Articles Posted in Public Benefits

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Critical Access Hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare for the reasonable and necessary costs of providing services to Medicare patients. The Medicaid program requires states to provide additional (DSH) payments to hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of low-income patients, 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(13)(A)(iv). In Kentucky, DSH payments are matched at 70% by the federal government. Kentucky’s contribution to DSH programs comes from payments from state university hospitals and Kentucky Provider Tax, a 2.5% tax on the revenue of various hospitals, including Appellants, The amount of DSH payments a hospital receives is unrelated to the amount of KP-Tax it paid. During the years at issue, DSH payments covered only 45% of Appellants' costs in providing indigent care. Appellants filed cost reports in 2009 and 2010 claiming their entire KP-Tax payment as a reasonable cost for Medicare reimbursement. Previously, they had received full reimbursement; for 2009 and 2010, however, the Medicare Administrative Contractor denied full reimbursement, offsetting the KP-Tax by the amount of DSH payments Appellants received. The Provider Reimbursement Review Board and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services upheld the decision. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the net economic impact of Appellants’ receipt of the DSH payment in relation to the cost of the KP-Tax assessment indicated that the DSH payments reduced Appellants’ expenses such that they constituted a refund. View "Breckinridge Health, Inc. v. Price" on Justia Law

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While implementing changes required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Michigan experienced a systemic computer problem that erroneously assigned thousands of non-citizens, who may have been eligible for comprehensive Medicaid coverage, to Emergency Services Only (ESO) Medicaid. Plaintiffs, two eligible noncitizen residents of Michigan who were erroneously assigned ESO coverage, filed a class action complaint against the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, alleging violations of the Medicaid statute and the Due Process Clause. The district court found that actions taken by the state since the complaint was filed had resolved all systemic errors, so that plaintiffs’ claims were moot. The Sixth Circuit reversed the summary judgment, noting that not one of the individuals identified as a named plaintiff or potential named plaintiff was granted relief on the basis of a systemic fix and that that it is not “absolutely clear the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.” Material questions of fact remain regarding claims that the state failed to provide comprehensive Medicaid coverage and a reasonable opportunity to verify immigration status, precluding summary judgment. View "Unan v. Lyon" on Justia Law

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Kentucky’s Health and Family Services commenced a Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse proceeding. The mother stipulated to neglecting her children. Kentucky placed both boys in foster care. R.O., the mother’s aunt, sought custody of the children. The state conducted a standard home evaluation and criminal background check on R.O. and eventually both children were placed in her home by court order. The family court closed the action and granted joint custody to the mother and R.O., though the boys remained living with R.O., who sought foster care maintenance payments. The family court declined to rule on the issue, “indicating that permanency had been achieved.” R.O. then sued the state, arguing that the federal Child Welfare Act, 42 U.S.C. 672(a), required the state to provide maintenance payments, and that the failure to make payments violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The state removed the case to federal court. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the Child Welfare Act provides no privately enforceable rights, that the family lacked a property interest in the payments, and that Kentucky’s scheme rationally distinguished between relative and non-relative foster care providers. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the Act creates a private right of action. View "D.O. v. Glisson" on Justia Law

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Clark sought attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A): $6,790.52 in fees for 34.75 attorney hours at an hourly rate of $176.13, plus 6.70 paralegal hours at an hourly rate of $100. The rate exceeded the $125 rate set by the EAJA. Clark argued that her counsel should receive a cost of living adjustment, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) for “Midwest Urban Consumers.” The agency requested that the court award fees at no more than $140, "the current reasonable and customary rate for experienced Social Security practitioners in the Western District of Kentucky." In her reply, Clark attached a declaration from her attorney, stating that he had practiced disability law from his Syracuse, New York, office for several years and provided his firm’s non-contingent hourly rate. Clark cited 2014 Sixth Circuit precedent, concluding that the requested rate of $176.13 was modest and appeared to be reasonable; she argued that other courts have held that the CPI alone was sufficient to justify a rate above the statutory cap. The district court awarded fees at an hourly rate of $140. The Sixth Circuit affirmed; there must be some understanding of the rates charged locally before a court can adjust for cost of living or other factors. View "Clark v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit declined to stay a preliminary injunction requiring the delivery of bottled water households served by the Flint water system that lack properly installed water filters. For many homes without a proper filter, safe drinking water is inaccessible due to the limited hours of the points of distribution and transportation issues. The cost of verifying and maintaining water filters and delivering bottled water to residents that are not part of the allegedly 96% of homes that have a functioning filter is "nowhere near $10.5 million" claimed by the defendants. There is still $100 million left of the $212 million that Michigan allocated to respond to the Flint water crisis. The court rejected an argument that delivering bottled water will slow down the recovery of Flint’s water system by decreasing the amount of water moving through the delivery lines. The defendants did not demonstrate a strong likelihood of success on their arguments, nor have they shown that portions of the preliminary injunction, including the provisions requiring the delivery of bottled water to non-exempt households, are overbroad. A stay would not support the public interest. Flint residents continue to suffer irreparable harm from the lack of reliable access to safe drinking water. View "Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri" on Justia Law

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Coursey’s application for Social Security benefits was denied. He sought judicial review. The district court granted a joint motion to reverse the decision. Coursey sought attorney fees. Although the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412, sets the presumptive maximum hourly rate an attorney may recover at $125. Coursey sought $185.18 per hour. Coursey submitted the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI), which documents that the statutory amount would, when adjusted for the cost of living in the Midwest in 2015, be the equivalent of $185.18. The court concluded that the CPI and the attorney's affidavit were insufficient to justify the requested rate and approved an award of $140 per hour, consistent with recent cases in the district awarding that amount for EAJA attorney-fee requests in Social Security cases. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A plaintiff seeking an attorney’s fee of greater than $125 per hour must show by competent evidence that the cost of living justifies a higher rate and that the fee is “in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation.” The court properly relied on evidence, judicial findings in previous cases, that the prevailing market rate for similar services within its venue was $140 per hour. View "Coursey v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Congress amended 42 U.S.C. 1396p(c)(1)(F)(i), which permits individuals and married couples to dispose of their assets (to qualify for Medicaid) by purchasing an annuity, under which the state is named as the remainder beneficiary in the first position for the amount of medical assistance paid. The federal law initially contained a drafting error. It was subsequently amended. A corresponding Kentucky regulation, promulgated four months later, mistakenly included the pre-amendment language, stating that the state had to be the beneficiary for the amount of assistance paid on behalf of the annuitant, rather than the institutionalized spouse. The state agency enforced the corrected federal statute. The Singletons sought Medicaid benefits to support Claude’s full-time nursing home care; in purchasing an annuity, Mary wanted to name the state as a beneficiary for the value of care provided to her, rather than Claude, as the Kentucky regulation seemed to permit. Claude obtained Medicaid eligibility after the purchase of an annuity that complied with the federal regulation. The government paid $98,729.01 in medical expenses before Claude's death. Mary later died, leaving $118,238.41 in the annuity. In compliance with the federal rule, the government’s claim left $19,509.40 for the secondary beneficiaries. The Singleton children sued. The Sixth Circuit rejected their argument that the Medicaid statute gave the state discretion to be more generous concerning annuities and the general spend-down rules. The Kentucky regulation departed from the Medicaid statute’s clear instructions and was preempted. View "Singleton v. Commonwealth of Kentucky" on Justia Law

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Fleming had a sporadic work history in the coal industry. Between 1970 and 1991, Fleming worked for 25 different employers. In 2010, Fleming sought Black Lung Benefits Act payments. The DOL Office of Workers’ Compensation calculated that Fleming was employed as a miner for nine and one-quarter years and that he had contracted pneumoconiosis as a result of that employment. Aberry was designated as the employer responsible for payment of benefits. On appeal, an ALJ determined that Fleming could show he had worked 273.50 weeks in the industry (about 5.25 years), but that Fleming was credible and established that he had either been paid under the table or without proper records having been kept. Based on that determination, the ALJ found that Fleming engaged in coal-mine employment “for at least 15 years,” which entitled Fleming to the presumption of total disability under 30 U.S.C. 921(c)(4). The Benefits Review Board remanded, stating that the ALJ had neither explained how he resolved the conflict between Fleming’s “not [being] a good historian” and the ALJ’s crediting of Fleming’s testimony, nor resolved the conflicting evidence. The ALJ's second Decision again awarded benefits. finding that Fleming worked more than 15 years in coal-mine employment. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The evidence was insufficient to establish that Fleming had 15 years of employment. View "Aberry Coal, Inc. v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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Hilleger, suffering from dementia, heart problems, and arthritis, moved into a Cincinnati assisted-living facility. For four years, Hilleger paid the center’s $4,300 monthly fee. When she ran out of money, her daughters paid the fee while Hilleger applied for Medicaid assistance through Ohio’s assisted-living waiver program. When the agency determined that Hilleger was financially eligible, Medicaid began paying for her care. Saunders suffered a fall. Her stress fractures and dementia prevented her from returning home. She moved to an Ironton assisted-living center and applied for Medicaid assistance The agency authorized benefits 18 days later. Saunders’s daughter paid the costs for those 18 days. Hilleger and Saunders filed a putative class action, alleging that Ohio’s omissions of Medicaid coverage for the first 18 days of Saunders’s assisted-living costs and for the first three months of Hilleger’s costs violated 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(34); violation of the notice requirements of 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(3) and failure to provide Medicaid assistance with reasonable promptness (42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(8)). The district court certified the proposed class and granted plaintiffs summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The plaintiffs had standing to pursue only their claim with respect to retroactive benefits; other claims could not be redressed by the relief sought. Section 1396n(c)(1) permits Medicaid funding only for assisted-living services that are authorized by a preceding service plan. View "Price v. Medicaid Dir." on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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Brookdale Senior Living hired Prather to review documentation related to thousands of Brookdale residents who had received home-health services from Brookdale. Medicare claims regarding those patients were on hold and Brookdale faced possible recoupment of payments it had received if it did not review and submit final Medicare claims. Prather noticed that the required certifications stating that the doctor had decided that the patient needed home-health services, established a plan of care, and met with the patient, were signed long after care was provided. Prather repeatedly raised this issue, but was rebuffed. Brookdale, facing financial disaster, began paying doctors to complete the paperwork months after treatment was provided. Prather thought that Brookdale was not just asking treating physicians to complete forgotten paperwork, but had provided the services without physician involvement and then found doctors willing to validate the care after-the-fact. Prather's suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, was dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed as to unlawful retention of payments. Completing certifications months after the fact was not “as soon as possible” after the plan was established, as required by regulations. Prather provided a detailed description of the alleged fraudulent scheme and her personal knowledge. Affirming dismissal of her false-records claim, the court concluded that Prather failed to plead with particularity the use of government forms to certify falsely that care had been provided under a doctor’s orders, or that unnecessary care had been provided. View "Prather v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc." on Justia Law