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Judge blocks Medicaid fee cut to pharmacies

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has temporarily blocked the state from cutting the fees it pays to pharmacists for dispensing Medicaid prescriptions.

On July 8, U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana granted a temporary restraining order against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and its Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning. Her decision came a week after the non-profit Community Pharmacies of Indiana and Williams Brothers Health Care Pharmacy in southern Indiana filed a suit challenging the new policy that would have taken effect July 1.

Specifically, the lawsuit challenges a 38 percent cut in the Medicaid pharmacy-dispensing fee; meaning pharmacies would receive $3 instead of $4.90 for preparing and dispensing any particular drug under the Medicaid program.

The lawsuit alleges the cut violates the federal Medicaid law because the state FSSA secretary didn’t approve the fee reduction as required and that runs contrary to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The suit also alleges the fee reduction violates Indiana Code 12-15-13-2, which states that Indiana Medicaid providers must offer services to program recipients similar to what the general population might receive.

The plaintiffs argue that if imposed, the cut could result in pharmacies closing and patients being unable to access their needed medications.

But the state disagreed, saying the reduced rate was aimed at making sure Indiana met the $212 million budget reduction mandated by the General Assembly. In a brief filed July 6, the Indiana attorney general’s office also contended that the non-profit group representing 170 local pharmacies statewide isn’t a Medicaid recipient and shouldn’t be able to challenge a federal program designed for patients, not pharmacies.

“Requiring the State to continue to reimburse Plaintiffs under the old rate would negate the purpose of the Medicaid Act and would not in any way serve the poor and aged – the intended beneficiaries of the Medicaid Act,” the state’s brief says.

Judge Pratt ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but noted in her grant of the temporary restraining order that both sides present compelling arguments and she still has some question about whether a private cause of action exists here.

Caselaw dictates that the Supremacy Clause doesn’t create rights for Medicaid Act providers to sue for enforcement, and Judge Pratt agreed that no authority supports the notion that the statute includes right-creating language directed at those providers.

But those arguments weren’t enough to persuade her to the state’s side.

In her decision, Judge Pratt determined the IFSSA acted prematurely in cutting the dispensing fee before the reduction was approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. That reduction is irreconcilable to the federal statute and would cause many pharmacies to “continue to hemorrhage dollars” and affect their ability to continue providing Medicaid services, she wrote.

The judge wrote that precedent from both the U.S. Supreme Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes the availability of injunctive relief to enjoin state officers from implementing a rule or regulation that’s preempted under the Supremacy Clause, and the plaintiffs don’t have to show the Medicaid Act confers a private right of action for injunctive relief.

“Obviously, this harm could trickle down to Medicaid patients who constitute the poor, the elderly, the disabled and families with children, many of whom reside in rural areas with a dearth of other pharmacy options within close proximity,” she wrote.

A briefing scheduled is being worked out with U.S. Magistrate Judge Denise LaRue, and Judge Pratt has set a hearing on the preliminary injunction for Aug. 24.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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