Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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In a healthcare fraud case involving Medicare kickbacks, defendants Lindell King and Ynedra Diggs appealed their convictions and sentences. They challenged the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas's decision to admit recordings involving them and other co-conspirators, and disputed the court's calculation of the improper benefit received for the purpose of their sentence, as well as the restitution award. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit examined these arguments and ruled in favor of the lower court.The defendants were accused of receiving bribes from a Medicare provider, Dr. Paulo Bettega, for referring Medicare beneficiaries to him for unnecessary treatment or non-provided treatment. The Court of Appeals rejected the defendants' Confrontation Clause arguments, stating the recordings were not testimonial and did not violate the Confrontation Clause. It further dismissed the defendants' assertion that the recordings were impermissible hearsay.Regarding the calculation of the improper benefit, the court concluded that the government had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the entire operation was fraudulent. The defendants failed to provide rebuttal evidence of any legitimate medical expenses that should offset the amount paid to Bettega for treatment provided to residents of their group homes.The Court of Appeals also upheld the restitution award. It rejected the defendants' argument that their maximum restitution was limited to the $70,000 they received in kickbacks. The court held the defendants jointly and severally liable for all foreseeable losses within the scope of their conspiracy.In conclusion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court, finding no error in its proceedings or decisions. View "USA v. King" on Justia Law

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In a class action suit, the plaintiffs, a group of patients, alleged that the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), who operate the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), were in violation of Pennsylvania privacy law. The plaintiffs claimed that Penn Medicine shared sensitive health information and online activity of its patients with Facebook through its patient portal. Penn removed the case to federal court, asserting that it was "acting under" the federal government, referencing the federal-officer removal statute. However, the District Court rejected this argument and returned the case to state court.This case was primarily focused on whether Penn was "acting under" the federal government in its operation of Penn Medicine's patient portal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision to remand the case back to state court. The Court of Appeals determined that Penn was not "acting under" the federal government, as it did not demonstrate that it was performing a delegated governmental task. The court declared that Penn was merely complying with federal laws and regulations, which does not qualify as "acting under" the federal government. The court noted that just because a private party has a contractual relationship with the federal government does not mean that it is "acting under" the federal authority. In conclusion, the court determined that the relationship between Penn and the federal government did not meet the requirements for Penn to be considered as "acting under" the federal government, thus the case was correctly returned to state court. View "Mohr v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In this case, the parents of W.J., a young man with a chromosomal abnormality and autism, brought a case under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 against the Secretary of Health and Human Services, claiming that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine administered to their son had caused or significantly aggravated his health issues. They filed their petition more than 15 years after the vaccine was administered, well beyond the Act's three-year statute of limitations. The parents argued that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled due to their son's mental incapacitation, his minority status, and the government's alleged fraudulent concealment of a connection between the vaccine and autism.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims, which had denied the parents' petition for review and confirmed a special master’s decision to dismiss the case as untimely. The court concluded that the mental incapacitation of the son did not qualify as an "extraordinary circumstance" warranting equitable tolling because the parents, as his legal guardians, had failed to demonstrate that they were unable to file a claim on his behalf. The court also rejected the arguments for minority tolling and fraudulent concealment, finding no basis for these in the Vaccine Act or its legislative history. The court further held that the special master had not erred in raising the issue of the statute of limitations, nor in dismissing the claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "W. J. v. Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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This case concerns the standard of review that the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health must apply when reviewing the decision of a hearing officer on an application for a certificate of need to establish a new health service. The Supreme Court of Georgia vacated the Court of Appeals’ judgment, set forth the standard applicable to the Commissioner’s review, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court clarified that "competent substantial evidence" in the context of the Commissioner's review means evidence that is "relevant" such that "a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support" a finding of fact, and that is admissible. The court also determined that the Commissioner must provide sufficient detail in his order from which a reviewing court can determine whether the Commissioner has or has not improperly substituted his judgment for the findings of fact of the hearing officer. View "VANTAGE CANCER CENTERS OF GEORGIA, LLC v. GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a case involving Regenative Labs ("Regenative"), a manufacturer of medical products containing human cells, tissues, or cellular or tissue-based products ("HCT/Ps"), and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Following the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS") issuing two technical direction letters instructing Medicare contractors to deny reimbursement for claims for products manufactured by Regenative, the company filed suit challenging these letters without first exhausting administrative remedies. The District Court dismissed the case due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction as Regenative had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s dismissal, in part for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and in part on grounds of mootness. The Court concluded that the claims raised by Regenative arose under the Medicare Act and had to be pursued through the statutorily-prescribed administrative process. The Court also found that the company’s request for the court to vacate the contested policy was moot because the policy had already been rescinded by CMS. Finally, the court rejected Regenative's argument for mandamus jurisdiction, finding that it did not satisfy the jurisdictional requirements for this relief. View "Row 1 Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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In November 2013, Ahmad Rashad Davis was indicted for Medicaid fraud and theft by deception for defrauding Medicaid of $14,505.36 by falsifying timesheets over two years. In May 2014, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Davis entered into a plea agreement in which Davis agreed to plead guilty to Medicaid fraud, and in exchange, the Commonwealth recommended to the trial court that Davis's theft by deception charge be dismissed. The trial court accepted Davis's guilty plea and sentenced him to one year of imprisonment, probated for three years or until restitution was paid in full, and dismissed the theft by deception charge. In December 2021, Davis filed a petition to expunge the theft by deception charge. The Commonwealth objected, arguing that the charge was dismissed in exchange for Davis's guilty plea to Medicaid fraud, making it ineligible for expungement under Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 431.076(1)(b). The circuit court granted Davis's petition without holding a hearing, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. The Supreme Court of Kentucky granted discretionary review and reversed the decisions of the lower courts.The Supreme Court of Kentucky held that a circuit court can look beyond the sentencing court's final judgment to determine whether a dismissal was granted in exchange for a guilty plea to another charge. The court ruled that the circuit court erred in failing to do so in Davis's case. As a result, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and vacated the circuit court's order granting expungement. View "COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY V. DAVIS" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to order Marty Johnson, the owner of a mental health rehabilitation clinic, and Keesha Dinkins, an employee of the clinic, to pay $3.5 million in restitution. Johnson and Dinkins had pleaded guilty to charges related to a fraudulent billing scheme targeting Medicaid that lasted from 2014 to 2018. On the day before their jury trial was set to begin, both defendants pled guilty to their respective charges and agreed in their plea deals to recommend $3.5 million in restitution. However, after their pleas were accepted, both defendants objected to the restitution order, arguing that it was erroneous. Johnson challenged the loss and restitution calculation while Dinkins argued that the entire loss should not have been attributed to her. The court held that the defendants were bound by the plea agreements they had made and affirmed the district court’s order for each defendant to pay $3.5 million in restitution. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the pleas, the restitution amount did not exceed the actual loss, and the district court appropriately used the total loss amount when calculating Dinkins’s sentence. View "USA v. Dinkins" on Justia Law

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In this case, Gardena Hospital in California appealed a decision regarding its reporting of patient days for the purpose of calculating Medi-Cal reimbursement. The controversy centered around whether "bed hold" days — days when a patient is not physically in the hospital's subacute section but is expected to return — should be included in the reported patient days. If these days were included, it would result in a smaller per diem reimbursement to the hospital by the state. The hospital argued that bed hold days should be excluded, pointing to the Accounting and Reporting Manual for California Hospitals (the "Hospital Manual"), which does not specifically mention bed holds. The state, on the other hand, referred to the Accounting and Reporting Manual for California Long-Term Care Facilities (the "Long-Term Manual"), which specifically states that bed hold days should be included in total patient days.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Eight ruled in favor of the state, affirming the lower court's decision. The court held that where two state manuals guide health care facility accounting, the one that specifically addresses the issue at hand — in this case, the Long-Term Manual's explicit reference to bed holds — governs. The court reasoned that the specific provision controls the general one and can be regarded as a correction to it. Thus, according to this holding, Gardena Hospital must include bed hold days in its reported patient days for the calculation of Medi-Cal reimbursement. View "Gardena Hospital, L.P. v. Baass" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Windy Hill Hospital's request to change from a long-term care hospital to a short-term care hospital in Georgia, without obtaining a new Certificate of Need (CON) from the Department of Community Health. The case addresses two preliminary questions: whether a CON confers a private right or a public right on a hospital, and the proper framework for interpreting the Department's CON regulations.The Supreme Court of Georgia held that a CON confers a private right as it provides the individual, usually a corporate entity, with the right to operate a particular kind of hospital. This is because the right to use one's property in a particular way is a traditional property right. The Court also clarified the framework for interpreting administrative rules, stating that courts may defer to an agency's interpretation of its own rule only if the rule's meaning is ambiguous. In this case, the Court did not definitively determine if the Court of Appeals had applied this framework correctly in interpreting the Department's regulations relevant to this case.The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, without deciding several other issues that could be dispositive of this case. The Court did not rule on whether Windy Hill Hospital ever held a CON to operate as a long-term care hospital, whether the hospital's 1996 correspondence with the State Health Planning Agency constituted a "CON process", and whether any rights purportedly conferred by a CON ultimately vested. View "KENNESTONE HOSPITAL, INC. v. EMORY UNIVERSITY" on Justia Law

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A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law