As you may know, I have written several articles on the issue of Medicare reimbursement rights. The California Lawyer Magazine has recently published one of my articles on this topic discussing Medicare’s right to reimbursement against plaintiffs, defendants, and their attorneys. The following is a brief excerpt:
by Steven G. Mehta
The federal government has long enjoyed reimbursement rights when Medicare recipients recover damages from third-party tortfeasors (42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b) (2)(B)(ii)). Although some attorneys have quietly taken advantage of the repayment obligation’s lax enforcement, the situation may change this month when new reporting requirements take effect. The new rules, promulgated under the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA), require defendants and their attorneys to notify the government whenever they learn that the plaintiff is a Medicare beneficiary.
A Super Lien
A Medicare beneficiary who receives payment from a primary source must reimburse Medicare within 60 days. Medicare’s right to reimbursement is a “super lien” that trumps everything else, even if a client’s recovery has already been distributed (42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2)(B); 42 C.F.R. § 411.24(h)).
Enforcement of reimbursement rights rests with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS can seek reimbursement directly from the Medicare beneficiary and from anyone else who receives payment from the primary source—including the plaintiffs attorney (42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(2) (B); 42 C.F.R. § 411.24(g)).