Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the Court denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner was indicted on several counts of rape and one count of strangulation or suffocation. Petitioner was committed for observation to Bridgewater State Hospital for a determination whether he was competent to stand trial. Petitioner was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to the hospital pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16. Petitioner, who remains in the hospital, filed a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition claiming, among other things, that his constitutional rights had been violated. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy and that his claims did not present a situation warranting extraordinary superintendence relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Ardaneh v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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David and Margaret Fisk appealed after a district court granted summary judgment in favor of Jeffery D. McDonald, M.D., and the Hospital on their medical malpractice claims. The district court granted summary judgment on the Fisks’ single cause of action after determining the Fisks had failed to provide expert testimony demonstrating actual knowledge of the community standard of care. The Fisks also appealed the district court’s order denying their subsequent motion for reconsideration. The district court granted summary judgment on the basis that the Fisks failed to establish an essential element of their medical malpractice claim. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court's decision was not based on expert testimony submitted by McDonald or the Hospital. As such, the conclusory nature or admissibility of any such testimony was immaterial to the district court’s decision. Therefore, the district court did not err in determining that the burden was on the Fisks to establish the essential elements of their medical malpractice claim. The Court found, however, that the district court erred in denying the Fisks' motions for reconsideration. The district court was asked to reconsider the order granting summary judgment, so the summary judgment standard applied to the district court’s decision on the motion for reconsideration and now applied to the Supreme Court’s review of that decision on appeal. The Fisks supported their motions for reconsideration with additional expert declarations, one of which demonstrated that he had actual knowledge of the community standard of care. Furthermore, the Supreme Court determined the district court erred in determining that the Fisks failed to properly plead that McDonald was liable for the acts or omissions of a nurse practitioner via the agency theory of liability. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Fisk v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Von Staich is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, based on 1986 second-degree murder and attempted murder convictions. In May 2020, he sought habeas corpus relief, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly thereafter, San Quentin suffered a COVID-19 outbreak that infected approximately 75 percent of the inmate population and dozens of prison staff in just weeks. Von Staich is 64 years old and suffers respiratory problems resulting from bullet fragments lodged in his lung; he claimed that he and a 65-year-old cellmate, both of whom had tested positive for COVID-19 (Van Staich was asymptomatic), were in an extremely small open cell and that there is no opportunity for social distancing.The court directed the Warden to transfer Von Staich to a suitable quarantine location, finding that the Warden and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) have acted with deliberate indifference. There is ongoing federal litigation concerning inadequate medical care due to severe overcrowding in the California correctional system and San Quentin has particular risk factors, caused by the age and architecture of the facility. The court acknowledged that the existing Eighth Amendment violation will continue until the population at San Quentin can be reduced to the 50 percent level. Unless CDCR’s existing expedited release programs are sufficient to promptly achieve this population reduction—which, the sheer numbers indicate they cannot be—CDCR will have to find additional means of releasing or transferring prisoners out of San Quentin. View "In re Von Staich" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of jurisdiction of an action brought by Sensory NueroStimulation, a medical device supplier, seeking Medicare coverage of its product. The panel held that the district court correctly held that 42 U.S.C. 405(h)'s administrative channeling requirement applied and that it therefore had no subject matter jurisdiction to hear Sensory's claims. In this case, the lawsuit is subject to Medicare's administrative channeling requirements; Sensory has not met those requirements; there exists a way to satisfy those requirements; and these conclusions do not completely preclude judicial review so as to trigger a key exception to the channeling requirements. View "Sensory NeuroStimulation, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), seeking retrospective and prospective relief for myriad alleged violations of the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Fifth Circuit declined to reach the merits of plaintiff's claims. The court held that, given the altered legal landscape and the potential effects of plaintiff's request for prospective relief, a mootness analysis must precede the merits. In this case, a year after plaintiff filed his lawsuit, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which reduced the shared responsibility payment (imposed on individuals who fail to purchase health insurance) to $0. In the same year, the Department of Health and Human Services created new exemptions to the contraceptive mandate, including an exemption for individuals like plaintiff. These exemptions were enjoined until the Supreme Court's recent decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims and remanded for the district court to conduct a mootness analysis in the first instance. The court also remanded to allow plaintiff to amend his complaint where the parties agreed that the district court incorrectly dismissed plaintiff's claim for retrospective relief. View "Dierlam v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Beginning in‌ ‌‌2017,‌ ‌DaVita‌ ‌provided‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌treatment‌ ‌to‌ ‌Patient‌ ‌A,‌ ‌who was ‌diagnosed‌ ‌ with‌ ‌end-stage‌ ‌renal‌ ‌disease‌ ‌(ESRD).‌ ‌‌Patient‌ ‌A‌ assigned his‌ ‌insurance‌ ‌rights‌ ‌to‌ ‌DaVita.‌ ‌Through‌ August‌ ‌2018,‌ ‌the‌ ‌costs‌ ‌of‌ ‌Patient‌ ‌A’s‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌were‌ ‌reimbursed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌Employee‌ ‌Health‌ ‌Benefit‌ ‌Plan,‌ ‌governed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌Employee‌ ‌Retirement‌ ‌Income‌ ‌Security‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(ERISA), ‌at‌ ‌its‌ ‌bottom‌ ‌tier,‌ ‌which‌ ‌applied‌ ‌to‌ ‌providers‌ ‌who‌ ‌are‌ ‌“out-of-network.”‌ ‌All‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌providers‌ were‌ ‌out-of-network.‌ ‌While‌ ‌most‌ ‌out-of-network‌ ‌providers‌ ‌are‌ ‌reimbursed‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌bottom‌ ‌tier‌ ‌based‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌“reasonable‌ ‌and‌ ‌customary”‌ ‌fee‌ ‌as‌ ‌understood‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌healthcare‌ ‌industry,‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌providers‌ ‌are‌ ‌subject‌ ‌to‌ ‌an‌ ‌“alternative‌ ‌basis‌ ‌for‌ ‌payment”;‌‌‌ ‌the‌ ‌Plan‌ ‌reimburses‌ ‌at‌ 87.5%‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Medicare‌ ‌rate.‌ ‌Patient‌ ‌A‌ ‌was exposed‌ ‌to‌ ‌higher‌ ‌copayments,‌ ‌coinsurance‌ ‌amounts,‌ ‌and‌ ‌deductibles and ‌was‌ ‌allegedly‌ ‌at‌ ‌risk‌ ‌of‌ ‌liability‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌balance‌ ‌of‌ ‌what‌ ‌was‌ ‌not‌ ‌reimbursed‌ .‌ ‌The‌ ‌Plan‌ ‌identified‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌as‌ ‌subject‌ ‌to‌ ‌heightened‌ ‌scrutiny,‌ ‌ ‌which‌ ‌allegedly‌ ‌incentivizes‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌patients‌ ‌to‌ ‌switch‌ ‌to‌ ‌Medicare. Patient‌ ‌A‌ ‌switched‌ ‌to‌ ‌Medicare.‌ ‌DaVita‌ ‌and‌ ‌Patient‌ ‌A‌ ‌sued,‌ ‌alleging‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌Plan‌ ‌treats‌ ‌dialysis‌ ‌providers‌ ‌differently‌ ‌from‌ ‌other‌ ‌medical‌ ‌providers‌ ‌in‌ ‌violation‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Medicare‌ ‌Secondary‌ ‌Payer‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(MSPA)‌ ‌and‌ ‌ERISA.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ The‌ ‌Sixth‌ ‌Circuit‌ ‌reversed,‌ ‌in‌ ‌part,‌ ‌the‌ ‌dismissal‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌claims.‌ ‌A‌ ‌conditional‌ ‌payment‌ ‌by‌ ‌Medicare‌ ‌is‌ ‌required‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌precondition‌ ‌to‌ ‌suing‌ ‌under‌ ‌the‌ ‌MSPA’s‌ ‌private‌ ‌cause‌ ‌of‌ ‌action;‌ ‌the‌ ‌complaint‌ ‌sufficiently alleges ‌such‌ ‌a‌ ‌payment‌.‌ ‌DaVita‌ ‌plausibly‌ ‌alleged‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌Plan‌ ‌violates‌ ‌the‌ ‌nondifferentiation‌ ‌provision‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌MSPA,‌ ‌resulting‌ ‌in‌‌ ‌denials‌ ‌of‌ ‌benefits‌ ‌and‌ ‌unlawful‌ ‌discrimination‌ ‌under‌ ‌ERISA.‌ ‌ View "DaVita, Inc. v. Marietta Memorial Hospital Employee Health Benefit Plan" on Justia Law

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Senate Bill 8 -- a statute that requires a woman to undergo an additional and medically unnecessary procedure to cause fetal demise before she may obtain a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion, the safest and most common method of second trimester abortions -- imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to obtain an abortion before fetal viability in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process clause.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment holding that SB8 is facially unconstitutional and permanently enjoining its enforcement. Applying the undue burden test in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292, 2309 (2016), rather than June Medical Services, L.L.C. v. Russo, 140 S. Ct. 2103, 2114 (2020), the court held that SB8's burdens substantially outweigh its benefits and constitutes an undue burden on a woman's right to obtain a previability abortion. Under the statute, the court explained that all women seeking a second trimester abortion starting at 15 weeks LMP would be required to endure a medically unnecessary and invasive additional procedure that provides no health benefit; for most women, the length of the procedure would increase from one day to two, adding to the costs associated with travel, lodging, time away from work, and child care; and SB8 forces abortion providers to act contrary to their medical judgment and the best interest of their patient by conducting a medical procedure that delivers no benefit to the woman. Weighing SB8's significant burdens upon female patients against its nonexistent health benefits and any other limited benefits it may actually confer, the court concluded that it is clear that the law places a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking" a previability abortion. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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Most people eligible for Medicaid benefits are “categorically needy” because their income falls below a threshold of eligibility. People with higher income but steep medical expenses are “medically needy” once they spend enough of their own assets to qualify, 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(10). Plaintiffs contend that medical expenses they incurred before being classified as “medically needy” should be treated as money spent on medical care, whether or not those bills have been paid, which would increase Illinois's payments for their ongoing care.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit. Medicaid is a cooperative program through which the federal government reimburses certain expenses of states that abide by the program’s rules. Medicaid does not establish anyone’s entitlement to receive particular payments. The federal-state agreement is not enforceable by potential beneficiaries. Plaintiffs bypassed their administrative remedies and do not have a judicial remedy under 1396a(r)(1)(A). Section 1396a(a)(8) provides that a state’s plan must provide that all individuals wishing to apply for medical assistance under Medicaid shall have the opportunity to do so and that assistance shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals; some courts have held that this requirement can be enforced in private suits. If such a claim were available, it would fail. Plaintiffs are receiving benefits. The court also rejected claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12131–34, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. Plaintiffs receive more governmental aid than nondisabled persons. View "Nasello v. Eagleson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court extended an August 27, 2020 order for first circuit criminal matters, which was extended pursuant to a September 11, 2020 order, until November 16, 2020, determining that changing conditions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic required flexibility and vigilance regarding the need to protect the health and safety of court users and Judiciary personnel.In July 2020, there was a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, included cases in community correctional centers and facilities, particularly at the O'ahu Community Correctional Center. As a result, the time requirements for preliminary hearings under Haw. R. Pen. P. (HRPP) 5(c)(3) was impacted. In August 2020, the Supreme Court entered an order providing that the first circuit may temporarily extend the time requirements for preliminary hearings no longer than reasonably necessary to protect public health and safety. In September, the order was extended. Because the transports of custody defendants from all O'ahu correctional facilities remained suspended and the exponential number of citations issued for Haw. Rev. Stat. ch. 127A violations remained high, the Supreme Court extended the August order for first circuit criminal matters until November 16, 2020. View "In re Judiciary’s Response to COVID-19 Outbreak" on Justia Law

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The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) allows the FDA to regulate tobacco products. Tobacco products that were not on the market in February 2007 or that were modified after that date must obtain premarket authorization. The 2016 “Deeming Rule” subjected cigars, pipe tobacco, and electronic nicotine delivery systems to the TCA; about 25,000 existing products became subject to 21 U.S.C. 387j(a). The FDA planned to stagger compliance periods for deemed tobacco products.In 2018, public health organizations challenged FDA “guidance” issued under the TCA. The Maryland district court granted them summary judgment. Compliance deadlines had passed but the court concluded that it could impose a deadline because the case presented extraordinary circumstances. The court ordered the FDA to require that premarket applications be filed within 10 months (May 2020) but declined to require enforcement actions. The FDA issued new guidance in January 2020, stating that it intended to prioritize enforcement of the premarket-review requirements for e-cigarettes beginning in May 2020. Before the Fourth Circuit ruled, the district court amended its injunction, in light of the pandemic, to require that applications be submitted by September 2020. The FDA revised its guidance accordingly. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal.An e-cigarette trade organization sought a declaration that FDA’s deadline was unlawful agency action under the APA in the Eastern District of Kentucky, arguing the FDA’s brief and an attached declaration motivated the Maryland court to impose that deadline, which significantly accelerated the original FDA deadline. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The Maryland court’s injunction was independent of the FDA’s brief and declaration; the allegedly unauthorized court submissions do not form a plausible legal basis for an injunction against subsequent, independently-caused FDA enforcement proceedings. View "Vapor Technology Association v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law