Articles Posted in Health Law

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St. Vincent Health group acquired Randolph County Hospital and decided to replace the 80-year-old building. In 2002 the Hospital financed the project by borrowing $15.3 million from a fraternal corporation. Within a year, St. Vincent Health group was acquired by Ascension, the nation’s largest Roman Catholic health-care system. Ascension loaned the Hospital $15.6 million to refinance the loan. The Hospital sought reimbursement under 42 U.S.C. 1395f(b)(1), 1395x(v)(1)(A), and 42 C.F.R. 413.153, for “the necessary and proper costs of financing medical facilities.” Recognizing its problems with poor documentation, the Hospital withdrew its request that Medicare cover any expense before 2004 but requested compensation for 2004-2008, after Ascension had refinanced the loan in compliance with section 413.153(c)(2). The Provider Reimbursement Review Board ordered the 2004-2008 claims paid, finding that problems with the 2002 loan did not taint the refinancing. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reversed. The district court rejected reasoning concerning the initial loan but granted summary judgment, finding that the Hospital had not established that the Ascension loan refinanced that loan. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating the “taint” theory is legally untenable and cannot be reasserted on remand, but the agency is free to request more or better documentation and to explore the significance of the difference in the principal amounts of the loans. View "St. Vincent Randolph Hospital, v. Price" on Justia Law

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Rosewood is a skilled nursing facility, 42 U.S.C. 1395i-3(a), participating in Medicare and Medicaid as a provider. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, which enforces the statutory and regulatory provisions governing nursing homes operating in the Medicare/Medicaid network, assessed a civil monetary penalty against Rosewood on the grounds that it had failed to protect a resident from abuse, failed to timely report or to investigate thoroughly allegations of abuse, and failed to implement its internal policies on abuse, neglect, and misappropriation of property. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that these deficiencies placed residents in “immediate jeopardy.” An Administrative Law Judge and the Department Appeals Board affirmed the $6,050 per day penalty imposed by CMS. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence supports the Agency’s findings. The court noted three specific examples of noncompliance and concluded that there was a systemic failure to implement Rosewood’s policies aimed at conforming to federal regulations View "Rosewood Care Center of Swansea v. Price" on Justia Law

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Hartgrove, a psychiatric hospital, is enrolled with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to receive Medicaid reimbursement. Hartgrove agreed to comply with all federal and state laws and “to be fully liable for the truth, accuracy and completeness of all claims submitted.” Upon receipt of Medicaid reimbursements, Hartgrove is required to certify that the services identified in the billing information were actually provided. On 13 occasions in 2011, adolescent patients suffering from acute mental illness were placed in a group therapy room, rather than patient rooms, sleeping on roll-out beds until patient rooms were available. Hartgrove submitted Medicaid claims for inpatient care for those patients. Bellevue, a Hartgrove nursing counselor until 2014, voluntarily provided the information on which his allegations are based to federal and state authorities, then filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, and the Illinois False Claims Act. Both declined to intervene. The district court dismissed and denied Bellevue’s motion to reconsider in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 “Universal Health” holding that an implied false certification theory is a viable basis for FCA liability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Bellevue’s allegations fall within the FCA's public‐disclosure bar; the information was available in audit reports and letters. View "Bellevue v. Universal Health Services of Hartgrove, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased Illinois nursing homes and obtained new state licenses and federal Medicare provider numbers. Most of the residents in the 10 homes qualify for Medicaid assistance. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) administers Medicaid funds under 42 U.S.C. 1396-1396w-5, reimbursing nursing homes for Medicaid-eligible expenses on a per diem basis. The rate must be calculated annually based on the facility's costs. When ownership of a home changes, state law requires IDHFS to calculate a new rate based on the new owner’s report of costs during at least the first six months of operation. The Medicaid Act requires states to use a public process, with notice and an opportunity to comment, in determining payment rates. The owners allege that IDHFS failed to: recalculate their reimbursement rates; provide an adequate notice-and-comment process; and comply with the state plan, costing them $12 million in unreimbursed costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of a motion to dismiss. Section 1396a(a)(13)(A) confers a right that is presumably enforceable under 42 U.S.C. 1983; it benefits the owners and is not so amorphous that its enforcement would strain judicial competence. While the Eleventh Amendment may bar some of the requested relief, if it appears that owners have been underpaid, that does not deprive the court of jurisdiction over the case as a whole. View "BT Bourbonnais Care, LLC v. Norwood" on Justia Law

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Methodist and Saint Francis are the two largest hospitals in Peoria, Illinois. Saint Francis is considerably larger and more profitable. Methodist filed suit, charging Saint Francis with violating the Sherman Act by entering into exclusive contracts with insurance companies, covering more than half of all commercially-insured patients in the area. Methodist argued that it could not obtain a sufficiently high volume of patients to enable it to invest in improvements. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Saint Francis, noting that health insurers regard Saint Francis as a “must have” hospital, because it provides certain services that the other hospitals in the area do not provide, such as solid-organ transplants, neonatal intensive care, and a Level 1 trauma center. The contracts are a form of requirements contract; an insurance company may get better rates from a hospital by agreeing to an exclusive contract, which will drive more business to the hospital. The contracts are of fixed duration; when they terminate, the insurance companies are free to contract with other hospitals. Competition-for-the-contract is protected by the antitrust laws and is common. The court noted that none of the other four area hospitals had joined the case and the Department of Justice declined to file a case. View "Methodist Health Services Corp v. OSF Healthcare System" on Justia Law

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Indiana’s 2015 Vapor Pens and E-Liquid Act regulates the manufacture and distribution of vapor pens and the liquids used in e-cigarettes, Ind. Code 7.1-7- 1-1. The Act has extraterritorial reach and imposed detailed requirements of Indiana law on out-of-state manufacturing operations. It purported to regulate the design and operation of out-of-state production facilities, including requirements for sinks, cleaning products, and even the details of contracts with outside security firms and the qualifications of those firms’ personnel. The Seventh Circuit reversed dismissal of a challenge to the Act. Imposing these Indiana laws on out-of-state manufacturers violates the dormant Commerce Clause. Indiana has ample authority to regulate in-state commerce in vapor pens, e-liquids, and e-cigarettes to protect the health and safety of its residents, by prohibiting sales to minors and requiring child-proof packaging, ingredient labeling, and purity. The requirements for in-state production facilities pose no inherent constitutional problems. Indiana may not, however, try to achieve its health and safety goals by directly regulating out-of-state factories and commercial transactions. View "Legato Vapors, LLC v. Cook" on Justia Law

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Flambeau adopted an employee wellness program, requiring its employees, as a condition of receiving employer-subsidized health insurance, to fill out a medical questionnaire and to undergo biometric testing. One employee did not meet those requirements in time for the 2012 benefit year;, he and his family were briefly without health insurance. He filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit, arguing that Flambeau’s requirement violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ban on involuntary medical examinations, 42 U.S.C. 12112(d)(4). The district court dismissed; the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court declined to address whether wellness programs are exempt from the limits on medical examinations because the ADA does not “restrict … [an] organization … administering the terms of a bona fide benefit plan that are based on underwriting risks, classifying risks, or administering such risks that are based on or not inconsistent with State law” or the EEOC argument that this insurance safe harbor does not apply to wellness programs. The court held that the relief the EEOC sought is either unavailable or moot. The employee resigned before suit was filed. He did not incur damages as a result of Flambeau’s policy and is not entitled to punitive damages. Flambeau abandoned its wellness program requirements for reasons unrelated to the litigation. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Flambeau, Inc." on Justia Law

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Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem operate hospital networks in Chicago’s northern suburbs. They propose to merge. The Clayton Act forbids asset acquisitions that may lessen competition in any “section of the country,” 15 U.S.C. 18. The Federal Trade Commission and the state sought an injunction, pending the Commission’s consideration of the issue. To identify a relevant geographic market where anticompetitive effects of the merger would be felt, plaintiffs relied on the “hypothetical monopolist test,” which asks what would happen if a single firm became the sole seller in a proposed region. If such a firm could profitably raise prices above competitive levels, that region is a relevant geographic market. The Commission’s expert economist chose an 11-hospital candidate region and determined that it passed the hypothetical monopolist test. The district court denied a preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, but stayed the merger pending appeal. The Seventh Circuit reversed; the geographic market finding was clearly erroneous. The evidence was not equivocal: most patients prefer to receive hospital care close to home and insurers cannot market healthcare plans to employers with employees in Chicago’s northern suburbs without including some of the merging hospitals in their networks. The district court rejected that evidence because of some patients’ willingness to travel for care; its analysis erred by overlooking the market power created by the remaining patients’ preferences (the “silent majority” fallacy). View "FTC v. Advocate Health Care Network" on Justia Law

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O.B., two years old, has Down Syndrome, lung disease, and cardiac abnormalities. He is ventilator‐dependent and cannot digest take oral nutrition. O.B. is the named plaintiff in a class action against the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, alleging violation of the Medicaid Act. The Act defines “medical assistance” as including “early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services [EPSDT] … for individuals … under the age of 21,” 42 U.S.C. 1396d(a)(4)(B), and requires "reasonable promptness." EPSDT services include “private duty nursing services,” so that the child lives at home. When he was nine months old, the Department approved $19,718 monthly to pay nurses for up to 18 hours a day to care for O.B. at home. It took his parents almost a year to obtain home‐nursing staff so that O.B. could go home. The district judge certified a class of Illinois children who have been approved for home nursing but who have not been able to hire nurses. The judge ordered the Department to “take immediate and affirmative steps to arrange directly or through referral . . . in‐home shift nursing services.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Congress has clarified that where the Act refers to the provision of services, a participating state is required to provide (or ensure the provision of) services, not merely pay for them and that O.B.’s in-hospital care cost four times what home nursing would cost. View "O. B. v. Norwood" on Justia Law

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O’Connor-Spinner, age 47, suffers from depression and several physical impairments, including degenerative disk disease, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, sleep apnea, “restrictive lung disease,” and obesity. Several times since 2001 she has applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. In 2010, the Seventh Circuit invalidated the Social Security Administration’s denial of her 2004 request for benefits, noting that the ALJ had not asked a testifying vocational expert to assess how O’Connor-Spinner’s employment prospects would be affected by her moderate limitation on concentration, persistence, and pace, and had ignored a psychologist’s opinion that O’Connor-Spinner also faces a moderate limitation on her ability to accept instructions from, and respond appropriately to, supervisors. On remand, a different ALJ contradicted his colleague and declared that O’Connor-Spinner’s depression is not, and never was a severe impairment. The Seventh Circuit again vacated and remanded, stating that the medical evidence contradicts the ALJ’s assertion. The court noted symptoms including recurring agitation, impulsivity, fatigue, crying spells, and two or three “explosive episodes” weekly involving violent behavior and memory blackouts. View "O'Connor-Spinner v. Colvin" on Justia Law