CMS via a “two-way street”.
[2] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et. seq.
[3] Jacqueline Cipa, Department Director, Division of Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Program Operations for CMS, explained in a presentation at the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) annual conference in Orlando in August 2018 that there is a backlog for confirmations of receipt of authorization documents at the CRC of up to 45 days.

Medicare Lien Enforcement – Time to Take Notice
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Medicare Lien Enforcement – Time to Take Notice

In addition to Medicare being a secondary payer to workers’ compensation as it has been since Medicare was established in 1965, the Medicare Secondary Payer Act of 1980, found at 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) et seq. (MSP) made Medicare secondary to auto, liability (including self-insureds), and no-fault insurance. These entities or insurance plans, including workers’ compensation plans, are referred to in the MSP as primary plans (Primary Plans).

The MSP allows the U.S. to pursue a double damages recovery for two times the amount Medicare conditionally paid toward injury-related medicals when a Primary Plan should have made those payments. Medicare lien enforcement lawsuits seeking conditional payment recovery by the U.S. must be brought within three years “. . . after the date of receipt of notice of a settlement, judgment, award, or other payment . . . .” Conditional payment recovery suits have historically been focused on protecting Medicare’s past interests although technically, conditional payments can also occur after a settlement. There have been conflicting results in courts over whether the double damages remedy applies only to a Primary Plan or extends to those receiving money from a Primary Plan, such as Medicare beneficiaries (Beneficiaries) or their attorneys.

Pursuant to 42 C.F.R. § 411.24(h), reimbursement of Medicare must occur within 60 days and if not, interest may accrue at close to ten percent under 45 C.F.R. § 30.13. Due to this high rate of interest and the looming threat of double damages, the standard in the lien resolution industry is to pay the amount demanded and request a partial refund, unless a resolution can be reached before settlement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs Medicare. CMS is allowed to compromise (reduce) and even waive Medicare recoveries based on various factors listed in several federal statutes and regulations. Under 45 C.F.R. § 30.14(a), a debtor may either pay the debt within the 60-day period from the final demand or be liable for interest during a 120-waiver determination period, while on appeal, or while any formal or informal review of the debt is pending.

We have written about conditional payment/Medicare lien recovery actions by the U.S. pursuant to the MSP before. Cases have been brought against Beneficiaries, their attorneys, and/or Primary Plans on behalf of CMS.

Medicare Lien Recovery Cases Against Beneficiaries and/or their Attorneys.

On June 18, 2018, the Department of Justice announced in a press release that an attorney/law firm entered into an agreement to repay the U.S. $28,000 after failing to ensure that the attorney/law firm client reimbursed Medicare for conditional payments made related to the underlying injury. The law firm had already disbursed the net settlement funds to its client. The law firm of Rosenbaum & Associates in Philadelphia entered into a settlement with the DOJ agreeing to pay the government this money after the U.S. alleged attorney Rosenbaum failed to timely repay MSP debt. The firm additionally agreed to designate a person at the firm to be responsible for paying MSP debts, to train the designated employee to ensure that the firm pays these debts on a timely basis; and to review any outstanding debts with the designated employee at least every six months. Attorney Rosenbaum also acknowledged that he may be liable under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.) for wrongful retention of government overpayments arising from the failure to timely repay the MSP debt.

Other cases have confirmed the above-referenced recovery rights of the U.S. to timely Medicare lien reimbursement. For example, a U.S. District Court granted summary judgment for $11,367.78 plus interest against an attorney for a Beneficiary, holding the attorney liable when Medicare’s conditional payments were not addressed/timely reimbursed from a third party settlement because the attorney’s contingency fee was paid from the proceeds of Primary Plan’s (liability) payment. See U.S. v. Harris, 2009 WL 891931 (N.D. W.Va. 2009) aff’d 334 Fed. Appx 569 (4th Cir. 2009). See also, U.S. v. Weinberg, 2002 WL 32356399 (E.D. Pa. 2002)(Partial judgment was entered in favor of the U.S. against the Defendant attorney on the issue of liability).

In U.S. v. Sosnowski, 822 F. Supp. 570 (W.D. Wis. 1993), the U.S. was entitled to recover MSP conditional payments from a Beneficiary and his attorney but was denied the award of double damages because the court interpreted the MSP as only allowing double damages to be assessed against Primary Plans and determined that neither the injured Beneficiary nor the Beneficiary’s attorney was a Primary Plan. If CMS gets more efficient at searching for all possible conditional payment reimbursement options, we could begin seeing more recovery actions and lawsuits against plaintiff attorneys and their Beneficiary clients.

Medicare Lien Recovery Cases Against Estates of Beneficiaries.

Cases in which CMS has proceeded against an estate of a Medicare beneficiary have yielded varying results. For example, CMS was successful in Benson v. Sebelius, 771 F. Supp. 2d 68, 75 (D.D.C. 2011) (Because plaintiff claimed his mother’s medical costs in pursuing his wrongful death action, medical expenses of mother were taken into consideration in calculating and negotiating wrongful death settlement award, and release to landlord where slip and fall occurred included any and all claims and rights including associated medical liens, no error was found when Medicare Appeals Board (in a de novo review) allowed CMS to recover its full medical expenses lien minus its procurement costs from the wrongful death settlement) (citing Mathis v. Leavitt, 554 F.3d 731, 733 (8th Cir.2009) (“Because appellants claimed all damages available under the Missouri wrongful death statute, the settlement, which settled all claims brought, necessarily resolved the claim for medical expenses.”); Cox v. Shalala, 112 F.3d 151, 154–55 (4th Cir.1997) (determining that Medicare was entitled to reimbursement for medical expenses from the proceeds of a wrongful death settlement because the settlement included recovery for decedent’s medical expenses); see also Brown v. Thompson, 374 F.3d 253, 262 (4th Cir.2004) (holding that CMS was entitled to reimbursement from the proceeds of a medical malpractice settlement pursuant to the MSP).

However, when the underlying wrongful death claim made no claim for medical expenses, there is a stronger argument that the Medicare lien does not extend to the estate of a deceased Medicare beneficiary. See Bradley v. Sebelius, 621 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir.2010) (The U.S. was denied the ability to recover Medicare’s conditional payments when no medical expenses of decedent Medicare Beneficiary were claimed in wrongful death action by survivors).

Medicare Lien Recovery Cases Against Primary Plans/Insurance Companies.

In a Northern District of Alabama case, the U.S. was not allowed to bring a direct MSP action (that would have allowed double damages) against a liability insurer that already settled its case and paid the Beneficiary, but had to bring a subrogation action pleading and proving that the liability carrier knew or should have known of Medicare’s conditional payments at the time payment was made to the Beneficiary. In re Silicone Gel Breast Implants Products Liability Litigation (MDL 926), 174 F.Supp.2d 1242; (N.D.Ala.2001), affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded 345 F.3d 866, certiorari denied 124 S.Ct. 2907, 542 U.S. 946, 159 L.Ed.2d 828.

In Aetna Life Ins. Co., v. Nellina Guerrera et al., No. 3:17-CV-621 (JCH), 2018 WL 1320666, (D. Conn. Mar. 13, 2018), still pending in District Court, grocery store Big Y’s motion to dismiss was denied after Big Y, the alleged tortfeasor in the liability action, settled and paid a Medicare beneficiary, making it a Primary Plan. Aetna, a Medicare Advantage Plan, was allowed to proceed with a MSP private cause of action for double damages against Big Y. However, the court granted motions to dismiss by the Beneficiary and the Beneficiary’s attorney, because it held that the MSP’s definition of Primary Plan did not specifically include them.

Take Aways:

• Because the MSP grants both a direct lien right and a subrogation right to the U.S. to collect Medicare’s conditional payments, parties to a settlement should inquire, evaluate and confirm all injury-related Medicare expenditures for past medicals at the time of settlement.
• Due diligence is required for both the defense and plaintiff side to avoid unnecessary legal exposure.
• Additionally, because the intent of the MSP is to prevent premature billing of Medicare for injury-related future Medicare allowable medicals, parties to settlements should always consider Medicare’s future interests and decide on reasonable actions to protect those interests when such future medicals are compensated in any settlement.[4]


[1] 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii).

[2] Id.

[3] At a minimum, the MSP imposes legal responsibility for repayment of conditional payment amounts. Under subsection (b)(2)(B)(ii), “a primary plan and an entity that receives payment from a primary plan, shall reimburse the appropriate Trust Fund for any payment made . . . .” Furthermore, under subsection (b)(2)(B)(iii) after describing the double damages remedy allowed by the U.S., the statute states, “[I]n addition, the United States may recover under this clause from any entity that has received payment from a primary plan or from the proceeds of a primary plan’s payment to any entity.” The corresponding regulation, Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 411.24(g) also explains this right in even more detail, “. . . CMS has a right of action to recover its payments from any entity, including a beneficiary, provider, supplier, physician, attorney, State agency or private insurer that has received a primary payment.” Arguments have been made as to whether the language “under this clause” referenced above relates to the reimbursement right or also extends the double damages right of the U.S. against those receiving payment from a Primary Plan. Some courts have restricted double damages awards only to Primary Plans or commercial entities required to make payment under a Primary Plan.

[4] Sally Stalcup, MSP Regional Coordinator, Region VI (May 25, 2011 Handout) at 3 (“. . . IF there was/is funding for otherwise covered and reimbursable future medical services related to what was claimed/released, the Medicare Trust Funds must be protected”).

Florida Medicaid (AHCA) Liens Do Not Reach Post Settlement Medicals
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Florida Medicaid (AHCA) Liens Do Not Reach Post Settlement Medicals

Unlike the Medicare Secondary Payer Act[1] that grants lien rights to the U.S. government to be reimbursed for past as well as future injury-related Medicare allowable medical items, services and expenses (Medicals), on July 5, 2018 the Florida Supreme Court (Court) ruled that Florida Medicaid liens extend only to past payments for Medicals and not to future payments for same. This decision resolved a conflict between two Florida District Courts of Appeal. In 2016, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal (1st DCA) affirmed an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) ruling that the state’s Medicaid Agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), was allowed to lien both past and future medical portions of a Florida Medicaid recipient’s tort recovery.[2] However, in 2017, the 2nd DCA ruled in Willoughby v. Agency for Health Care Administration, 212 So. 3d 516 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017), that the AHCA was not allowed to lien future medical portions of a Florida Medicaid recipient’s tort recovery.

While Giraldo v. Agency for Health Care Administration, 2018 WL 3301563 (Fla. July 5, 2018) is technically not final because the time for the filing a motion for rehearing has not passed, it seems likely the decision will not change. Four judges concurred with the Opinion by Judge Lawson and one concurred in part on the substantive decision and dissented “in part” only regarding the weight of evidence used in calculating the past Medicals. Even if the court had remanded the case for additional factfinding regarding the value of past Medicals, the holding that a Florida Medicaid lien is limited to past Medicals should stand.

The Court held that the federal Medicaid Act’s “ceiling” provision[3] was clear in prohibiting a state Medicaid agency such as Florida’s AHCA, from placing a lien on the future medical expenses portion of a Medicaid recipient’s tort recovery.  The Court mentioned its decision seemed to also be compelled by the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Alhborn and Wos, but because the language of the federal Medicaid Act was clear, there was no need to perform a separate analysis of the Ahlborn and Wos decisions.  The Court then remanded the case with instructions to the 1st DCA to direct the ALJ to reduce AHCA’s lien amount to $13,881.79 from $321,720.16. At the administrative hearing level, the estate of the deceased injured party presented uncontradicted evidence establishing $13,881.79 as the settlement portion allocated to the past medical expenses. Because the Court determined that there was no reasonable basis in the underlying record to reject the amount allocated for the past medicals, it held no further factfinding was required.

Quashing the decision of the 1st DCA and approving the Willoughby decision of the 2nd DCA, the Court held that the federal Medicaid law restricted Florida’s AHCA to lien only the past medical expenses portion of a Medicaid beneficiary’s third-party tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien.

Take Away

Florida attorneys that have injured clients that are enrolled in Medicaid should be on high alert regarding reimbursement demands from AHCA. Attorneys with clients on Medicaid or possibly dual enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid should investigate the existence of any liens and demand to be treated fairly by the respective government agency when negotiating conditional payment reimbursement/lien resolution.


[1] 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) et seq.

[2] Giraldo v. Agency for Health Care Administration, 208 So. 3d 244(Fla. 1st DCA 2016).

[3] 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(25)(H) “. . . [T]o the extent that payment has been made under the State plan for medical assistance for health care items or services furnished to an individual, the State is considered to have acquired the rights of such individual to payment by any other party for such health care items or services.”

The PAID Act Has a Nice Ring to It, Doesn’t It?
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The PAID Act Has a Nice Ring to It, Doesn’t It?

The two Congressmen that worked together to introduce the bill that became the SMART Act of 2012, amending the Medicare Secondary Payer statute (MSP)[1], have teamed up again, this time on May 18, 2018, to introduce the PAID Act, which stands for Provide Accurate Information Directly Act.  The PAID Act, introduced as House Bill 5881, is aimed at helping Medicare beneficiaries and parties that settle injury cases with beneficiaries get more complete injury-related medical payment reimbursement information than they get now.  The PAID Act would require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the sub agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) charged with the responsibility of running Medicare and creating regulations implementing the MSP, to provide insurance carriers and injured Medicare beneficiaries information about how much money has been spent toward injury-related Medicare covered medical items, services, and expenses (“Medicals”) by not only traditional Medicare (Parts A & B) as it does now, but privately administered Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Medicare Prescription Drug  (Part D) Plans, and the federally funded, predominantly state administered needs-based Medicaid plans, too.

As it exists, CMS provides various updates on mounting or finalized Medicals paid by traditional Medicare after being notified of upcoming settlements or receiving confirmation of settlements.  The updates are provided through the CMS web portal to parties that submit proof of authorization (Authorized Parties) to access the information.  The MSP provides direct statutory lien rights to the U.S. as well as equitable subrogation rights to the U.S. to arm Medicare with enforcement tools allowing it to be reimbursed for amounts conditionally paid that should be or should have been paid by Workers’ Compensation, Automobile Insurance, Liability Insurance including Self-Insurance, or No Fault Insurance (Primary Plans).  CMS provides the running total of the Medicare lien amount to help parties that want to settle know the amount to be paid to Medicare to satisfy its lien.  The SMART Act amendments to the MSP added a three year statute of limitations for the U.S. to bring recovery lawsuits enforcing Medicare’s conditional payment recovery rights and outlined demand amount update procedures and enabled regulations to be created by CMS, further defining  procedures for Authorized Parties to obtain updated and reliable information from the CMS portal on conditional payments by Medicare.

However, neither the MSP nor its SMART Act amendments contemplated the difficulties that Primary Plans, injured beneficiaries, and other Authorized Parties have experienced in getting updated information on prior injury-related medical payments made by Medicaid entities and/or the privately administered Medicare plans referenced above.  If CMS provided the payment information contemplated by the PAID Act in addition to the past payment of Medicals made by traditional Medicare, settling parties and their representatives would have a more efficient mechanism to determine proposed payment obligations toward a larger portion of past Medicals (collectively referred to in this article as Total Government Reimbursement Amounts).  When Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Asides (WCMSAs) are submitted to CMS for review or when any MSA allocation report is prepared, the standard is to project future costs for both medical services as well as prescription drug expenses.   However, CMS does not currently provide information about amounts paid for prescription drug expenses when parties or their authorized representatives request payment information through its web portal as those expenses are administered privately.  Therefore, the payment information available from CMS only provides part of the picture.

Primary Plans almost always condition payment of settlement funds on the agreement of beneficiaries to reimburse past conditional payments made by Medicare and often reference any applicable payment obligations to Medicaid[2] along with an acknowledgment by beneficiaries of their obligations to not prematurely bill Medicare for future Medicals pursuant to the MSP.  Payments for past Medicals by Part C, Part D and Medicaid Plans regarding settled injuries have not gotten the same attention that traditional Medicare conditional payments have because CMS is charged with the responsibility by the Secretary of HHS pursuant to the Federal Claims Collection Act[3]  to focus on the recovery rights of the U.S. under the MSP for conditional payments made through traditional Medicare.

The PAID Act sounds great in principle.  However, because the text of the bill will not be available until June 18, 2018, it is hard to say whether it will gain traction as written.  Because traditional Medicare’s lien rights are enforced by the U.S. pursuant to the MSP, the PAID Act will not likely need to reference prioritization of lien rights.  A wrinkle that has arisen is that private cause of action claims by Part C Plans or their assigns under the MSP are regularly being filed and it seems that MSP private cause of action claims could be filed by Part D plans too[4].  Sometimes, beneficiaries transfer between traditional Medicare coverage and Part C Plans from year to year.  Therefore, settling parties interested in addressing potential Medicare recovery rights should pay attention to the rights of Part C and Part D Plans for recovery of payment of past Medicals.  State legislatures, state Medicaid agencies, and courts asked to enforce Medicaid liens also need to consider the federal anti-lien statute[5] when addressing Medicaid lien matters alone or when Medicare has outstanding lien interests.

Putting the priority of Medicare liens over other liens to the side for a moment, the PAID Act would seem extremely helpful in providing a big picture look at the Total Government Reimbursement Amounts.  Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) stated that “this legislation will ensure that beneficiaries, Medicare and Medicaid have a clear and quick way to identify whether or not a participant has an MSP obligation, and provide information about how that obligation can be resolved.”  He further stated that “the PAID Act represents a ‘win-win-win’ for beneficiaries, plans, and the federal taxpayer.”  Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) added that “Congress can save significant money for taxpayers and drive a better coordination of benefits if it mandates the sharing of certain information between CMS and settling parties.”

Medivest will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation and encourages readers to consider supporting it once the text of the PAID Act becomes available. The language of the bill will be available here next month.   Information about how to reach your local Congressional representative regarding the PAID Act may be found here.


[1] 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) et. seq.  The MSP, a series of provisions that amend the Social Security Act and address both the order of payments for injury-related Medicare covered and otherwise reimbursable medical items, services and expenses like prescription drug expenses (Medicals) as well as the right of the U.S. Government to be reimbursed for any payments it makes for Medicals.

[2] Medicaid has lien rights derived from state law allowing it to reach portions of settlements that compensated medical bills paid by the respective state’s Medicaid agency as described under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Ahlborn case, cited in footnote four below and described in footnote five in our prior blog article, and as legislatively reinstated by the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018’s repeal of corresponding provisions of the BBA of 2013.

[3] 31 U.S.C. §3711, also known as the FCCA – requires the heads of legislative agencies to attempt to collect claims of the U.S. (and authorizes waivers and compromises of claims valued at up to $100,000 when a liable person does not have present/prospective ability to pay significant amount of claim or cost of collecting claim is likely to be more than amount recovered).

[4] The same MSP regulations in 42 C.F.R. § 422.108 are extended to Medicare Part D Plans via 42 C.F.R. § 423.462. Therefore, Part D Plans would likely be held to have the same MSP recovery rights as MAOs including the possibility of seeking double damages under the MSP private cause of action should a primary payer deny the Part D Plan reimbursement of due conditional payments.

[5] 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(a)(1).   See also, Wos v. E.M.A. ex rel. Johnson, 568 U.S. 627, 630, 133 S. Ct. 1391, 1395, 185 L. Ed. 2d 471 (2013)(“The anti-lien provision pre-empts a State’s effort to take any portion of a Medicaid beneficiary’s tort judgment or settlement not ‘designated as payments for medical care.’” citing Arkansas Dept. of Health and Human Servs. v. Ahlborn, 547 U.S. 268, 284, 126 S.Ct. 1752, 164 L.Ed.2d 459 (2006)).