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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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