Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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Indiana requires abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains by either burial or cremation. Women may choose to take custody of the remains and dispose of them as they please. The Supreme Court sustained this regimen against Equal Protection challenges in 2019.This suit was filed by two women who had abortions and object to the cremation or burial of the fetal remains, which they contend implies the personhood of a pre-viability fetus, and two physicians do not want to tell patients about their statutory options. The Seventh Circuit reversed a “needlessly broad injunction” that treats the statute as invalid on its face and “effectively countermands the Supreme Court’s decision for the entire population of Indiana." The state does not require any woman who has obtained an abortion to violate any belief, religious or secular. The cremate-or-bury directive applies only to hospitals and clinics. Indiana’s statute need not imply anything about the appropriate characterization of a fetus. Nor does Indiana require any woman to speak or engage in expressive conduct. A state may require medical professionals to provide information that facilitates patients’ choices directly linked to procedures that have been or may be performed. View "Doe v. Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana" on Justia Law

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Illinois, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Chicago, and Naperville each issued an order, policy, or directive requiring certain employees to vaccinate or regularly test for COVID-19. Employees who failed to comply would be subject to disciplinary action, including possible termination. Three district judges denied motions for preliminary injunctions against those vaccine mandates.Consolidating the appeals, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Rejecting a claim that the regulations violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to substantive due process by interfering with their rights to bodily autonomy and privacy, the court stated that the plaintiffs failed to provide facts sufficient to show that the challenged mandates abridge a fundamental right and did not provide a textual or historical argument for their constitutional interpretation. The district judge properly applied the rational basis standard. The plaintiffs established the efficacy of natural immunity and pointed out some uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 vaccines but did not establish that the governments lack a “reasonably conceivable state of facts” to support their policies. Without specifying the process that was due, how it was withheld, and evidence for the alleged protected interest, the plaintiffs’ procedural due process claims fail. The court also rejected free exercise claims and claims under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act. View "Troogstad v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked for MBO and Trustmark, which provide medical billing and debt‐collection services to healthcare providers. After they raised concerns about their employers’ business practices, the plaintiffs were fired. They sued MBO, Trustmark, and MBO's client, the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729. Regulations specify that Medicare providers seeking reimbursement for “bad debts” owed by beneficiaries must first make reasonable efforts to collect those debts. The plaintiffs claim that UCMC knowingly avoided an obligation to repay the government after it effectively learned that it had been reimbursed for non-compliant debts; MBO and Trustmark caused the submission of false claims to the government. Each plaintiff also claimed retaliation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, in part. The district court properly dismissed the claim against UCMC, which neither had an established duty to repay the government nor acted knowingly in avoiding any such duty. The direct false claim against MBO was also correctly dismissed. The complaint failed to include specific representative examples of non-compliant patient debts, linked to MBO, for which reimbursement was sought. The court reversed in part; the complaint includes specific examples of patient debts involving Trustmark. Two plaintiffs alleged facts that support the inference that they reasonably believed their employers were causing the submission of false claims. View "Sibley v. University of Chicago Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Heart of CarDon, LLC's motion for judgment on the pleadings in this interlocutory appeal concerning section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, holding that T.S. was a proper plaintiff against CarDon under section 1557, and his suit may continue on that basis.CarDon was a healthcare provider that was reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid for its serves. CarDon provided health insurance to its employees and their depends through a self-funded employee benefits plan. T.S., a dependent who had autism, brought this action alleging that the plan's exclusion of coverage for autism treatment violated section 1557. CarDon moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that only a recipient of CarDon's healthcare services was a permissible plaintiff under section 1557. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that T.S. plausibly alleged an interest that comes within the zone of interests section 1557 seeks to protect. View "T.S. v. Heart of CarDon, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case arising out of a child welfare investigation, the Seventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) case workers on the grounds of qualified immunity, holding that the facts were too disputed to allow the Court to reach any legal conclusions with confidence.When DCS learned from a social worker that Plaintiffs may not have been providing their infant daughter prescribed medication to control epileptic seizures DCS case workers took the child to the hospital for a blood draw to clarify whether that was so. The results showed that the infant had started the prescription a few days earlier. Plaintiffs filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the investigation and demand for a blood test violated their constitutional rights as parents under the Fourteenth Amendment and their daughter's rights under the Fourth Amendment. The district court entered summary judgment for the DCS defendants on the grounds of qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit vacated the summary judgment and remanded the case, holding that the facts were so contested as to limit what the Court could do on appeal. View "Jerger v. Blaize" on Justia Law

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In this COVID-19 pandemic-related case, the Seventh Circuit vacated in part the judgment of the district court granting Loyola University of Chicago's motion to dismiss this complaint brought by Plaintiffs, three undergraduate students, for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, holding that Plaintiffs pled enough to withstand dismissal for failure to state a claim and that Plaintiffs were entitled to leave to amend to save their alternative claim for unjust enrichment.As a result of the pandemic, Loyola suspended all in-person instruction during the Spring 2020 semester, curtailed access to campus facilities, and moved all instruction online. Plaintiffs brought a putative class action lawsuit against Loyola, arguing that the decision to shut down Loyola's campus deprived them of promised services, such as in-person instruction and access to on-campus facilities, in exchange for tuition and fees. The district court granted Loyola's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs sufficiently pled a claim for breach of an implied contract under Illinois law; and (2) Plaintiffs adequately pled an unjust enrichment claim in the alternative. View "Gociman v. Loyola University of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Bloomington, Indiana (population 90,000) is in a metropolitan statistical area with a population near 200,000. From Bloomington, one can drive an hour and ten minutes to Indianapolis (population 865,000); two hours to Evansville (population 120,000); two hours to Louisville (population 620,000); or two and a half hours to Cincinnati, (population 300,000). Dr. Vasquez arrived in Bloomington in 2006, opened an independent vascular‐surgery practice, and obtained admitting privileges at Bloomington Hospital, Monroe Hospital, and the Indiana Specialty Surgery Center. He performed more than 95% of his inpatient procedures at Bloomington Hospital. In 2010, IU Health acquired Bloomington Hospital. In 2017, IU Health acquired Premier Healthcare, an independent physician group based in Bloomington. Vasquez alleges that, because of the acquisition, IU Health employs 97% of primary care providers (PCPs) in Bloomington and over 80% of PCPs in the region. Vasquez’s alleged that IU Health launched “a systematic and targeted scheme” to ruin his reputation and practice because of Vasquez’s commitment to independent practice. IU Health's employees cast aspersions on his reputation. IU Health revoked Vasquez’s Bloomington admitting privileges.Vasquez brought claims under Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2, and Clayton Act, section 18. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of his suit. Vasquez’s accounts of how a hypothetical monopolist could dominate Bloomington’s vascular‐ surgery market suffice for the pleading stage; the complaint presents a plausible account under which his suit is timely. View "Vasquez v. Indiana University Health, Inc" on Justia Law

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Jody arrived at the Indiana University Health emergency room with severe abdominal pain. Doctors determined she needed emergency surgery to remove a dying portion of her intestine. Because they believed (incorrectly) that the problem stemmed from earlier gastric bypass surgery, they transferred her to another facility to be operated on by the bariatric surgeon who had performed the bypass. Jody died two days later. Her husband sued, alleging that IU’s failure to operate on Jody violated its obligation under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to “stabilize” Jody when it decided to transfer her without first performing the laparotomy and removing the ischemic portions of her intestine, 42 U.S.C. 1395dd(b)(1)(A).The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the suit. The Act authorizes pre-stabilization transfer where one of two triggering conditions is satisfied and the transfer is “appropriate.” No reasonable jury could conclude that IU did not satisfy both requirements. A physician certified that “[b]ased upon the information available to [him] at the time of transfer, … the medical benefits reasonably expected from the provision of appropriate medical treatment at another facility outweigh the increased risks to [Jody] … from undertaking the transfer.” The court cited the “Treatment Act’s narrow purpose as an anti-dumping law rather than a federal cause of action for medical malpractice.” View "Martindale v. Indiana University Health Bloomington, Inc." on Justia Law

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Illinois moved its Medicaid program from a fee‐for‐service model, where a state agency pays providers’ medical bills, to one dominated by managed care, where private insurers pay medical bills. Most patients of Saint Anthony Hospital are covered by Medicaid, so Saint Anthony depends on Medicaid payments. Over the last four years, it has lost roughly 98% of its cash reserves, allegedly because managed‐care organizations have repeatedly and systematically delayed and reduced Medicaid payments to it. Saint Anthony sued, arguing that Illinois officials owe it a duty under the Medicaid Act to remedy the late and short payments.The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, concluding that Saint Anthony has alleged a viable claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1396u‐ 2(f) and may seek injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the state official who administers the Medicaid program in Illinois. Illinois has tools available to remedy systemic slow payment problems—problems alleged to be so serious that they threaten the viability of a major hospital and even of the managed‐care Medicaid program as administered in Illinois. If Saint Anthony can prove its claims, the chief state official could be ordered to use some of those tools to remedy systemic problems that threaten this literally vital health care program. View "Saint Anthony Hospital v. Eagleson" on Justia Law

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The Board, a private, nonprofit provider of medical certifications to radiologists, is dominant in the market for radiology certifications. All states permit physicians who are not Board-certified to practice medicine, provided they possess a valid state medical license. Siva, a Board-certified radiologist, says that most insurers will not grant in-network status to physicians who are not Board-certified; uncertified physicians are often shut out from meaningful employment opportunities. When the Board began selling certifications in 1934, radiologists who passed the examination would remain certified for life. The Board later shifted to “initial certification” and “maintenance of certification” (MOC). Radiologists who wish to remain Board-certified must participate in and pay for the MOC program annually, which requires continuing education credits from third parties, completing “practice improvement” activities, and passing Board-administered examinations.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Siva’s antitrust suit. Siva argued that MOC should be thought of not as part of the Board’s certification product but as a unique product in its own right and that the Board’s decision to revoke the certification of radiologists who refuse to participate in the MOC program reflects not a benign product redesign but rather an illegal tying arrangement that violates the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Siva cannot identify a distinct product market in which it is efficient to offer MOC separately from certification. View "Siva v. American Board of Radiology" on Justia Law