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)

Busy Southern District of Florida dismisses one MSP Recovery case; allows another to proceed, for now…

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has been busy lately reviewing more litigation in front of them, courtesy of MSP Recovery LLC. Recently, the Court granted a motion to dismiss with prejudice another claim brought by not MSP Recovery LLC directly, but instead a subsidiary of MSP Recovery LLC, complicating the assignment relationships and ultimately leading to a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

As we recently reported, MSP Recovery LLC has had two pending claims either dismissed or sent back for amendment due to issues with subject matter jurisdiction. In both of these previous cases, there were questions surrounding who the original assignor of the recovery benefits was and/or if a valid assignment of those rights was made.

On July 31, 2018, the case of MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company was dismissed due to the same issues recounted above.

In MSPA Claims v. Liberty Mutual, the Defendant Liberty Mutual brought motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s third amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. As similarly discussed in Recovery v. State Farm, which was issued just last month, the Court again noted that standing must be present when the lawsuit was filed and cannot amend to add new plaintiffs.

The background is similar to the most recently reported cases including MSP Recovery, and the Plaintiff’s allege that they are the assignee of FHCP, HFAP, and IMCG and representatives that were Medicare beneficiaries who were enrolled in plans managed by FHCP, HFAP, and IMCG. Plaintiff’s further alleged that the Assignors paid for the Beneficiaries’ medical expenses which should have been paid by Defendant, the primary payer.

However, the Court in MSPA Claims v. Liberty Mutual specifically notes that Plaintiffs are not MAOs, Medicare beneficiaries or direct health care providers. Rather, they have obtained claims for reimbursement via assignments from the Assignors. Notably, the documentation reportedly showing this assignment was provided with the third amendment of the complaint. As such, Defendants argued that the case should be dismissed because Plaintiff lacked standing at the time the lawsuit was filed. Ultimately, the Court agreed with the Defendant and that Plaintiff lacked standing when the suit was originally filed and thus, cannot amend in an attempt to confer standing and failed to allege facts sufficient to show that any of the alleged Assignors have standing under the MSPA. Quoting various other courts rulings on the issue of FHCP and standing, the Court based its rationale on the cases that came before the one at hand.

In summary, the facts and findings of this case are almost identical to the two previous claims that have recently been reported upon. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction seems to continue to be found by courts involving these claims.

Just three days later another, less damaging order was entered in the Southern District of Florida, this time, in favor of MSP Recovery. On August 3, 2018, the court here entered an order granting MSP Recovery’s motion for leave to file a third amended complaint and denied plaintiff’s motion to dismiss. In this advancement in the case of MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. Hanover Ins. Co. we see the court permitting MSP Recovery to amend its second amended complaint in order to change the named defendant from Hanover Insurance to it subsidiary which underwrites the insurance policy that is at the heart of this case. See generally MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. Hanover Ins. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 131211. Hanover argues that MSP Recovery’s motion should not be granted based on futility and lateness, stating that the amendment would be futile because the plaintiff did not have standing at the commencement of the lawsuit and therefore could not correct this mistake without filing a new suit, and further, that MSP Recovery has provided no legitimate reason for the delay in correcting this mistake and therefore should not be provided the opportunity for leave to amend. Id. at 3. However, the court in citing to MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. United Services Automobile Assoc., states that there appears to be a legitimate disagreement as to standing, and therefore amending the complaint would not be futile, and further, that MSP Recovery has provided appropriate reasoning for the delay in naming the correct defendant in arguing that the delay is due to Hanover’s failure to properly disclose the proper underwriter of the policy in question.

Thoughts: Two specific facts are interesting about these cases. First, in MSPA Claims I, the Court specifically acknowledges that this is the Plaintiff’s third attempt at amending the Claimant to meet the requirements for standing, in almost the same fashion that we see in Hanover. Secondly, the Court also makes a point to cite several previous cases in which standing was found to be lacking and even noted that “Plaintiff’s attempts to characterize HFAP as an MAO are disingenuous.” From these statements, it can be garnered that the courts are now aware of MSP Recovery’s tactics and the issues surrounding their filings and will be taking a much closer look at these cases going forward.

Gordon & Rees will continue to monitor these cases and provide updates.  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

MSP Recovery v. Travelers

On June 21, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted with prejudice, Travelers’ motion to dismiss MSP Recovery’s claim against it for recovery under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP). This motion was granted, and the case dismissed, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In MSP Recovery Claims v. Travelers Cas. & Sur Co., the court was faced with deciding whether MSP Recovery had standing under the private cause of action provision of the MSP to bring suit against Travelers for recovery of medical payments made to Medicare beneficiaries. See generally MSP Recovery Claims v. Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 105078.

As a brief background, MSP Recovery, LLC is an entity whose business model is relatively simple- it sets out to obtain assignments from Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) in order to attempt to sue and recover for payments made by the MAO for medical treatment of a Medicare beneficiary that allegedly should have been made by a different insurer, or primary payer. This case is similar to a multitude of cases that MSP Recovery and its subsidiaries have filed against insurers across the country, alleging recovery on behalf of an MAO under the MSP. Gordon & Rees has previously covered, and will continue to provide updates on similar cases such as Recovery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co

In the case at hand, the court did not have to decide whether MSP Recovery’s arguments for recovery here were valid, as it must first determine whether MSP Recovery had standing to bring the case in the first place. MSP Recovery argues that has received an executed assignment from Health First Administrative Plans, Inc. (HFAP), and therefore should be permitted to bring this case under the MSP. While MSP Recovery may have very well received such an assignment, it has been made very clear in several cases now that HFAP is not an MAO, and therefore does not have standing to bring a cause of action against Travelers under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. The court here agrees with and relies on the reasoning of other district courts in other similar cases, including MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co. and Recovery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. C., in holding that HFAP is in fact not an MAO, and at most, the administrative arm of another company that may have an MAO. Given that HFAP, and therefore MSP Recovery, is not an MAO it has not suffered an injury and further, lacks standing under the MSP, this case was dismissed based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

While this case represents an unsuccessful attempt by MSP Recovery, LLC to bring a case on behalf of a Medicare Advantage Organization under the MSP, the landscape surrounding MAO recovery rights continues to grow and change. Gordon & Rees will continue to provide the most up to date information as these cases develop.