Group Health Plans &No-Fault & Worker’s Comp Ruled Primary Plans When Coordinating With Medicare Advantage Plans


Group health plans and liability, no-fault and worker’s compensation insurers should confirm they are properly coordinating benefits with Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) to avoid a private cause of action for double damages to recover amounts under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP Act) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari on an appeal of the Third Circuit’s decision in In Re Avandia Marketing Sales Practices GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Human Medical Plans, Inc.  (Glaxo).  The Supreme Court’s decision denying certiorari reported here lets stand a Third Circuit decision that the private right of action provision in the MSP Act, set forth at 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(3), gives Humana a private cause of action as a primary plan against GSK to recover the double damage award.

MSP Act Secondary Payor Rules Require Proper Coordination

The MSP Act contains specific rules about when and how group health plans, automobile and liability insurance, no fault insurance policies and amounts recovered from tort actions are coordinated with benefits under the Medicare Statute.  The MSP Act’s Secondary Payor Rules require group health plans, automobile and liability insurance and  no fault insurance policies to treat their coverage as  the “primary plan” for purposes of coordinating their coverage with the benefits provided under the Medicare Statute under certain conditionsbenefits face double damage for improperly coordinating their benefits and coverage with those provided under the Medicare Statute.  The MSP Act generally dictates the conditions under which these coverages are primary to benefits provided under the Medicare Statute and obligates primary plans and individuals receiving judgment or settlements that include payment for medical expenses for which benefits were received under the Medicare Statute to repay Medicare. Violation of these rules exposes the applicable plan to double damages and other costs of recovery.

Glaxo On MA Plan MSP Act Rights

In Glaxo, the Third Circuit ruled that MAOs can sue primary plans under the MSP Act for double damages when a primary plan fails to appropriately reimburse the MAO as a secondary payor.

In Glaxo, Humana Medical Plan Inc. and Humana Insurance Company (collectively, Humana) sued GlaxoSmithKline LLC and GlaxoSmithKline PLC (collectively, GSK) for reimbursement of expenses Humana incurred from injuries its MA members sustained from use of GSK’s type 2 diabetes drug, Avandia. GSK has paid more than $460 million to Avandia patients settle patient claims that Avandia patients sustained heart attacks, strokes or other injuries from taking the drug.  In the settlement, GSK reserved monies to reimburse the Medicare Trust Fund for payments it made to cover the costs of treatment for the Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) enrollees’ Avandia-related injuries but did not set aside funds for reimbursement to MAOs. Humana sued GSK for reimbursement, claiming that GSK has a primary plan obligation under the MSP Act to reimburse Humana as a secondary payor.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the appeal from this Third Circuit decision means that in the Third Circuit (and perhaps other jurisdictions), MAOs can pursue an action for double damages under the Medicare Secondary Payor Act against a group health plan, no-fault carrier or worker’s compensation insurer that fails to fulfill its obligation as a primary plan to reimburse Medicare conditional payments paid by the MAO.

The Third Circuit’s decision in Glaxo is distinguishable from the Ninth Circuit’s position on a similar issue in Parra v. PacifiCare of Arizona, Inc.   (PacifiCare), where the 9th Circuit ruled PacifiCare did not have a private right of action under the MA statute or under 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(3)(A) against the surviving family members for amounts recovered in a wrongful death action since that provision of the MSP Act only applies in cases where a primary plan fails to reimburse an insurer as a secondary payor.

Proper identification and payment of claims and settlements in coordination with MAOs and their Plans is important because improper coordination may expose a group health plan or other primary payer to double damage liability, attorneys fees’ and other costs.

In light of Glaxo, group health plans and their administrators, and group health insurers, worker’s compensation insurers, and liability insurers should ask if asking Medicare beneficiares if they are or have been enrolled in a MA plan when paying or processing claims and if so, act proactively to ensure that payments under their programs are properly processed and paid to take into account responsibilities under the Medicare Secondary Payer rules.  Determination and handling these types of payments and settlements likely will require special handling because the Medicare Secondary Payer system currently doesn’t distinguish MA Plans as primary plans.  Accordingly, group health plans and the fiduciaries and administrators involved in their administration will want to take proper steps to identify claims that may involve individuals covered by MA Plans in a manner that allows the group health plan to track and distinguish the coverage provided by the MA Plan from other insurance coverage as needed to comply with the MSP Act.

For Help or More Information

If you need help with the MSP Act or with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 25 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters including extensive experience on HIPAA and other privacy and data security issues. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Extensively published and a popular speaker on HIPAA and other data security matters, Ms. Stamer works extensively with health care providers, health plans, employers, insurance and financial services, technology and other clients on privacy, data seurity and other privacy and cybercrime concerns.  She also serves as the Scribe for the ABA JCEB Agency Techical Sessions Meetings with the Office of Civil Rights which occur each May in Washington, D.C.

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For important information about this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Nonexclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All other rights reserved

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