Last week, providers won a major victory at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals relating to the government’s inclusion of non-covered Medicare Part A days (such as exhausted benefit days and Medicare Secondary Payer days) in the SSI Ratio of the Medicare DSH payment calculation. The Court held in favor of providers that the 2005 Rule promulgated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services be vacated on the grounds that the rule is “substantively invalid.” (Empire Health Foundation v. Azar, Case 18-35845).
Ninth Circuit Holds ‘Entitled’ Does Not Mean ‘Eligible’
The Empire Court found HHS’s implementation of the 2005 Rule, wherein HHS arbitrarily included non-covered Medicare Part A days in its calculation of the SSI Fraction, to directly conflict with the Ninth Circuit’s longstanding interpretation of the meaning of “entitled to [Medicare].” The Ninth Circuit in 1996 interpreted the meaning of the words “entitled” and “eligible” in another appeal. (Legacy Emmanuel Hospital and Health Center v. Shalala, 97 F. 3d 1261, 1265-66 (9th Cir. 1996)). According to the Legacy Emmanuel Court, “entitled” means the patient has an “absolute right . . . to payment,” whereas the word “eligible” means the patient “simply meets the Medicaid statutory criteria.” Because the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of the word “entitled” is unambiguous, HHS’s decision to treat the words “entitled” and “eligible” as having the same meaning directly contravenes the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of the statute and “cannot stand,” according to the Empire court.
What It Means To You
Toyon Associates, Inc. has been helping Providers in appealing the agency’s implementation of the 2005 Rule relating to non-covered Part A days. Toyon’s position has consistently been that non-covered Part A days should be excluded from the SSI Fraction and the portion of those days that are dual eligible be included in the numerator of the Medicaid fraction.
While the Ninth Circuit decision is a great win for providers who have this issue under appeal, the decision is not yet final. HHS has 45 days from the date of the decision to request en banc review or appeal to the Supreme Court, and there is no reason to believe HHS would decline to fight this appeal further. However, in anticipation of this positive ruling, Toyon has engaged the same attorney who prevailed in the Empire Health Foundation case and is actively working to move all its pending Medicare Part A appeals into court so as to position providers in the best situation to benefit from this positive ruling.
Providers will need to wait to see how HHS responds to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling but be prepared to move their appeals forward. Toyon will be contacting affected hospitals in the coming weeks as necessary, as more details become available on this issue.
Please contact Karen S. Kim at (888) 514-9312 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns.