Gucwa v. Lawley: Injured worker and attendant care provider did not demonstrate standing in their complaint to sue under Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”).

On 4/16/2018, the United States District Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a workers’ compensation carrier did not have to reimburse an injured worker or attendant care provider for double the amount of payments of medical expenses made by Medicare under the MSP. Gucwa v. Lawley, 2018 U.S. App. Lexis 9428 (4/16/2018, 6th Cir.). The Court ruled the injured worker, and attendant care provider did not demonstrate standing in their complaint to seek reimbursement for from the workers’ compensation carrier under the MSP.

Standing is one among other requirements that must be demonstrated by a plaintiff in Federal Court in order for the Court to have authority over the parties and case. The plaintiff must show that they were in fact injured by the other party. There are a few federal laws that allow a person to sue on behalf of the government where the person suffered no injury at all, called whistleblower laws or qui tam statutes. The MSP is not, however, one of those statutes.

In the circumstances of this claim, Nancy Gucwa provided attendant care treatment to an injured worker, Mark Marusza, related to a workers’ compensation claim and sought payment from the workers’ compensation carrier. The workers’ compensation carrier disputed payments after obtaining favorable independent medical examinations. Medicare paid allegedly $15,665.00 in charges for Mr. Marusza’s treatment costs. The workers’ compensation claim went to trial, and a workers’ compensation judge ruled that claimant’s medical expenses should have been paid for by the workers’ compensation carrier.

After the workers’ compensation decision, Marusza and Gucwa filed an amended complaint in District Court alleging violations under various state and federal laws but also alleged double damages under the MSP for the expenses paid by Medicare. The District Court dismissed the complaint because Marusza or Gucwa did not demonstrate a concrete injury as a result of the carrier’s non-payment.

Marusza and Gucwa appealed the dismissal and provided the District Court with a demonstration of financial injury by stating that Marusza made for co-payments made to Medicare for Gucwa’s treatment in a request for reconsideration. However, because the copayment information was not a part of the original or amended complaint, the District Court continued to uphold its dismissal. Marusza and Gucwa appealed this decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although a party may bring a suit on behalf of the federal government under the MSP, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stated in Gucwa that the federal law is not a qui tam statute and the plaintiff must also demonstrate injury. This means that where payments are made by Medicare that may require reimbursement under the MSP, the Sixth Circuit Court held a person suing on behalf of the government must also demonstrate an injury due to Medicare making payments.

The Court of Appeals agreed that the plaintiff did not demonstrate in their complaint that there was a financial or concrete injury suffered by Marusza or Gucwa as a result of Medicare making payments for the attendant care services. Although the plaintiff’s tried to bring in additional allegations of co-payments after dismissal, the Sixth Circuit noted no supporting documentation was provided with the allegation copayments. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was not persuaded the additional allegations warranted an exception to the general law that arguments raised the first time in a motion for reconsideration are untimely and forfeited on appeal.

This case does not speak to the requirements or legal aspects of the MSP. Instead, this case demonstrates a plaintiff’s failure to allege financial injury in a suit under the MSP can lead to a dismissal, which is a universal legal principle.

Recap of Capitol Bridge LLC’s WCRC Transition Webinar

The new WCRC, Capitol Bridge presented a short transition webinar this afternoon.  The main presenters were Holly Havens of Capitol Bridge and  John Jenkins of CMS. Ms. Havens stressed the group’s 25 years of experience in providing various support services to CMS.  The group intends to maintain the same level of quality and timeliness with processing the files. According to their Statement of Work, development letters, if any, will be sent out within the first 10 business days after receipt of the CMS submission. Determinations will be issued within 20 business days after the complete submission is received.   Files that are currently pending will be transferred over to Capitol Bridge as of March 19, 2018, their first full day. There will be no change to CMS’ projection methodology.

Customer service will be handled by Capitol Bridge’s staff in Pittsford, New York. The preferred method of contact is by telephone, (833) 295-3773 or by email at WCRC@capitolbridgellc.com. All forms of communication must include the claim’s specific case number. Claims should continue to be submitted through the portal and to the same mailing address in Oklahoma. Capitol Bridge’s fax number is (585) 425-5390.

A question and answer session included questions regarding possible liability and no-fault MSA review. John Jenkins declined to address these during this call. Other questions focused on a concern about a backlog given the transition and the qualifications of Capitol Bridge’s reviewers. No backlog was anticipated by Capitol Bridge. Their review staff was also described as experienced MSA nurse reviewers, MSP compliance attorneys, physicians, and pharmacists. Capitol Bridge’s goal is to automate as much of the process as possible to avoid double keying of information and better coordinate the exchange of data between various systems. The portal user interface will not change as a result of the transition.  Capitol  Bridge also indicated that their 20 business day turn-around time should also apply to the amended review process. This presentation will also be available in the near future on CMS’ “What’s New” section on their website.

We will continue to keep you advised of further developments.

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018: Medicaid Reimbursement Limited

On 2/9/2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. As a part of the 2018 Act, Section 53102 repeals section 202(b) of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Section 202(b) was the legislative response to the United States Supreme Court Decision in Arkansas Dept. of Health and Human Services, et. al. v. Ahlborn, 547 U.S. 268 (2006).

Practically speaking, the Supreme Court in Ahlborn ruled that where there is a settlement or judgment of a third party liability claim, federal law limited Medicaid’s recovery to the amount designated as payment of medical expenses. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 altered the federal law the Supreme Court relied on in deciding Ahlborn. By altering the law, Congress provided direction to the Supreme Court and the public that Medicaid could recover up to the amount of settlement or judgment associated with a third party liability claims. The effective date of this change initially was 10/1/2014, but ultimately the change in recovery became effective on 10/1/2017.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 does away with Section 202(b) of the 2013 Act retroactively as of 9/30/2017 (before the 10/1/2017 effective date). This puts the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the federal law in Ahlborn back in play and may limit Medicaid’s recovery to the amount the settlement or judgment has designated as payment of medical expenses.

As more develops over Medicaid’s reimbursement rights, we will keep you posted.

CMS Delivers Expanded Re-Review Process and Modifies Case Re-Opening Process

CMS issued an updated Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Portal (WCMSAP) User Guide, Version 5.1 on July 10, 2017. Section 12.4 of the Guide outlines the new expanded Re-Review process for CMS approved cases , as promised by CMS in its December 21, 2016 Alert. Under this Section, a party may now seek a re-review when the current care projections differ by 10% or $10,000, whichever is greater, from the projections in the CMS determination. The difference may be higher or lower.

In order to seek an “Amended Review”, the following requirements must be met:

  • The original submission must have occurred between one and four years before the date of the Amended Review request.
  • Cannot have a prior request for an Amended Review.
  • The change in treatment must result in the greater of either a 10% or $10,000 change in the prior CMS determination amount.

The portal process for completing the Amended Re-Review request requires a line by line review of the CMS determination projections along with the entry of the new treatment projections and reference to specific supporting documentation. Since parties are still able to seek a re-review when they disagree with the CMS determination, this right will presumably apply to the Amended Review determination.

The updated Guide also revised the case re-opening process for submissions that have been closed by CMS. Section 12.3.5 provides that parties will have to resubmit the entire case, along with all associated documentation, when more than 12 months have passed since the date of the last closeout letter. This is essentially a new CMS submission in the case.
NuQuest offers the “Amended Review Submission Service” upon request. Our Service Coordinators and Settlement Consultants will also work with you to determine the optimal approach for your case. Although the CMS “Amended Review” is a welcome addition, the NuShield Certified MSA may be a better option.

The Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) Recognizes California Insurance Guarantee Association v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, et. al., 2:15CV01113ODW (“CIGA”)

The Commercial Repayment Center (CRC) Recognizes California Insurance Guarantee Association v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, et. al., 2:15CV01113ODW (“CIGA”):

Recently, NuQuest has received favorable initial determinations and redeterminations that agree certain dates of services should be removed based upon the ruling in CIGA.  The federal district court in CIGA found that Medicare’s practice of requiring reimbursement for dates of services simply because they included a related diagnosis code among other unrelated codes was unlawful.  This decision is further discussed in our previous blog posts:

Medicare’ Conditional Payment Recovery Tactics Challenged by CIGA

Is the Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

What is significant to report is that the CRC has agreed to remove certain dates of services from its statement of reimbursement because recovery was based only upon the date of service listing related diagnosis codes among unrelated codes. This means that if Medicare is seeking reimbursement for a date of service that includes bundled related and unrelated diagnosis codes, the debtor should dispute the charges based upon the CIGA ruling and file its appeal within the required timeframe.

Although evidence to support the removal of the charges may not be required, if the debtor has or can obtain evidence that support: (1) the dates of service did not include treatment related to the claim; or (2) that only a portion of the charges are related, such evidence should be provided to the Medicare contractors. Evidence should be obtained especially if filing a request for reconsideration to a Qualified Independent Contractor. Evidence, among other things, could be: medical records, bills, statements from the providers or claimant that certify the dates of service were for non-claim related treatment.

We will keep you posted on any further developments.