Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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In the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congress directed each state to establish an online exchange through which insurers may sell health plans if the plans meet certain requirements. One requirement is that insurers must reduce the “cost-sharing” burdens—such as the burdens of making co-payments and meeting deductibles—of certain customers. When insurers meet that requirement, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall reimburse them for those cost-sharing reductions, 42 U.S.C. 18071(c)(3)(A). In October 2017, the Secretary stopped making reimbursement payments, due to determinations that such payments were not within the congressional appropriation that the Secretary had, until then, invoked to pay the reimbursements. Sanford, a seller of insurance through the North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa exchanges, and Montana Health, a seller through the Montana and Idaho exchanges, sued.The trial courts granted the insurers summary judgment, reasoning that the ACA reimbursement provision is “money-mandating” and that the government is liable for damages for its failure to make reimbursements for the 2017 reductions. The court did not reach the contract claim in either case. The Federal Circuit affirmed, citing the Supreme Court’s 2020 “Maine Community,” addressing a different payment-obligation ACA provision. Maine Community indicates that the cost-sharing-reduction reimbursement provision imposes an unambiguous obligation on the government to pay money; that obligation is enforceable in the Claims Court under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). View "Sanford Health Plan v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 124 Stat. 119, directed each state to establish an online exchange through which insurers may sell health plans that meet certain requirements. Insurers must reduce the “cost-sharing” burdens, such as co-payments and deductibles, of certain customers. When insurers meet that requirement, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall reimburse them for the required cost-sharing reductions, 42 U.S.C. 18071(c)(3)(A). In October 2017, the Secretary stopped making reimbursement payments, due to determinations that such payments were not within the congressional appropriation that the Secretary had invoked to pay the reimbursements. Insurers sued.The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurers on liability, reasoning that the ACA reimbursement provision is “money-mandating” and that the government is liable for damages. The court cited the Supreme Court’s 2020 “Maine Community,” addressing a different ACA payment-obligation as indicating that the cost-sharing-reduction reimbursement provision imposes an unambiguous obligation on the government to pay money; that obligation is enforceable through a damages action under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). The court remanded the issue of damages. The government is not entitled to a reduction in damages with respect to cost-sharing reductions not paid in 2017. As to 2018, the Claims Court must reduce the insurers’ damages by the amount of additional premium tax credit payments that each insurer received as a result of the government’s termination of cost-sharing reduction payments. View "Community Health Choice, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2010 San Diego Sherriff’s Deputy Collier died following an accident while on duty. Collier owned a house together with his fiance, Li, who was also designated as Collier’s beneficiary for his retirement benefits and as a dependent for purposes of workers’ compensation. The two were to have been married three months after the date of Collier’s death; Collier had repeatedly stated, including on a video, that he had made arrangements for Li to be taken care of in the event of his death. Stamp, Collier’s former girlfriend, was named as the beneficiary of his life insurance. Stamp and Li agreed to split the proceeds; Li received $560,920 and Stamp received $25,000. The Bureau of Justice Assistance denied Li’s claim for benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act, 34 U.S.C. 10281, because Li was not the designated beneficiary on Collier’s life insurance policy. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Rejecting Li’s argument that the Bureau should have considered the “totality of the circumstances,” the court stated that Li was not the designated life insurance beneficiary. California law requires strict compliance with the requirement of a policy to change the beneficiary; Collier’s policy required a written designation. There was no written designation and none of the exceptions apply. View "Li v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. The insurer filed suit. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement or action by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the risk corridors program was simply an incentive program. Because there was no contract, the insurer’s “takings” claim also failed. View "Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. Moda filed suit. The Claims Court granted Moda partial summary judgment as to liability, stipulated to be $209,830,445.79. Dozens of other insurers filed actions, with mixed results. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the statute, its regulations, and HHS’s conduct simply created an incentive program. View "Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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A three-year “risk corridors” program described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. 18001, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was intended to promote participation in insurance exchanges. Participating insurers, whose costs of providing coverage exceeded the premiums received (using a statutory formula) were to be paid a share of their excess costs while participating plans whose premiums exceeded their costs would pay in a share of their profits. The program “permit[ted] issuers to lower [premiums] by not adding a risk premium" for uncertainties in the 2014-2016 markets. The actual total "payments in"were less than requested "payments out" and Congress prohibited HHS from using its appropriations for the program. Prorated payments were issued. Moda filed suit. The Claims Court granted Moda partial summary judgment as to liability, stipulated to be $209,830,445.79. Dozens of other insurers filed actions, with mixed results. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute created an obligation of the government to pay exchange participants the amount indicated by the statutory formula but riders in the FY 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills repealed or suspended the obligation to make payments out in an aggregate amount exceeding payments in. Congress made the policy choice to cap payments. No statement by the government evinced an intention to form a contract; the statute, its regulations, and HHS’s conduct simply created an incentive program. View "Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Prime Hospitals provide inpatient services under the Medicare program, submitting payment claims to private contractors, who make initial reimbursement determinations. Prime alleged that many short-stay claims were subject to post-payment review and denied. Prime appealed through the Medicare appeal process. Prime alleged short-stay claims audits were part of a larger initiative that substantially increased claim denials and that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was overwhelmed by the number of appeals. CMS began offering partial payment (68 percent) in exchange for dismissal of appeals. Prime alleged that it executed CMS's administrative settlement agreement so that CMS was contractually required to pay their 5,079 Medicare appeals ($23,205,245). CMS ultimately refused to allow the Prime to participate because it was aware of ongoing False Claims Act cases or investigations involving the facilities. Prime alleged that the settlement agreement did not authorize that exclusion. The district court denied a motion to dismiss Prime’s suit but transferred it to the Court of Federal Claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The breach of contract claim is fundamentally a suit to enforce a contract and does not arise under the Medicare Act, so the Claims Court has exclusive jurisdiction under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491. That court does not have jurisdiction, however, over Prime’s alternative claims seeking declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief from an alleged secret and illegal policy to prevent and delay Prime from exhausting administrative remedies. View "Alvarado Hospital, LLC v. Cochran" on Justia Law

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AHAC, a surety, secured importers’ importation of preserved mushrooms and crawfish tail meat from China by issuing single transaction and continuous entry bonds in 2001 and 2002. The bonds obligated the importers and AHAC to pay, up to the face amounts of the bonds, “any duty, tax or charge and compliance with law or regulations” resulting from covered activities. Customs liquidated entries secured by the bonds and assessed antidumping duties, which the importers failed to pay. Customs started charging statutory post-liquidation interest on the unpaid duties, 19 U.S.C. 1505(d). From 2003-2009, Customs issued multiple demands notifying AHAC of its intent to seek section 1505(d) interest. Customs denied AHAC’s protest. AHAC did not challenge that denial under 28 U.S.C. 1581(a). The government commenced Trade Court suits. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Trade Court’s order that AHAC pay section 1505(d) interest up to the face amounts of the bonds. Section 1505(d) interest involves “charges or exactions of whatever character” under 19 U.S.C. 1514(a)(3); the statute does not exempt charges arising after liquidation. The bonds do not distinguish between pre- and post-liquidation interest. Because AHAC failed to contest its denied protest, AHAC was precluded from asserting defenses regarding its liability under section 1505(d). View "United States v. American Home Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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USF&G filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), seeking reimbursement from the government for legal expenses and settlement costs it allegedly incurred in its capacity as general liability insurer for Gibbs Construction, a government contractor. USF&G alleged that, in a contract for renovation work at the New Orleans main post office, the U.S. Postal Service agreed to indemnify Gibbs and its agents against any liability incurred as a result of asbestos removal work under the contract. USF&G alleged that the Postal Service failed to indemnify Gibbs in connection with a lawsuit filed against Gibbs by a former Postal Service police officer, in which the officer claimed that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of asbestos removal during performance of the contract, and that, as Gibbs’s general liability insurer, it was required to litigate and settle the officer’s claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal. The Claims Court lacked jurisdiction under a theory of equitable subrogation. View "Fid. & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Court of Federal Claims ruled that MassMutual and ConnMutual were legally authorized to deduct policyholder dividends from their 1995, 1996, and 1997 tax returns in the year before the dividends were actually paid. The government agreed that both companies may deduct the policyholder dividend payments, but argued that the deduction may only be taken in the year when the dividends were actually distributed to the policyholders, because the liability to pay the dividends was contingent on other events, such as a policyholder’s decision to maintain his policy through the policy’s anniversary date. Even if the liability was fixed, the government alleged, these payments still could not have been deducted until the year they were actually paid because the dividends did not qualify as rebates or refunds, which would meet the recurring item exception to the requirement that economic performance or payment occur before a deduction may be taken (26 C.F.R. 1.461-5(b)(5)(ii)). The Federal Circuit affirmed. Because the policyholder dividends were fixed in the year the dividends were announced, they were premium adjustments, and that premium adjustments are rebates, thereby satisfying the recurring item exception. View "Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. United States" on Justia Law