The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked in Maryland a federal rule that would prohibit clinics that receive federal funding through the Title X program from referring patients to and sharing office space with abortion providers—setting up conflicting rulings on the regulation in federal courts, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Arizona, Tennessee, and Maryland.
- Arizona: The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday announced that Urgent Care Extra, an urgent care provider based in Phoenix, has been ordered to pay $12.5 million in restitution for unlawfully overbilling health insurers. According to DOJ, Urgent Care Extra has pleaded guilty to charges that the company overstated the medical complexity of the services it provided to patients and overbilled insurers by millions of dollars between 2012 and 2016. Urgent Care Extra also admitted that the company had encouraged staff to order tests or procedures for patients that were unnecessary to justify the inflated bills (Kacik, Modern Healthcare, 9/4; DOJ release, 9/3).
- Tennessee: Ballad Health plans to reopen the Johnson City, Tennessee-based Lee County Community Hospital, which has been closed since October 2013, in the summer of 2021. Ballad Health paused work on reopening the hospital, a $12 million project, when America's coronavirus epidemic began accelerating in March, but the company said work on the project has resumed (Paavola, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/3).
- Maryland: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower court's ruling blocking a final rule issued by the Trump administration that would prohibit clinics that receive federal funding through the Title X program from referring patients to, or sharing office space with, abortion providers. The court ruled that the regulation "failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country." The ruling applies only to Maryland, and it conflicts with a separate ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the final rule to take effect. According to Politico, the split rulings increase the likelihood that ongoing legal challenges to the final rule could end up before the Supreme Court (Ollstein, Politico, 9/3; Rankin, Associated Press, 9/3).