Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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In this case concerning the medical marijuana licensing and regulatory process the Supreme Court affirmed in part and dismissed in part this interlocutory appeal from the circuit court's denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss this action on the basis of sovereign immunity, holding that the circuit court erred in its ruling.Plaintiff brought this complaint seeking a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief to compel Defendants - the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, and the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission - to revoke a cultivation facility license granted to another company and instead award it to Plaintiff. The circuit court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss on the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court remanded the action, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying the motion to dismiss the writ of mandamus on the basis of sovereign immunity; (2) the circuit court erred in denying gate State's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim of declaratory relief; and (3) to the extent that Appellants were seeking relief under the APA the case must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration v. 2600 Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The formula that the Department of Health and Human Services must employ annually to set reimbursement rates for certain outpatient prescription drugs provided by hospitals to Medicare patients, 42 U.S.C. 1395l(t)(14)(A)(iii), provides two options. If HHS has conducted a survey of hospitals’ acquisition costs for each covered outpatient drug, it may set reimbursement rates based on the hospitals’ “average acquisition cost” for each drug, and may “vary” the reimbursement rates “by hospital group.” Absent a survey, HHS must set reimbursement rates based on “the average price” charged by manufacturers for the drug as calculated and adjusted by the Secretary. For 2018 and 2019, HHS did not conduct a survey but issued a final rule establishing separate reimbursement rates for hospitals that serve low-income or rural populations through the “340B program” and all other hospitals. The district court concluded that HHS had acted outside its statutory authority. The D.C. Circuit reversed. A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. The statute does not preclude judicial review of HHS’s reimbursement rates. Absent a survey of hospitals’ acquisition costs, HHS may not vary the reimbursement rates only for 340B hospitals; HHS’s 2018 and 2019 reimbursement rates for 340B hospitals were therefore unlawful. HHS’s power to increase or decrease the price is distinct from its power to set different rates for different groups of hospitals and HHS’s interpretation would make little sense given the statute’s overall structure. Congress, when enacting the statute, was aware that 340B hospitals paid less for covered prescription drugs and may have intended to offset the considerable costs of providing healthcare to the uninsured and underinsured in low-income and rural communities. View "American Hospital Association v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the public records law's general prohibition on pre-release judicial review of decisions to provide access to public records barred the claims brought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and two other trade associations (WMC) seeking to stop the release of certain records.After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made public records requests to the Department of Health Services (DHS) for documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic WMC learned that DHS planned to respond by releasing a list of all Wisconsin businesses with more than twenty-five employees that have had at least two employees test positive for COVID-19 or that have had close case contacts. WMC brought this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the release. The circuit court granted a temporary injunction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that WMC's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because its claim was barred by Wis. Stat. 19.356(1). View "Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce v. Evers" on Justia Law

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In this case related to a medical marijuana dispensary license the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the circuit court denying the State's motion to dismiss a complaint seeking temporary and permanent injunctive relief and an injunction enjoining the State form issuing replacement dispensary-facility licenses, holding that the circuit court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint.In its complaint, Plaintiff, a corporation, alleged that the Medical Marijuana Commission had violated its own rules, the constitution, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The State moved to dismiss on the grounds of sovereign immunity, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, mootness, and failure to plead facts indicating a cause of action related to equal protection. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the complaint under either section 207 or 212 of the APA. View "Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration v. Carroll County Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-petitioner Lisa Mestas petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate its order denying her motion for a summary judgment in this wrongful-death/medical-negligence action brought by David Lee Autrey, as the personal representative of the estate of his wife, Bridgette Ann Moore, and to enter a summary judgment in Mestas's favor on the basis of State-agent immunity. In May 2017, Autrey's wife, Moore, went to the University of South Alabama Medical Center to undergo a surgery required by the prior amputation of her right leg. The surgery was performed without incident, and Moore was transferred to a hospital room for recovery. At approximately 9:30 p.m. that night, nurses found Moore unresponsive. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful, and Moore was pronounced deceased. It was later determined that Moore died as a result of opioid-induced respiratory depression ("OIRD"). Mestas argued that, at all times relevant to Autrey's lawsuit, she was an employee of the University of South Alabama ("USA") and served as the Chief Nursing Officer ("CNO") for USA Health System, which included USA Medical Center, various clinics, and a children's hospital. According to Mestas, as the CNO, her primary responsibilities were administrative in nature and she had not provided any direct patient care since 2010. Mestas argued that because Autrey's claims against her arose from the line and scope of her employment with a State agency,2 and because she did not treat Moore, she was entitled to, among other things, State-agent immunity. The Supreme Court concluded Mestas demonstrated she was entitled to state-agent immunity, and that she had a clear right to the relief sought. The Court therefore granted her petition and issued the writ, directing the trial court to grant her summary judgment. View "Ex parte Lisa Mestas." on Justia Law

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Appellant, a severely disabled child whose congenital abnormalities were undetected during his mother’s pregnancy, sued various medical providers for wrongful life. The California Department of Health Care Services (“DHCS”) asserted a lien on Appellant’s settlement to recover what DHCS paid for his medical care through the state’s Medi-Cal program, and the trial court awarded DHCS the full amount of the lien.   The Second Appellate District reversed, rejecting Appellant’s contentions that DHCS’s lien is preempted by federal law and that there is no substantial evidence that Appellant’s settlement included payments for past medical expenses. However, the court held that the trial court erred by failing to distinguish between past medical expenses and other damages.   The court concluded that the provisions of the Medi-Cal Act permitting DHCS to impose a lien on Appellant’s tort recovery are not preempted by federal law. Further, the court concluded that the trial court did not err by concluding that Appellant’s settlement included past medical expenses. The court reasoned that the Welfare and Institutions Code provides that DHCS “shall have a right to recover . . . the reasonable value of benefits” provided to a MediCal beneficiary, and it further provides that the court, not the Medi-Cal beneficiary, determines what portion of a settlement is fairly allocated to satisfy DHCS’s lien.  However, it does not appear that the trial court determined which portion of Appellant’s settlement was attributable to past medical expenses, thus the court remanded the trial court to apportion the settlement accordingly. View "Daniel C. v. White Memorial Medical Center" on Justia Law

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker issued a series of executive orders that first required Illinois residents to shelter in place at their residences, compelled “non-essential” businesses temporarily to cease or reduce their operations and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people (later increased to 50 people). Believing that these orders violated numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution, several individuals joined with some Illinois businesses and sued the Governor in his official capacity. After granting the plaintiffs one opportunity to amend their complaint, the district court found that they lacked standing to sue. The court also concluded that it would be futile to allow a second amendment because, even if it had erred about the existence of a justiciable case or controversy, the plaintiffs could not state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. With respect to five out of six counts, the plaintiffs have not satisfied the criteria for Article III standing to sue. The remaining count attempts to state a claim under the Takings Clause. The business plaintiffs “may have squeaked by the standing bar” for that theory but have not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "Nowlin v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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Head Start is a federal program that funds early childhood education for low-income children and provides other resources and education to the children’s families. Michigan Head Start grantees challenged the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Head Start program staff, contractors, and volunteers imposed by an interim final rule of the Department of Health and Human Services. The district court denied a preliminary injunction.The Sixth Circuit denied an injunction pending appeal. The plaintiffs have not shown that they will likely prevail on the merits. HHS likely did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act when it promulgated the vaccine requirement through an interim final rule instead of notice-and-comment rulemaking, 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). That rule contains ample discussion of the evidence in support of a vaccine requirement and the justifications for the requirement, 86 Fed. Reg. 68,055-059. HHS likely has the statutory authority to issue a vaccine requirement for Head Start program staff, contractors, and volunteers under 42 U.S.C. 9836a(a)(1)(A), (E). The risk that unvaccinated staff members could transmit a deadly disease to Head Start children—who are ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to their young age—is “a threat to the health” of the children. The court noted HHS’s history of regulating the health of Head Start children and staff. View "Livingston Educational Service Agency v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court upholding the State Health Commissioner's denial of Chesapeake Regional Medical Center's (CMRC) application for a Certificate of Public Need, holding that the harmless error doctrine does not apply to an error of law in an administrative agency case under the Virginia Administrative Process Act.CMRC applied for a new open-heart surgery service and additional cardiac catheterization equipment. The Commissioner denied the application. CRMC appealed, contending that the Commissioner erred in his interpretation of the relevant administrative regulation. The circuit court affirmed, determining that the Commissioner's incorrect interpretation and application of the regulation was harmless error. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in applying the harmless error doctrine to the agency's legal error in interpreting and applying its own regulations; and (2) the lower courts erred by failing to remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings. View "Chesapeake Hospital Authority v. State Health Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Defendants Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa, and Ann Lebo, Director of the Iowa Department of Education, appealed the district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction completely barring enforcement of Iowa’s facial covering statute, Code Section 280.31. The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s entry of preliminary injunction completely barring enforcement of Iowa Code Section 280.31 as moot.   The court reasoned that the issue surrounding the preliminary injunction is moot because the current conditions differ vastly from those prevailing when the district court addressed it. The court reasoned that COVID-19 vaccines are now available to children and adolescents over the age of four, greatly decreasing Plaintiffs’ children’s risk of serious bodily injury or death from contracting COVID-19 at school. Further, when Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction, delta was the dominant variant, producing high transmission rates and caseloads throughout the country. Now, omicron has become dominant and subsided, leaving markedly lower transmission rates and caseloads throughout Iowa and the country. The court noted that to the extent that the case continues, the Court emphasized that the parties and district court should pay particular attention to Section 280.31’s exception for “any other provision of law.” Iowa Code Section 280.31. This exception unambiguously states that Section 280.31 does not apply where “any other provision of law” requires masks. The word "any” makes the term “provision of law” a broad category that does not distinguish between state or federal law. View "The Arc of Iowa v. Kimberly Reynolds" on Justia Law