The Ohio Association for Justice is proud to host their inaugural Paralegal Convention. This conference is designed as a continuing education opportunity unique to paralegals with resources and professional development.
The Ohio Association for Justice is proud to host their inaugural Paralegal Convention. This conference is designed as a continuing education opportunity unique to paralegals with resources and professional development.
On May 12, 2021, the Court of Appeals of Iowa published its opinion number 20-1250 in Forbes v. Benton County Agricultural Society and reminded everyone that in order to avoid surprises that lead to bad settlement results, plaintiffs in liability cases or employers in Workers’ Compensation cases, should always perform a lien investigation into the existence of any lien holders, entities, or plans that could assert a claim for reimbursement of paid claim charges (for this article, all simply referred to as liens). The next steps upon identifying any such liens would be to follow up with lien resolution audit, analysis, and negotiation. While the negotiation of the lien is often finalized after settlement, it is a form of malpractice for an attorney to move to settlement without first inquiring as to whether liens exist.
In August of 2017, Larry Forbes sustained an injury while on the premises of the Benton County Iowa fairgrounds, and hired an attorney to file a negligence action. After initial discovery, counsel for the Benton County Agricultural Society (Ag. Society), made an offer to Forbes’s counsel to settle for $10,000.
The letter referenced TRICARE but not Medicare and stated: “Based on information you have provided to date, Mr. Forbes had an excellent recovery, and his actual medical bills totaled $2,732, for which TRICARE apparently had a subrogation interest.” Burris added: “There is no indication that Mr. Forbes had to pay anything out-of-pocket, or that the medical providers are actually charging anything beyond the $2,732 paid.”
After negotiating, Forbes agreed to settle his suit with the Ag. Society for $12,500. In return, Forbes would dismiss the suit with prejudice. Counsel for the Ag. Society then informed Forbes’ counsel that if Forbes was Medicare eligible, her client would require “final CMS letter, showing the amount owed, if any, in reimbursement to Medicare.” However, after reaching the agreement, Forbes’ attorney learned that Medicare was pursuing a Medicare lien in the amount of $25,482 for reimbursement of conditional payments it made toward Forbes injury related medical expenses. Forbes’ attorney attempted to renegotiate the settlement once the existing Medicare conditional payments came to light. However, the Ag. Society pushed back, insisting Forbes accepted the agreed upon terms of the settlement and was aware of his obligations to Medicare. The Ag. Society moved to enforce the settlement by filing a motion for summary judgment.
When the case went to court, Forbes argued the agreement was unenforceable and claimed there was a “mutual mistake” because the parties failed to reach a “meeting of the minds.” The Iowa District Court for Benton County disagreed with Forbes and ruled in favor of the Ag. Society granting it summary judgment, based on its position that the settlement contract was enforceable. The Court of Appeals of Iowa affirmed the District Court’s ruling, reaching its affirmation under the theory that settlement agreements are essentially contracts and because the District Court properly applied contract law. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals confirmed that the lower court record showed a “meeting of the minds,” and that Forbes therefore, bore the risk of the mistake.
The Court of Appeals provided a detailed analysis on how a party may be considered to bear the risk of a mistake such as when:
“(a) the risk is allocated to him by agreement of the parties, or
(b) he is aware, at the time the contract is made, that he has only limited knowledge with respect to the facts to which the mistake relates but treats his limited knowledge as sufficient, or
(c) the risk is allocated to him by the court on the ground that it is reasonable in the circumstances to do so.”
The court decided that Forbes bears the risk of mistake in two of these exceptions:
“The first of those two exceptions is called “conscious ignorance.” See id. cmt. c. Under that exception, even if Forbes did not agree to bear the risk of mistake, he was aware when he agreed to the settlement that he had limited knowledge about potential Medicare payments. And despite that uncertainty, he “undertook to perform” the bargain. See id. In doing so, he assumed the risk of the mistake. See id. We agree with the district court that Forbes had exclusive access to his medical records and the ability to investigate whether Medicare would seek a recovery claim.
On the second exception, even if Forbes were not consciously ignorant about the possibility of a Medicare recovery claim, the district court was still reasonable in assigning the risk of mistake to him. See Pathology Consultants v. Gratton, 343 N.W.2d 428, 438 (Iowa 1984); see Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 154 cmt. a. As the court noted, Forbes’s fall occurred nearly two years before he sued. In that time, he had the opportunity and the burden to inquire thoroughly into the payment of his medical bills. It made sense for the court to allocate the risk of any mistake to Forbes.”
The full opinion and summary of the case can be read here: https://www.iowacourts.gov/courtcases/12533/embed/CourtAppealsOpinion.
Lien Investigation should be addressed during the pendency of any liability claims to determine who is paying for the injured party to recover from their injury and whether they will be asserting any subrogation/reimbursement right lien. This is especially important for those who are eligible/enrolled in any type of government issued medical insurance plan such as Medicare, Medicaid, VA/TRICARE/CHAMPVA, or who works/worked for a government entity (Such as FELA or FEHBA), or whose health plan is governed by federal law (such as an ERISA plan).
Patience is a virtue, especially in Lien Resolution and Lien Investigation. CMS’ guidelines allow for up to a 45-day response per inquiry. VA/TRICARE/CHAMPVA often take longer. Parties should take this into consideration and be proactive and inquire as to liens early in the case, so that if a settlement opportunity arises, they are able to have an accurate picture of all outstanding liens at the right time. Otherwise, they may be settling prematurely and as Mr. Forbes learned, at their peril.
Neglecting to address liens at the start of settlement is taking an unnecessary risk. Working with an experienced lien resolution group will often produce faster response times and outstanding resolution results. This is due in part to familiarity with the various lien processes, having lien holder contacts on file, use of electronic portals and secure email systems of recovery agents, use of proprietary diagnosis review software. Knowing which remedies may be available when, and how to best use the facts of cases in favor of the injured party when applicable.
Medivest can help you navigate through the complexities of lien resolution while you work toward a desired settlement outcome. Call us to today to speak to one of our highly trained settlement consultants for a free lien case consultation. For more information about Medivest or to refer a case, please call 877.725.2467 | Monday – Friday 8 am to 5 pm EST.
On Friday August 21, 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced a $53,295 settlement of Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b)(2) (“MSP”) debt. The settlement described in the press release demonstrates the U.S. Government’s continued interest and intent in enforcing the recovery provisions of the MSP.
Headlines on MSP recovery often focus on plaintiff attorneys who fail to adequately address Medicare conditional payment reimbursement claims, often called Medicare liens by attorneys and Medicare beneficiaries. However, at fault parties and their insurance carriers need to pay close attention to these MSP recovery actions. That is because the MSP provides for joint and several liability of primary plans such as liability carriers and self-insureds, including the potential for double damages, even after settlement proceeds have been paid and a release has been signed.
While the plaintiff attorney is the focus of the headline “Harrisburg Law Firm Pays $53,295 To Reimburse Medicare Program” the press release indicates that one of the defendants in the underlying improper drug dispensing case, paid $33,750 of the $53,295 to the U.S. for settlement of the MSP debt. Insurance carriers or self-insureds sometimes insist on forwarding the lien payment to Medicare because they don’t want to pay a settlement to the plaintiff, only to later be asked to pay the Medicare portion (or more) again, if the plaintiff’s attorney has not timely paid the lien.
There is no information about why the plaintiff’s firm did not pay the amount demanded, but ultimately paid $19,545.15 toward the debt in this settlement with the U.S. Government. The conditional payments were described in the press release as being $84,353 with the ultimate settlement amount being $53,295. This seems to indicate that a 36.82% procurement cost reduction was allowed. The settlement did not include a double damages request or even include any additional interest.
It is not clear from the press release whether there were any appeals over the amount of Medicare’s demand “determination” that led to the delayed payment of the lien and whether the release agreement contemplated the defendant/primary plan agreeing to pay the Medicare debt from withheld settlement funds. Did the parties do their due diligence in investigating the debt? Did they coordinate with each other over whether any Conditional Payment Letters contained amounts not related to the claimed/released injuries? Did they coordinate their respective settlement notification/reporting to make sure that the ICD codes reported from the plaintiff and defense were aligned, and to help prevent an overreach in the future by Medicare in potentially flagging more than just injury related claims.
Could it have been similar to the recent Osterbye case in which the parties seemed to rely on Conditional Payment Letters as opposed to the official Medicare demand at the time of settlement? See JOSEPH C. OSTERBYE, as Administrator of the ESTATE OF…, Slip Copy (2020) 2020 WL 3546869, June 30, 2020. In Osterbye, the Administrator of an estate of a deceased Medicare beneficiary sued the U.S. Government and the primary plan defendant alleging that there was a mistake of fact as to the amount owed to Medicare when the plaintiff failed to recognize that two files had been opened for the same case. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had “initiated” a separate conditional payment claim with Medicare without disclosing to plaintiff the amount of the separate conditional payment amount and arguing that plaintiff would not have settled the case if he had known that Medicare had a lien for over $100,000.00. At the time of settlement, the Conditional Payment Letter that the plaintiff was in possession of only indicated about $13,000.00 in conditional payments. In Osterbye, the NJ U.S. District Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss on the basis that the settlement may have been entered into based on mistake of fact indicating that the facts of the settlement will have to be investigated. A similar issue was also addressed in the Langone state court case referenced in a prior blog article where parties mistakenly relied on Conditional Payment Letters instead of a demand letter.
While some insist MSP recovery obligations are solely a plaintiff’s concern, defendants should pay close attention to make sure the debt is satisfied or otherwise resolved – Medicare will issue a case closed letter once the debt is satisfied even when a compromise is reached for an amount lower than the demand
Not all courts will be as accommodating to the plaintiff’s attorney as in the Osterbye Court. Instead of a second bite at the settlement apple, the plaintiff’s attorney in Osterbye could have just as easily been accused of legal malpractice by the injured party, if there was a lack of disclosure or lack of competence by the attorney in verifying the proper amount of Medicare’s demand
Plaintiff and defense should cooperate with each other over what steps are being taken to confirm conditional payment resolution, including whether either party has hired a third party to investigate, audit, and/or negotiate the demand balance
Both parties should know that it is imperative to obtain a demand letter as opposed to a Conditional Payment Letter prior to settling a case unless the correct procedures have been taken via the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal to provide the 120 day anticipation of settlement notification and to request the Final Conditional Payment Calculation within 3 days of a settlement the details of which need to be timely reported
Plaintiff attorneys should be proactive in addressing Medicare’s past interests in a settlement by auditing payment summary forms to dispute non-injury related items, should timely notify Medicare of the settlement details to obtain procurement cost reductions, and should also consider whether lien resolution via waiver or compromise of the procurement cost reduced demand may be a suitable option to help the injured party retain more of the settlement proceeds.
In March 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as an enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Department of HHS and its sub agency, CMS, against an attorney in Texas alleging failure of the attorney representing a party injured in a motor vehicle collision to properly reimburse Medicare for conditional payments. The case is U.S. v. Carrigan & Anderson, Case 4:20-cv-00991, Filed 03/18/2020 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.
That would not really seem like big news as we have written about several conditional payment enforcement actions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office/Department of Justice over the past few years against plaintiff attorneys for a failure to properly inquire with CMS’s Beneficiary Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) contractor and address amounts to be reimbursed to CMS.
However, unlike some of the other cases, the plaintiff attorney in this case took proactive steps attempting to address Medicare’s past interests in the liability settlement. Unfortunately, the steps taken were misguided. Had the attorney requested a compromise or waiver and/or appealed the demand amount by CMS, he would have likely fared better.
Prior to settlement, the attorney properly provided notification of the claim to the BCRC triggering the search by the BCRC for claim related conditional payments. The case settled for $70,000.00 and the plaintiff attorney provided notification of the settlement to the BCRC. Presumably, the plaintiff and attorney had received a copy of an earlier Conditional Payment Letter. Within a few weeks after the settlement notification was provided, the BCRC delivered a demand letter in the amount of $46,244.74, demanding payment within the standard 60 day time period from the date of the demand and informing of the right to appeal its demand amount.
The attorney creatively filed a motion with a state court in Texas challenging the amount demanded by Medicare and provided notice of same to the BCRC. He called the motion, Motion To Determine Portion of Plaintiff’s Settlement That Constitute Reimbursement of Medical Payments Made in and Regarding Settlement. The court reviewed submitted evidence including an affidavit signed by plaintiff counsel suggesting the claim settled at 1/10th its full case value, and issued an order reducing the amount to be paid to Medicare by 90% to a figure of $4,700.00. Plaintiff counsel submitted a copy of the order to the BCRC. The full demand amount went unpaid and began accruing interest at nearly 10% APR on the 61st day post-demand (for current demands, the annual interest percentage rate is now over 10%).
As of March 18th, 2020, when the U.S. filed its recovery action in U.S. District Court, the alleged reimbursement amount had increased to $53,445.93 including interest. The U.S. requested recovery of its fees and costs but interestingly did not request double damages.
The U.S. Attorney’s position is that state courts lack authority to make determinations of federal law including amounts owned to Medicare under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1395y(b)(2) (MSP). Furthermore the complaint asserts that because there is an administrative procedure in place under the current MSP regulations, if the plaintiff and attorney disagreed with the demand amount, the administrative appeals process should have been followed, i.e. that there was a failure to exhaust administrative remedies, an express condition precedent to seek redress in U.S. District Court for appeal of Medicare Initial Determinations such as the amount of a demand or a denial of a waiver.
In the meantime, consider one of the other post demand dispute processes allowed that may offer your client relief from what you consider to be an unreasonable demand. Depending on the outcome, the appeal may not be necessary.
 January 2020 DOJ US Attorney https://www.medivest.com/philadelphia-based-personal-injury-law-firm-agrees-to-resolve-allegations-of-unpaid-medicare-debts/ Philadelphia plaintiff firm settles for $6,604.59,
Nov 2019 US Attorney General – Baltimore plaintiff firm settles with Medicare for $91,406.98
March 2019 DOJ US Attorney – Maryland plaintiff firm settles with Medicare for $250k
June 2018 DOJ US Attorney – Philadelphia plaintiff firm settles with Medicare for $28k
A state appellate court in Colorado just held that hospitals in Colorado may forego billing Medicare or Medicaid even when an injured party is a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary, and may proceed against the injured party as long as the hospital follows certain procedures. See Harvey v. Centura Health Corporation and Catholic Health Initiatives, — P.3d —- (2020) Court of Appeals No. 19CA0091 January 30, 2020*.
Those procedures are that the hospital must first submit charges to the “property and casualty insurer and primary medical payer of benefits available” to the injured person when that person is injured as a result of negligence or wrongful acts of another person, before filing a lien. The state appellate court clarified that neither Medicare nor Medicaid are primary payers of medical benefits and because of this, held that Hospitals in Colorado do not need to bill Medicare and/or Medicaid before filing a lien.
Therefore, Colorado hospitals interested in collecting larger amounts of money than Medicare and/or Medicaid will pay will likely forego billing Medicare and/or Medicaid, and will put the at fault party on notice of its charges, will bill the liability carrier for the at fault party, and then proceed to file a lien against the injured party likely to receive a third party liability settlement.
Of course the charges must be related to the underlying third party liability injury and must be reasonable and necessary. So even if a Colorado hospital lien is perfected, the injured party has a right to dispute whether the charges are injury-related and to contest the reasonableness or necessity of the charges.
Call Medivest when your injured client is facing a hospital lien to allow our specialists to first determine if all of the requested charges are related to the underlying injury, and to negotiate with the lien holder or its recovery agent regarding the amount of reasonable and necessary charges. Don’t let your client pay unreasonable or unnecessary hospital bills even when a lien is filed!
*While this case has not been released for publication in permanent law reports and could be subject to a petition for rehearing in the Court of Appeals or for Certiori in the Supreme Court of Colorado, it is important to be aware of hospital practices in this regard.
Once again, a law firm was alleged to have failed to properly reimburse Medicare for conditional payments made by Medicare for injuries that were compensated in at least one settlement on behalf of an injured client. The press release, which can be found here involves a fact pattern a little different from a few other recent recovery actions by the U.S. Government related to alleged MSP violations. Often attorneys will refer liability cases to other attorneys or firms that handle personal injury, premises liability, and medical malpractice claims. The attorney that refers the case is typically allowed to share in the attorney’s fees obtained upon successful resolution. The fees obtained by the referring lawyer/firm are supposed to approximate and reflect a reasonable amount for the amount of work they do. Some attorneys do a thorough intake procedure and maintain contact with the client throughout the representation, are copied on all correspondence, and may provide input on strategy and procedure. After all, they have a responsibility to the injured party that originally contacted them in the first place. This matter involved six cases the U.S. Attorney’s office was investigating and of the six, four had been referred by the investigated firm to co-counsel. The firm was held responsible for the alleged failures to reimburse Medicare, regardless of whether they were a referring firm for a case handled by another firm or whether they were the handling the claim from start to finish.
However, Plaintiff attorneys in particular should be on high alert because the most recent enforcement actions have been focused on attorneys that disbursed funds to their clients after case finalization but failed to ensure that Medicare’s conditional payments were paid or otherwise resolved.
It is crucial for prospective settling parties to investigate conditional payment reimbursement amounts or work with an entity familiar with lien investigation procedures.
Medivest provides lien resolution services to help parties satisfactorily negotiate outstanding public and private health care matters including Medicare liens, Medicaid liens, Veterans Administration/TriCare liens, hospital liens, and doctors’ bills. Our lien resolution team works hard to dispute non-claim related bills, resolve and reduce outstanding bills/liens, and will seek refunds for amounts already paid when appropriate. Please reach out to discuss lien resolution today.
The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announcing a Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) MSP non-compliance settlement with the U.S. by a plaintiff law firm from Maryland that failed to properly address or make Medicare conditional payment reimbursement (i.e. pay a Medicare lien) from the proceeds of a medical malpractice settlement secured for a firm client in 2015. This MSP non-compliance settlement is similar to the one we wrote about from June of 2018 regarding a plaintiff law firm in Pennsylvania.
“Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 18, 2019
Maryland Law Firm Meyers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum, P.A., Agrees to Pay the United States $250,000 to Settle Claims that it Did Not Reimburse Medicare for Payments Made on Behalf of a Firm Client
Baltimore, Maryland – United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur announced that Meyers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum, P.A., a law firm with offices in Riverdale Park and Gaithersburg, has entered into a settlement agreement with the United States to resolve allegations that it failed to reimburse the United States for certain Medicare payments made to medical providers on behalf of a firm client.
“Attorneys typically receive settlement proceeds for and disburse settlement proceeds to their clients, so they are often in the best position to ensure that Medicare’s conditional payments are repaid,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We intend to hold attorneys accountable for failing to make good on their obligations to repay Medicare for its conditional payments.”
According to the settlement agreement, in and prior to 2012, Medicare made conditional payments to healthcare providers to satisfy medical bills for a client of the firm. Under the Medicare statute and regulations, Medicare is authorized to make conditional payments for medical items or services under certain circumstances, with the requirement that when an injured person receives a tort settlement or judgment, those receiving the proceeds of the settlement or judgment, including the injured person’s attorney, are required to repay Medicare for the conditional payments.
In December 2015, with the firm’s assistance and representation, the client received a $1,150,000 settlement in a medical malpractice action stemming from the client’s injuries. After Medicare was notified of the settlement, Medicare demanded repayment of the Medicare debts incurred from those conditional payments, but the firm refused to pay the debt in full, even when the debt became administratively final.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the firm agreed to pay the United States $250,000 to resolve the Government’s claims. The firm also agreed to (1) designate a person at the firm responsible for paying Medicare secondary payer debts; (2) train the designated employee to ensure that the firm pays these debts on a timely basis; and (3) review any outstanding debts with the designated employee at least every six months to ensure compliance.
This settlement reminds attorneys of their obligation to reimburse Medicare for conditional payments after receiving settlement or judgment proceeds for their clients. This settlement should also remind attorneys not to disburse settlement proceeds until receipt of a final demand from Medicare to pay the outstanding debt.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur commended Eric Wolfish, Assistant Regional Counsel, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the General Counsel, Region III, for his work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant United States Attorney Alan C. Lazerow, who handled the case.
# # #
 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(2) et seq.
 “There is established a private cause of action for damages (which shall be in an amount double the amount otherwise provided) in the case of a primary plan which fails to provide for primary payment (or appropriate reimbursement) in accordance with paragraphs (1) and (2)(A).” 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).
 MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019).
 In Aetna Life Ins. Co., v. Nellina Guerrera et al., No. 3:17-CV-621 (JCH), 2018 WL 1320666, (D. Conn. Mar. 13, 2018), grocery store Big Y’s motion to dismiss was denied after Big Y, the alleged tortfeasor in the liability action and thus, a primary plan, settled and paid a Medicare beneficiary. Aetna, a MAO, was allowed to proceed with a MSP private cause of action for double damages against Big Y. However, the court granted motions to dismiss by the Medicare beneficiary and the Medicare beneficiary’s attorney, because under the MSP PCOA scenario, they were not primary plans.
 MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Tenet Florida, Inc. — F.3d —- 2019 WL 1233207 18-11816 at 6 (11th Cir. March 18, 2019) (“[u]nlike the private cause of action, the government’s cause of action broadly permits lawsuits against ‘any entity that has received a payment from a primary plan’ – a grant that includes medical providers.” citing 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B)(iii)(the MSP direct cause of action by the U.S.); Haro v. Sebelius, 747 F. 3d 1099, 1116 and U.S. v. Stricker, 524 F. App’x 500, 504 (11th Circ. 2013)(unpublished)).
During the 21 years between 1980 and 2001, it is no secret that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did very little to enforce the Medicare Secondary Payer statute (a series of provisions beginning at 42 U.S.C. §1395y(b) commonly referred to as the MSP). This is surprising because the MSP prohibits Medicare from making payment when a primary payer should pay but makes only one exception for Medicare to be able to make payments conditionally provided it gets paid back. Therefore, in those 21 years, protecting Medicare’s past interests would seem to have been on the minds of all settling parties on either side of Non Group Health Plan (NGHP) claims – Automobile, Liability (including self-insurance), Workers’ Compensation, or No Fault cases involving Medicare beneficiaries.
With enforcement actions by the U.S. becoming a reality, most parties to settlement have come to learn the importance of identifying conditional payments made by Medicare prior to judgments, settlements, awards or other payments. However, early on, many plaintiffs and their attorneys ignored their obligations to consider and protect both Medicare’s past and future interests, most often without consequences. Regarding Medicare’s past interests, they were hoping to never hear from Medicare again. Regarding Medicare’s future interests, they hoped that Medicare would not deny injured Medicare beneficiaries’ injury related treatment. While there still seems to be some clarification on the horizon coming from CMS with respect to the legal obligations to protect Medicare’s future interests, there is no longer doubt regarding parties’ obligations to address Medicare’s past interests and satisfy conditional payments. However, negotiating the amount that CMS will accept as full payment, often through a process called the Medicare compromise process, may actually help protect the Medicare Trust Funds that the MSP was originally designed to protect.
Medicare has two Trust Funds. One for Part A that covers hospital insurance for the aged and disabled and one for both Part B that mainly covers doctors’ visits and Part D that covers prescription medications, for the same population of Medicare enrollees. It was announced in June 2018 that the Part A Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is projected to be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than predicted just a year ago. The Part B and D Trust Fund is not as bad off due to a financing system with yearly resets for premium and general revenue income and is projected to have adequate funding for the next ten years and beyond.
Total Medicare expenditures were reported to be $710 billion in 2017. Medicare expenditures were projected to increase at a faster pace than either aggregate workers’ earnings or the economy, and to increase from approximately 3.7 percent in 2017 to between 6.2 percent and 8.9 percent as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2029, causing substantial strain on our nation’s workers, the economy, Medicare beneficiaries, and the Federal budget.
A 2018 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the two Medicare Trust Funds recommended a legislative response  to help protect the Part A Trust Fund. However, instead of waiting years for Congress to act, if parties to third party or workers’ compensation settlements involving Medicare beneficiaries , proactively address both past and future interests of Medicare, that could help slow Medicare Trust Fund depletion, in line with the above-described intent of the MSP.
With good reason, many MSP compliance discussions focus on considering and protecting the future interests of Medicare and the allocation and administration tools designed to protect Medicare’s future interests. Equally, if not more important due to the enforcement mechanisms currently in place, parties should address and protect Medicare’s past interests through Medicare lien resolution. Because we know the obligation to address Medicare’s past interests exists, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and seek opportunities to reduce/compromise the amount CMS will accept to fully resolve reimbursement of its conditional payment demands/Medicare liens? While it might seem that CMS would frown upon compromise requests, doesn’t it make more sense for CMS to encourage an open line of communication with settling parties and grant discounts to those who take the time to comply with the law as opposed to those settling parties that shirk their respective MSP responsibilities and ignore Medicare’s past interests?
CMS held a webinar today regarding an April 2019 upgrade to the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) scheduled to allow for electronic payment of conditional payments for all NGHP matters. The portal’s payment functionality should speed up the payment of known non-disputed conditional payment amounts. For parties interested in reducing exposure to high interest rates (close to 10% currently) associated with late payment of conditional payment demands, this new electronic payment functionality of the MSPRP should be welcome news. Ideally, there will be an opportunity to reduce the requested conditional payment amounts by the procurement costs associated with obtaining the settlements. However, Medicare lien resolution often involves more than just reducing the injured party’s conditional payment obligation by the procurement costs. As even better news, the compromise and waiver processes will not be affected by the electronic payments process. Therefore, even when conditional payment/Medicare lien amounts are paid electronically via this new MSPRP process, CMS will still consider compromise or waiver requests, and issue refunds to the party providing payment (or as directed and authorized in writing by the paying party).
 The MSP is a series of statutory amendments to the Medicare law from 1965 which in turn amends the Social Security Act of 1935.
 Because this is the second consecutive finding that the difference between Medicare’s outlays and its financing sources will exceed 45 percent of Medicare’s outlays within 7 years, a Medicare funding warning was issued, requiring the President to submit proposed legislation to Congress within 15 days after the submission of the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. Congress would then be required by law to consider the legislation on an expedited basis.
 The future interests of Medicare should be considered for any settlement regardless of claim type or Medicare enrollment status because the MSP does not make distinctions regarding Medicare’s payment status as a secondary payer for different claim types or about workload review threshold standards that currently exist in the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide published by CMS. Those workload review thresholds allowing review by CMS are triggered for WCMSAs involving Medicare beneficiaries for judgments, settlements, awards, or other payments (“Settlements”) over $25,000, and injured parties with a reasonable expectation of becoming enrolled in Medicare within 30 months of Settlement for Settlements over $250,000. Section 8.1 of the new WCMSA Reference Guide makes it clear that even for WC cases where the workload review thresholds are not met, Medicare’s future interests should be considered via a future care plan (using “plan for future care” to allow the reader to determine the method by which the plan for the future care of the injured party should be prepared – even if not recommending, certainly implying a method such as commonly seen in Medicare Set-Aside allocation reports), or else the settling parties will be placed “at risk for recovery from care related to the WC injury up to the full value of the settlement.” The industry is still waiting for regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations by CMS clarifying this issue for liability cases. This coming fall, there may be further clarification regarding consideration and protection of Medicare’s future interests via new Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the NGHP area, with the hope that any resulting regulations will address comparative/contributory negligence, causation, policy limits, non-economic damages, and other factors unique to liability cases.
Planning to protect Medicare’s future interests should be part of any diligent Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP) compliance analysis. However, because enforcement actions by the U.S. under the MSP have focused on reimbursement of Medicare for payments occurring prior to settlement, Medicare lien resolution (i.e. investigating and negotiating satisfactory payment of Medicare conditional payment reimbursement demands), should be placed at the top of the MSP compliance list by primary payers and those representing injured parties. We recently wrote about conditional payment correspondence from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) through its BCRC and CRC contractors, the updated functionality of the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP), and the importance of obtaining correct conditional payment amounts so settlements can move forward while protecting Medicare’s past interests. When the U.S. government’s conditional payment reimbursement amount (Medicare lien amount) is larger than a potential settlement amount or the payment of the full lien amount will take up a good portion of a Medicare beneficiary’s net settlement, a beneficiary will be less interested in settling. Enter Medicare lien resolution.
When we perform Medicare lien resolution, our goal is to get CMS to evaluate the Medicare lien amount compared to the net amount to be received by injured party after fees and costs are deducted. Additionally, we sometimes ask CMS to evaluate the Medicare lien amount compared to the weakened financial position/physical condition of the Medicare beneficiary after an accident. When the net settlement is unfairly low compared to the Medicare lien amount, CMS will often reduce the lien prior to settlement. There are several federal statutes and accompanying regulations that provide authority for CMS to reduce (compromise) or sometimes waive Medicare liens. The statutes and regulations outline standards and factors that may be considered for full or partial reductions of Medicare lien amounts. These factors often focus on the ability of the injured party to pay the lien, costs the government would incur to pursue collecting the lien, as well as the injured party’s financial/physical circumstances.
The Medicare lien waiver process is a more involved process than the compromise process. Waiver requests typically focus on the financial position of the injured Medicare beneficiary, who may have higher expenses and/or lower income after sustaining an injury. After settlement occurs and funds are transferred, while the MSP technically still allows the U.S. to pursue the primary payer (entity responsible for payment) when a Medicare beneficiary fails to satisfy a Medicare lien, the Medicare beneficiary is most often considered the debtor and pursued by CMS initially through the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC). Attorneys for Medicare beneficiaries can also be caught in the MSP cross hairs. Waiver requests for a Medicare beneficiary are sent to the BCRC. In turn, the BCRC typically asks for a SSA-632 form to be filled out with a variety of financial information about the beneficiary. Waiver determinations may be made by BCRC staff and are usually based on financial hardship.
To speed up the process and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome, it is a best practice when requesting a waiver to provide a full financial picture of the beneficiary, including either a completed SSA-632 form or as much of the information requested by that form as can be obtained, so BCRC staff will have adequate information to reach a fair determination. A waiver may be granted when continuing the collection would be against “equity and good conscience.” The process takes about 120 days from start to finish for a waiver determination to be made. If a conditional payment demand has been paid, a waiver or compromise request may still be made, and a refund will be considered. If the BCRC makes a determination to refund all or part of the prior payment, the refund will typically take an additional 3-4 weeks, depending on whether payment had been made to the BCRC directly or whether it was made to the Department of Treasury after a referral of the debt to Treasury by the BCRC.
If there is not a significant financial or physical hardship to the Medicare beneficiary, but the dollar amount of the projected settlement is low compared with the likely settlement value and/or the Medicare lien amount, an alternative to a waiver request is a Medicare lien compromise request. To request a compromise, a third-party representative may offer to pay a specific dollar amount on behalf of the beneficiary to fully compromise the outstanding Medicare debt/lien amount. The requester must include the settlement amount (or settlement offer), the amount they are asking CMS to accept as full payment, and the actual or projected attorney fees and costs associated with procuring the settlement. Attorney fees and costs are omitted when the beneficiary is not represented by counsel. CMS, through the BCRC, either responds by accepting the offer or presenting an alternate proposed amount. At that point, the beneficiary must pay the countered amount or if accepted, pay the accepted amount within 60 days of the BCRC response, or else the offer is no longer valid.
Letting a representative act on your client’s behalf in communicating and negotiating with CMS has helped lawyers save time and put more money in the pockets of their clients, while helping parties to the settlement comply with the MSP with respect to Medicare’s past interests. Count on Medivest to help you with your Medicare lien resolution needs.
 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) et seq.