State seeks to get back $239.5M in Medicaid money
BATON ROUGE (AP) — State officials have confirmed plans to ask an appellate court to overturn a federal judge’s order that says Louisiana owed the federal government $239.5 million for Medicaid overpayments between 1996 and 2007.
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals contend in court filings that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should have forgiven that debt. State officials said Thursday they repaid the $239.5 million a year ago, but want it back with interest.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson, of Baton Rouge, last month agreed with federal attorneys’ position that the money should not go back to the state.
Baton Rouge attorneys Douglas L. Cade and Kimberly L. Humbles, representing the state Department of Health and Hospitals, say that Hurricane Katrina caused the permanent shutdown in 2005 of one of two state hospitals at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans. Cade and Humbles said that shutdown caused a tremendous financial loss at the medical center, which they said had provided nearly 90 percent of health care services to the area’s uninsured patients in the years before Katrina.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West and U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr., of Baton Rouge, countered that DHH “had been on notice for nearly a decade that (several state) hospitals were being overpaid.”
As for the shutdown of one of the state hospitals in New Orleans, the federal attorneys argued that state agencies receiving Medicaid funding must demonstrate their overpayments are unrecoverable.
Without that demonstration, West and Cazayoux argued, the New Orleans medical center’s debts cannot be written off as “uncollectable.”
Jackson agreed in last month’s ruling.
“Louisiana would have the court believe that the federal government would agree to a plan that allows a state to claim additional funding if it is underpaid, yet pocket excess funds when overpaid,” Jackson wrote.
Jackson added that federal officials adopted limits on Medicaid payments to individual hospitals years ago. Limits were established “to combat the practices of states making payments to state hospitals in excess of their actual costs, with the states later using the additional funds for other purposes,” he said.