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Government loses appeal seeking Medicare payment


The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against the federal government after Medicare sought reimbursement from a massive class- action litigation settlement based on the Medicare Secondary Payer Act.

In USA v. James J. Stricker et al., the government wanted repayment from more than 900 Medicare beneficiaries, as well as insurers and plaintiff attorneys, who were part of a $300 million pollution liability settlement. The 2003 settlement was based on injuries suffered by Alabama residents from exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls manufactured in the state.

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed Stricker in 2010, ruling that the government's case was filed in December 2009, and therefore fell outside a six-year statute of limitations for contract law and a three-year limit for tort cases. On appeal, the government argued in part that the district court miscalculated the time limit.

In a July 26 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit unanimously upheld the district court that the government's case fell outside the six-year deadline.

Attorney David Farber, counsel for the Washington-based Medicare Advocacy Recovery Coalition, said it is possible the government could file similar lawsuits seeking reimbursement from large settlements while aiming to beat the statute of limitations requirement.

“We may not have seen the end of cases like Stricker, even though the next one will probably be brought more timely,” Mr. Farber said.

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