HHS Files Petition to Supreme Court on Equitable Tolling Issue in Medicare Reimbursement Cases

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On April 13, 2012, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting that the Court overturn the D.C. Circuit’s ruling that equitable tolling applies to the 180-day time limit for providers to file administrative appeals of final Medicare cost report payment determinations. Sebelius v. Auburn Regional Medical Center, U.S., No. 11-1231, petition for cert. filed Apr. 13, 2012.

At issue is the June 2011 decision, whereby the D.C. Circuit’s three-judge panel ruled that equitable tolling is available for Medicare cost report appeals because a claim for Medicare payment is analogous to a contract claim. Auburn Regional Medical Center, et al. v. Sebelius, 642 F.3d 1145 (D.C. Cir. 2011). By way of background, the equitable tolling issue arose in the context of provider appeals of the SSI Ratio component of the disproportionate share hospital (DSH) adjustment for fiscal years 1987-1994. The providers did not appeal the SSI Ratio issue to the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (PRRB) until they learned of the issue in 2006 (as a result of the Baystate litigation), more than a decade after the 180-day window for appealing their Medicare cost reports had passed.

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