IDS Property Casualty Insurance Class Certification Reversed, Remanded

As previously reported, the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida recently reversed and remanded the class action certification for MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Ocean Harbor. On October 24, 2018, the same Court reversed and remanded the only other certified class action suit brought by MSPA Claims 1, LLC.

Citing Ocean Harbor specifically, the Third District Court again opined that in this case, MSPA has failed to establish that common issues predominate over individual issues. Applying the same rationale as Ocean Harbor, the Court noted “to quantify the claims of the putative class members will require a comprehensive and distinct analysis of each underlying PIP claim and automobile accident…Plainly this is one of those cases where merely proving entitlement to reimbursement from IDS for payments made by Florida Healthcare Plus on behalf of MA., in no way proves the cases of the other class members.” IDS Prop. Cas. Ins. Co. v. MSPA Claims 1, LLC, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 15107

The Court then went on to reverse as well on the alternate ground of standing. Harkening back to MSPA Claims 1, LLC. v United Auto. Ins. Co., 204  F. Supp. 3d 1342, 1345 (S.D. Fla. 2016), the Court ruled that the approvals of assignment did not occur until after the initial complaint had been filed. The parties in question did not assign benefits until June 1, 2016 as a part of a settlement agreement. However, MSPA filed its amended complaint on March 8, 2016, several months prior to the Receiver’s approval. As previously found, standing must exist at the inception of a case. As IDS had based its attack on standing on validity of the assignment, standing was not present[1].

As such, the Court reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with the opinion.

It would be remiss to not point out that this was MSP Recovery’s only other certified class action suit. With its reversal and remand, the future of these class action proceedings seems dimmer and dimmer, at least in the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida.

 

[1] The court does note that this case does differ from MSP Recovery LLC v. Allstate Insurance Co., 835 F. 3d 1351 (11th Circ. 2016) which similarly argued lack of standing. In that IDS argued that MSPA’s private cause of action against IDS was barred by the federal anti-assignment statue. This was rejected by the Eleventh Circuit.

MSPA Claims 1 LLC v. Infinity Auto – No Collection Without Recollection

For MSP Recovery LLC, it apparently takes more than two things to make a thing go right. Collecting fees is now out of sight.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, dismissed yet another MSP Recovery LLC subsidiary claim with prejudice. It seems this time around the Plaintiffs could not establish that MSPA Claims 1, a subsidiary of MSP Recovery, was in fact acting on behalf of the now defunct Florida Healthcare Plus, Inc. Medicare Advantage Organization, despite producing affidavits speaking to the relationship from top brass within both companies.  The assignment was allegedly first with La Ley Recovery Systems prior to MSPA Claims 1.

On October 19, 2018, The Southern District of Florida, ruled in the case of MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Infinity Auto Ins. Co., granting summary judgment. The Court also dismissed the case with prejudice.

In the present case, the Court allowed over sixteen months of discovery to go forward with this claim. Despite this timeframe, Plaintiff relied on only two affidavits to establish standing (based upon assignment from FHCP to La Ley Recovery) for the claim: the first of the Defense’s own attorney John. H. Ruiz and the second of Susan Molina, CEO of FHCP. Putting aside that it is generally improper for a lawyer in a case to testify as to his legal opinion regarding facts in the case[1], the Court found that the testimony about conversations between Attorney Ruiz and Susan Molina was “merely Mr. Ruiz’s mental impression following conversations…” that “does not lay the necessary factual predicate for Mr. Ruiz’s lay opinion testimony.”[2]

The Court then went on to examine the Affidavit of Susan Molina, who essentially attested to not remembering specific conversations with John Ruiz and did not specifically recall approving assignment to La Ley Recovery. The Court very clearly points out what is missing from the affidavit: a positive statement that express assignment was given to La Ley Recovery.

After that analysis, the Court found in a very familiar fashion, that the Plaintiff lacked standing even despite the Plaintiff’s position that such was demonstrated via the settlement agreement between FHCP and its liquidators. As has been held in several previous MSP Recovery cases, a settlement agreement cannot retroactively establish standing after a case is filed. As no assignment was found and standing was lacking, the Court dismissed the matter with prejudice.

 

[1] Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 67 S Ct. 385, 394, 91 L Ed. 451 (1947)

[2] MSAP Claims 1, LLC v. Infinity Auto Ins. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181446

CMS Issues New WCMSA Reference Guide and Section 111 NGHP User Guide

As of October 1, 2018, CMS has issued updated versions of both the WCMSA Reference Guide and the Section 111 NGHP User Guide.

 WCMSA Reference Guide Version 2.8:

The updates found in version 2.8 of the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Reference Guide are as follows:

– As a part of an ongoing process, CMS must discontinue use of Social Security Number-based Medicare identifiers and distribute new randomly selected Medicare identification numbers to all beneficiaries, referred to as Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBIs). Accordingly, all fields formerly labeled HICN are now labeled “Medicare ID” and will accept either an individual’s HICN or MBI (if assigned)

– The link to the CDC Life Expectancy Table has been updated. This link can be found at bullet #7 of Chapter 10.3 of the Reference Guide.

– The Verifying Jurisdiction and Calculation Method for medical reviews has been updated. This information can be found in Tables 9-1 and 9-2 in Chapter 9.4.4 of the Reference Guide.

– Version 2.8 of the WCMSA Reference Guide can be found here.

NGHP Section 111 User Guide Version 5.4:

The updates found in version 5.4 of the Section 111 Non-Group Health Plan User Guide are as follows:

– To meet Section 111 requirements, a Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) disclosure statement has been added to this guide. This disclosure can be found on page iii of the User Guide.

– The contact protocol for the Section 111 data exchange escalation process has been updated. This escalation process can be found in Sect. 8.2 of the User Guide and in short, provides the contact information for the newly appointed EDI Director.

– In order to ensure updates are applied to recovery cases appropriately, RREs are asked to submit the policy number uniformly with a consistent format. When reporting updates enter the policy number exactly as it is entered on the original submission whether blank, zeros, or a full policy number. This requirement is discussed in greater detail in Sect. 6.6.5 of the User Guide

The excluded and no-fault excluded ICD-10 diagnosis codes have been updated for 2019. These codes can be found in Table I-1 and J-1 of Chapter V of the User Guide.

– The placement of the decimal point in the excluded ICD-10 “Y codes” of table I-1 has been corrected. For example, in version 5.3 of the User Guide these codes were written as Y921.10 whereas it should be written Y92.110. These codes are now written correctly.

Each chapter of the Section 111 NGHP User Guide, version 5.4 can be found here.

Gordon & Rees remains committed to bringing you the most up to date information regarding all things Medicare Secondary Payer related. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions about the newest versions of these reference guides.

 

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.

___________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

[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

Illinois Court Denies Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike or Deny Class Allegations Against MSP Recovery

Another shot was fired in the ongoing battle between MSP Recovery LLC and insurers. On July 13, 2018 an Illinois District Court denied two motions brought by State Farm, one to dismiss based on the Second Amended Complaint and a second to strike or deny class allegations.

As we recently reported, MSP Recovery was recently slapped on the wrist by the Illinois Court regarding standing in another action the law firm brought against State Farm. In Recovery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., MSP Recovery appears to have regained a small win.

Attempting to build off of their recent win, State Farm alleged that MSP Recovery lacked standing, or in the alternative, that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. More specifically, State Farm brought a factual challenge to standing, arguing that Plaintiffs did not hold valid assignments from Medicare Advantage Organizations.

State Farm disputed that Plaintiffs held valid assignments to pursue rights of recovery under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) provisions. In support of this argument, Plaintiffs contended that Florida Healthcare Plus (FHP), an HMO with appropriate standing, assigned its right of recovery under the MSP to La Ley Recovery (LLR) which then assigned its rights of recovery to MSP Recovery. A second assignee, SummaCare, was also alleged to have assigned its right of reimbursement as well. However, the Court found ultimately this agreement could not confer standing as, interestingly, documentation assigning such right was signed after[1] the claim was filed. Regardless, the Court disagreed with State Farm.

Referring to a document titled “Recovery Agreement” the Court found intent by FHP to transfer claims under the MSP to La Ley Recovery (LLR) which in turn assigned its rights to MSP Recovery LLC. The Court did note that the agreement between FHP and LLR required any assignee must be approved by FHP. This was shown through settlement agreements between FHP and some of the Plaintiffs.

State Farm then attempted to argue that even if valid assignments existed, no injuries were suffered to the exemplar beneficiary in this matter. State Farm contended that they had notified CMS of the injury to a representative beneficiary and then paid a series of medical bills under that representative beneficiary’s car insurance policy which then exhausted the policy coverage limits. The Court noted that according to 42. C.F.R § 411.24(i), a “primary payer must reimburse Medicare even though it has already reimbursed the beneficiary or other party.” As payments were not made to FHP/LLR standing in the place of the Agency, the court found a question as to whether an injury was suffered. And as the court “need only find that one plaintiff has standing to permit the case to go forward” the motion was denied. As such, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged their claims and subsequently, their Motion to Dismiss based upon lack of standing was dismissed. This is specifically of note as typically when benefits have been exhausted, Medicare has not pursued recovery where a primary plan demonstrated that the policy had been exhausted.

The Court then turned to the argument that contract law would require dismissal. However, this position was unsuccessful as the Court held that 42 C.F.R § 411.24(e) could be enforced over State Farm’s contract argument and federal law supersedes state laws, regulations, contract requirements, or other standards that would otherwise apply to MAOs. In other words, a state cannot take away an MAO’s right under federal law and the MSP regulations to bill or to authorize providers and suppliers to bill for services for which Medicare is not the primary payer. This is a bit startling as in many similar cases the argument of state contract was wholly separate from the MSP Private Cause of Action provision. However, this departure in the District Court of Illinois could be the presage to the winds of change in these cases going forward.

Finally, the Court found State Farm’s Motion to Strike Class Allegations as premature. As a result, Recovery v. State Farm will continue to be litigated.

In summary, the ongoing rollercoaster that is MSP/MAO litigation is continuously keeping us on our toes. One case may provide victory for the recovery agents and one may not, but it is of the utmost importance to keep abreast of the constant litigation. Gordon & Rees will continue to vigilantly follow these cases and report accordingly.

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

[1] Constitutional standing must exist at the time the lawsuit is filed.

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.

 

Potential Medicare Legislation and its Impact on The Medicare Approval Process

The path from submission of a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) to final approval can be riddled with many twists, turns and roadblocks along the way. Legislation has been introduced in the last several years to reform this process, but has failed to gain necessary momentum in both the House and Senate for passage. On June 18, 2018, a revised version of this legislation was introduced in the Senate by prior sponsors, Senators Portman (R-OH) and Nelson (D-FL). Senate Bill 3079, Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreements Act of 2018, amends title XVIII of the Social Security Act to include Medicare Set-Aside provisions and guidance for the Medicare approval process.

Bill Highlights

The revised version of this legislation contains many key provisions that would impact Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Asides. Some highlights of this Bill are as follows:

  • The Bill allows for an optional proportional adjustment to the MSA in certain circumstances. Specifically, a party to the settlement may elect to calculate a percentage reduction in the MSA “for the total settlement amount that could have been payable under the applicable workers’ compensation law…had the denied… portion of the claim not been subject to a compromised agreement.” Calculation of the MSA reduction is equal to the denied percentage of the settlement. It is unclear how this would actually be argued and implemented to reduce the MSA. Further, this option is only available if the party requesting this reduction has written consent to do so from the other party to the settlement.
  • Submission of a formal MSA proposal is still a voluntary process. In the event of submission, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has sixty (60) days from receipt of the submission to issue a decision approving or denying the MSA. If the MSA amount is denied, the reasons for denial must be clearly outlined in the denial letter.
  • The Bill also offers a formalized appeal process with the potential for judicial intervention. Specifically, subsequent to a request for reconsideration, the parties can request a hearing before an administrative law judge and judicial review of the Secretary’s final determination after the hearing.
  • Rather than self administer or have the MSA professionally administered the MSA fund can be sent directly to CMS. This is an option that could help relieve the financial stress which is currently on the Medicare Trust Fund. All parties must agree to elect this option. The legislation is silent on what would happen if the MSA funds were not depleted by the claimant.
  • In addition, the legislation provides that State Workers’ Compensation Laws should be final and conclusive as to any and all matters within the jurisdiction of the State in determining the reasonableness of settlement value; allocation of settlement funds; the projection of future indemnity or medical benefits expected to be paid under the State Workers’ Compensation Law; and the total amount that could have been payable for a claim in the event of a compromised agreement.

If passed, this legislation would become effective on January 1, 2019. Currently the legislation has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

Follow Up Thoughts:

The legislation is a step forward in defining and implementing a more consistent and clearer Medicare approval process. There are still issues however that remain outstanding including transparency in how the exact amount of the MSA should be calculated, how to create a more realistic approach to controlling prescription drug costs in Medicare Set-Aside allocations, and how these provisions will actually be implemented by CMS. This legislation is an attempt to formalize a more defined MSA process and may make the path to Medicare Set-Aside approval much less thorny and in the end, hopefully, much more rosy.

 

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.

 

CMS Issues Opioid Roadmap

On June 11, 2018, CMS issued a purported roadmap in the future handling of opioid medications. Appearing to build off the proposed processes announced in February of this year, CMS has detailed a three-pronged approach to combating the opioid crisis. This three-pronged approach consists of:

  • Prevention of new cases of opioid use disorder (OUD)
  • Treatment of patients who have already become dependent on or addicted to opioids
  • Utilization of data from across the country to target prevention and treatment activities

Furthermore, CMS reported that they have been working on communications with beneficiaries to explain the risk of prescription opioids. Another strategy, reported by CMS is to endeavor to work with individual states to tailor programs to their populations. Citing work with seven states, which were not expressly identified, CMS argues such a strategy could aid unique state populations and their individual issues with the opioid issue.

CMS admits this roadmap is only a start and the plans and programs will continue to evolve. We at Gordon & Rees will continue to monitor these proposed processes and will report any updates as they develop.