Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a qui tam action brought by relator under the False Claims Act, alleging that defendants submitted, or caused to be submitted, Medicare claims falsely certifying that patients' inpatient hospitalizations were medically necessary. After determining that it had jurisdiction, the panel held that a plaintiff need not allege falsity beyond the requirements adopted by Congress in the FCA, which primarily punishes those who submit, conspire to submit, or aid in the submission of false or fraudulent claims. The panel wrote that Congress imposed no requirement of proving "objective falsity," and the panel had no authority to rewrite the statute to add such a requirement. The panel held that a doctor’s clinical opinion must be judged under the same standard as any other representation. The panel explained that a doctor, like anyone else, can express an opinion that he knows to be false, or that he makes in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. Therefore, a false certification of medical necessity can give rise to FCA liability. The panel also held that a false certification of medical necessity can be material because medical necessity is a statutory prerequisite to Medicare reimbursement. View "Winter v. Gardens Regional Hospital & Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi State Department of Health entered a final order approving a Certificate of Need for Wound Care Management, LLC, d/b/a MedCentris for the “[p]rovision of [d]igital [s]ubtraction [a]ngiography (DSA) services (Limb Salvage Program).” Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC, d/b/a Merit Health River Region, a hospital in Vicksburg that opposed the certificate of need, appealed the Department’s statutorily affirmed decision pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 41-7-201(2) (Rev. 2018). After considering the record and issues presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court entered an order on its own motion requiring supplemental briefing regarding whether Section 41-7-201(2), as amended, governed the appeal process pertaining to facilities established for the private practice, either independently or by incorporated medical groups of physicians. The Supreme Court held that River Region lacked the right to petition the chancery court for review of the certificate of need under Section 41-7-201(2). Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the case and remanded it to the Hinds County Chancery Court for further proceedings. View "Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC v. Mississippi Dept. of Health & Wound Care Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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The insured, Brenda Sandoval, submitted a claim to her insurer, Unum Life Insurance Company of America, which initially paid benefits but then terminated them. The termination of benefits led Sandoval to sue Unum for: (1) a common-law tort (bad faith breach of insurance contract); (2) a statutory tort (unreasonable conduct under Colo. Rev. Stat. sec. 10-3-1115 to 1116); and (3) breach of contract. The district court granted Unum’s motion for partial summary judgment on the tort claims. The contract claim went to trial, where the jury rendered a verdict for Sandoval. The district court later denied Unum’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Sandoval appealed the grant of Unum’s motion for partial summary judgment, and Unum cross-appealed the denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the award of partial summary judgment on the tort claims because Unum conducted a reasonable investigation. On the contract claim, the Court also affirmed the denial of Unum’s motion for judgment as a matter of law: the policy contained two alternative tests for a disability, and the evidence permitted a reasonable finding that Sandoval had satisfied at least one of these definitions. View "Sandoval v. UNUM Life Insurance" on Justia Law

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Until 2010, Reinaas, now in his mid‐fifties, worked as a machine operator. He injured his spine and tore his rotator cuff on the job, and underwent two neck fusion surgeries. Reinaas planned to return to work but continued to suffer from severe headaches (treated with hydrocodone), shoulder pain, and a decreased range of motion. A neurologist diagnosed him with cervicogenic headaches, and his family doctor diagnosed “long term nuchal headaches” and “[p]ermanent pain syndrome post cervical fusion.” Dr. Bodeau, a Mayo Clinic occupational physician, opined that Reinaas could not return to his factory job and suggested surgical intervention. In 2013, Reinaas had shoulder surgery and attended physical therapy; he took naproxen and Vicodin for pain. Reinaas applied for social security disability benefits. Benefits were denied after state‐retained physicians reviewed his records and concluded that Reinaas’s accounts of his symptoms were not fully credible. Dr. Bodeau opined that Reinaas had “deteriorated significantly” and was “highly unlikely to successfully regain employment at any physical demand level.” The ALJ concluded that Reinaas was not disabled. In determining Reinaas’s residual functional capacity, the ALJ afforded great weight to the opinions of the two non‐examining physicians and gave little weight to Dr. Bodeau’s opinion, explaining that Bodeau lacked knowledge of Social Security disability rules and that his report was based on subjective complaints of questionable credibility. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s decision to discount the treating physician’s opinion and the ALJ did not adequately evaluate Reinaas’s subjective complaints. View "Reinaas v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, alleging that it violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) by failing to properly screen him and stabilize his condition. The Fourth Circuit adopted the requirement of a good faith admission and held that a party claiming an admission was not in good faith must present evidence that the hospital admitted the patient solely to satisfy its EMTALA standards with no intent to treat the patient once admitted and then immediately transferred the patient. The court held that plaintiff failed to point to evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact as to this high standard. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to point to any evidence in support of his theory that the hospital admitted plaintiff to improperly hoard him in order to garner his premium insurance benefits. View "Williams v. Dimensions Health Corp." on Justia Law

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Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 191.227.1 permits health care providers to charge patients who request their medical records a "search" fee when there are no responsive medical records to be found. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action and dismissed movants' appeal of the denial of their motion to intervene as moot. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that CIOX's practice of charging a fee for unsuccessful records searches violated the Missouri statute. View "Graham v. CIOX Health, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiffs' medical malpractice claims, holding that Plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival. Sharon Susie lost her right arm and eight of her toes due to a disorder known as necrotizing fasciitis. Sharon and her husband (together, Plaintiffs) filed a negligence claim against Defendants seeking damages for the amputation of Sharon's arm and other injuries. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants were negligent because Sharon's condition was not properly diagnosed and treatment was not timely commenced and that Defendants' actions resulted in the lost chance to save Sharon's arm and toes from amputation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted because Plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival. View "Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland, P.L.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court enjoining the application of Arizona statutes authorizing the recording of liens against third-party tortfeasors to allow hospitals to recover health care costs for Medicaid patients beyond the amounts provided by Medicaid, holding that the statues are preempted to the extent hospitals utilize them against third-party tortfeasors for "balance billing" to recover costs beyond Medicaid reimbursement. Plaintiffs were patients who were treated at defendant hospitals under the state's contract provider for the federal Medicaid program, which negotiates reimbursement rates with hospitals. Defendants recorded liens against the third-party tortfeasors who caused the patients' injuries in order to recover the remainder of their fees exceeding Medicaid reimbursement. Plaintiff brought this class action challenging the liens, arguing that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 33-931(A) and 36-2903.01(G)(4) (the lien statutes) were preempted by federal Medicaid law. The trial court enjoined application of the lien statutes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs had a private right of action to challenge the lien statutes; and (2) the lien statutes are unconstitutional as applied. View "Ansley v. Banner Health Network" on Justia Law

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Dolin was prescribed Paxil, the brand-name version of the drug paroxetine, to treat his depression. The prescription was filled with a generic paroxetine product. Six days later, Dolin died by suicide. Federal law preempted an "inadequate labeling" state-law claim against the generic manufacturer. Mrs. Dolin sued GSK, the manufacturer of brand-name Paxil, arguing that GSK was responsible for the labeling for all paroxetine, no matter who made and sold it, and had negligently omitted an adult suicide risk. The Seventh Circuit reversed her jury verdict, based on preemption, citing the complex regulation of drug labels and of Paxil/paroxetine’s label in particular. GSK had attempted to change the Paxil label in 2007 to add an adult suicide warning. The FDA rejected that change. The court concluded that GSK lacked new information after 2007 that would have allowed it to add an adult-suicidality warning under the existing regulations. Eight days after denying Dolin certiorari, the Supreme Court decided another case, further explaining the “clear evidence” standard for impossibility preemption for prescription drug labels. Dolin filed an unsuccessful motion under FRCP 60(b)(6), arguing that the 2018 judgment should be set aside based on a change in law so that GSK could not establish its defense of impossibility preemption. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and did not impose sanctions. The Supreme Court provided important guidance but did not break new ground that would change the result in Dolin’s case. Her motion was not frivolous. View "Dolin v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2011, K.G., age 48, received an influenza vaccination in advance of knee replacement surgery. Over the next several months, she experienced increasingly severe nerve pain in her hands, arms, feet, and legs; she succumbed to alcoholism, spent months in the hospital, and developed amnesia. In 2014, an Iowa state court declared K.G. incapable of caring for herself and, against K.G.’s will, appointed K.G.’s sister as her guardian. K.G. regained her mental faculties by May 2016. She then retained an attorney who filed her claim under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1. A Special Master held that equitable tolling was not available during the period that K.G.’s sister acted as K.G.’s guardian and dismissed K.G.’s claim as not timely filed within the three-year statute of limitations. The Federal Circuit vacated. Equitable tolling is available in Vaccine Act cases and the appointment of a legal guardian is only one factor a court should consider when deciding whether equitable tolling is appropriate in a particular case. K.G. was not required to argue the legally irrelevant question of whether she personally was diligent while she was mentally competent and she preserved her argument that her legal representative exercised reasonable diligence under the circumstances. The Special Master erred in adopting a per se rule. View "K.G. v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law