Cumberland Cnty. Hosp. v. Burwell, No. 15-1393 (4th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Hospital system filed suit seeking to obtain a writ of mandamus compelling HHS to adjudicate immediately its administrative appeals on claims for Medicare reimbursement. The parties agree that, as of February 2014, the Secretary had 480,000 appeals awaiting assignment to an ALJ, and the Secretary conceded in her brief that the number had by then climbed to more than 800,000 appeals, creating a ten-year backlog. The court concluded that the Medicare Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395 et seq., does not guarantee a healthcare provider a hearing before an ALJ within 90 days, as the Hospital System claims. Rather, it provides a comprehensive administrative process that a healthcare provider must exhaust before ultimately obtaining review in a United States district court. The court further concluded that the issuance of a judicial order now, however, directing the Secretary to hear the Hospital System’s claims in the middle of the administrative process, would unduly interfere with the process and, at a larger scale, the work of the political branches. Moreover, such intervention would invite other healthcare providers suffering similar delays to likewise seek a mandamus order, thereby effectively causing the judicial process to replace and distort the agency process. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint.