Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), seeking retrospective and prospective relief for myriad alleged violations of the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Fifth Circuit declined to reach the merits of plaintiff's claims. The court held that, given the altered legal landscape and the potential effects of plaintiff's request for prospective relief, a mootness analysis must precede the merits. In this case, a year after plaintiff filed his lawsuit, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which reduced the shared responsibility payment (imposed on individuals who fail to purchase health insurance) to $0. In the same year, the Department of Health and Human Services created new exemptions to the contraceptive mandate, including an exemption for individuals like plaintiff. These exemptions were enjoined until the Supreme Court's recent decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims and remanded for the district court to conduct a mootness analysis in the first instance. The court also remanded to allow plaintiff to amend his complaint where the parties agreed that the district court incorrectly dismissed plaintiff's claim for retrospective relief. View "Dierlam v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Senate Bill 8 -- a statute that requires a woman to undergo an additional and medically unnecessary procedure to cause fetal demise before she may obtain a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion, the safest and most common method of second trimester abortions -- imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to obtain an abortion before fetal viability in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process clause.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment holding that SB8 is facially unconstitutional and permanently enjoining its enforcement. Applying the undue burden test in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292, 2309 (2016), rather than June Medical Services, L.L.C. v. Russo, 140 S. Ct. 2103, 2114 (2020), the court held that SB8's burdens substantially outweigh its benefits and constitutes an undue burden on a woman's right to obtain a previability abortion. Under the statute, the court explained that all women seeking a second trimester abortion starting at 15 weeks LMP would be required to endure a medically unnecessary and invasive additional procedure that provides no health benefit; for most women, the length of the procedure would increase from one day to two, adding to the costs associated with travel, lodging, time away from work, and child care; and SB8 forces abortion providers to act contrary to their medical judgment and the best interest of their patient by conducting a medical procedure that delivers no benefit to the woman. Weighing SB8's significant burdens upon female patients against its nonexistent health benefits and any other limited benefits it may actually confer, the court concluded that it is clear that the law places a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking" a previability abortion. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss Sahara's suit for injunctive relief in a Medicare recoupment case, holding that the government provided Sahara adequate process. Applying the Mathews factors, the court held that the sufficiency of the current procedures and the minimal benefit of the live hearing weighs so strongly against Sahara that its due process claim fails. In this case, Sahara received some procedure, chose to forego additional protections, and cannot demonstrate the additional value of the hearing it requests. The court also held that Sahara failed to state a claim for ultra vires actions under 42 U.S.C. 1395ff. View "Sahara Health Care, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Federal regulations establish a compensation formula for the payment of certain health care providers—a formula that changes once a year. However, each formula takes effect on January 1 and runs until January 1 of the following year. On January 1, two competing formulas purport to apply, making it unclear which one governs: the new one, or the one from the preceding year.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government, holding that the context of the rule makes clear that the court should construe the 2005 rule to give effect to the new formula, and not the formula from the preceding year, when presented with a cost report that begins on January 1. View "Greenbrier Hospital, LLC v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Almost three years after a federal district court declared that Texas Senate Bill 8 placed an undue burden on a woman's right to access a previability abortion and enjoined its enforcement, the State seeks to stay the judgment.The Fifth Circuit denied the state's motion for a stay and held that June Medical Servs. LLC v. Russo, 140 S. Ct. 2103 (2020), has not disturbed the undue-burden test, and Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292 (2016), remains binding law in this circuit. Under this circuit's reading of the Marks principle, that the challenged Louisiana law posed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion is the full extent of June Medical's ratio decidendi. The court stated that the decision does not furnish a new controlling rule as to how to perform the undue-burden test. Therefore, the court held that Hellerstedt's formulation of the test continues to govern this case, and because the district court correctly applied Hellerstedt's balancing test, remand is not warranted.The court also held that the state's law is patently procedurally defective where the state's failure to show the impracticability of moving first in the district court under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 8(2) is sufficient grounds to deny its motion. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Paxton" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of HHS's motion for summary judgment in an action where HHS concluded that Dominion must return approximately $1.3 million in Medicare payments. The Secretary argues that a physician certification statement is necessary but not sufficient to establish that nonemergency, scheduled, repetitive ambulance transportation is covered by Medicare, as the contrary interpretation would render the phrase "medically necessary" in 42 C.F.R. 410.40(d)(2) superfluous.The court held that the Secretary's interpretation is neither plainly erroneous nor inconsistent with the regulation, and Dominion's arguments to the contrary are unavailing. Furthermore, HHS's statement in 2012 when it amended the regulation supports its position that HHS did not consider a physician certification statement conclusive. Therefore, the district court properly deferred to the agency's reasonable interpretation. Finally, the court assumed, without deciding, that the district court had jurisdiction to review the timeliness of the decision to reopen the initial determination, and held that the decision to reopen was timely. View "Dominion Ambulance, LLC v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The States filed suit raising constitutional challenges to Section 9010 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and statutory and constitutional challenges to the Certification Rule. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the States had standing to raise their Certification Rule claims; reversed the district court's ruling that the States' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims were not time-barred; and dismissed those claims for lack of jurisdiction.On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the Section 9010 claims, holding that the Provider Fee is a constitutional tax that does not violate the Spending Clause and that Section 9010 satisfies both the requirements under the Tenth Amendment doctrine of intergovernmental tax immunity. In this case, the Provider Fee does not discriminate against states or those with whom they deal because it is imposed on any entity that provides health insurance (with certain exclusions). Furthermore, the legal incidence of the Provider Fee does not fall on the states because Congress expressly excluded states from paying the fee. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment that the Certification Rule violated the nondelegation doctrine, holding that HHS did not unlawfully delegate to a third party its authority to approve state managed-care organization (MCO) contracts. Accordingly, the court rendered judgment in favor of the United States. Because neither the Certification Rule nor Section 9010 are unlawful, the court vacated the district court's grant of equitable disgorgement to the States. View "Texas v. Rettig" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the Commission's decision affirming the application of OSHA's commercial diving safety regulations to the dives its staff members perform to feed animals housed at the Aquarium and to clean the facility's tanks. A majority of the Commission panel affirmed the ALJ's determination that feeding and cleaning dives did not fall within the "scientific diving" exemption to the commercial standard.The court held that the ALJ did not err in crediting the compliance officer's testimony about the Commercial Diving Operations (CDO) standard as lay opinion testimony; even if the compliance officer testified to some matters that fell outside the realm of lay opinion testimony, the admission of the testimony was harmless; and the Aquarium's witnesses were properly treated as lay witnesses. Under a plain reading of the entire definition of "scientific diving," as well as the regulation guidelines and regulatory history, the court held that the activities performed during the feeding and cleaning dives fall within the plain text of the exemption. In this case, the Aquarium has shown that feeding and cleaning dives are a necessary component of its scientific research. View "Houston Aquarium, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the Commission's determination that Sanderson violated various regulations of the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).The court held that the ALJ's determination that the compressor cutouts and the emergency stops are subject to the mechanical integrity program was not an abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law; the ALJ's determination that Sanderson failed to rebut the presumption of exposure to a hazard was not an abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law; and the Secretary bore his burden with respect to all elements of a violation regarding Items 5a and 5b. View "Sanderson Farms, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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In section 901 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), Congress authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine which other products should be governed by the TCA's regulatory scheme. Plaintiffs filed suit against the FDA, its Commissioner, and the Secretary, asserting that Congress's delegation to the Secretary was unconstitutional.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that section 901's delegation to the Secretary does not violate the nondelegation doctrine. The court held that Congress undeniably delineated its general policy in the TCA; Congress plainly limited the authority that it delegated; and the relevant caselaw supports these conclusions. View "Big Time Vapes, Inc. v. FDA" on Justia Law