Civil Monetary Penalty Proposed Regulations Are Here

The Medicare Secondary Payer law rendering a potential $1,000 per day penalty for noncompliance against primary payers has finally been demystified to some extent. The proposed regulation issuing guidance about Medicare Secondary Payer Civil Monetary Penalties relative to Section 111 reporting was unofficially disseminated on February 13, 2020, and the full text can be found here. The official document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 2/18/2020 and available online at https://federalregister.gov/d/2020-03069.

By way of history, this rule has been in progress since 2013, pursuant to the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act (SMART Act) of 2012, which amended the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007. The 2007 law rocked the industry by calling for mandatory penalties against NGHP primary payers of $1,000 per day per claimant for failure to properly report Section 111 data to Medicare. The SMART Act softened this, making the penalty discretionary rather than mandatory. The details of what would constitute a full penalty, diminished penalty and/or safe harbor from Civil Monetary Penalties have not been promulgated by the Agency until now. As of this date, no penalties have been assessed against NGHP primary payers. Having a rule in place could change this.

With 44 pages in all, there is a great deal of content within the proposed rule, the highlights of which are summarized below. As always, the Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance Group will issue an Official Comment to this proposed rule. We will accept client feedback regarding this rule, through April 15, 2020, as Official Comments which must be received no later than 60 days from the date of official publication.

If more information is needed and/or you have questions about how this may impact your business please contact us at Section111 Reporting Section111Reporting@grsm.com.

Highlights:

• The regulation outlines proposed specific criteria for when CMPs would not be imposed, in circumstances when a NGHP entity fails to comply (either on its own or through a reporting agent) with Section 111 reporting guidelines.
• CMPs will be levied in addition to any MSP conditional payment reimbursement obligations.
• The rule is prospective and CMS will evaluate compliance based only upon files submitted by the RRE on or after the effective date of the final rule.
• There will be a formal appeal process for RREs if they disagree with the CMPs assessed against them.

CMS generally identified three categories of CMPs:

  • Failure to report
  • Submitting responses to recovery efforts contradicting reporting
  • Submitting records with errors that exceed CMS’s error tolerance threshold
    Statute of Limitations:
  • CMS may only impose a CMP within 5 years from the date when the non-compliance was identified by CMS. The regulation outlines specifically how this will be calculated for each of the three proposed types of CMPs.
    • If an RRE fails to report within the required timeframe (no more than 1 year from the TPOC date), the penalty would be calculated on a daily basis, based on the actual number of individual beneficiaries’ records that the entity submitted untimely.
    TPOC Reporting:
  • Penalty would be up to $1,000 (as adjusted annually for inflation based on 42 CFR part 102) for each calendar day of noncompliance for each individual, as counted from the day after the last day of the RRE’s assigned reporting window where the information should have been submitted, through the day that CMS received the information, up to a maximum penalty of $365K per individual per year.
    ORM Reporting:
  • If an RRE fails to report an ORM termination date, the penalty would be calculated based on the number of calendar days that the entity failed to report updates to the record. The penalty would be up to $1,000 (as adjusted annually for inflation) per calendar day of noncompliance for each individual, for a max annual penalty of $365K per year.
  • Please note, while most of the penalties listed are prospective, the ORM termination reporting is retroactive if not terminated properly.
    CMPs Will be Imposed for the Following Errors:
  • If the RRE exceeds any error tolerance(s) threshold in any 4 out of 8 consecutive reporting periods.
  • The initial and maximum error tolerance threshold would be 20% (representing errors that prevent 20% or more of the beneficiary records from being processed).
  • CMS intends for this tolerance to be applied as an absolute percentage of the records submitted in a given reporting cycle.
  • CMS will maintain current notification process where RREs receive notice via response file and direct outreach (email and, in more serious cases, telephone calls) when there are errors with their file submissions.
  • An RRE is out of compliance for the entire reporting period when the RRE exceeds the error tolerance threshold. (90 calendar days equals one reporting quarter)
  • CMS is proposing a maximum 20 percent per file submission error tolerance. The errors that would be used to determine whether the error tolerance is met shall be defined by CMS 6 months prior to imposition of any CMPs.
  • CMPs would be imposed on a tiered approach if the RRE exceeded the error tolerance(s) in the entity’s fourth above-tolerance submission. Penalties and calculation percentages are outlined in detail within the regulation; however, we have included the chart below directly from the regulation that summarizes the tiered penalty approach CMS is proposing. For a more detailed discussion of this, please reference the proposed regulation itself.
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No CMP will be imposed in the following circumstances where all applicable conditions are met:

  1. If you report a claim timely; and
  2. Comply with TPOC reporting thresholds and any other reporting exclusions; and
  3. Don’t exceed any error tolerances in any 4 out of 8 consecutive reporting periods; and
  4. If the RRE fails to report required information because they were unable to obtain the necessary information from the beneficiary following a good faith effort to obtain this information which is defined in the regulation as communicating the need for the information twice by mail and at least once by phone or electronic communication. The RRE should maintain these records for a period of 5 years.

Disclaimer: Please note, this article is intended to be a high-level summary of the proposed regulation and is not intended to be an exhaustive review of every detail and requirement contained within the text of the proposed regulation. We will be providing a Webinar Series to discuss the fine details, business implications and best practices surrounding Section 111 Mandatory Insurer Reporting for NGHPs.

Let us know if you want to schedule a meeting to discuss in detail how this rule impacts your business.

Long Awaited Regulations Pushed Back, Again

Rulemaking for Civil Monetary Penalties and regulations believed to promulgate formality to Liability and No-Fault Medicare Set-Asides has been pushed back to December 2019 and February 2020, respectively.

Rules clarifying when and how penalties may be issued for Section 111 Medicare Mandatory Insurer Reporting noncompliance could possibly be issued by year’s end. The industry has been anticipating this rule since the initial $1,000 per day per claim penalty was softened into a discretionary penalty per the SMART Act of 2012, enacted in 2013. The updated notice can be viewed here.

Rulemaking for an LMSA or NFMSA policy no longer appears to be imminent. The last date published was October of 2019, which is now delayed another three months, at least. CMS approached such policymaking in 2012, redacting it in 2014 only to revisit it again in 2016. The industry remains in a holding pattern, which will continue through the first several months of 2020, if not longer. https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201910&RIN=0938-AT85

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) page shows some changes to the Miscellaneous Medicare Secondary Payer Clarifications and Updates proposed rule. Of note is the priority for this rule, which has been shifted from Economically Significant to Other Significant.

According to the OIRA/OMB Frequently Asked Questions, page, a proposed rule that is Economically Significant can be defined as follows:

“A regulatory action is determined to be “economically significant” if OIRA determines that it is likely to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities. For all “economically significant” regulations, the Executive Order directs agencies to provide (among other things) a more detailed assessment of the likely benefits and costs of the regulatory action, including a quantification of those effects, as well as a similar analysis of potentially effective and reasonably feasible alternatives.”

The term “Significant” is also defined on the OIRA page, and it can be distinguished from Economically Significant status as the proposed rule could:

  • Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency;
  • Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or
  • Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles set forth in this Executive order.

The OIRA page further distinguishes “Significant” status as follows:

The Executive Order requires that significant regulatory actions be reviewed by OIRA before they are published in the Federal Register or otherwise issued to the public. The Executive Order also requires agencies to provide an explanation of the need for the regulatory action and an assessment of potential costs and benefits. OIRA generally designates between 500-700 regulatory actions as significant each year.

Of interest is the bit about the proposed rule raising novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates. Of further interest is the removal of some of the abstract language on the OIRA agenda page, which removes the following part of the rule’s description,

“Currently, Medicare does not provide its beneficiaries with guidance to help them make choices regarding their future medical care expenses when they receive automobile and liability insurance (including self-insurance), no fault insurance, and workers’ compensation settlements, judgments, awards, or payments, and need to satisfy their Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) obligations.”

This leaves only the following description of the rule in the Abstract: “This proposed rule would ensure that beneficiaries are making the best healthcare choices possible by providing them and their representatives with the opportunity to select an option for meeting future medical obligations that fits their individual circumstances, while also protecting the Medicare Trust Fund.” Essentially, Medicare is no longer indicating that the Beneficiaries do not have guidance about future medical. This could possibly correlate to the prior Medicare Learning Network publications the Agency had disseminated to medical providers, suppliers and facilities. These publications suggested that Medicare Beneficiaries could be billed directly for services if Section 111 reporting was filed, demonstrating a primary payment plan’s availability, with Medicare as a Secondary Payer. The removal of language that there has been no guidance by Medicare could indicate positioning for greater accountability about Medicare Set-Aside usage. This is consistent with recent changes in the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Reference Guide (WCMSA) Version 3.0, which requires a Beneficiary’s acknowledgement of MSA content, intent, submission processes and associated administration within the Consent Form, as of April 1, 2020. See our article on this here.

What has not changed in the Abstract is Medicare’s suggestion that any proposed rule will be voluntary in nature, although the change to “Significant” status broaches the possibility that there could be a policy concern or legal mandate involved.

GRSM’s Medicare Compliance Group will continue to monitor the status of any forthcoming rulemaking. Please contact Michelle Allan, Esquire at mallan@grsm.com to discuss.

WCMSA REFERENCE GUIDE 3.0 EMPHASIZES ADMINISTRATION

Several changes regarding administration details have been made in Version 3.0. The biggest changes include new Consent Form language for WCMSA submissions requiring the Beneficiary acknowledge his or her understanding of administration, references to Medicare Part D coverage guidelines for Frequently Abused Drugs, and a link for professional administrators to upload account transactions and view account details. Also, among these significant changes are the extension of Amended Review timeframes and hospital fee clarifications.

It must be the end of October, as the Medicare Secondary Payer industry is seeing new program changes, with plenty more in sight. Today the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services disseminated the updated Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) Reference Guide version 3.0, dated October 10, 2019. The 3.0 Reference Guide is geared toward greater emphasis on Medicare Set-Aside administration, from several different fronts. Proper administration of CMS-approved Medicare Set-Asides ensures the preservation of post-account exhaustion Medicare entitlements. So is this emphasis on administration a warning signal of Medicare benefit jeopardization and/or increased vigilance in monitoring accounts on Medicare’s part?

CONSENT FORMS

In Section 10.2, Consent to Release Note, Version 3.0 adds the following language:

“As of April 1, 2020, all consent-to-release notes must include language indicating that the beneficiary reviewed the submission package and understands the WCMSA intent, submission process, and associated administration. This section of the consent form must include at least the beneficiary’s initials to indicate their validation.”

It has been independently confirmed by CMS that current Consent Forms do not require this content prior to April 1, 2020. Figure 10-2: Example Consent to Release with Instructions, illustrates the location of the initial line and provides the necessary language to pass muster with CMS. Such language brings to mind the Medicare Learning Network literature of the last several years, which directed medical providers, suppliers and facilities to direct bill Beneficiaries with Medicare Set-Aside accounts, so that Medicare would not be billed when a case reached settlement, judgment, award or other payment. Including this new language in the Consent Form documents the Beneficiary’s awareness of, and agreement with, a Medicare Set-Aside and its content, as well as the intent, process and administration of an MSA, all prior to submission. While Beneficiaries and their attorneys have always had access to the contents of a submitted Medicare Set-Aside and supporting documentation, this adds a new layer of accountability for the Beneficiary in the Medicare Set-Aside process.

FREQUENTLY ABUSED DRUGS

Version 3.0 includes a new provision in Section 17.1 Administrators, which explains account administration. New language states, “CMS highly recommends professional administration where a claimant is taking controlled substances that CMS determines are ‘frequently abused drugs’ according to CMS’ Part D Drug Utilization Review (DUR) policy. That policy and supporting information are available on the web at:
https://cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovContra/RxUtilization.html

Further, Section 17.3 Use of the Account, also includes new language reinforcing the latter provision: “CMS expects that WCMSA funds be competently administered in accordance with all Medicare coverage guidelines, including but not limited to CMS’ Part D Drug Utilization Review (DUR) policy. As a result, all WCMSA administration programs should institute Drug Management Programs (DMPs) (as described at: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-04-16/pdf/2018-07179.pdf) for claimants at risk for abuse or misuse of ‘frequently abused drugs’.”

This aspect of the Reference Guide reflects Medicare’s new prescription drug policy that had started January 1, 2019 in which Part D plan sponsors could adopt drug management programs concerning beneficiary use of frequently abused drugs in an effort to combat opioid overuse as per the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

ADMINISTRATION LINKS

In Version 2.9, Beneficiaries could review all documents submitted to CMS via http://www.mymedicare.gov. A physical address for also existed for beneficiaries or their representatives to mail exhaustion documentation. Version 3.0 maintains this option in item 17.7, but adds to Section 17.6 Electronic Attestation, options for electronic submissions of annual and final attestations, usable for either self-administered or professionally administered accounts respectively:

For more information about how to submit an attestation electronically, please see the WCMSAP User Guide, at https://www.cob.cms.hhs.gov/WCMSA/assets/wcmsa/userManual/WCMSAUserManual.pdf.

For more information on Professional Administrator accounts, please see the WCMSAP User Guide, at https://www.cob.cms.hhs.gov/WCMSA/assets/wcmsa/userManual/WCMSAUserManual.pdf.

The new links come on the heels of other CMS efforts concerning MSA account administration. On October 17, 2019, disseminated CMS updated its Self-Administration Toolkit for WCMSAs to Version 1.3, dated October 10, 2019, the same date as Version 3.0 of the WCMSA Reference Guide. The Toolkit Version 1.3 can be found here: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Workers-Compensation-Medicare-Set-Aside-Arrangements/Downloads/Self-Administration-Toolkit-for-WCMSAs-Version-1_3.pdf

Additionally, Medicare disseminated information about two new webinars focused on WCMSA Electronic Attestation Enhancements. The first was to be held today for Medicare Beneficiaries and their representatives. https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Workers-Compensation-Medicare-Set-Aside-Arrangements/Downloads/WCMSA-Electronic-Attestation-Enhancement-Webinar-October-30-2019.pdf

The second is to be held November 6, 2019 and is for professional administrators. https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Workers-Compensation-Medicare-Set-Aside-Arrangements/Downloads/WCMSA-Electronic-Attestation-Enhancement-for-Professional-Administrators-Webinar-November-6-2019.pdf

AMENDED REVIEW TIMEFRAME EXTENDED

In its own new Section 16.2 Amended Review, Medicare pushes the timeframe in which an Amended Review will be considered from 12-48 months from the date of the original approval letter to 12-72 months from the original approval. This is a welcome expansion to the workload threshold as many cases more than four years past the original approval date have still not settled. Additional language in Section 16.2 fleshes out details surrounding some of the parameters for Amended Review. With regard to a change in treatment, the new version states that changes in treatment plans won’t be considered without supporting medical documentation. Also, Version 3.0 offers a link for details on electronic submission:

See the WCMSAP User Guide at: https://www.cob.cms.hhs.gov/WCMSA/assets/wcmsa/userManual/WCMSAUserManual. Pdf

HOSPITAL FEE SCHEDULES

The new Reference Guide offers much-needed specificity to the sources of hospital pricing for surgical procedures. In the previous version, Reference Guide 2.9 stated within Section 9.4.3 WCRC Review Considerations, “Currently the WCRC prices WCMSAs according to the correct region for the state of venue. Hospital fee schedules are currently determined using the Diagnosis-Related Groups (DRG) payment for a Major Medical Center within the state, and this fee is applied to all locations within the state.” Changes to this Section in the 3.0 version are that the hospital fee schedules are determined using DRG payments for the “median” Major Medical Center within the “appropriate fee jurisdiction for the ZIP code, unless otherwise identified by state law.” (Emphasis added).

ADDITIONAL CHANGES:

• Section 2.2 Reporting a WC Case now includes an address change to:

Medicare – Medicare Secondary Payer
Medicare Secondary Payer Claims Investigation Project
P.O. Box 138897
Oklahoma City, OK 73113-8897

• Section 17.5 Annual Attestation and Record-Keeping has clarified the following address for submitting yearly attestation material:

NGHP
P.O. Box 138832
Oklahoma City, OK 73113

• Section 10.3 Rated Age Information and Life Expectancy has been updated to reflect the most recent life table link:

“CMS will project the cost of the claimant’s future treatment over the claimant’s life expectancy, using the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Tables. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_04-508.pdf

NOT IN THE REFERENCE GUIDE, BUT ON THE HORIZON

• Rulemakings! Civil Monetary Penalties for Section 111 Medicare Mandatory Insurer Reporting have not yet been issued. According to the OIRA office, rulemaking should be issued in October of 2019. Similarly situated is possible rulemaking for Liability and No-Fault Medicare Set-Asides, also slated for this month. Both of these items have been collecting dust for years and were scheduled for action in September, which gave way to October. Will what little remaining of October bring the proposed regulations? Or will these rulemakings be pushed into November or beyond?

• Speaking of November, we are only a few weeks away from the annual announcement of the low dollar recovery threshold. Will this amount increase for 2020?

Future updates regarding Medicare Secondary Payer laws will be monitored by the Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance Team. Please stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!

More Webs in Alabama: District Court Quotes Scott, Dismisses MSPA Claim

A recent determination against Infinity Property and Casualty Group emerging from a federal district court in Alabama demonstrates that while so many MSPA private cause of action claims pose similar legal shortcomings, the courts have no shortage of colorful ways to dismiss them.

Quoting the famous words of Sir Walter Scott, the Opinion opens with “Oh! what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!” Dismissing with prejudice MSPA Claims I, LLC’s latest efforts, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division determined on March 19 that subject matter jurisdiction did not exist, thwarting its attempt to “catch a lucrative class action lawsuit under the Medicare Secondary Payer statue.” MSPA v Infinity Prop & Casualty Group, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43620 (2019).

In this case, two separate automobile accidents occurred in which Infinity was the insurance carrier. Medicare beneficiary D.W was enrolled in Part C through Florida Healthcare Plus, Inc. and Medicare beneficiary B.G. was enrolled in Part C through Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc., both of which Plaintiff alleged assigned to it rights under the Medicare Secondary Payer laws to recover medical payments Infinity failed to reimburse.

With regard to D.W., Infinity disputed MSPA’s allegations on the grounds that Infinity had no obligation to pay the FHCP bill of $140.47 as it properly paid all of D.W.’s medical bills with additional medical coverage still available. FHCP assigned its recovery rights to La Ley Recovery Systems in 2014. According to the agreement. La Ley could not assign those rights to a third party without the approval of FHCP’s (or the Florida Department of Financial Services later through receivership).

La Ley attempted to reassign these rights to MSPA in 2015 without approval. While approval was later granted at the time of settlement on June 1, 2016, the court decided the assignments were valid but that FHCP never had standing to bring a claim under the MSP in the first place and FHCP never suffered an injury in fact.

With regard to B.G., the medical coverage with Infinity exhausted. InterAmerican Medical Center Group, LLC served as Simply’s Management Service Organization (MSO). In a tapestry of alleged assignments, Plaintiff claimed Simply contractually assigned recovery rights to InterAmerican, which were in turn assigned to MSP Recovery, LLC, and as “the final strand in its web…” MSP Recovery assigned those rights to Plaintiff.

The Court dismissed the allegations on the grounds that the statute affords recovery rights to MOAs but there is no clear indication that MSOs have these statutory rights.

The Court pointed out “fatal” defects in Plaintiff’s web of assignments, ultimately granting Defendant’s motion for summary judgment due to lack of standing.

Elsewhere on the very same day, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was busy exterminating another MSPA private cause of action claim. Somehow on the same page with the Alabama court in both legal and literary senses, the 11th Circuit Court wove the web theme into its dismissal. See MSP Recovery Gets Caught in the Tangled Web of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act.

Given the growing body of dismissals, it should be interesting to see how future courts rule on such actions going forward. To discuss this case or other Medicare Secondary Payer matters, please contact Michelle Allan at (412) 588-2289 or mallan@grsm.com.

New Conditional Payment Portal Functionality Expected in January

Long awaited improvements to the Medicare conditional payment reimbursement process may be available at the start of the new year, according to a November 19 alert from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Back in August, CMS announced the Medicare Secondary Payment Recovery Portal (MSPRP) would offer enhanced functionality in 2019, including the ability for authorized Non-Group Health Plan (NCHP) users to self-report leads on liability, auto, no-fault or workers’ compensation cases. According to the alert, this functionality will be effective on January 7, 2019.  CMS is hosting a webinar regarding this enhancement on December 18th, 2018 at 1:00PM EST. A link to register for this webinar can be found here>>CMS 12.18.18 Webinar Registration

The ability to self-report leads will generate Medicare Conditional Payment information that authorized parties can review and/or dispute in accord with their reimbursement obligations under the Medicare Secondary Payer laws. Such enhanced portal functionality should eliminate several weeks of wait time per claim in obtaining Medicare conditional payment information.

This enhancement was initially introduced as a possible improvement for 2019 during a webinar CMS conducted on August 16. A second enhancement allowing online payment of Medicare conditional payments to the MSPRP was also referenced at that time as a possible improvement for 2019. The November 19 CMS alert makes reference to online payment.

Stay tuned to the Gordon & Rees MSPulse for a summary of the December webinar. In the meantime, please contact us should you have any questions.

CMS Low Dollar Recovery Threshold Remains $750 for 2019

There will be no change in the low dollar threshold for Medicare conditional payment reimbursement in 2019. The SMART (Strengthening Medicare And Repaying Taxpayers) Act of 2012 serves to avoid governmental waste by setting an annual amount in which the costs associated with reimbursement outweigh the benefits. The SMART Act provides that the Secretary must calculate and publish not later than November 15th a low dollar threshold amount applicable in the following year for settlements, judgments, awards or other payments in which Medicare Conditional Payment reimbursement need not be reimbursed given the costs associated with recovery. This threshold corresponds also to the $750 threshold for Medicare Mandatory Insurer Section 111 reporting requirement.

On Friday, November 15th, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released their updated Computation of Annual Recovery Thresholds for Non-Group Health Plans.  Below are the Agency’s findings:

  • The 2019 reporting threshold remains $750 for no-fault, workers’ compensation and liability cases.
  • The estimated cost to process any individual case is $297
  • The average Medicare conditional payment demand amount for settlements of $500 is $368 (74%)
  • The average Medicare conditional payment demand amount for settlements around $750 is $518 (69%)

These metrics once again demonstrate exceedingly high percentages of cost versus recovery for low dollar settlements. The SMART Act applies a common sense approach to recovery efforts, given such costs associated with reimbursement and the interest of avoiding wasteful spending of government money,. The complete notice can be found in the link here>> CMS Computation-of-Annual-Recovery-Thresholds-for-NGHP–2019.pd

Should you have any questions regarding the above or need any Medicare compliance assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Gordon & Rees Medicare Compliance Group at mstockdale@grsm.com or 412-588-2277

Ocean Harbor Class Certification Reversed, Remanded

Another blow was just dealt to MSP Recovery. On September 26, 2018, the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida reversed and remanded the class action certification that had gained so much attention when it was granted last year.

This case has its genesis with MSPA Claims 1, LLC, a subsidiary of MSP Recovery acting on behalf of Florida Healthcare Plus, Inc., a now defunct Medicare Advantage Organization (MAO), and other similarly situated entities. MSPA filed a class action against Ocean Harbor Casualty Insurance Company for failure to reimburse medical bills. MSPA sought double damages via the Medicare Secondary Payer Act’s private cause of action, 42 U.S.C. § 1395Y(b)(3)(A). MSPA contended that class action was appropriate as some or all of the thirty-seven (37) MAOs in Florida might be in a similar situation. The trial court determined that common issues existed because the Plaintiffs’ right to reimbursement was “automatic,” given that a payment was made on behalf of a Medicare enrollee who was also insured by the Defendant and that such payment was not reimbursed.

In order to understand the Appeal Court’s ruling, the underlying class certification must be first examined. According to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.220(a), the prerequisites to class certification are numerosity, commonalty, typicality and adequate representation, in additional to the satisfaction of other requirements under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.220(b). Under 1.220(b), one of three subsections must be satisfied. The subsections are: (b)(1) prosecution of individual actions for members of the class creates a risk of inconsistent adjudications and incompatible standards of conduct; (b)(2) relief sought by the class is injunctive or declaratory in nature, rather than predominantly monetary damages, or (b)(3) that common issues of law or fact predominate over issues affecting only individual class members, and thus the class action is superior to other methods of adjudication.  The trial court certified this class based on subsection (b)(3), referencing Porsche Cars N. Am., Inc. v. Diamond, “In a (b)(3) class action, not all issues of fact and law are common, but common issues predominate over individual issues.” 140 So. 3d 1095-96 (Fla. 3d DVA 2014) (citing Fla. R.Civ. P. 1.220(b)(3)).

The Appeal Court reconsidered predominance under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.220(b)(3), stating “the appropriateness of the class certification turns largely on whether issues common to the class will predominate.” The Appeal Court noted that this matter was an “intersection” of Florida class action law, Medicare Secondary Payer law and Florida no-fault insurance law. In exploring the obligation to reimburse Medicare under the MSP Act and also Florida no-fault insurance law, the Court aptly examined not only that a payment was made by Medicare, but also whether Ocean Harbor was required to make the payment in the first place. Through this exercise, the Appeal Court questioned the “automatic” requirement to reimburse Medicare simply due to a demonstrated responsibility to make a payment, as the MSP does not eliminate the terms and conditions of the state no-fault law. Specifically, the Court referenced 42 C.F.R Section 411.51, stating “Medicare does not pay until the Beneficiary has exhausted his or her remedies under no-fault insurance” (emphasis added). In blending the federal Medicare law with the state no-fault law, the Court first observed that the MSP’s private cause of action does not arise until a payment could reasonably be expected to be made under no-fault insurance. In turn, the Court stated that MSPA must prove that not only was a proper conditional payment made, but that Ocean Harbor was required to make the payment in the first place under the state no-fault law.

MSPA relied upon the holdings in In re: Avandia Marketing[1], and Humana Medical Plan v. Western Heritage Ins[2], two predominant circuit court cases conferring the private cause of action on the Plaintiff(s). In each of these two cases, the responsibility to make a payment was in reference to the primary plan’s pre-existing settlement of a claim relating to the tort from which the medical bills arose. The Appeal Court distinguished the facts of Ocean Harbor from these two landmark cases, in that no pre-existing settlement was being referenced as creating a responsibility for payment. Rather, the demonstrated responsibility was to be established “by other means,” thereby cancelling these cases out as precedent, bringing this matter within the MSP Recovery LLC v. Allstate[3] tutelage. In Allstate, the 11th Circuit held that even without a settlement, a demonstrated responsibility for payment could be established through proof of the primary plan’s contractual obligation to make a payment. The burden of proving this is on the Plaintiff.

According to Florida no-fault law, there are exclusions from the obligation to make payments, and also necessary procedures that if not followed, are grounds to decline payment. The Appeal Court observed that “payment under Florida no-fault law proceeds on a factually intensive bill-by-bill and case-by-case basis,” and that MSPA would be required to prove the Defendant was required to pay each particular bill. Ocean Harbor would likewise be permitted to raise defenses regarding each particular bill, thus resulting in a series of mini-trials to determine whether payment is required under Florida no-fault law. The Appeal Court stated in its conclusion “Proof that certain medical bills paid by MSPA’s alleged assignor should have been paid by Ocean Harbor as a primary payer will not establish that other medical bills paid by a different MAO should also have been paid by Ocean Harbor as a primary payer.” Accordingly, a finding of predominance was precluded, rendering the case inappropriate for class action certification. As such, the class certification was reversed and the case remanded.

Practitioner’s Note: This Court delves into interesting territory in its determination that common issues of law or fact do not predominate over issues affecting only individual class members if there is a question about whether payment of each individual bill was ever required to begin with. A similar analysis can be applied as to whether it is appropriate to file suit for Medicare conditional payment reimbursement when each individual Medicare conditional payment may not be “ripe” for reimbursement. Like Florida no-fault law, there are processes and procedures in obtaining Medicare conditional payment information, as well as for making timely reimbursement. There are defenses. There is a statute of limitations. There are reasons why payments made by Medicare may be proper payments rather than conditional payments. This decision touches on the concept of exhaustion of administrative remedies, and references the SMART Act (Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2012), which provides primary payers an appeal process for Medicare conditional payment matters.  Many of the various court rulings in MAO litigation focus on demonstrated responsibility for reimbursement without considering whether it is actually timely or appropriate to reimburse Medicare. If MAOs wish to assert the same rights of reimbursements as traditional Medicare Parts A and B under the MSP laws, it would stand to reason that the same processes and procedures would apply. In day-to-day practice, the mere existence of Medicare conditional payments does not necessarily trigger the obligation to reimburse.

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[1] In re: Avandia Marketing, 685 F.3d 353, (3rd Cir. 2012)

[2] Humana Medical Plan v. Western Heritage Ins, 832 F.3d 1229, (11th Cir. 2016)

[3] MSP Recovery, LLC v. Allstate Insurance Company, 853 F. 3d 1351 (11th Cir. 2016)

What’s in a Name? MSP Recovery LLC Sanctioned in Latest MAO Litigation

MSP Recovery LLC, welcome to the Illinois federal courts. This may not be the jurisdiction for you. In a recent decision from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division, not only did the legal group from Miami, now infamous for bringing hundreds of complaints against various insurance carriers under Medicare Secondary Payer reimbursement theories, fail to prevail in yet another effort to collect big money, but it ended up costing them and their attorneys $5,000 each in sanctions.

There are several written decisions about MSP Recovery LLC, many sounding familiar. Assignments, amended complaints, failure to state a claim – it all begins to run together. But when a court states: “This is when things got hairy” halfway through its written decision, something is going down.

The case of Recovery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95789, U.S. District Court for the Central Dist. Of Ill. (June 7, 2018), began back in March of 2017 when the Plaintiffs filed their original complaint alleging that they were assigned the right to seek reimbursement from the Defendant for Medicare conditional payments made on behalf of a Medicare Advantage Organization. The Defendant filed a successful Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that there was no standing because no injury-in-fact had been alleged. The complaint alleged the Plaintiff had received assignments from the MAO to seek recovery under the MSP, however, the Plaintiffs failed to name the MAO.

On June 2, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed the first Amended Complaint, apparently adding nothing more of consequence to the original complaint than the names of a representative Beneficiary (R.F.) and a representative MAO called Health First Administrative Plans (HFAP). Without furnishing additional details to support an injury-in-fact, the Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint did not establish standing and was subsequently dismissed.

Undaunted, a Second Amended Complaint was filed on January 30, 2018, substituting the previous representative Beneficiary R.F. with the more representative R.Y. The allegation was that R.Y. was an enrollee in HFAP and Defendant, as a primary payer under the MSP, failed to reimburse HFAP for medical items and services in a timely manner. Illustrating the relationship between MSP Recovery and HFAP, the Plaintiffs attached documentation including a Recovery Agreement and an Assignment document, in which Plaintiff MSP Recovery LLC assigned the rights of HFAP to MSP Recovery Claims Series, LLC. On March 6, 2018, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint due to lack of standing.

Elsewhere, a court in the Southern District of Florida was busy working on another similar lawsuit filed by MSP Recovery LLC against Auto-Owners Insurance Group. In the course of this litigation it was determined by the testimony of HFAP’s Chief Operating Officer that HFAP was a company that performed administrative duties for a Medicare Advantage Organization called Health First Health Plans.

This distinction was news to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division. And they were none too happy that while the Plaintiff had known about it since April 12th, it took a call from the Defendant on April 26th to notify the Court of the mistaken identity. The next day the Court ordered the Plaintiffs to file a response as to why the case should not be dismissed.

That’s when things got hairy.

Apparently the Plaintiffs did not think it was significant to know details like exactly which company assigned to them its rights of recovery. In their May 11, 2018 response to the Court, the Plaintiffs admitted that it was HFHP, not HFAP that had made conditional payments on behalf of R.Y., but had they had an opportunity to make a “minor clarifying” amendment to the Second Amended Complaint, they may have been more precise. Next that they stated that said potential clarification “would not change the substantive validity of the Health First assignments or R.Y.’s adequacy as an exemplar beneficiary,” a position the Court referred to as “palpably absurd and clearly wrong under the law.” The Court was further perturbed that MSP Recovery had not brought the identity of their intended Defendant to their attention until there was a threat of sanctions, rather than when they learned of the distinction weeks earlier.

When a lawsuit is filed, there are obligations that exist to ensure that the facts alleged are truthful and well-researched. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for sanctions against frivolous lawsuits, and case law indicates that the imposition of sanctions is allowable if the litigating parties should have known their position was groundless. By bringing a lawsuit against a company that does not make any medical payments, much less Medicare conditional payments on behalf of R.Y., a question exists as to whether MSP Recovery’s position was groundless. The law recognizes that corporations are separate and distinct legal entities and cause must be shown to ignore the corporate form.

The MSP Recovery LLC attorneys attempted to show they were not personally involved in the Auto-Owners matter, presumably to suggest they weren’t aware of the testimony, because they had not entered appearances in that case. The Court did not buy it, nor did they buy the Plaintiff’s explanation that the two separate companies are all part of the Health First “corporate family,” complicating their ability to identify the correct entity. And while this case is certainly not the longest legal battle in MSP history, it went on long enough for the Court to acknowledge the Plaintiff had wasted time and resources with its groundless claim.

Upon issuing the sanctions, the Court stated its purpose to “deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated.” Given the prolific manner in which MSP Recovery LLC has been filing complaints that other courts have also determined to be less than adequate, it will be interesting to see whether this case results in a true deterrent or merely a slap on the wrist.