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Update on Medicare/Medicaid Audits in the Wake of COVID-19

Published in Today’s Wound Clinic:

When I was asked to draft an article for Today’s Wound Clinic, it was approximately two weeks ago. I was asked to write about the current state of Medicare and Medicaid audits. Specifically, I was asked to provide a legal analysis about CMS suspending audits un-related to COVID-19. In the month of April, we have seen the spike of COVID-19, which has overturned our everyday world. We have been instructed by President Trump to “stay home” and “social distance” to decrease the spread of the virus. This “stay at home” instruction is unprecedented and has uprooted many of our most reliable and commonplace businesses, such as hairdressers, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors.

Here is the answer: The current state of Medicare/Medicaid audits, at the moment, is dictated by COVID-19.

We can divide the post-COVID-19 audit rules into 3 categories:

  1. Those exceptions published by CMS to apply to all health care providers
  2. Those special, verbal exceptions given directly to an individual provider that were not published by CMS
  3. Effective immediately, new guidelines that CMS will follow until CMS believes it no longer needs to follow (by its own choice, of course).

An example of an “effective immediately” guideline is our current state of Medicare/Medicaid audits in the wake of COVID-19. CMS has not suspended all Medicare/Medicaid regulatory audits. But CMS has suspended most audits.

Effective immediately, survey activity is limited to the following (in Priority Order):

  • All immediate jeopardy complaints (cases that represents a situation in which entity noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death or harm) and allegations of abuse and neglect;
  • Complaints alleging infection control concerns, including facilities with potential COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses;
  • Statutorily required recertification surveys (Nursing Home, Home Health, Hospice, and ICF/IID facilities);
  • Any re-visits necessary to resolve current enforcement actions;
  • Initial certifications;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals that have a history of infection control deficiencies at the immediate jeopardy level in the last three years;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals/dialysis centers that have a history of infection control deficiencies at lower levels than immediate jeopardy.

See CMS QSO-20-12-ALL. You can see that these “effective immediately” guidelines are usually published on CMS letterhead. The “effective immediately” guidelines explain why CMS is taking the stated action, the stated action, and that the action is temporary and due to COVID-19.

Here are a few recent “effective immediately” guidelines due to COVID-19:

  • On April 27, 2020, CMS said it would no longer expedite Medicare payments to doctors and be more stringent about accelerating the payments to hospitals as Congressional relief aimed at providers reaches $175 billion.
  • The agency is not accepting any new applications for the loans from Part B suppliers, including doctors, non-physician practitioners and durable medical equipment suppliers. CMS will continue to process pending and new requests from Part A providers, including hospitals, but be stricter with application approvals.
  • CMS expanded the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs in late March as the pandemic continued to gain strength in the U.S. Since then, the agency has approved over 21,000 applications making up $59.6 billion in accelerated payments to Part A providers and almost 24,000 applications making up $40.4 billion in payments for Part B suppliers.

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security stimulus package passed by Congress in March benchmarked $100 billion in funds for hospitals. On Friday, President Donald Trump signed legislation with a second round of emergency funding, called the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, that allocates another $75 billion for providers — roughly three-quarters of what major provider trade associations requested.

An initial $30 billion from the fund was distributed between April 10 and April 17 based on Medicare fee-for-service revenue, sparking criticism that put facilities with a smaller proportion of Medicare business, such as children’s and disproportionate share hospitals, at a disadvantage. HHS on Friday began releasing an additional $20 billion in CARES payments to providers based on their 2018 net patient revenue, with more funding to roll out “soon,” the agency said, including $10 billion for hard-hit areas like New York.

How RAC/MAC auditors are compensated dictates their actions and/or aggressiveness.

RAC Auditors are paid by contingency. They are usually compensated approximately 13%, depending on the State. Imagine what 13% is of 1 million. It is $130,000 – more than most people make in a year. If you do not believe that 13% contingency is enough to incentivize a company, which, in turn, incentivize the employees, then you are sorely mistaken.

RACs were established through a demonstration program under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (“MMA”), piloted between 2005 and 2008, and were later made permanent under the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which required CMS to establish Recovery Auditors for all states before 2010.

MACs are not compensated by contingency, per se. CMS decided to structure the MAC contracts with 1-year base performance periods and four, optional, 1-year performance periods at the time. The MMA required that these contracts be recompeted at least once every 5 years. The recent enactment of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 amended this requirement to authorize a maximum 10-year performance period before MAC contracts must be recompeted. The amendment, which applies to MAC contracts in effect at the time of enactment or entered into on or after enactment, would permit CMS to modify existing MAC contracts or enter into future MAC contracts for 1-year base performance periods and nine optional 1-year performance periods. See Pub. L. No. 114-10, § 509(a)- (b) (April 16, 2015). Therefore, while MACs are not compensated on contingency, MACs are compensated on performance. The less a MAC spends, the more services a MAC allows, the strict oversight a MCA ensues on its providers…all these “performance-based” measures may not be a contingency compensation relationship, but it’s pretty close. Saved money becomes profit for MACs.

Medicare and Medicaid auditors love rules. Even if the rules that auditors are instructed to follow really are not required by actual law. It goes without saying that auditors are not lawyers. Auditors are not trained to decipher whether statutes, regulations or policy are superseded by federal statutes and regulations. The fact is that, more times than one would hope, the auditors are wrong in their assessments that a claim should be denied, not out of malice, but because of a basic misunderstanding of what the law actually requires.

I have all kinds of stories about auditors claiming money is owed, when, really it was not owed because the RAC/MAC auditor failed to follow the actual, correct procedure or misconstrued a regulation. For example, I had a durable medical equipment provider, DME ABC, who was informed by the NSC Supplier Audit and Compliance Unit of Palmetto GBA that it owed $1,075,548.64. Palmetto is one of the MACs for Medicare – durable medical equipment. There was no demand letter. The alleged overpayment amount came to fruition in a telephone conference between the CEO of the company and an employee of Palmetto. Let’s call her Nancy. Nancy told CEO that company owed $1,075,548.64 based on an alleged violation of 42 C.F.R. § 424.58,

Even more disconcerting, was the fact that Palmetto claimed that its alleged, oral overpayment against DME ABC arose from a normal, reoccurring validation process pursuant to 42 C.F.R. §424.57, approved by CMS and in accordance with the requirements of 42 C.F.R. §424.58. No formal letter was necessary was Palmetto’s retort. Not correct; a formal demand letter is always required.

In this case, Palmetto began to backtrack once we pointed out that Palmetto nor Nancy ever sent a formal demand letter with any reconsideration review appeal rights or administrative appeal rights. We knew this was procedurally incorrect because federal law dictates that you receive a formal demand letter with appeal rights and notice of how many days you have to appeal. But out of fear of retribution, DME ABC was willing to write a check without pushing back. Obviously, we did not do so.

I tell this story as an example of how intimidating, scary, and overwhelming auditors can be. If someone off the street asked you for a million dollars, you would laugh them off your doorstep, right? After you tell them to don a mask and maintain social distancing.

But in the new-age world of COVID-19, rules have been broken. This behavior would not be acceptable pre-COVID-19. But this provider honestly was going to pay.

The Trump Administration is issuing an unprecedented array of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to equip the American healthcare system with maximum flexibility to respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pre-COVID-19 if you were to state “paperwork over patients,” everyone in the industry would agree. There would be snickers and eyes rolling, because no one wanted paperwork to be over patients. But it was. Now the mantra has flipped upside down – now the mantra is: Patients over Paperwork.

Post-COVID-19, if documents are lost or misplaced, or otherwise unusable, DME MACs have the flexibility to waive replacements requirements under Medicare such that the face-to-face requirement, a new physician’s order, and new medical necessity documentation are not required. Suppliers must still include a narrative description on the claim explaining the reason why the equipment must be replaced and are reminded to maintain documentation indicating that the DMEPOS was lost, destroyed, irreparably damaged or otherwise rendered unusable or unavailable as a result of the emergency.

Post-COVID-19, CMS is pausing the national Medicare Prior Authorization program for certain DMEPOS items. CMS is not requiring accreditation for newly enrolling DMEPOS and extending any expiring supplier accreditation for a 90-day time period. CMS is waiving signature and proof of delivery requirements for Part B drugs and Durable Medical Equipment when a signature cannot be obtained because of the inability to collect signatures. Suppliers should document in the medical record the appropriate date of delivery and that a signature was not able to be obtained because of COVID-19.

Post-COVID-19, in order to increase cash flow to providers impacted by COVID-19, CMS has expanded the current Accelerated and Advance Payment Program. An accelerated/advance payment is a payment intended to provide necessary funds when there is a disruption in claims submission and/or claims processing. CMS may provide accelerated or advance payments during the period of the public health emergency to any two Medicare providers/suppliers who submits a request to the appropriate MAC and meets the required qualifications. The process of obtaining the funds is a MAC-by-MAC process. Each MAC will work to review requests and issue payments within seven calendar days of receiving the request. Traditionally repayment of these advance/accelerated payments begins at 90 days, however for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS has extended the repayment of these accelerated/advance payments to begin 120 days after the date of issuance of the payment. Providers can get more information on this process here: www.cms.gov/files/document/Accelerated-and-Advanced-Payments-Fact-Sheet.pdf

The Future of Medicare/Medicaid Audits

The beauty of predicting the future is that no one can ever tell you that you are wrong. These are my predictions:

Auditors will deny claims for not having prior authorizations. Auditors will deny claims because the supplier accreditation expired after the 90-day time period. Auditors will deny claims because the percentage of face-to-face time was not met as described per CPT codes.

Obviously, these would be erroneous denials if the denials are within the dates that the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. The problem will be that the auditors will not be able to keep up with all the exceptions, not because the auditors are acting out of malice or dislikes providers. They will be simply trying to do their job. They will simply not be able to take into consideration all the exceptions that were given during the virus. Because, while we do have many written exceptions, if you call CMS with a personal and individualized problem, CMS will, most likely, grant you a needed exception. As long as the exception has the best interest of the consumer at heart. However, this personalized exception will not be written on CMS’s website. In five years, when you undergo a MAC or RAC audit, you better have proof that you received that exception. It will not be enough proof for you to state that you were given the exception over the phone.

So how can you protect yourself from future, erroneous audits?

Write everything down. When you speak to CMS, document concurrently the date, time, name of the person to whom you are speaking, the summary of your conversation, the COVID-19 regulatory exception, sign it and date it.

It is a hearsay exception. Writing down everything does not magically transform your note into the truth. However, writing down everything concurrently does magically allow that note that you wrote to be allowed in a court of law as an exhibit. Had you not written the note contemporaneously with the conversation that you had with CMS, then the attorney on the other side of the case would move to exclude your handwritten or typed note as hearsay.

Hearsay is defined as a statement that (1) the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and (2) a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in a statement. There are too many hearsay exceptions to name in this article.

Just know, for purposes of this article, that any health care provider who is relying on an exception to a normally required regulatory mandate – regardless what it is – either be able to: (1) cite the written exception that was published by CMS to the public; or (2) produce the written or typed contemporaneously written note that you wrote to memorialize the conversation.

Coronavirus: The Latest Court Closings

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Article courtesy of Law360. Updated April 1, 2020.

Notice the article does not expound on the closings or openings of administrative law courts across America. If you are defending a Medicare or Medicaid overpayment, tentative notice of overpayment, or other alleged penalties, you will, most likely, be in administrative court.

At least, here, in NC, the administrative courts are open for Motions. Physically, the courts are closed except for a clerk. No in-person hearings are being held. But emergency, telephonic hearings can be heard.

FEDERAL APPEALS COURTS


U.S. Supreme Court
The high court postponed oral arguments scheduled for this month’s session running March 23 to March 25 and March 30 to April 1. The court’s regularly scheduled order list will be posted on the court’s website at 9:30 a.m. March 23. Hard copies will not be released. Opinions will be issued by the court at 10 a.m. the same day.

The court closed to tourists on March 12 until further notice, but the building will remain open for official business.

The deadline to file any petition for a writ of certiorari due on or after March 19 is extended to 150 days from the date of the lower court judgment, order denying discretionary review or order denying a timely petition for rehearing. The court said it will generally grant motions for time extensions if parties have difficulties related to the coronavirus.

Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
All cases scheduled for argument during the April 2020 sitting will be conducted remotely and no in-person hearings will be held. All existing deadlines in cases are still in effect. All requirements to provide paper copies of documents submitted electronically are suspended for all documents filed on or after March 2 until further notice. Pro se parties are permitted to submit case-initiating documents by fax or email.

The public is prohibited from entering the National Courts Building complex unless preauthorized by court staff and only as necessary to conduct or support essential court functions, effective March 16. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or had possible exposure to the virus are prohibited from entering the courthouse.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
The court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit has suspended all in-person onsite oral arguments until further notice.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is limiting access to its courthouse to “judges, court staff, members of the media, and visitors with official business with the courts,” effective Friday. The court asked that those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have had contact with someone who has been exposed to the virus, been asked to self-quarantine or are experiencing flu-like symptoms not enter the courthouse. Pro se litigants may email filings to ProSeFilings@cadc.uscourts.gov as PDF files and should not send duplicate paper copies to the court.

First Circuit Court of Appeals
Oral arguments scheduled for the month of April are canceled.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals
All filing dates and other deadlines between March 16 and May 17 are extended by 21 days.

Those who do not have business with the court will not be admitted until further notice. Arguments may be conducted remotely.

Lawyers or pro se parties scheduled to argue before the court should contact the clerk of court if they: visited or have been in contact with someone who was in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea in the past two weeks, have been asked to self-quarantine, have tested positive for the coronavirus or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, or if they have a verifiable health condition.

Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Oral arguments will continue as scheduled pending further order of the court. The merits panel will determine the manner of argument. Parties may file a motion requesting to appear by audio conference. The majority of staff in the clerk’s office will be working remotely. The three-day time limit for requesting extensions is relaxed until the clerk’s office resumes normal operations. The filing of paper copies of briefs and appendices is deferred until further notice.

The Third Circuit Judicial Conference scheduled for May 13-15 in Philadelphia has been canceled.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
Cases previously scheduled for argument during the March 17-20 and April 7 argument sessions will be heard at a later session, heard remotely or submitted on the briefs, at the direction of the assigned panels. The court temporarily suspended its oral argument requirement for published opinions.

The Powell Courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, is closed to the public. Papers may be filed in the courthouse lobby, but those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, those with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering the building.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
All requirements to file paper copies are suspended until further notice. Extensions with justification may be requested from the clerk’s office. All outstanding deadlines for incarcerated and nonincarcerated pro se filers are extended for 30 days after their due dates. The court canceled in-person oral arguments scheduled for March 30 to April 2 in New Orleans.

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
All nonessential court functions are postponed until further notice. Judges, parties, attorneys and some court staff are allowed to appear via video conference. The requirement that nonprisoner pro se litigants file exclusively in paper format is temporarily suspended until April 17.

Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or come into contact with someone who has tested positive are barred from entering any courtroom. That restriction also applies to those who have been asked to self-quarantine, are exhibiting cold or flu symptoms, have visited Italy, Iran, China or South Korea in the past two weeks, or have had close contact with someone who has visited those countries in the past two weeks.

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
All cases scheduled for oral argument from March 30 through the end of April will be argued via telephone. The courtroom in Chicago will be closed to the public, and the court is operating with reduced staff. Arguments will be recorded and posted on the court’s website. If all parties agree among themselves to waive oral argument, they may jointly file a motion with the court seeking permission to do so.

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
The public is not being admitted to the Eighth Circuit Clerk’s Office. Those who come to the Burger Courthouse in St. Paul, Minnesota, or the Eagleton Courthouse in St. Louis to file may leave their documents at the front door to the office.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Ninth Circuit courthouses are closed to the public during noncourt weeks until further notice. The court is evaluating arguments currently scheduled for March, April and May and will give orders to the cases individually. Panels may exercise their discretion to submit cases without argument, postpone argument to a later date or hold argument via telephone or video. Arguments will be livestreamed for the public.

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
The Tenth Circuit closed its sole courthouse to the public from March 17 until further notice. The Denver courthouse will be restricted to judges, court staff, court security officers and service providers with official business with the court. All filings should be made electronically or via mail until further notice.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
In the Eleventh Circuit, only judges, court staff, members of the media and visitors with official business with the court will be allowed into the two Eleventh Circuit buildings. Paper filing requirements are temporarily waived. Panels can hear oral arguments remotely, and those hearings will be livestreamed for the public when feasible. Recordings of oral arguments will also be available on the court’s website. Anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms or who has had a known contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus will not be allowed inside.

The court has canceled its judicial conference, which had been scheduled for May 6 through May 9 in Atlanta.

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS AND STATE COURTS


Alabama
The Northern District of Alabama is prohibiting those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and those who may have been exposed to the virus from entering its courthouses. Also prohibited are those who have visited China, Italy, Japan, Iran or South Korea in the past two weeks.

In the Middle District of Alabama, no jurors will be summoned for civil or criminal jury trials for 30 days as of March 17. All jury trials and trial-specific deadlines scheduled during that period are postponed for 30 days, as are all grand jury proceedings. Initial appearances, arraignments and detention hearings before the magistrate judges will continue remotely. Any proceedings that can’t be conducted remotely will be coordinated with the duty magistrate judge. Case-by-case exceptions to the procedures may be ordered for nonjury matters at the discretion of the court after consultation with counsel.

All the Middle District’s bankruptcy court, hearings will be held by telephone through May 31

The Middle District is prohibiting those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and those who may have been exposed to the virus from entering its courthouses. Also prohibited are those who have visited China, Italy, Japan, Iran or South Korea in the past two weeks.

The Southern District of Alabama is prohibiting those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and those who may have been exposed to the virus from entering its courthouses. Also prohibited are those who have visited Europe, China, Italy, Iran or South Korea in the past two weeks.

In the state court system, all in-person court proceedings are suspended through April 16, with exceptions for jury trials in progress as of March 13 and other essential and emergency matters. Any court deadlines set to expire before April 16 are extended to April 20, excluding statutes of limitation.

Alaska
In the District of Alaska, all civil and criminal jury trials set to begin on or before May 1 are postponed until further notice. Trial-specific deadlines in civil and criminal cases set to begin before May 1 are postponed until further notice. All noncase-related activities scheduled in the James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse in Anchorage and the U.S. Courthouses in Fairbanks and Juneau are canceled until further notice. All grand jury proceedings scheduled to be held from Feb. 18 through May 1 are postponed. No hearings in bankruptcy appeals pending before the court scheduled from March 23 through May 1 will go forward, except for emergency time-sensitive matters.

In Alaska’s state court system, all Superior Court and District Court proceedings are suspended through April 3 except for certain priority hearings, including arraignments, felony first appearances and bail hearings. All trial court proceedings are suspended through May 1 except for certain priority hearings. Criminal jury trials are suspended through May 1, but trials underway as of March 23 may continue. Filing deadlines are extended to May 1 in suspended cases. The court is encouraging those with COVID-19 symptoms or possible exposure to the virus not to come to any state courthouses.

Arizona 
The District of Arizona has postponed all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on or before May 4 until further notice. All trial-specific deadlines in criminal cases scheduled to begin before May 4 are postponed until further notice, and judges may postpone deadlines for civil cases at their discretion. All grand juries that were scheduled to convene on or before April 17 are suspended. For those charged with felonies during this time, the period of time for presenting the case to the grand jury is extended 30 days from the indictment deadline. All court proceedings in the Tucson division through March 29 are postponed. Judges will conduct proceedings remotely where feasible. Noncase-related activities at courthouses in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, including naturalization ceremonies, are canceled until further notice.

The Flagstaff Courthouse will be closed to the public, except for necessary court appearances, through at least April 10. The public admitted to the courtroom will be limited to no more than two people in the public seating area at any time.

The court is asking those who recently traveled from an area with widespread COVID-19 — and those who are exhibiting symptoms of the disease — not to visit its courthouse.

In the state court system, no new petit juries will be empaneled through April 17.

Arkansas
In the Eastern District of Arkansas, all civil jury trials scheduled between March 18 and April 20 are canceled. All criminal jury trials scheduled to take place between March 23 and April 30 are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings scheduled between March 18 and April 30 are postponed until further notice. Attorneys and parties must provide notice of potential exposure to the coronavirus. The court will use videoconferencing in preliminary criminal proceedings as needed. All large scale public events scheduled for March and April are postponed.

In the Western District of Arkansas, all civil and criminal bench and jury trials are postponed and will be rescheduled to a date after May 1. Other civil and criminal matters that can be resolved without oral argument or handled remotely are unaffected. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to it are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

In the state court system, in-person proceedings in the appellate, Circuit and District courts are suspended until April 17. Exceptions include certain emergency, time-sensitive and other necessary proceedings. All summonses for people to participate in jury panels are suspended until May 1.

California
In the Southern District of California, civil and criminal jury trials are postponed until April 16. For the district’s bankruptcy court, all hearings will be conducted by telephone through April 16.

In the Eastern District of California, all civil and criminal jury trials are postponed until May 1. All courthouses are closed to the public. All civil matters will be decided on the papers or by remote hearings, if necessary. All criminal initial appearances, arraignments and other essential proceedings will proceed before magistrate judges unless the parties agree to postpone them. Proceedings should be conducted remotely when possible. District judges may postpone criminal matters to a date after May 1.

In the Central District of California, all courthouses are closed to the public through May 1, except for certain criminal hearings. Courthouse tours are canceled. No civil hearings will go forward, except for emergency time-sensitive matters. Any hearings on emergency civil matters will only proceed by telephone. All matters before the bankruptcy court will proceed by telephone.

In the Northern District of California, all civil and criminal jury trials are postponed until May 1. Anyone with symptoms should not appear in court. As of March 24, the San Jose courthouse was closed to both staff and the public until at least April 7 after a visitor was treated for COVID-19. All other district courthouses are closed to the general public until at least April 7. Essential courthouse operations for the Oakland, San Jose and Eureka/McKinleyville courthouses will be consolidated and relocated to the San Francisco courthouse until April 7.

The Central District and Eastern District of California are prohibiting anyone who visited China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran in the past two weeks from entering any of their courthouses. The restriction also applies to those who have had close contact with someone who has visited those countries in the past two weeks, those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, those who have been asked to self-quarantine and those experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath.

The California Supreme Court suspended in-person oral argument sessions until further notice. Counsel will only appear remotely. All oral argument sessions will be held in the court’s San Francisco headquarters courtroom with limited seating. More information on California state court restrictions is available here.

Colorado
In the District of Colorado, all civil and criminal trials set to start from March 27 through May 1 are postponed. All grand jury proceedings are suspended through May 1. Hearings will be held remotely when possible. Only those with official court business are allowed to enter the district’s courthouses and probation offices. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to it are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

In the state court system, all jury calls are suspended through April 3 except those for criminal trials facing imminent speedy trial deadlines.

Connecticut
The District of Connecticut said Wednesday that all civil and criminal jury trials and jury selections scheduled to start before April 10 are postponed until further notice. The courthouses will remain open for all other business. The clerk’s office is closed to the public until further notice, and all manual court filings can be made at a designated box in the entrance lobby of each courthouse.

The court is also prohibiting visitors who have been to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, or any locale that is quarantined in the past two weeks. The court specified that those who have visited New Rochelle, New York — other than in a car or train — are also prohibited from visiting courthouses and probation offices.

All scheduled hearings and conferences in the district’s bankruptcy court will be conducted by telephone, unless the matter is withdrawn, resolved, postponed or the court determines the proceeding is not necessary.

In the state court system, all civil and criminal jury trials are suspended. The courts will only schedule and hear certain high-priority matters. The Connecticut Supreme Court postponed oral arguments in cases scheduled to have been heard between March 24 and April 2. The Supreme Court and Appellate Court have suspended the time requirements for all filings until further notice and have requested that no paper briefs be filed until further notice. On March 13, the court ruled that no appellate preargument conferences will be held for the next 30 days.

Delaware
In the District of Delaware, the J. Caleb Boggs U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building  in Wilmington is closed until further notice. All civil and criminal jury selections and trials scheduled to begin before April 30 are postponed until further notice. Sitting grand juries are authorized to continue to meet, but no new grand juries will be empaneled before April 30. All changes of plea, sentencings and supervised release violation hearings scheduled before April 30 are postponed unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge.

Attorneys are asked to inform the appropriate court if they have appeared in court and have since developed symptoms or tested positive for the coronavirus and to inform the courts about any scheduled proceedings that will require the attendance of a person who has tested positive for coronavirus or has been in contact in the past 14 days with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Also, the courts will conduct conferences and hearings by phone when possible and will consider any request to change a scheduled in-person proceeding to a telephone proceeding.

The Delaware Bankruptcy Court has halted all nontime-sensitive proceedings until at least April 15. Unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge, all court hearings held prior to April 15 will be held via telephone or video conference.

In the Delaware Chancery Court, all hearings and trials will be conducted remotely for 30 days beginning March 16.

The Delaware Supreme Court canceled all in-person oral arguments through May.

All state trial courts will have the discretion to postpone for 30 days both civil and criminal trials and hearings. Proceedings will be conducted by telephone when possible and the court will consider all requests for in-person hearings to be conducted by phone. Attorneys and self-represented parties scheduled for trial must notify the court if the trial will require the attendance of a person who has tested positive for coronavirus or has been in contact in the past 14 days with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Florida
In the Florida Southern District Court, all jury trials scheduled to begin March 16 through March 30 are postponed until further notice. All trial-specific deadlines in criminal cases scheduled to begin before March 30 are also postponed until further notice. All grand jury sessions are postponed until April 27.

Court security officers are screening people who enter the federal courthouse and denying entry to anyone who has recently visited Italy, Iran, South Korea or China. Anyone who resides with or has had recent close contact with someone who has traveled to one of those countries, has been asked to self-quarantine, has tested positive for the coronavirus or had contact with someone tested positive also will not be able to enter any of the federal courthouses in the district.

In the Middle District of Florida, those with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus are prohibited from entering any courthouse. All jury trials in the Orlando Division scheduled to begin before June 30 are postponed, as are all trial-specific deadlines in criminal cases scheduled to begin before June 30.

In the Northern District of Florida, jury trials and grand jury proceedings have been canceled for the month of March, and naturalization ceremonies have been canceled for the months of March and April. Proceedings will be held remotely when possible.

In the state court system, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that all grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials are suspended through April 17. Proceedings that already began may continue if the presiding judge and chief judge determine it is required “by the interests of justice.” All time periods involving the speedy trial procedure in criminal and juvenile court proceedings are suspended through April 20. Time periods for those charged with first-degree murder are suspended through April 17. The chief judges of each state Circuit Court were ordered to cancel or postpone nonessential court proceedings, unless the proceedings can be conducted remotely.

Georgia
The Northern District of Georgia said Wednesday it is denying entry to anyone who has visited China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran in the past two weeks. The restriction also applies to those who have had close contact with someone who has visited those countries in the past 14 days, has tested positive for the coronavirus, been in contact with someone who has tested positive or been asked to self-quarantine by any hospital or health agency. Those denied entry may appear by teleconference with approval of the presiding judge.

In the Middle District of Georgia, no jury trials will be held for 60 days. Grand juries are not affected by the moratorium. All criminal hearings are canceled through May 16 except for certain proceedings, including initial appearances, arraignments and detention hearings. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

In the Southern District of Georgia, only those with official court business will be admitted into the courthouse. Those who have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering the building. Any jury trials between March 17 and April 17 may be postponed. Grand juries will continue to meet. Criminal matters before magistrate judges will continue to take place as usual.

In the Georgia Supreme Court, filing deadlines are suspended through April 13. After that, attorneys will have the same amount of time to file their documents that they had when the court order went into effect on March 14. The court encourages attorneys to file briefs and other documents where practical, since the court is still working on cases.

The Georgia Supreme Court asked all attorneys, parties and other visitors to stay away from the court if they have a fever or symptoms of respiratory illness or if they have been exposed to anyone tested positive for the coronavirus or has the flu.

Guam
In the District of Guam, all jury selections and trials set to begin before April 26 are postponed until further notice. Criminal matters before the magistrate judge will proceed as usual. All grand jury proceedings are postponed to April 26, but the U.S. attorney may schedule proceedings for emergency or essential matters. All sentencing and revocation hearings scheduled to be heard on or before April 3, and any related deadlines, are postponed until further notice.

The court and the U.S. District Pretrial and Probation Office are closed to the public from March 20 through April 3. All naturalization ceremonies and noncourt-related events scheduled for March and April are canceled. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering the district court.

Hawaii
In the District of Hawaii, all civil and criminal trials scheduled to start between March 17 and May 3 are postponed. All civil hearings, including settlement conferences, scheduled for that time period will either be conducted remotely or taken off the court’s calendar. Nonessential criminal matters will be postponed to a date after May 3, but the court will continue to conduct initial appearances, arraignments, detention hearings and other time-sensitive matters. The court is generally closed to the public, but there is limited seating for in-person hearings, available by request.

The court is prohibiting those who have visited China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea within the past two weeks from entering the courthouse, as well as those who have had contact with someone who has been in those countries, tested positive for the coronavirus, been in contact with someone who has been exposed to the virus or have been asked to self-quarantine.

In the state court system, all ongoing trials will be postponed to a date after April 30, as will civil trials and hearings. Criminal trials, grand jury proceedings and hearings will be postponed to a date after April 30 to the extent possible. In the courts of appeal, all oral arguments scheduled before April 30 will be rescheduled or the matter resolved without oral argument. Those who have symptoms or may have been exposed to the coronavirus are prohibited from entering judiciary facilities.

In the state court system, all in-person appearances for civil and criminal dockets are excused, except for emergency matters, child protection hearings, domestic violence hearings and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases. The state Supreme Court ordered that all civil trials, hearings and motions should be postponed and rescheduled for a later date unless the assigned judge finds the proceedings can be held remotely. Any civil trial or hearing currently in progress shall be postponed or completed at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Idaho
In the District of Idaho, all jury trials scheduled to begin on or before May 11 are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings set to begin before May 11 are suspended. No in-person bankruptcy or civil proceedings will take place until further notice. Various criminal hearings before district judges will be postponed until after May 11, and all preliminary felony and post-conviction proceedings conducted by a magistrate judge will be conducted remotely.

The federal courthouse in Pocatello was closed until April 6 after a person working in the building tested positive for the coronavirus. All in-person evidentiary hearings in civil, criminal and bankruptcy cases scheduled before any judge in the Pocatello courthouse are postponed.

Those with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from coming to court.

In the state court system, all in-person appearances for civil and criminal dockets are excused, except for emergency matters, child protection hearings, domestic violence hearings and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases. The state Supreme Court ordered that all civil trials, hearings and motions be postponed and rescheduled for a later date unless the assigned judge finds the proceedings can be held remotely. Any civil trial or hearing currently in progress shall be postponed or completed at the discretion of the presiding judge. All criminal jury trials scheduled to be heard from March 26 through April 30 are postponed for at least 30 days.

Illinois
In the Northern District of Illinois, all civil case deadlines are extended by 21 days. Civil case hearings, trials and settlement conferences scheduled from March 17 through April 3 are canceled and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge on or after April 6. All criminal case proceedings in any division that can’t be postponed will be conducted in the Eastern Division by district judges serving in emergency capacity.

The court is still accessible for electronic filing and phone and video conferencing in emergency situations.

The court said on March 12 that all civil jury trials and jury selections scheduled to start before April 3 are postponed until further notice. Second chance reentry court proceedings, veterans treatment court proceedings and non-telephone settlement conferences scheduled before April 3 are also postponed. The courthouses will remain open for all other business, including criminal case proceedings, and grand juries will continue to meet.

The court suspended all mass public gatherings outside of court proceedings at the federal courthouses in Chicago and Rockford, Illinois, and limited deliveries to the court. Judges are encouraged to conduct proceedings by phone or video conference where practicable.

In the Central District of Illinois, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before May 18 are postponed and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge. All petty offense proceedings are postponed and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge. All civil hearings, including settlement conferences, should be conducted by telephone or video conference. Criminal sentencing hearings and hearings on the revocation of supervised release are postponed until after May 18. Those who have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus should contact the court before appearing.

In the Southern District of Illinois, all in-person civil matters are postponed until further notice. All civil case deadlines are extended by 30 days. Grand jury proceedings are unaffected. Only essential in-person criminal matters will occur. Any emergency hearing required before April 7 in a criminal case will be held remotely. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting the courthouse. All scheduled bankruptcy hearings will be held by telephone.

For the Cook County Circuit Court, all matters are postponed for 30 days from their originally scheduled date, but some proceedings will continue, including certain criminal matters, juvenile detention hearings, temporary custody hearings and mental health hearings, among others. Discovery in civil matters will continue, and emergency civil hearings may be conducted in-person or remotely.

Indiana
In the Southern District of Indiana, all jury trials are postponed through May 1. All other civil court proceedings will continue, although they may be done remotely at the judge’s discretion. Naturalization ceremonies through May 1 are canceled. Those with symptoms and those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus are prohibited from visiting courthouses.

The Indianapolis Division, Terre Haute Division and New Albany Division are closed to the public as of March 18.

In the Northern District of Indiana, the Fort Wayne, Hammond, Lafayette and South Bend divisions, as well as the district’s bankruptcy court and probation office, are closed to the public. The court will conduct necessary proceedings remotely as ordered by the presiding judge in each case. Necessary criminal proceedings will continue to be held before magistrate judges unless the parties agree to postpone them. Those proceedings will be conducted remotely as much as possible.

The Indiana Supreme Court has tolled all deadlines for appellate filings through April 6. Various matters in the Circuit, Superior and Municipal courts have been tolled, including all laws and procedures setting time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings; public health, mental health and appellate matters; judgments and other orders; and statutes of limitation. Those restrictions apply to the Indiana Tax Court as well.

Iowa
In the Northern District of Iowa, those who have tested positive for the coronavirus are prohibited from entering the courthouse, as are those who have been asked to self-quarantine, those experiencing symptoms and those who may have been exposed to the virus.

In the Southern District of Iowa, all civil and criminal jury trials set from March 16 to May 4 are postponed until further notice. Any further grand jury proceedings for the month of March are canceled.

In the state court system, any criminal trial that is not in progress is postponed and will be rescheduled for after April 20. All civil jury trials that haven’t started as of March 13 but were scheduled to begin before May 4 are postponed. All civil bench trials and other hearings set to start before May 4 are postponed until May 4 at the earliest or should be conducted by telephone, at the discretion of the judge. As of March 17, statutes of limitation for filing an action in district court are extended by 48 days.

The Iowa Supreme Court ordered that attorneys and parties notify their opposing counsel and appropriate clerk of court’s office if they suspect a participant in any proceeding has an elevated risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus. No one who has an elevated risk can attend any state court proceeding in person without court authorization. Attorneys must also ask their clients and witnesses whether they have an elevated risk of transmission, the order said.

Potential state court jurors must notify the jury manager if they have an elevated risk of transmitting coronavirus, and the jury manager must reschedule them to a new service term. The court said it will also promptly consider requests from parties to change in-person proceedings to remote proceedings.

Kansas
In the District of Kansas, all criminal cases and matters scheduled for nonemergency hearings are postponed until further notice. Grand jury proceedings are postponed for at least 30 days. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus are prohibited from coming to court.

In the state court system, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on or after March 18 are postponed until further notice. Trials in progress as of March 18 may continue to conclusion at the discretion of the presiding judge. All district and appellate courts will be restricted to emergency operations until further notice.

Kentucky
In the Eastern District of Kentucky, civil and criminal trials scheduled to begin on or before May 1 are postponed for at least 30 days. Grand jury proceedings will continue.

All currently scheduled hearings in criminal cases and in-person hearings in civil cases scheduled on or before May 1 are postponed, with some exceptions for emergency matters. All hearings in emergency matters will be conducted remotely “absent exceptional circumstances,” according to a district order.

In the Western District of Kentucky, civil and criminal trials scheduled to begin before April 17 are postponed for at least 30 days. All trials in progress will be completed at the discretion of the presiding judge. With certain exceptions, grand jury proceedings are also postponed.

In the state court system, all in-person appearances for civil and criminal dockets are canceled through April 24 except for emergency and time-sensitive matters. All scheduled civil trials, hearings and motions are postponed, and any civil trial or hearing currently in progress will be postponed or completed at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Louisiana
In the Eastern District of Louisiana, all civil and criminal bench and jury trials are postponed until May 1 and will be rescheduled by each presiding judge. The postponements do not include deadlines other than the trial dates. Civil and criminal in-person hearings scheduled before May 1 are postponed. All grand jury proceedings are suspended until May 1. The clerk’s office will not accept sealed paper documents for filing through May 1. All noncase-specific events, including naturalization ceremonies, scheduled before May 1 are canceled and will be rescheduled later.

The court is prohibiting those who have traveled to China, South Korea, Japan, Iran or Italy in the past two weeks from entering the New Orleans courthouse. The restriction also applies to those who have had close contact with someone who recently traveled to those countries, those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, those who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, those who have been asked to self-quarantine and those with symptoms of COVID-19.

In the Middle District of Louisiana, all criminal and civil trials are postponed until at least May 1. All in-person civil hearings scheduled through April 10 are postponed and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge. All grand jury proceedings are postponed until further notice. Criminal matters before magistrate judges will take place remotely or in-person. Rearraignments and sentencing hearings scheduled before April 10 are postponed. Statute of limitations deadlines are interrupted until April 13. No in-person filings will be accepted before April 13. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from the courthouses.

In the Western District of Louisiana, all jury trials set to begin before May 1 are postponed and will be rescheduled by each presiding judge. Grand jury proceedings will continue. Judges may hold in-person hearings, and parties are encouraged to participate in nonsentencing hearings remotely. Noncase-related events scheduled through May 1, including naturalization ceremonies, are canceled. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from courthouses.

Public access to the Louisiana Western District Clerk of Court Offices in the Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport divisions is suspended. Any court filings may be time-stamped and placed in the drop box located in each division.

For state courts, all legal deadlines are suspended until at least April 13. All jury trials scheduled to start before April 13 are postponed until at least April 14. All civil trials, hearings and court appearances scheduled before April 13 are postponed, except for certain emergency proceedings. Essential court functions will be conducted remotely when possible.

Maine
In the District of Maine, all jury selections and jury trials set to begin before any district or magistrate judge are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings are also postponed until further notice.

Public access to scheduled hearings will be permitted only with the prior permission of the presiding judge. The clerk’s office will be open by appointment only. In-person court proceedings are limited to, among other things, certain criminal matters; the issuance of search warrants; motions seeking immediate, emergency relief; and essential administrative functions.

In the state court system, the courts will schedule and hear only certain proceedings, including arraignments and first appearances of defendants held in custody; requests and hearings related to protection from abuse; child protection petitions and hearings; and hearings granted on motion. Other proceedings will not be scheduled or heard before May 1, and all previously scheduled cases are postponed.

Maryland
The District of Maryland has postponed until further notice all civil and criminal jury selections scheduled to begin before April 24. All nonemergency proceedings are postponed through April 24, and all filing deadlines between March 16 and April 24 are extended by six weeks. The court will remain open for emergency criminal, civil, and bankruptcy matters related to public safety, public health and welfare, and individual liberty. All misdemeanor, traffic and petty offense proceedings scheduled through May 31 are postponed until further notice.

As of March 31, all in-court proceedings will be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays unless a presiding judge orders otherwise. Emergency proceedings may be heard on Tuesdays or Thursdays when necessary.

As of March 27, the requirement to deliver paper courtesy copies to the clerk’s office is temporarily suspended, unless otherwise ordered by a presiding judge.

All in-court proceedings in the Southern Division U.S. Courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland, are suspended until further notice. All emergency matters in the Southern Division will be heard in the U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore.

Courthouse access is limited to litigants with scheduled proceedings, counsel, investigators or employees of counsel and credentialed press. The court is also prohibiting those who have visited China, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Egypt, Washington State and New Rochelle, New York, within the past two weeks from entering the courthouse, as well as those who have had contact with someone who has been in those areas, tested positive for the coronavirus, been in contact with someone who has tested positive or have been asked to self-quarantine.

On the state side, the Court of Appeals has ordered that all courts in the Maryland Judiciary, court offices, administrative offices, units of the judiciary, and clerk’s offices of the Circuit Courts are closed to the public on an emergency basis, effective March 16. Certain matters scheduled to be heard between March 16 through April 3 are postponed until further notice.

Massachusetts
The Massachusetts District Court announced that while the courthouses in Boston, Worcester and Springfield will remain open, all jury trials scheduled to begin before April 27 are postponed until further notice.

The court said that while trial-specific deadlines before April 27 in criminal cases are also postponed, judges can delay trial-specific deadlines for civil cases at their own discretion. Individual judges can continue to hold hearings, conferences and bench trials if they want, but the court is encouraging them to do so by telephone or video conference.

The court will continue to hold criminal proceedings involving personal liberty or public safety issues. Other criminal proceedings will be postponed 60 days as of March 16 with exceptions for certain proceedings, including initial appearances, detention hearings and arraignments. Those proceedings may be conducted remotely when feasible. Pretrial deadlines are also extended by 60 days. Grand jury proceedings are postponed until April 27.

The court is prohibiting visitors who recently traveled to China, Italy, Japan, Iran and South Korea from entering any courthouse or probation office in the district. Those who have had close contact with someone who visited those countries — as well as those who have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for the virus or have been instructed by a doctor to self-quarantine — are also prohibited from visiting.

In the state court system, the only in-person proceedings that will be held in state courthouses through at least April 6 are emergency matters that can’t be handled remotely. Only essential parties can enter courthouses, and only up to three members of the news media will be allowed in for an emergency in-person proceeding. All civil and criminal jury and bench trials scheduled to begin before April 17 are postponed until at least April 21, unless the proceeding is a civil bench trial that can be conducted remotely. All statutes of limitation are tolled through April 21. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any state courthouse.

The state appeals court has ordered that all cases scheduled for oral argument during the remainder of March will be held by telephone.

Michigan
The Eastern District of Michigan is prohibiting people who have visited China, South Korea, Italy and Iran in the last two weeks from entering any district courthouse until further notice. All civil and criminal matters scheduled for in-person appearances are postponed until further notice, as are grand jury proceedings. Case-by-case exceptions to postponements may be ordered for nonjury matters. Criminal matters before magistrate judges will continue to take place as usual.

The Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in Detroit closed to the public on March 25, and will remain closed to the public until the building owner can clean the courthouse according to federal guidelines. The district announced on March 27 that 10 court security officers showed COVID-19 symptoms, four were hospitalized, and two tested positive for the virus.

In the Western District of Michigan, judges will handle matters remotely as much as possible. All facilities in the district are closed to public access through April 13, except for the Ford Building in Grand Rapids and the Marquette Facility. Those facilities will be open by appointment only.

The district is also prohibiting: those who have had close contact with someone who has visited those four countries, have recently traveled to U.S. areas with widespread community transmission of the coronavirus, have been asked to self-quarantine, have tested positive for  the virus or who exhibit the symptoms of COVID-19.

In the state court system, trial courts are limiting courtroom access to no more than 10 people at a time, including staff. The courts are practicing social distancing and limiting court activity to essential functions. All criminal jury trials are adjourned until after April 3. Most civil and business court matters, including trials, will be conducted remotely or adjourned until after April 3.

Minnesota
All criminal and grand jury proceedings are postponed until April 16. All jury trials are postponed through April 27, as are trial-specific deadlines. The clerk’s office intake desks will not accept cash payments, and the requirement that the filing party provide courtesy copies to the judge hearing the motion is suspended through April 27. The clerk’s office intake desks in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Fergus Falls are closed to the public until further notice.

Video conferencing and telephone conferencing are allowed for several types of proceedings, including detention hearings, initial appearances, arraignments, felony pleas and felony sentencings.

The District of Minnesota is prohibiting those who have visited China, Iran, Italy and South Korea within the past two weeks from entering the courthouse, as well as those who have had contact with someone who has been in those countries, tested positive for the coronavirus, been in contact with someone who has tested positive or been asked to self-quarantine.

In the state court system, appellate courts can grant extensions for deadlines to initiate appeals or requests for review up to 30 days. The appellate courts may determine for any case that oral argument is unnecessary. In district courts, trials that have started as of March 13 will continue unless there is a need to suspend them. No new jury trials will begin before April 22 or until further order of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Public access to courtrooms will be limited.

Mississippi
In the Northern District of Mississippi, all proceedings should be conducted remotely where possible. For petty offenses, the hearing dates set to address misdemeanor citations in April and May will be continued until June and July, respectively. The cases set for the March hearing date will be disposed of at the discretion of the presiding judge. Public access to courthouses is limited to essential business.

In the Southern District of Mississippi, all nonessential matters set for hearing or trial through March 31 are postponed until further notice. Those who have symptoms or have tested positive for the coronavirus must notify the judge and counsel involved if they intend to come to court.

In the state court system, courts are limiting in-person contact through remote proceedings. When remote proceedings are not feasible, the court will conduct certain in-person proceedings, including jury trials currently in progress, emergency child protection matters, and other emergency and time-sensitive matters. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering state courts.

Missouri
In the Eastern District of Missouri, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before May 31 are postponed. Proceedings should be held remotely where possible. In-person proceedings that a presiding judge determines are nonessential will be postponed until further notice. Naturalizations are postponed through April 6.

Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse. All requirements related to in-person participation in alternative dispute resolution are suspended until May 31.

In the Western District of Missouri, all civil and criminal jury trials and grand juries are postponed through March 29, and trial-specific deadlines are postponed through the same date. All nonemergency criminal and civil hearings are postponed through March 29. Criminal matters before magistrate judges will continue to take place. Bankruptcy hearings and trials through March 29 will be held remotely or postponed.

In the state court system, all in-person proceedings are suspended through April 17, except for certain emergency and essential proceedings. Judges in each Circuit and appellate court will determine how the in-person proceedings are carried out.

Montana
In the District of Montana, all jury trials set to begin on or before May 1 are vacated, to be reset by order of the presiding judge. The order does not vacate any pending deadlines other than trial dates and final pretrial conferences. Grand jury proceedings are also vacated through May 1. Individual judges may hold nontrial proceedings in-person or remotely at their discretion. Group tours, attorney admission ceremonies and naturalization ceremonies are canceled through May 1. Continuance of creditors meetings in bankruptcy court will be suspended through April 16. Section 341 meetings will be postponed or conducted remotely. The court will not accept cash payments until further notice.

In the state court system, the Montana Supreme Court recommended that judges in district courts, the Montana Water Court and courts of limited jurisdiction reset civil jury matters through April 30 at the earliest. Judges should conduct necessary matters remotely whenever possible, the Supreme Court recommended. Priority must be given to necessary work in criminal matters, requests for orders of protection, and child abuse and neglect proceedings, the court said.

Nebraska
All jury trials set to begin in March are postponed until further notice, as are all grand jury proceedings scheduled for the month of March. The District of Nebraska has ordered that those who have recently visited China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran should not attend in-person proceedings without court authorization.

The restriction also applies to those who have had contact with someone who has been in those countries, have tested positive for the coronavirus, been in contact with someone who has tested positive, have been asked to self-quarantine or exhibit symptoms of an infectious respiratory illness.

Nevada
In the District of Nevada, all trials and their associated deadlines are postponed until April 10. All noncase events are postponed. Naturalization ceremonies through March are postponed. The court is trying to conduct hearings remotely whenever possible. The clerk’s office is closed to the public as of March 20, but all filing deadlines are still in effect unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge.

Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, may have been exposed to it or show symptoms of COVID-19 are prohibited from visiting any courthouse.

In the district’s bankruptcy court, all hearings will be conducted remotely.

In the state court system, the Nevada Supreme Court and appellate courts have postponed all oral arguments until further notice.

New Hampshire
The New Hampshire District Court has postponed all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before May 1 and all grand jury proceedings scheduled before May 1. All criminal hearings scheduled before April 13 are postponed. All civil hearings and conferences scheduled to occur after March 20 will be conducted remotely. The court will conduct in-person hearings at the Rudman Courthouse in Concord on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with certain restrictions regarding the number of people who can be in a courtroom.

The court has also canceled all naturalization events that were scheduled before May 1.

Prospective jurors experiencing any flu-like symptoms, coughing, sneezing or fever should contact the district court before appearing. The court said it will make reasonable accommodations and reschedule appearances and hearings as needed.

In the state court system, all in-person proceedings in the Circuit, Superior and Supreme courts are suspended through April 6. Exceptions include certain emergency and essential proceedings.

New Jersey
For the New Jersey District Court, all civil and criminal jury selections and trials scheduled to begin before April 30 are postponed until further notice. Judges can continue to hold proceedings at their discretion and are encouraged to conduct proceedings remotely. No new grand juries will be empaneled before April 30, but sitting grand juries may continue to meet. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any district courthouse.

Both district courthouses in Newark were closed from March 26 through April 6 after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus. No one is permitted to enter the buildings during the closure except for authorized cleaning staff.

For New Jersey state courts, new jury trials are suspended until further notice. Proceedings will be conducted remotely where possible. Time constraints for discovery will be relaxed and extended from March 16 through March 30. Pending motions will be subject to telephone conferencing as of March 18. All municipal court sessions are suspended through March 27.

Schedules for nonjury proceedings such as landlord-tenant and small claims hearings will be staggered to prevent large groups of people from gathering in a confined area. Out-of-state travel has been suspended for staffers, and nonessential court events like student tours have been canceled.

New Mexico
The District of New Mexico postponed all civil and criminal jury trials set to begin on or before April 10 until further notice. It also postponed all trial-specific deadlines in criminal cases scheduled to begin before April 10. All grand jury proceedings are postponed until further notice.

In the state court system, no more than 15 people will be allowed in each courtroom. Judges must conduct civil and criminal proceedings remotely except when an emergency requires an in-person appearance. Civil and criminal jury trials that have not started yet are suspended, and payment deadlines for fines and fees between March 19 and May 29 are extended by 30 days.

New York
The Southern District of New York has postponed until further notice all civil and criminal jury trials that were scheduled to begin before April 27. While case-related activities and naturalizations will continue, other noncase activities such as Continuing Legal Education events and school visits are canceled until further notice. All bankruptcy hearings and conferences scheduled to be held in the courthouses of the Manhattan Division, White Plains Division and Poughkeepsie Division of the bankruptcy court will be conducted by telephone unless the presiding judge decides otherwise.

The court urges= counsel to check individual judges’ webpages for possible orders, including orders extending time in civil matters and adjourning conferences.

The Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in Manhattan is closed for all district activities, except grand jury matters, through at least April 11. The Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in Manhattan is open only for certain urgent matters.

The Southern District is prohibiting those who have visited China, Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea along with a slew of European countries, according to signs posted at courthouse entrances on March 12. The Eruropean countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Vatican City, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, San Marino and Spain.

The court is also barring those with a fever, cough or shortness of breath, and the executive office in that district will not be issuing new attorney service passes until further notice. Access to courthouses is restricted to certain groups, including those with official court business, courthouse employees, certain contractors, mail carriers, law enforcement, credentialed press, family members of criminal defendants and jurors in ongoing trials.

In bankruptcy court, debtors with Chapter 13 cases before Chief Judge Cecelia G. Morris and Judge Sean H. Lane are waived from in-person court appearances. Attorneys and unrepresented debtors who are showing signs of illness must adjourn their cases. The contact for Judge Morris is Vanessa Ashmeade, (845) 451-6367. The contact for Judge Lane is Arturo Tavarez at (914) 467-7094.

The Eastern District of New York has postponed until further notice all civil and criminal jury trials that were scheduled to begin before April 27. All naturalization ceremonies are suspended for 45 days, as of March 16. All petty offense proceedings scheduled to begin before April 27 are postponed until further notice. In-person attorney admission ceremonies at all courthouses are suspended until further notice. For all criminal matters that had preliminary hearings before magistrate judges scheduled for March 18 through April 27, preliminary hearing deadlines are extended 60 days after the initial appearance.

The district is allowing video or telephone conferencing for several types of proceedings, including detention hearings, initial appearances and arraignments.

Access to court buildings is restricted to “those whose presence is essential,” according to an order. The court is prohibiting those who have traveled to China, Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea and a slew of European countries in the past two weeks. Also prohibited are those who have come into close contact with anyone who has traveled to those countries within the past two weeks, have been asked to self-quarantine, tested positive for the coronavirus or have come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

In the Northern District of New York, all civil and criminal jury selections and trials — including for grand juries — scheduled to begin through April 30 are postponed until further notice. Other criminal matters before magistrate judges will continue to take place as usual. All mass public gatherings, including naturalization ceremonies, are suspended. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

In the Western District of New York, all civil jury trials and grand jury selections are postponed for 60 days as of March 16. The court encouraged judges to reduce personal appearances for all other proceedings as much as they can. No naturalization ceremonies will be conducted for 60 days as of March 16. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

For state courts, new civil and criminal jury trials will be suspended starting on March 16. Jury selection will also be halted, and grand juries will not be empaneled “absent exceptional circumstances,” although current grand juries will remain on duty along with some trial jurors. An executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo tolled all proceeding deadlines through April 19. No nonessential filings, paper or electronic, will be accepted by the courts until further notice. New York City Criminal Court will start holding proceedings through videoconferencing on March 25 and New York City Family Court will start holding remote proceedings on March 26.

New York state announced on March 11 that it is prohibiting anyone who has traveled to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran in the past 14 days from its 350 state-run courthouses.

Also banned from state courts are people who live with or have come into close contact with anyone who has been in one of those countries during that period, been asked to self-quarantine, and those who have either tested positive for the coronavirus or come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

The U.S. Court of International Trade in Manhattan is prohibiting entry to those who have visited China, Italy, Iran or South Korea in the past two weeks, as well as those who have been asked to self-quarantine. The restriction also applies to those who have tested positive for the coronavirus or have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive. The court is allowing teleconferencing and video conferencing with the approval of a presiding judge.

North Carolina
In the Eastern District of North Carolina, all civil and criminal jury trials set to begin on or before May 1 are postponed until further notice. All other hearings are subject to the presiding judge’s discretion. Grand jury proceedings will continue as usual, until further notice. Parties are encouraged to participate in proceedings remotely. Noncase events scheduled before May 1 are canceled. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse without permission from the chief judge.

In the Middle District of North Carolina, all civil trials scheduled to begin before April 16 are postponed until further notice. All criminal cases are postponed to a date on or after April 16. Grand jury proceedings scheduled for March are canceled. Only those with official business are permitted to enter the district’s courthouses unless they have prior permission from the chief judge. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms, or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse without permission from the chief judge.

In the Western District of North Carolina, judges are staggering their hearings, and hearings will be held in the largest courtroom available. Nonevidentiary hearings should be conducted remotely where possible.

In the state court system, the filing deadlines for documents previously due between March 16 and April 17 are extended to the end of the day on April 17. The order does not apply to the appellate courts. All civil and criminal District and Superior Court matters are postponed unless they are essential for constitutional or public safety reasons.

North Dakota
In the District of North Dakota, all jury trials scheduled before April 10 are postponed, as are trial-specific deadlines. Trial-specific deadlines in civil cases remain but may be postponed by individual judges. Criminal matters before magistrate judges will take place as usual. Grand jury proceedings scheduled through April 21 are postponed.

The North Dakota Supreme Court suspended all state jury trials until after April 24, but state courts are holding nonjury proceedings to the extent possible.

Northern Mariana Islands
In the District of the Northern Mariana Islands, all scheduled civil and criminal jury selections and trials are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings are postponed unless otherwise ordered by the chief judge. The schedule for all other civil and criminal hearings will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the presiding judge. All noncase proceedings, including naturalization ceremonies, are postponed. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering the courthouse.

Ohio
In the Southern District of Ohio, certain in-court proceedings will continue but on a limited basis. The court will not have additional jury trials for 30 days beginning March 17. Proceedings that don’t require in-person meetings will continue at the discretion of each judge. Naturalization ceremonies are postponed until at least April 13.

In the Northern District of Ohio, all civil jury trials, reentry court proceedings and petty offense proceedings scheduled to begin before May 1 are postponed until further notice. Criminal trials will not proceed unless absolutely necessary, and grand juries will not meet unless absolutely necessary. Judges may conduct pretrial proceedings remotely where practical. All mass public gatherings, including naturalization ceremonies, are suspended until at least May 1. All courthouses in the district are closed to the public until May 1. Cash payments will not be accepted in the court until May 1.

The Ohio Supreme Court has provided guidance for state courts, including waiving appearances for pretrial hearings and using video conferencing or other technology to conduct proceedings including arraignments, hearings, pretrial hearings and probation meetings.

Oklahoma
In the Northern District of Oklahoma, all civil and criminal matters scheduled for in-court appearances are postponed until further notice, as are their related deadlines. All grand jury proceedings are postponed until further notice. Case-by-case exceptions to nonjury matters may be ordered. Civil and criminal motions that can be resolved without oral argument are unaffected.

In the Western District of Oklahoma, jury trials on the April docket are postponed. The presiding judge will address trial-related deadlines. Three grand jury sessions scheduled for March and April are canceled.

In the Eastern District of Oklahoma, all jury trials, grand jury sessions and naturalization ceremonies scheduled to start on or before April 17 in the Ed Edmondson Federal Courthouse in Muskogee are postponed. Those who have COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering the courthouse.

On the state side, the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals ordered on March 16 that all state courts cancel all jury terms for 30 days and release jurors from service. All deadlines in any civil, criminal and juvenile cases are also suspended for 30 days. The statute of limitations is extended by 30 days in all civil cases, and judges will handle emergency matters and required proceedings on a case-by-case basis. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any courtroom or other facility used by the state courts.

Oregon
In the District of Oregon, civil and criminal jury selections and trials scheduled to begin before April 26 are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings scheduled before that date are postponed. All other civil and criminal matters scheduled for an in-court appearance before April 26 are postponed unless they can be resolved remotely or without oral argument. The District Clerk’s Office is closed to the public in all locations but available by phone. Filings will be processed electronically and by mail.

In the state court system, trials and hearings scheduled to start between March 19 and March 27 are postponed, with limited exceptions. The Oregon Court of Appeals has canceled oral arguments scheduled between March 17 and March 27. Trial courts throughout the state are reducing the number of people summoned as jurors. Potential jurors who are in high-risk categories for severe illness can contact the court to reschedule their jury service.

Pennsylvania
In the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, all civil and criminal jury trials and grand jury selections are postponed until April 13.

In the Western District of Pennsylvania, all civil and criminal jury trials and grand jury selections are postponed until April 26.

In the Middle District of Pennsylvania, all hearings and proceedings in civil and criminal cases are postponed for 60 days as of March 13, with exceptions for certain individual cases.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered all trial and intermediate appellate courts, with exceptions for certain essential functions, to close their doors entirely through April 3 at the earliest. The state Supreme Court’s argument session scheduled for April 20 through April 22 is canceled, and cases listed for that session will be decided on the briefs.

Puerto Rico
In the District of Puerto Rico, all civil and criminal nonjury trials, hearings and conferences are postponed until further notice, but certain ongoing trials will continue. Grand jury proceedings will continue as scheduled. All deadlines set from March 16 through April 9 are extended until April 10.

The bankruptcy court will not be open to the public through March 30. All hearings scheduled from March 16 through March 30 are postponed and will be rescheduled individually.

Rhode Island
In the District of Rhode Island, the courthouse building at One Exchange Terrace, Providence, is closed to the public until further notice. The court operations in the John O. Pastore Building in Providence will be closed Tuesdays and Thursdays and will be open for limited purposes only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The presiding judge’s case manager will cancel all in-person civil matters and arrange remote hearings where possible. All grand jury proceedings and ongoing criminal hearings are postponed unless the person’s liberty interests are involved.

Those who are required to appear in Rhode Island’s district court, including those who are called as jurors, must contact the court before appearing if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms. Those who have traveled to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea in the past two weeks are prohibited from entering the courthouse, as are those who may have been exposed to the virus.

In the state court system, all Superior Court jury trials are postponed until after April 17. All Superior Court grand jury proceedings are suspended until after April 17. All other matters in the state courts are postponed until after April 17 except for emergency and essential matters. All payment dates and filing deadlines are extended for 30 days as of March 17. The courts will entertain requests for extensions to statutes of limitation after the 30 days if they arise from the current health crisis.

South Carolina
In the District of South Carolina, all civil and criminal jury selections and trials scheduled to start through May 8 are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings scheduled through May 8 are postponed unless otherwise noted by the chief judge. In all civil cases, deadlines are extended 21 days, but statutes of limitation are not tolled. All other civil and criminal matters scheduled for an in-court appearance before May 8 and their associated deadlines are postponed, unless the matter can be resolved remotely.

In the state court system, all oral arguments scheduled before appellate courts as of March 20 are canceled until further notice. Parties do not need to file additional document copies with the South Carolina Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals. In the Circuit Courts, only emergency hearings shall be held at the discretion of each chief administrative judge. All jury trials are postponed, and all large gatherings are canceled until further notice. Hearings that can be held by video may be held remotely.

South Dakota
In the District of South Dakota, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on or before April 24 are postponed until further notice. Nonjury matters will proceed as scheduled unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge, and parties are encouraged to participate remotely where possible. All grand jury proceedings scheduled before April 24 are postponed until further notice.

The South Dakota Supreme Court declared a judicial emergency and authorized the presiding judges of the state’s seven judicial circuits to adopt rules and orders regarding court operations. Each circuit put forward policies to address requests from high-risk individuals to be excused from in-person court appearances.

Tennessee
In the Eastern District of Tennessee, civil and criminal jury trials set to begin on or before April 24 are postponed. Cases not scheduled for a trial will proceed as scheduled, but oral proceedings will be conducted remotely where possible. Grand jury proceedings in Greeneville and Chattanooga are suspended through April 24. All misdemeanor, petty offense and traffic dockets scheduled through April 24 are postponed. Tours and naturalization ceremonies are canceled until further notice.

In the Western District of Tennessee, all civil judicial proceedings currently scheduled are postponed until after April 17. Criminal proceedings that don’t require in-person appearances are postponed until after April 17. All civil and criminal jury selections and trials scheduled to begin on or before April 17 are postponed until further notice. All grand juries already selected will not meet until after April 17. The federal courthouse at 111 S. Highland Ave. in Jackson is closed to the public until further notice.

The Middle District of Tennessee has postponed civil and criminal jury selections that were scheduled to begin March 17 through March 30. All grand jury proceedings scheduled to take place between March 17 and April 30 are postponed, as are related deadlines.

Tennessee’s state and local courts have suspended all in-person proceedings from the close of business on March 13 through April 30, with certain exceptions including: bond-related matters for criminal defendants, plea agreements for incarcerated people, civil and criminal jury trials that are in progress as of March 13, and proceedings related to relief from abuse, emergency child custody orders, petitions for temporary injunctive relief, emergency mental health orders, emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable people and proceedings related to COVID-19.

Deadlines — including statutes of limitations, orders of protection and temporary injunctions — that are set to expire between March 13 and May 5 are extended through May 6.

Texas
The Northern District of Texas has postponed all civil and criminal bench and jury trials scheduled to begin through May 1 until further notice. The postponement does not include other deadlines besides the trial date. All grand jury proceedings through May 1 are postponed, and all deadlines, including the statute of limitations, are suspended through May 1. Public tours and naturalization ceremonies scheduled through May 1 are canceled and will be rescheduled later.

The Southern District of Texas said Thursday that it is suspending all jury trials until April 1. The federal courthouse in Houston will remain open for other matters, including matters scheduled for hearing in bankruptcy court, the district said.

In the Eastern District Court, attorneys and parties were ordered to communicate if court proceedings could cause someone to come into contact with an individual exposed to or infected with the virus.

The Western District of Texas postponed all civil and criminal bench and jury trials scheduled to begin before May 1. Each presiding judge will reset those dates, and the postponement does not apply to any pending deadlines other than the trial dates. Grand jury matters will proceed normally. Parties are encouraged to participate in nonsentencing proceedings by telephone or video. Other matters such as tours and naturalization ceremonies that were scheduled to take place before May 1 are canceled.

The Western District of Texas postponed scheduled proceedings in all civil and criminal bench and jury trials set to begin before May 1, with the exception of pleas, sentencings, criminal matters before magistrate judges and the issuance of warrants. All deadlines in a scheduling order, besides the trial date, remain in effect unless modified by the assigned judge. Parties are encouraged to participate in nonsentencing proceedings by telephone or video. Other matters such as tours and naturalization ceremonies that were scheduled to take place before May 1 are canceled.

On the state side, the Texas Supreme Court issued guidance Thursday calling on courts to suspend proceedings or schedule them to avoid gatherings of large groups of people until at least April 1, including jury trials and large docket calls. It is encouraging courts to implement remote appearances by phone or video for all proceedings that may occur remotely.

The Harris County Civil District Court, serving the Houston area, has suspended civil jury trials for the rest of March and has suspended criminal jury trials through March 20.

Dallas County has canceled all jury trials through May 8.

Collin County District Courts are rescheduling all nonessential court matters from March 16 to April 1. All in-person hearings and trials will be rescheduled during this time, unless designated as “essential,” a list that includes temporary restraining orders, temporary injunctions and any suits or hearings with jurisdictional deadlines. Attorneys must contact each court regarding each setting. No uncontested matters will be heard. The courts are developing a plan for electronic appearances.

U.S. Virgin Islands
In the District of the Virgin Islands, all civil and criminal jury and bench trials scheduled from March 18 through April 16 are postponed until further notice. Sitting grand juries are not authorized to meet before April 16, and no new grand juries will be empaneled during that time. The 30-day time period for filing an indictment is tolled through April 16. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting the courthouses.

The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands ordered that all nonessential functions of the judicial branch be suspended until further notice. In the Supreme Court, deadlines in appeals pending as of March 20 are extendedeither by 14 days or to April 27, whichever is longer. Deadlines in original proceedings, such as for mandamus or other writs, are still in effect unless the presiding judge has ordered otherwise. The time to file a notice of appeal or other initiating document is tolled through April 26, and the period from March 23 through April 26 is excluded from the 120-day period for the Superior Court to rule on post-judgment motions.

In the Superior Court, all deadlines in cases pending as of March 20 are extended either by 14 days or to April 27, whichever is longer. All previously scheduled depositions may occur as scheduled, and new depositions may be scheduled, but parties are encouraged to agree to postpone depositions if possible.

Utah
In the District of Utah, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before May 1 are postponed until further notice. All trial-related deadlines in criminal trials scheduled to begin before May 1 are postponed until further notice, but criminal trials already underway as of March 16 will continue. Judges can postpone trial-related deadlines in civil cases at their discretion. All grand jury proceedings are suspended through May 1.

All currently scheduled hearings in criminal cases are postponed, but the assigned judge in each case may proceed with the hearings remotely.

In the state court system, those with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus are not allowed to enter any courthouse. The Utah Supreme Court directed state court judges to grant motions for extensions of time liberally. Hearings will be conducted remotely or on the papers, “absent exigent circumstances,” according to the state Supreme Court’s order. District Court and Justice Court judges were directed to suspend all criminal and civil jury trials until after June 1.

Vermont
In the District of Vermont, all civil and criminal matters scheduled for in-person court appearances are postponed until further notice. The court’s order does not affect motions that can be resolved remotely or without oral argument. All grand jury proceedings are postponed until April 23.

In the state court system, all nonemergency superior court hearings, including jury trials, are postponed until at least April 15. The courts will only schedule and hear certain emergency matters. Parties may participate in nonevidentiary proceedings remotely.

Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering state courthouses.

Virginia
In the Eastern District of Virginia, all civil and criminal proceedings scheduled to occur through March 31 are postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date. The grand jury is not meeting, but the district is permitted to seek documents and testimony for return dates after March 31. All filing deadlines between March 17 and March 31 are extended by two weeks unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge. The court’s order does not apply to the statute of limitations.

The Eastern District of Virginia has postponed all naturalization ceremonies for the remainder of March and has suspended all noncase-related events, tours and other gatherings in the courthouses.

In the Western District of Virginia, all in-person civil, criminal and bankruptcy proceedings scheduled on or before May 1 are postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date. All civil and criminal jury trials scheduled on or before May 1 are postponed and will be rescheduled. All misdemeanor, traffic and petty offense dockets on or before May 1 are postponed, and all Veterans Treatment Court, Reentry Court and Drug Treatment Court sessions on or before May 1 are canceled. Grand jury proceedings scheduled on or before April 17 are postponed.

In the state court system, the Virginia Supreme Court and Rose Lafoon Building in Richmond are closed to the public until further notice. All filings related to appeals to the Court of Appeals that are filed in a Circuit Court are extended by 21 days, as of March 16. The Court of Appeals will conduct remote arguments at least through June 30.

Washington
In the Western District of Washington, all civil and criminal hearings and trial dates scheduled to occur before June 1 are postponed until further notice. Individual judges may decide to proceed with remote conferences as appropriate. All grand jury proceedings scheduled before June 1 are postponed. All initial criminal appearances and detention hearings will be conducted remotely with the defendant’s permission, unless the court directs otherwise. The bankruptcy court will continue with scheduled nonevidentiary hearings by telephone as posted on www.wawb.uscourts.gov and announced by the individual bankruptcy judge.

In the Eastern District of Washington, all in-court hearings in civil and criminal cases scheduled through April 14 are vacated until further notice, and case-related deadlines are suspended. All grand jury sessions before April 13 are vacated. Magistrate judges can evaluate their essential proceedings on a case-by-case basis. Naturalization ceremonies have been canceled through April 30.

In the state court system, all civil jury trials are suspended until after April 24. Trials already in session may proceed or may be postponed to a later date at the discretion of the judge or by agreement of the parties. All nonemergency civil matters are postponed until after April 24, and emergency matters must be held remotely, if possible. All criminal jury trials are postponed until after April 24. Criminal trials already in session with sworn juries may proceed if public health measures are strictly observed, but may be postponed if the defendant agrees to do so.

Washington, D.C.
All federal civil and criminal jury trials in D.C. federal courts have been put off starting March 17 until at least May 11, while other proceedings are postponed until April 17. Federal trial and bankruptcy courts in D.C. will remain open with limited operations.

The D.C. Superior Court has postponed citation arraignments scheduled for March 17 through April 15 for eight weeks from their originally scheduled date. New jury trials in criminal cases are postponed until at least March 30. The court will hear only emergency matters in the civil, family court, probate and tax divisions and auditor master. In general, all other matters are postponed.

The D.C. Court of Appeals has canceled all oral arguments scheduled through March 31. Filing deadlines on or after March 16 are also being delayed until March 31.

The U.S. Tax Court building is closed until further notice, and various trial sessions through March and April have been canceled.

West Virginia
In the Northern District of West Virginia, those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

In the Southern District of West Virginia, all civil and criminal jury trials and grand jury proceedings are postponed until further notice. Those who tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering any courthouse.

In the state court system, all proceedings and judicial deadlines through April 10 are stayed, except for certain emergency proceedings. Deadlines set to expire before then, including statutes of limitation, are extended to April 11. Proceedings previously scheduled between March 23 and April 10 are postponed and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge. Emergency proceedings should be conducted remotely when possible

Wisconsin
In the Eastern District of Wisconsin, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before May 1 are postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date. All petty offense, reentry court and grand jury proceedings are also postponed. Civil hearings should be conducted remotely. Naturalization ceremonies scheduled before May 1 are canceled. Those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or may have come into contact with the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse.

In the Western District of Wisconsin, the Kastenmeier Courthouse in Madison will remain open and proceedings will go on as scheduled. Those who feel ill should stay away from the courthouse.

In the state court system, all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on or before May 22 are postponed and will be rescheduled by the presiding judges. All in-person proceedings in appellate and Circuit courts, with certain exceptions, are suspended through April 30.

Wyoming
In the District of Wyoming, judges are conducting matters remotely where possible. Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus — including those who have recently visited Iran, China, South Korea or a host of European countries — are prohibited from entering the courthouse.

In the state court system, all District and Circuit courts have suspended in-person proceedings, with certain exceptions. The Wyoming Supreme Court ordered that all civil trials in state courts be rescheduled and that the courts make reasonable attempts to reschedule criminal trials. The Wyoming Supreme Court building in Cheyenne is closed to the public. The rules requiring paper copies of documents that can be filed electronically are suspended in the Wyoming Supreme Court.

IMMIGRATION COURTS


The U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review has postponed all immigration court hearings for immigrants who aren’t in detention through May 1, although hearings on the docket for detainees are continuing.

Four courts in Miami, San Francisco, Kentucky and New Jersey were fully closed as of April 1.

Filings intended for Miami’s Krome center and San Francisco’s Montgomery St. court can be submitted to other courts in those cities. Filings for the Elizabeth, New Jersey, court can be sent to the Newark court.

The Louisville, Kentucky, immigration court has been closed since August for reasons unrelated to the virus, but filers can submit to the Memphis, Tennessee, immigration court.

Filings in closed courts may also be submitted by email, EOIR announced on March 31.

These 20 courts are fully open: Adelanto, California; Baltimore; Batavia, New York; Conroe, Texas; Eloy, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, Service Processing Center; Falls Church, Virginia, Immigration Adjudication Center; Fishkill, New York; Florence, Arizona; Fort Worth, Texas; LaSalle, Louisiana; Oakdale, Louisiana; Otay Mesa, California; Otera, New Mexico; Pearsall, Texas; Port Isabel, Texas; Stewart, Georgia; Tacoma, Washington; Ulster, New York; and York, Pennsylvania.

The remainder of immigration courts have been kept partially open, and in some cases reopened, for the limited purpose of accepting filings, and if applicable, holding hearings for detained immigrants.

U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE


All examiner and examining attorney interviews, Patent Trial and Appeal Board and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board oral hearings and other similar in-person meetings scheduled to take place at USPTO offices on or after March 13 will be conducted remotely by video or telephone until further notice.

INTERNATIONAL COURTS


European Court of Justice & General Court of the European Union

Both the ECJ and the General Court have partially closed their doors. The courts will hear only urgent matters until further notice. All other cases already scheduled until March 27 at the ECJ and April 3 at the General Court will be heard at a later date. The filing deadlines for all cases will not change. The ECJ has also advised staff not to go into the court buildings from March 16 to 27 unless it is necessary for a specific case.

–Additional reporting by Stewart Bishop, Dorothy Atkins, Suzanne Monyak, Matt Chiappardi and Melissa Lipman. Editing by Jill Coffey.

Suspension of Audits During the Coronavirus?

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Effective immediately, survey activity is limited to the following (in Priority Order):

  • All immediate jeopardy complaints (cases that represents a situation in which entity noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death or harm) and allegations of abuse and neglect;
  • Complaints alleging infection control concerns, including facilities with potential COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses;
  • Statutorily required recertification surveys (Nursing Home, Home Health, Hospice, and ICF/IID facilities);
  • Any re-visits necessary to resolve current enforcement actions;
  • Initial certifications;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals that have a history of infection control deficiencies at the immediate jeopardy level in the last three years;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals/dialysis centers that have a history of infection control deficiencies at lower levels than immediate jeopardy.

See CMS QSO-20-12-ALL.

Obviously, there are so many questions. Providers across the country are asking whether they need to comply with document requests. Are TPE audits continuing? Do they need to comply with ongoing ADRs?

Every bulletin that CMS publishes instigates more detailed and complex questions. With all these relaxed guidelines, won’t RACs, etc. have a field day when this is all over? Of course they will.

General Recommendations:

  • Be proactive.
  • Document everything.
  • Deadlines will be extended.
  • Exceptions will be made.
  • Keep all email correspondence.
  • Maintain copies of everything that you submit. (Do not rely on electronic computer software programs).
  • Keep track of CMS updates.

Email me questions, and I will try to respond.

Also, feel free to reach out to the government: QSOG_EmergencyPrep@cms.hhs.gov.

Effective date: 30 days from the memo, which equals April 3, 2020.

 

 

New Mexico Settlement…Six Years Later!

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For the full press release.

This New Mexico settlement…What a long strange trip it’s been!

The litigation started in 2013 (six years ago). I was a partner at another Raleigh, NC law firm. Out of the blue, a woman called me from New Mexico and asked whether I would be willing to fly to New Mexico to testify before the General Assembly regarding Public Consulting Group (PCG) and the company’s extrapolation and audit history.

See blog, blog, and blog.

I did. I testified before the NM General Assembly’s subcommittee for behavioral health care. Sitting next to me was a gentleman from PCG. He happened to be the team leader (not sure what his exact title was) for PCG’s audits in NM and NC. In his defense, he graciously sat there and testified against me while I told some horror stories of PCG audits. See blog.

I met the 15 behavioral health care providers’ CEOs who were accused of credible allegations of fraud. Their stories were so emotional and heart-tugging. These people had dedicated their lives and careers to New Mexico’s most needy population – those on Medicaid and suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and/or developmental disabilities – not for money, but because they cared. Then June 24, 2013, the State of New Mexico accused them all of credible allegations of fraud. NM’s proof? A PCG audit that found no credible allegations of fraud. But Human Services Department (HSD) instructed PCG to remove “no credible allegations of fraud,” and HSD referred the audits to the Attorney General (AG) claiming that credible allegations of fraud existed. Sound like a movie? It could be; it is a conspiracy theory story along the lines of Area 51. Is it a coincidence that Area 51 and the NM behavioral health care debacle both occurred in NM?

I’d like to get some sleep before I travel
But if you got a warrant, I guess you’re gonna come in.” – Grateful Dead

A timeline of the events, starting in 2013, has been memorialized by multiple news organizations. See Timeline.

“June 24 — An audit paid for by the New Mexico Human Services Department and conducted by Public Consulting Group (PCG) finds that nearly $33.8 million in Medicaid overpayments were made to 15 behavioral health providers in the state.

June 24 — New Mexico Human Services Department notifies the 15 behavioral health providers that there is a “credible allegation of fraud for which an investigation is pending,” and immediately suspends all Medicaid payments.

June 25 — Officials with the New Mexico Human Services Department send initial contracts to five Arizona companies: Agave Health Inc.Valle Del SolLa Frontera Inc.Southwest Network Inc., and Turqouise Health and Wellness, Inc., to temporarily take over New Mexico behavioral health organizations for a combined price tag of $17.85 million. It’s estimated the move will impact about 30,000 patients. From a July 18 email: “I am following up on the proposed contract between HSD and Open Skies Healthcare (affiliated with Southwest Network, located in Phoenix). On July 3, 2013, I responded to Larry’s [Heyeck, Deputy General Counsel for HSD] June 25 email concerning the contract…”

July 17 – Eight agencies go to U.S. District Court to restore funding.

July 25 – A memo generated by one of the 15 affected providers, TeamBuilders, indicates it will stop taking new clients.

July 25 – A state district judge turns the PCG audit over to New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas, and orders the audit protected from public disclosure.

Aug. 21 – In a 15-1 vote New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee objects to the Human Services Department moving $10 million from it’s budget to pay Arizona agencies to take over New Mexico providers due to concerns over secrecy surrounding the process.

Aug. 27 – New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-Newsfile a lawsuit demanding the public release of the PCG audit.

Aug. 28 – Federal officials hold conference call to hear about widespread disruptions to clients of behavioral health providers in transition.

Aug. 29 – An Inspection of Public Records Act request filed by KUNM reveals contract communications between New Mexico Human Services Department officials and Arizona providers as early as May 29, a full month before the audit was released by Public Consulting Group.

Sept. 3 – Public Consulting Group representative Thomas Aldridge tells the New Mexico Legislative Behavioral Health Subcommittee that he helped state officials vet at least one Arizona firm before it even began its audit of agencies in the state.

Sept. 3 — Lawyer Knicole Emanuel testifies to ongoing problems with PCG audits conducted in North Carolina as well as lawsuits triggered by PCG activities. “In some of the PCG audits that I have encountered, PCG has said the Medicaid provider owes $700,000, $800,000, $1.5 million, these exorbitant amounts, and at the end of the day when they look at all the documents, it goes down to like $200 or $300.”

Sept. 10 – The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that political ads defending Gov. Susana Martinez have begun rolling out, framing the behavioral health takeover as a crackdown on Medicaid fraud.”

I litigated 4 administrative appeals. Even after the NM AG came out and stated that there was no fraud, HSD accused the providers of owing alleged overpayments, some upwards of $12 million. These amounts were extrapolated.

In the very first administrative appeal, for The Counseling Center, the extrapolation expert was one of HSD’s attorneys. Upon questions regarding his extrapolation and statistical experience and the foundation for his expertise, he testified that took a class on statistics in college. I guess I could be a bowling expert.

PCG only testified in the first two administrative appeals. I guess after PCG testified that they were never given the opportunity to finish their audit due to HSD and that PCG found no fraud, but HSD removed that language from the report, HSD smartened up and stopped calling PCG as a witness. PCG certainly was not bolstering HSD’s position.

For three of the administrative appeals, we had the same administrative law judge (ALJ), who appeared to have some experience as an ALJ. For one of the appeals, we had a younger gentleman as the ALJ, who, according to LINKEDIN, was a professional photographer.

About 5 years after the accusations of fraud, the AG came out and exonerated all the providers. Apparently, there never was any fraud. Only accusations. These exonerations, however, did not stop the allegations of overpayments to HSD. The exonerations also did not stop these companies from going out of business, being tried as fraudsters in the eyes of the public, losing their companies, firing staff, closing their doors, and losing everything.

This was all done under the administration of Susana Martinez – not saying that politics played a huge role in the act of overthrowing these providers.

The providers all appealed their alleged overpayments and filed a lawsuit against HSD and the State for damages suffered from the original allegation of fraud that was found to be meritless.

After an election and a new administration took control, the State of New Mexico settled with the providers, as you can see from the above press release.

FYI building in Las Cruces, NM.

During the long journey over the past 6 years, one of the CEOs, Jose Frietz, passed away. He had started his company Families & Youth, Inc. in 1977. A month before he died on March 2, 2016, the AG exonerated FYI.

In 2013, Larry Heyeck was one of the attorneys for HSD. Multiple times during the witch hunt for Medicaid fraud, it appeared that Heyeck had some sort of personal vendetta against the 15 providers. According to one article, “Heyeck singled out Roque Garcia, former acting CEO of Southwest Counseling Services (Las Cruces), who was a recipient of the payments and asked legislators, “What does this mean? How can this money be accounted for to ensure that it isn’t used for private benefit?” Heyeck then asserted that Garcia had abused agency travel funds largely paid for by Medicaid through lavish travel to resort destinations in a private aircraft.”

Garcia wasn’t the only provider accused of misappropriating Medicaid funds. Shannon Freedle and his wife Lorraine were ostracized for having their abode in Hawaii.

Larry Heyeck, had an article published in the December 2012’s American Bar Association’s “The Health Lawyer” discussing the effect of 42 CFR 455.23 on Medicaid fraud and suspensions of Medicaid reimbursements. It was entitled, “Medicaid Payment Holds Due to Credible Allegations of Fraud.” Seem apropos?

By 2016, all 15 providers were cleared of allegations of fraud, but most were out of business.

Now – December 4, 2019 – a press release is disseminated to show that the last of the providers settled with the State of New Mexico. What the press release fails to express is the struggle, the financial and non-financial damages, the emotional turmoil, and the devastation these companies have endured over the past 6 years. No amount of money could ever right their catastrophic, past 6-years or the complete demise of their companies based on erroneous allegations of fraud.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me; Other times, I can barely see; Lately, it occurs to me; What a long, strange trip it’s been.” – Grateful Dead

CMS Revises and Details Extrapolation Rules

Effective Jan. 2, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) radically changed its guidance on the use of extrapolation in audits by Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs), Unified Program Integrity Contractors (UPICs), and the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC).

Extrapolation is a veritable tsunami in Medicare/Medicaid audits. The auditor collects a small sample of claims to review for compliance, then determines the “error rate” of the sample. For example, if 500 claims are reviewed and one is found to be noncompliant for a total of $100, then the error rate is set at 20 percent. That error rate is applied to the universe, which is generally a three-year time period. It is assumed that the random sample is indicative of all your billings, regardless of whether you changed your billing system during that time period or maybe hired a different biller. In order to extrapolate an error rate, contractors must use a “statistically valid random sample” and then apply that error rate on a broader universe of claims, using “statistically valid methods.”

With extrapolated results, auditors allege millions of dollars of overpayments against healthcare providers – sometimes a sum of more than the provider even made during the relevant time period. It is an overwhelming impact that can put a provider and its company out of business.

Prior to this recent change to extrapolation procedure, the Program Integrity Manual (PIM) offered little guidance regarding the proper method for extrapolation.

Prior to 2019, CMS offered broad strokes with few details. Its guidance was limited to generally identifying the steps contractors should take: “a) selecting the provider or supplier; b) selecting the period to be reviewed; c) defining the universe, the sampling unit, and the sampling frame; d) designing the sampling plan and selecting the sample; e) reviewing each of the sampling units and determining if there was an overpayment or an underpayment; and, as applicable, f) estimating the overpayment.”

Well, Change Request 10067 overhauled extrapolation in a huge way.

The first modification to the extrapolation rules is that the PIM now dictates when extrapolation should be used.

Under the new guidance, a contractor “shall use statistical sampling when it has been determined that a sustained or high level of payment error exists. The use of statistical sampling may be used after a documented educational intervention has failed to correct the payment error.” This guidance now creates a three-tier structure:

  1. Extrapolation shall be used when a sustained or high level of payment error exists.
  2. Extrapolation may be used after documented educational intervention (such as in the Targeted Probe-and-Educate (TPE) program).
  3. It follows that extrapolation should not be used if there is not a sustained or high level of payment error or evidence that documented educational intervention has failed.

“High level of payment error” is defined as 50 percent or greater. The PIM also states that the contractor may review the provider’s past noncompliance for the same or similar billing issues or a historical pattern of noncompliant billing practice. This is critical because so many times providers simply pay the alleged overpayment amount if the amount is low or moderate in order to avoid costly litigation. Now, those past times that you simply paid the alleged amounts will be held against you.

Another monumental modification to RAC audits is that the RAC auditor now must receive authorization from CMS to go forward in recovering from the provider if the alleged overpayment exceeds $500,000 or is an amount that is greater than 25 percent of the provider’s Medicare revenue received within the previous 12 months.

The identification of the claims universe was also redefined. Even CMS admitted in the change request that, on occasion, “the universe may include items that are not utilized in the construction of the sample frame. This can happen for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to: a) some claims/claim lines are discovered to have been subject to a prior review; b) the definitions of the sample unit necessitate eliminating some claims/claim lines; or c) some claims/claim lines are attributed to sample units for which there was no payment.”

How many of you have been involved in an alleged overpayment in which the auditor misplaced or lost documents? I know I have. The new rule also states that the auditors must be able to recreate the sample and maintain all documentation pertinent to the calculation of an alleged overpayment.

High-volume providers should face a lower risk of extrapolation if their audited error rate is less than 50 percent and they do not have a history of noncompliance for the same or similar billing issues, or a historical pattern of noncompliant billing practice.

New Revisions to the Justice Manual -The New World of Health Care Fraud and Abuse in 2019

So many memos, so little time. Federal prosecutors receive guidance on how to prosecute. Maybe “guidance” is too loose a term. There is a manual to follow, and memos are just guidance until the memos are incorporated into what is known as the Justice Manual. Memos are not as binding as the Justice Manual, but memos are persuasive. For the last 22 years, the Justice Manual has not been revised to reflect the many, many memos that have been drafted to direct prosecutors on how to proceed. Until recently…

Justice Manual Revised

The Justice Manual, which is the manual that instructs federal prosecutors how to proceed in cases of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, has been revised for the first time since 1997. The Justice Manual provides internal Department of Justice (DOJ) rules.

The DOJ has new policies for detecting Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse. Some of these policies are just addendums to old policies. Or formal acceptance to old memos. Remember the Yates Memo? The Yates Memo directed prosecutors to indict executives, individually, of fraudulent companies instead of just going after the company.

The Yates Memo has now been codified into the Justice Manual.

Then came the Granston Memo – In a January 10, 2018, memo (the “Granston Memo”), the DOJ directed its prosecutors to more seriously consider dismissing meritless False Claims Act (“FCA”) cases brought by whistleblowers. It lists 7 (non-exhaustive) criteria for determining whether the DOJ should dismiss a qui tam lawsuit.  The reasoning behind the Granston Memo is that whistleblower lawsuits have risen over 600 cases per year, but the government’s involvement has not mirrored the raise. This may indicate that many of the whistleblower lawsuits are frivolous and filed for the purpose of financial gain, even if the money is not warranted. Remember qui tam relators (people who bring lawsuits against those who mishandle tax dollars, are rewarded monetarily for their efforts…and, usually, the reward is not a de minimus amount. In turn, people are incentivized to identify fraud and abuse against the government. At least, according to the Granston Memo, the financial incentive works too well and frivolous lawsuits are too prevalent.

The Granston Memo has also been codified into the Justice Manual.

Talk about an oxymoron…the Yates Memo instructs prosecutors to pursue claims against more people, especially those in the executive positions for acts of the company. The Granston Memo instructs prosecutors to more readily dismiss frivolous FCA allegations. “You’re a wigwam. You’re a teepee. Calm down, you’re just two tents (too tense).” – a horrible joke that my husband often quips. But this horrible quote is apropos to describe the mixed messages from DOJ regarding Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse.

The Brand Memo, yet another memo that we saw come out of CMS, instructs prosecutors not to use noncompliance as subject to future DOJ enforcement actions. In other words, agency guidance does not cannot create binding legal requirements. Going forward, the DOJ will not enforce recommendations found in agency guidance documents in civil actions. Relatedly, DOJ will not use noncompliance with agency guidance to “presumptively or conclusively” establish violations of applicable law or regulations in affirmative civil enforcement cases.

The Brand Memo was not incorporated into the Justice Manual. It also was not repudiated.

Medicare/caid Audit Targets Broadened

Going forward, traditional health care providers will not be the only targets – Medicare Advantage plan, EHR companies, and private equity owners – will all be audited and reviewed for fraud and abuse. Expect more audits with wider nets to catch non-provider targets to increase now that the Yates Memo was codified into the Justice Manual.

Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark Law, and HIPAA Narrowed

The Stark Law (42 U.S.C. 1395nn) and the Anti-Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. §1320a‑7b(b)) exist to minimize unneeded or over-utilization of health-care services payable by the federal government. Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback regulations criminalize, impose civil monetary penalties, or impose other legal sanctions (such as termination from Medicare) against health care providers and other individuals who violate these laws. These laws are esoteric (which is one reason that I have a job) and require careful navigation by specialized legal counsel. Accidental missteps, even minute documentation errors, can lead to harsh and expensive results.

In a health care world in which collaboration among providers is being pushed and recommended, the Anti-Kickback, Stark, and HIPAA laws are antiquated and fail to recognize the current world. Existing federal health-care fraud and abuse laws create a “silo effect” that requires mapping and separating financial interests of health-care providers in order to ensure that patient referrals cannot be tainted by self-interest. Under Stark, a strict liability law, physicians cannot make a referral for the provision of “designated health services” to an entity with which they have a financial relationship (unless one of approximately 30 exceptions applies). In other words, for example, a hospital cannot refer patients to the home health care company that the hospital owns.

Going forward – and this has not happened yet – regulators and the Department will begin to claw back some of the more strict requirements of the Stark, Anti-Kickback, and HIPAA regulations to decrease the “silo effect” and allow providers to collaborate more on an individual’s whole health method. I had an example of this changing of the tide recently with my broken leg debacle. See blog. After an emergency surgery on my leg by an orthopedic surgeon because of a contracted infection in my wound, my primary care physician (PCP) called to check on me. My PCP had nothing to do with my leg surgery, or, to my knowledge, was never informed of it. But because of new technology that allows patient’s records to be accessed by multiple providers in various health care systems or practices, my PCP was informed of my surgery and added it to my chart. This never could have happened 20 years ago. But this sharing of medical records with other providers could have serious HIPAA implications if some restrictions of HIPAA are not removed.

In sum, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Justice Manual in a while, now would be an appropriate time to do so since it has been revised for the first time in 22 years. This blog does not enumerate all the revisions to the Justice Manual. So it is important that you are familiar with the changes…or know someone who is.

Once You STOP Accepting Medicaid/Care, How Much Time Has to Pass to Know You Will Not Be Audited? (For Past Nitpicking Documentation Errors)

I had a client, a dentist, ask me today how long does he have to wait until he need not worry about government, regulatory audits after he decides to not accept Medicare or Medicaid any more. It made me sad. It made me remember the blog that I wrote back in 2013 about the shortage of dentists that accept Medicaid. But who can blame him? With all the regulatory, red tape, low reimbursement rates, and constant headache of audits, who would want to accept Medicare or Medicaid, unless you are Mother Teresa…who – fun fact – vowed to live in poverty, but raised more money than any Catholic in the history of the recorded world.

What use is a Medicaid card if no one accepts Medicaid? It’s as useful as our appendix, which I lost in 1990 and have never missed it since, except for the scar when I wear a bikini. A Medicaid card may be as useful as me with a power drill. Or exercising lately since my leg has been broken…

The answer to the question of how long has to pass before breathing easily once you make the decision to refuse Medicaid or Medicare? – It depends. Isn’t that the answer whenever it comes to the law?

By Whom and Why You Are Being Investigated Matters

If you are being investigated for fraud, then 6 years.

If you are being investigated by a RAC audit, 3 years.

If you are being investigated by some “non-RAC entity,” then it however many years they want unless you have a lawyer.

If being investigated under the False Claims Act, you have 6 – 10 years, depending on the circumstances.

If investigated by MICs, generally, there is a 5-year, look-back period.

ZPICS have no particular look-back period, but with a good attorney, reasonableness can be argued. How can you be audited once you are no longer liable to maintain the records?

The CERT program is limited by the same fiscal year.

The Alternative: Self-Disclosure (Hint – This Is In Your Favor)

If you realized that you made an oops on your own, you have 60-days. The 60-day repayment rule was implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), effective March 14, 2016, to clarify health care providers’ obligations to investigate, report, and refund identified overpayments under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

Notably, CMS specifically stated in the final rule that it only applies to traditional Medicare overpayments for Medicare Part A and B services, and does not apply to Medicaid overpayments. However, most States have since legislated similar statutes to mimic Medicare rules (but there are arguments to be made in courts of law to distinguish between Medicare and Medicaid).

 

 

 

Exclusive: Medicaid: The State of the Union

Here is an article that I wrote as a Medicaid news update, state-by-state, as seen on RACMonitor.

The latest and greatest in Medicaid news, state by state.

While Medicare is a nationwide healthcare insurance program, Medicaid, the government-funded health insurance for the poor and developmentally disabled, is state-specific, generally speaking. The backbone of Medicaid is federal; federal regulations set forth the minimum requirements that states must follow. It is up to the states to decide whether to mandate more stringent or more regulatory oversight than is required by the federal regulations.

Why is it important for you to know the latest up-to-date information on Medicaid issues? First, if you accept Medicaid, you need to know. Secondly, if you are thinking about expanding into different states, you need to be aware of how Medicaid is handled there.

What is happening in your State?

Alabama: Alabama did not expand Medicaid. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommended that Alabama improve its Medicaid security program, aligning it with federal requirements. The OIG also stated that Alabama also needs to provide adequate oversight to its contractors and address other vulnerabilities OIG found in its audit. Expect more audits here. In particular, the Medicaid Maternity Program is under the microscope. Apparently, healthcare providers that provide medically necessary services to women on the Maternity Program have been duped before, as some of the women enrolled had already given birth. Recoupment!
Alaska: Alaska expanded Medicaid in 2015. Currently, lawmakers in the legislature here have introduced bills that would require the state to seek 20-hour work requirements for those enrolled in Medicaid.
Arizona: Arizona expanded Medicaid, but with an approved section 1115 waiver. Arizona has failed to collect up to $36.7 million in rebates from prescription drug manufacturers since 2010 and may need to pay the federal government a portion of that amount, according to a new federal audit, which means more audits to reconcile the payback. Arizona State Rep. Kelli Butler wants to allow uninsured individuals to buy into the state’s Medicaid program. Butler is expected to introduce legislation to authorize a buy-in or direct state officials to study the proposal. The buy-in option would require consumers to pay the full cost of their insurance coverage.
Arkansas: Arkansas expanded Medicaid, but with an approved section 1115 waiver. On March 5, 2018, it became the third state to win the Trump administration’s permission to compel Medicaid recipients to work or prepare for a job. The state’s program integrity is focusing its upcoming audits on home health, long-term care facilities, and inpatient hospital stays.
California: California expanded Medicaid. The state’s Medicaid agency has posted draft language of a new state plan amendment (SPA) that would make major changes to Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and Rural Health Clinic (RHC) reimbursement. If approved, the SPA would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, so expect audits and recoupments. The proposed SPA would implement multiple new requirements for FQHC and RHCS. For example, the proposed productivity standard requires physicians to document 3,200 visits per year and applicable allied health professionals such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners to document 2,600 visits per year. In January 2018, Aetna received approval to participate in California’s Medicaid program as “Aetna Better Health of California.”
Colorado: Colorado expanded Medicaid. Not unexpectedly, the state has one of the more lenient regulatory environments. For example, Colorado’s permissive approach to regulating more than 700 licensed residential and outpatient drug treatment centers got the attention of a congressional subcommittee investigating the drug rehab industry last year. Also, Colorado’s governor announced that he is not opposed to work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries.
Connecticut: Connecticut expanded Medicaid. The Connecticut Health Policy Project data shows that net pharmacy spending minus rebates from Connecticut’s Medicaid program tripled from 2000 to 2017. After rebates, Medicaid’s pharmacy costs decreased from $542 million in 2015 to $465 million in 2017, a drop of over 14 percent. Interestingly, on March 21, 2018, the state’s General Assembly increased Connecticut’s 8,500 home care workers’ wages, and adding worker’s compensation, even those workers are being compensated by Medicaid. The increased wage will rise to $16.25 per hour by 2020 and will cost the state, after federal Medicaid reimbursement, $725,790 in 2018, almost $7 million in 2019, and over $9.3 million in 2020. If you have a home health agency here, you better make sure that lawmakers are smart enough to increase the reimbursement rates; otherwise, a lot of home health agencies will go out of business.
Delaware: Delaware expanded Medicaid, but since it is so small in size and population, the expansion only added approximately 10,000 Medicaid recipients. This year, after two years of increasing Medicaid spending by approximately $70 million, Delaware’s Medicaid costs are expected to decrease a small amount, even with the expansion. Beginning this year, Delaware gives additional weight to value-based care when determining payment. Rather than paying solely for volume of care – hospital stays, tests and procedures, regardless of outcomes – the state will pay for achieving optimal health for its Medicaid recipients.
Florida: Florida did not expand Medicaid. Lawmakers are considering opioid prescription limits for Medicaid recipients. The proposals would limit prescriptions for opioids to three-day supplies, but also allow for up to seven-day supplies if physicians deem it medically necessary. If passed, I question whether lawsuits will be filed claiming that such a move violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, because it violates parity between Medicaid recipients and the private-pay insured. And what about the people suffering with chronic, long-term pain? (especially considering the state’s demographics). In other news, Gov. Rick Scott has proposed to transition the state’s Children’s Medical Services program to a private managed care organization, beginning in 2019.
Georgia: Georgia did not expand Medicaid. Recently, the Georgia Department of Community Health mistakenly issued multiple Medicaid ID numbers to hundreds of patients. Those mistakes led the state and federal governments to make duplicate payments for care of some Medicaid patients. Now, Georgia is being asked to refund the federal government’s share of the duplicate payments — more than $665,000. Expect more audits to fund the repayment.
Hawaii: Hawaii expanded Medicaid. But the state is cracking down on its providers. In an effort to improve fraud prevention, Hawaii is performing more comprehensive screening, credentialing, and enrollment for all Medicaid providers. Those of you who are already credentialed here, expect tougher standards for re-credentialing.
Idaho: Idaho did not expand Medicaid, but it did expand dental coverage. On March 12, 2018, the state’s Senate passed a bill that restores Medicaid non-emergency dental coverage. The coverage was cut in 2011 during the recession. The bill, HB 465, already passed the House and now moves to Gov. Butch Otter. It is expected to cost $38 a year per patient.
Illinois: Illinois expanded Medicaid. On Jan. 12, 2018, five nursing home operators filed a federal lawsuit against the state, arguing that low Medicaid payment rates and the claims backlog are jeopardizing patient care. The lawsuit was filed by Generations Health Care Network, Carlyle Healthcare Center, St. Vincent’s Home, Clinton Manor Living Center, and Extended Care Clinical, which operate 100 skilled nursing facilities throughout the state. Because of Section 30(A) of the Social Security Act (SSA), which mandates that reimbursement rates allow for quality of care, why aren’t more health care providers filing lawsuits to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates?
Indiana: Indiana expanded Medicaid, but with an approved section 1115 waiver, which includes work requirements and adds premium penalties for tobacco users. The state also plans to use an enrollment block on members who fail to meet work requirements. Indiana focuses its audits on outliers: in other words, a provider that provides significantly more services than like-specialties.
Iowa: Iowa expanded Medicaid, but with an approved section 1115 waiver. The state’s Department of Human Services announced on March 12, 2018 that Iowa is in the process of searching for additional managed care organizations for the current program. So if you have the capacity to act as an Managed Care Organization (MCO), throw your name in the ring. Because of pressure from the federal government, Iowa has implemented more prepayment reviews. Specifically, auditors are reviewing hospital discharge records for any sign of noncompliance.
Kansas: Kansas did not expand Medicaid. On Feb. 15, 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal class-action lawsuit arguing that the state’s Medicaid program is improperly denying Hepatitis C medication to members until they are severely ill. The suit names Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Jeff Andersen and KDHE Division of Health Care Finance Director Jon Hamdorf. Medicaid managed care plans in the state either require “severe liver damage” before covering the drugs or allow some coverage before that point. If you have a Kansas Medicaid contract, on Feb. 18, 2018, Maximus instituted a compliance plan and announced that it is committed to reaching a June 1 deadline to deal with state concerns over the company’s processing of Medicaid applications. Maximus is required to reach certain performance standards or face fines and the potential loss of its contract.
Kentucky: Kentucky expanded Medicaid, but with an approved section 1115 waiver. In January, Kentucky’s waiver was approved by the federal government to implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Implementation will start in April 2018, with full implementation by July 2018. The waiver was approved for five years, through Sept. 30, 2023. In state audit news, non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers are on the chopping block.
Louisiana: Louisiana expanded Medicaid, but now the state may remove 46,000 elderly and disabled individuals from Medicaid as part of a series of healthcare-related budget cuts proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards for 2019. The proposal would cut $657 million in state healthcare funding and as much as $2.4 billion, including federal matching funds, in total. The proposal would also cut funding to safety net hospitals and eliminate mental health services for adults who don’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid.
Maine: Maine expanded Medicaid. The state adopted the Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative in November 2017; the measure required submission of the state plan amendment within 90 days and implementation of expansion within 180 days of the effective date. In Maine audit news, a behavioral healthcare provider accused of fraud has put behavioral healthcare providers on the front line.
Maryland: Maryland expanded Medicaid. Maryland’s system of pushing hospitals to achieving lower admissions has added up to hundreds of millions of dollars in savings, a new report shows. Since 2014, the state caps hospitals’ revenue each year, letting them keep the difference if they reduce inpatient and outpatient treatment while maintaining care quality. Per capita hospital spending by all insurers has grown by less than 2 percent a year in Maryland, below the economic growth rate, defined four years ago as 3.58 percent annually, a key goal for the program.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts expanded Medicaid. The state has begun to roll out new Accountable Care Organization (ACO) networks. Members assigned to an ACO have until May 31 to switch before they are locked in for nine months. The changes are expected to impact more than 800,000 Medicaid recipients and are designed to better manage patient care, reimburse providers based on quality, and address social determinants of health. There is expected confusion with this change among Medicaid patients and providers.
Michigan: Michigan expanded Medicaid, but with an improved section 1115 waiver. On Feb. 18, 2018, Michigan announced that it would consider a proposal to transition the state’s $2.8 billion Medicaid nursing home and long-term care services programs into managed care. An initial review by the state Department of Health and Human Services is expected to begin by July 1.
Minnesota: Minnesota expanded Medicaid. MN has a proposed Medicaid waiver bill, which requests permission from the federal government to implement an 80-hour-per-month requirement that would mandate Medicaid beneficiaries who are able-bodied adults and not the sole caretaker of a child to work, actively seek employment, participate in educational or training programs, or volunteer.
Mississippi: Mississippi did not expand Medicaid. The five-year waiver request from Gov. Phil Bryant seeks to require nondisabled adults, including low-income parents and caretakers, to participate in at least 20 hours per week of “workforce training.” To be eligible, Medicaid beneficiaries must work, be self-employed, volunteer, or be in a drug treatment program, among other approved activities. If people don’t comply, they’ll be kicked off Medicaid.
Missouri: Missouri did not expand Medicaid. The Missouri Hospital Association has won a lawsuit against the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) over a rule that deducts Medicare and commercial insurance reimbursements from total disproportionate-share hospital (DSH) allotments. U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes ruled that the agency exceeded its authority. State hospitals would have had to pay back $96 million for 2011 and 2012 alone. Expect more scrutiny on hospitals in light of this decision.
Montana: Montana expanded Medicaid, but with an approved 1115 waiver. Montana is one of many states that have proposed budget cuts to Medicaid. A new proposed rule, which would take effect April 1, would move the state’s addiction counseling from a needs-based system to a cap of 12 individual sessions. The rule may be retroactive, so expect audits to recoup if the rule passes.
Nebraska: Nebraska did not expand Medicaid. On March 7, 2018, advocates for Medicaid expansion launched a petition drive, “Insure the Good Life,” to place the expansion issue on the November 2018 general election ballot. State lawmakers have rejected the expansion measure the past five legislative attempts. Nebraska has paid millions to the federal government in the past few years for noncompliance. Many think it will owe millions more. Audits on providers will increase in Nebraska to compensate for money paid to the federal government – in all service types.
Nevada: Nevada did expand Medicaid. It paid the federal government roughly $4.1 million in 2017 to use HealthCare.gov. CMS also asked for 1.5 percent of the premium payments that were collected through its exchange last year, a percentage that will double in 2019. Nevada plans to cut its IT costs by replacing its use of HealthCare.gov with a new health insurance exchange in 2019. Pain management providers and pharmacies are the target of Medicaid audits here.
New Hampshire: New Hampshire expanded Medicaid, but with an approved section 1115 waiver. On March 9, 2018, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill to continue the state’s Medicaid expansion program. The legislation, which now heads to the House, would impose work requirements on members and utilize 5 percent of liquor revenues to cover the cost of expansion. The Senate voted to reauthorize the Medicaid program for five years and transition to managed care in 2019. The current expansion program, the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, covers about 50,000 individuals.
New Jersey: New Jersey expanded Medicaid. On March 13, 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his first budget address, unveiling a $37.4 billion budget with a projected surplus of $743 million. 2019 revenues are projected to grow by 5.7 percent from last year. Among the healthcare provisions are: a) close to $4.4 billion in state funds to provide healthcare to almost 1.8 million residents through New Jersey’s Medicaid program, NJ FamilyCare; b) $8.5 million to implement autism spectrum disorder services for Medicaid-eligible children and teens to help 10,000+ families with behavioral and physical supports; c) $11 million in state and federal funds to expand family planning services under NJ FamilyCare to residents at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level; d) $252 million to fund the hospital Charity Care program; and e) $100 million to fund addiction initiatives (list not exhaustive).
New Mexico: New Mexico expanded Medicaid. The 15 behavioral healthcare providers that were put out of business in 2013 have filed lawsuits against the state. Speculation has it that after the election this year – likely taking Gov. Susana Martinez out of office – the providers may get compensated. New Mexico auditors are focused on the delivery of babies and services to the elderly.
New York: New York expanded Medicaid. Recently, the state’s Assembly released its one-house budget bill. The plan restores $135 million in reductions to the Medicaid program. The big news in the Big Apple regarding Medicaid is in home health. The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, has agreed to hear a case regarding wages for home care workers. A state Appellate Court ruled in September 2017 that home care agencies must pay live-in home health aides for 24 hours per day, not the 13 hours that is the industry standard, assuming that they are allowed eight hours of sleep and three hours for meals. The New York Department of Labor has issued an emergency regulation that maintains the policy of allowing employers to pay home care workers for 13 hours of a 24-hour shift. If the decision stands, it means that agencies must pay for an additional 11 hours of care per day, almost doubling the cost of care. It is estimated that it will increase costs for home care in New York’s Medicaid program by tens of millions of dollars. Any of you who have home health care agencies in New York, which are dependent on Medicaid, beware that the reimbursement rates are not increasing to accommodate for the increased wages. Many home health companies will go out of business if the decision stands.
North Carolina: North Carolina did not expand Medicaid. The state is seeking to transition its Medicaid program from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model for all services. The transition of beneficiaries with a serious mental illness, a serious emotional disturbance, a substance use disorder, or an intellectual/developmental disability (IDD) will be delayed until the launch of behavioral health and IDD tailored plans. The state estimates that 2.1 million individuals will be eligible for managed care. This is a huge overhaul of the Medicaid system.
North Dakota: North Dakota expanded Medicaid. The state received substantial funds from a settlement designed to compensate states, in part, for the billions of dollars in healthcare costs associated with treating tobacco-related diseases under state Medicaid programs. To date, states have received more than $50 billion in settlement payments. North Dakota is also one of the “test” states to allow Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design to waive many requirements of federal regulation.
Ohio: Ohio expanded Medicaid. On March 13, 2018, it was announced that the Ohio Pharmacists Association alleged that CVS Caremark overcharges Medicaid managed care plans for medications while often reimbursing pharmacists less than the cost of the drugs. CVS denied accusations of overcharging in an attempt to drive out retail competition and reported that there are strict firewalls between their retail business and their pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) business, CVS Caremark. Beginning in July, Medicaid MCOs will be required to report to state regulators how much PBMs are paying pharmacies.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma did not expand Medicaid. On March 6, 2018, Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order to develop Medicaid work requirements. On March 13, 2018, the OK Senate approved legislation to tighten the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility among parents and caretakers to 20 percent of the federal poverty level, down from 40 percent under current state law. The move could impact nearly 44,000 of the 107,000 parents and caretakers on Medicaid in the state. The legislation now moves to the House.
Oregon: Oregon expanded Medicaid. But how it will be funded makes state hospitals angry. Voters approved taxes on hospitals and health plans to continue to fund the state’s Medicaid expansion. The taxes, which were approved in a ballot measure, are expected to generate $210 million to $320 million over two years by imposing a 0.7 percent tax on some hospitals and a 1.5 percent tax on gross health insurance premiums and on managed care organizations. Unions and large, self-insured employers are exempt.
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid. On March 8, 2018, the state’s Department of Human Services discussed HB 59, a bill that would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to prove they are looking for work. The bill was passed last year by the General Assembly, but vetoed by Gov. Wolf. Acting Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said implementing the requirements would be expensive, estimating that the project could run up to $600 million in the first year.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island expanded Medicaid. On Feb. 14, 2018, it was announced that the number of recently released inmates in Rhode Island who died from an opioid overdose decreased between 2016 and 2017. The study attributed the decrease to the availability of medication-assisted treatment in correctional facilities starting in 2016. Rhode Island was the first state to offer inmates methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
South Carolina: South Carolina did not expand Medicaid. The state is overhauling its Medicaid Management Information System. Cognosante was awarded the contract, effective March 6, 2018 through March 5, 2023.
South Dakota: South Dakota did not expand Medicaid. Furthermore, the state is seeking permission from the Trump administration to implement Medicaid work requirements, a move that would affect 4,500 beneficiaries. In South Dakota audit news, Program Integrity has ramped up the number of audits and prepayment reviews, especially on behavioral healthcare, dental care, hospital care, and home health.
Tennessee: Tennessee did not expand Medicaid. In February, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved a proposal to launch a two-year pilot designed to improve prescription drug adherence and effectiveness for Medicaid beneficiaries. As part of the pilot, pharmacists will work with Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in patient-centered medical homes to ensure that medications are appropriate, safe, and taken as directed. As many as 300,000 enrollees may be affected by the pilot. This initiative will affect pharmacies based within hospitals.
Texas: Texas did not expand Medicaid. The state’s Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced contract awards for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in rural areas. The six awardees are Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (Central Region), Driscoll Children’s Health Plan (Hidalgo Region), Molina Healthcare of Texas, Inc. (Central, Hidalgo, Northeast, and West Regions), Superior Health Plan, Inc./Centene (West Region), and TX Children’s Health Plan, Inc. (Northeast Region). Contracts are slated to begin on Sept. 1, 2018. This is a big change to Texas Medicaid.
Utah: Utah did not expand Medicaid. On March 9, 2018, Utah legislators passed a limited Medicaid expansion bill. The legislation would cover approximately 70,000 individuals who earn under 100 percent of the federal poverty level and impose a work requirement and spending cap for enrollees.
Vermont: Vermont expanded Medicaid. One hospital here recently paid $1.6 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA). According to the government, between January 2012 and September 2014, Brattleboro Memorial knowingly submitted a number of outpatient laboratory claims that lacked proper documentation. On another note, Vermont only has 188 beds in its mental health system, and patients are placed on waiting lists or forced to rely on hospital ERs. This is an ongoing problem for patients and hospitals.
Virginia: Virginia did not expand Medicaid. On March 2, 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam told state budget legislators to include Medicaid expansion spending plans or he would add the expansion as a budget amendment. In state audit news, Program Integrity’s spotlight is shining on long-term care facilities, durable medical equipment, transportation, and hospitals.
Washington: Washington expanded Medicaid. On Feb. 20, 2018, the state announced that it approved all nine Accountable Communities of Health (ACH) Medicaid Transformation Project Plans. The Medicaid Transformation Project is the state’s Section 1115 waiver, approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2017. Under the waiver, the first initiative involves transforming Medicaid delivery in each regional service area through ACHs. The newly approved project plans will look to improve the overall health of Medicaid beneficiaries by tackling the opioid crisis and integrating behavioral health, among other aims.
West Virginia: West Virginia expanded Medicaid. On March 6, 2018, it was announced that Medicaid funding could be at risk after Gov. James Justice signed a bill increasing state workers’ and teachers’ pay by 5 percent following a statewide teachers’ strike. According to West Virginia Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, the pay raises could be funded through cuts to Medicaid, among other areas; however, the Governor stated that the Medicaid budget would not be cut. The strike was in response to low pay and rising health insurance costs. The raises are expected to cost the state treasury approximately $110 million a year.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin did not expand Medicaid. The state covers adults up to 100 percent of the federal poverty line in Medicaid, but it did not adopt the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) expansion. Still, managed care will soon be mandatory. The state’s Department of Health Services reported that through June 2018, it will roll out mandatory enrollment for many Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries in Medicaid managed care. Approximately 28,000 beneficiaries may be impacted. The change impacts members who live an SSI managed care service area, are age 19 or older, and have a Medicaid SSI or SSI-related disability. Previously, SSI beneficiaries could opt out of managed care after two months. Up to two-thirds of eligible beneficiaries typically opt out of managed care.
Wyoming: Wyoming did not expand Medicaid. A bill that would have required able-bodied Medicaid recipients in Wyoming to work at a job, go to school, or do volunteer work died this month in a House committee. The state’s Department of Health is partnering with Medicity to develop a new health information exchange for the state. The Wyoming Frontier Information Exchange will be a centralized repository of clinical data for participating patients, powered in part by Medicity’s data aggregation and interoperability technology.

 

5th Circuit Finds Subject Matter Jurisdiction For Medicare and Medicaid Providers – Why Collards Matter

“I’d like some spaghetti, please, and a side of meatballs.” – This sentence is illogical because meatballs are integral to spaghetti and meatballs. If you order spaghetti  – and -meatballs, you are ordering “spaghetti and meatballs.” Meatballs on the side is not a thing.

Juxtapose, a healthcare provider defending itself from an alleged overpayment, But during the appeal process undergoes a different penalty – the state or federal government begins to recoup future funds prior to a decision that the alleged recoupment is authorized, legal, or warranted. When a completely new issue unrelated to the allegation of overpayment inserts itself into the mix, then you have spaghetti and meatballs with a side of collard greens. Collard greens need to be appealed in a completely different manner than spaghetti and meatballs, especially when the collard greens could put the company out of business because of the premature and unwarranted recoupments without due process.

I have been arguing this for years based off of, not only, a 1976 Supreme Court case, but multiple state case law, as well as, success I have had in the federal and administrative courts, and BTW – logic.

On March 27, 2018, I was confirmed again. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a landmark case for Medicare and Medicaid providers across the country. The case, Family Rehab., Inc. v Azar, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 7668, involved a Medicare home health service provider, which was assessed for approximately $7.8 million in Medicare overpayments. Family Rehab, the plaintiff in the case, relied on 88% to 94% of its revenue from Medicare. The company had timely appealed the alleged overpayment, and it was at the third level of the Medicare five step process for appeals. See blog. But there is a 3 – 5 year backlog on the third level, and the government began to recoup the $7.8 million despite the ongoing appeal. If no action were taken, the company would be out of business well-before any ALJ could rule on the merits of the case, i.e. whether the recoupment was warranted. How is that fair? The provider may not owe $7.8 million, but before an objective tribunal decides what is actually owed, if anything, we are going to go ahead and take the money and reap the benefit of any interest accrued during the time it takes the provider to get a hearing.

The backlog for Medicare appeals at the ALJ level is unacceptably long. See blog and blog. However, the federal regulations only  prevent recoupment during the appeal process during the first and second levels. This is absolutely asinine and should be changed considering we do have a clause in the Constitution called “due process.” Purported criminals receive due process, but healthcare providers who accept Medicare or Medicaid, at times, do not.

At the third level of appeal, Family Rehab underwent recoupments, even though it was still appealing the decision, which immediately stifled Family Rehab’s income. Family Rehab, because of the premature recoupments, was at risk of losing everything, going bankrupt, firing its staff, and no longer providing medically necessary home health services for the elderly. This situation mimics a situation in which I represented a client in northern Indiana who was losing its Medicaid contract.  I also successfully obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the provider from losing its Medicaid contract. See blog.

It is important to note that in this case the ZPIC had audited only 43 claims. Then it used a statistical method to extrapolate the alleged over-billings and concluded that the alleged overpayment was $7,885,803.23. I cannot tell you how many times I have disputed an extrapolation and won. See blog.

42 USC 1395(f)(f)(d)(1)(A) states that the ALJ shall conduct and conclude the hearing and render a decision no later than 90 days after a timely request. Yet the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that an ALJ hearing would not be forthcoming not within 90 days or even 900 days. The judge noted in his decision that the Medicare appeal backlog for an ALJ hearing was 3 – 5 years. The District Court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Family Rehab had not exhausted its administrative remedies. Family Rehab appealed.

On appeal, Family Rehab argued the same arguments that I have made in the past: (1) its procedural due process and ultra vires claims are collateral to the agency’s appellate process; and (2) going through the appellate process would mean no review at all because the provider would be out of business by the time it would be heard by an ALJ.

What does collateral mean? Collard greens are collateral. When you think collateral; think collards. Collard greens do not normally come with spaghetti and meatballs. A collateral issue is an issue that is entirely collateral to a substantive agency decision and would not be decided through the administrative appeal process. In other words, even if Family Rehab were to only pursue the $7.8 million overpayment issue through the administrative process, the issue of having money recouped and the damage to the company that the recoupment was causing would never be heard by the ALJ because those “collateral” issues are outside the ALJ’s purview. The premature recoupment issue could not be remedied by an ALJ. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

The collateral argument also applies to terminations of Medicare and Medicaid contracts without due process. In an analogous case (Affiliated Professional), the provider argued that the termination of its Medicare contract without due process violated its right to due process and the Equal Protection Clause and was successful.

The upshot is obvious, if the Court must examine the merits of the underlying dispute, delve into the statute and regulations, or make independent judgments as to plaintiff’s eligibility under a statute, the claim is not collateral.

The importance of this case is that it verifies my contention that if a provider is undergoing a recoupment or termination without due process, there is relief for that provider – an injunction stopping the premature recoupments or termination until due process has been completed.

Take Medicare or Medicaid? Why You Should Have an Attorney on Retainer

They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but tell that to my colleague Bill. Bill has been struck by lightning twice and has lived to tell the story. Granted, he was not physically standing in the same place that he was struck the first time as when he was hit by lightning the second time – so lightning technically didn’t hit the same place twice. But it did strike the same person twice. Maybe Bill is just extremely unlucky, or maybe Bill is extremely lucky because he lived through the incidents.

An intense shock can severely impair most of the body’s vital functions. Cardiac arrest is common. Yet Bill lived. Twice.

lightning

No one ever thinks they will get struck by lightning. But it happens. According to the National Weather Service, so far this year, lightning strikes have killed at least 20 people in the US, and that does not even take into consideration the people who were just injured, like my pal Bill.

A lightning strike is a massive electrical discharge between the atmosphere and an earth-bound object. A lightning bolt can heat the surrounding air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit—that’s five times hotter than the sun—and can contain up to 300kV of energy.

Yet most people do survive, in part because lightning rarely passes through the body.

Instead, a “flashover” occurs, meaning that the lightning zips over the body, traveling via ultra-conductive sweat (and often rainwater), which provides an external voltage pathway around the body. When people do die from a lightning strike, it is usually due to an electrical discharge-induced hear attack. A body hit by lightning will show various signs of trauma.

Like a gunshot, a lightning strike causes both an exit and entrance wound, marking where the current both entered and left the victim. Lichtenberg scarring, which outlines ruptured blood vessels, frequently covers the body in odd, almost beautiful, spiderweb patterns.

lightning-strike-effects-lichtenberg-figures

Surprisingly enough, many lightning strike survivors do not remember being struck. Instead, the only evidence of the traumatic event is burnt, displaced clothing and marks along the body.

For instance, many lightning strike survivors report memory issues, trouble with concentration and severe headaches, all of which last decades after the initial strike.

Due to the rarity of lightning strike cases, less time and resources have been devoted to better understanding how these strikes impact long-term brain function. An unpublished study by medical doctor Mary Ann Cooper found that there were “significant differences in brain activity between lightning-strike victims and healthy people as they performed mental-aptitude tests.”

Aside from impacting long-term brain function, lightning strikes are also known to blow out eardrums, prompting constant muscle twitches and moderate to severe nerve damage. Overall, the effects of a lightning strike may range from a slight inconvenience to a debilitating, lifelong struggle. In the case of my colleague, you would never be able to tell mind looking at him that he has been hit by lightning twice.

Why is this – extensive – discussion about lightning strikes relevant? – Or is it not?

If you are a health care provider and accept Medicare or Medicaid, the risk of an audit far exceeds your chances of getting struck by lightning. In FY 2016, CMS continued its use of the Affordable Care Act authority to suspend Medicare payments to providers during an investigation of a credible allegation of fraud.  CMS also has authority to suspend Medicare payments if reliable information of an overpayment exists. During FY 2016, there were 508 payment suspensions that were active at some point during the fiscal year. Of the 508 payment suspensions, 291 new payment suspensions were imposed during FY 2016.

Medicare and Medicaid audits far exceed lightning strikes. Yet, providers believe in their heart of hearts that and on an audit (or an audit with bad results) will never happen to them, which causes providers to not engage in attorney until after the lightning strikes. Then it’s too late, and you have Lichtenberg scarring across your arm.

There is scene in Breaking Bad in which Saul, the attorney, stops a person from talking. He says, “Give me a dollar. Don’t tell me anything until you give me a dollar. Once money is exchanged, we will have attorney-client privilege.” What Saul was saying is that the exchange of money catalyzed the duty for Saul to keep all conversation confidential.

This was a low-point of legal-fiction television. It made great drama with zero accuracy.

The question is why should you have an attorney on retainer?

The obvious response is that you can have confidential conversations with said attorney at your beck and call. The honest truth is that you do not have to have an attorney on retainer in order for your conversations to be confidential. But is smart to do so, and I will tell you why.

If you call me and I have never represented you and you ask me a legal question, our conversation is legally protected, even if you hire a different attorney.

No – the reason to have an attorney on retainer is to be able to consult him or her with legal questions on a daily basis, and, especially of there is an ongoing audit. Most of my clients do not contact me when they receive the document request. They think, “Oh, this is no big deal. I will give my records to [state] or [federal] – [and/or its contractors] government and they will determine that my [Medicare] or [Medicaid] records are amazing. In fact the [state] or [federal] government my even ask me to educate other providers on what pristine records should look like. I got this. Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezey.” They contact me when they get an accusation of an alleged overpayment of $5 million. Lichtenberg scarring has already occurred.

The smartest clients contact me prior to receiving an alleged overpayment of $12 million or an accusation of fraud. They contact me the moment they receive a notice of an audit or a request for documents…before ever submitting documents to the government.

Because, regardless the type of provider, be it dentist, behavioral counseling, podiatrist, chiropractor, or hospital, understand that every communication with a government auditor and/or contractor is admissible in court – if the communication does not go through an attorney. When the [state/federal] auditor asks to see a record and you say, “Let me get it from my off-site storage facility” – BAM – HIPAA violation. When the state/federal auditor asks to see a record and you say, “Here it is,” and fail to keep a copy for yourself, there can be discrepancy in the future as to what you actually provided. And you are in a “he said she said” battle – never good.

On the other hand, if you have an attorney on retainer, you can ask any question you need, you can get any advice you desire, and it’s all confidential. It is as though you have Siri in your back pocket. It’s the 411 for legal information. It’s an ATM for legal advice. AND it is all confidential.

Next time you think to yourself, “Self, I will ace any Medicaid or Medicare audit. I don’t need counsel. I can talk to the auditors myself without an attorney. I got this.”

Think again. [Don’t, necessarily, call Saul, but call someone.] Because, like lightning strike victims, you may not even remember the audit. Until you are scarred.