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HHS urged a federal district court in Washington, D.C., late last week not to order it to expedite a legal brief in the lawsuit over deep Medicare payment cuts for hospitals' 340B-purchased drugs.

HHS Tells Judge Unwinding Medicare Payment Cuts for 340B Drugs Needs Caution, Not Haste

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) asked a federal district judge late last week not to make it rush its response to hospitals’ request for an immediate halt to a nearly 30% Medicare Part B payment cut in place since 2018 for hospitals’ 340B-purchased drugs. The judge agreed and gave HHS a deadline of tomorrow—nine days, not the seven that the hospitals originally wanted.

Hospital groups and individual health systems asked Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Aug. 3 to order HHS to respond to their motion by yesterday, August 10. The hospital plaintiffs also asked Contreras to rule quickly on whether to halt the cut immediately. 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in June that the payment reduction was illegal. The hospitals say every day that the cut continues is unjust and unlawful. 

HHS told the judge on Aug. 5 there was no good cause for him to give it just seven days—from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10—to respond to the hospitals.

“At bottom, plaintiffs here want expedition so that they can be compensated more quickly,” HHS said. “But that is true of virtually every plaintiff in every case. If a desire for quick relief were sufficient to establish good cause, then expedited proceedings would be the rule rather than the exception.”

“Moreover, the large sums of money that are at issue in this case and the potential impact on the administration of the Medicare program militate in favor of caution and deliberation, not haste,” the government said.

HHS told Contreras that it conferred with the hospital plaintiffs, and all agreed to a deadline of tomorrow, Aug. 12, for HHS’s more detailed brief on the merits—two days more than what the hospitals initially wanted. HHS said it needed the extra days to give the Justice Department time to review its draft. Contreras accepted the deal last Friday and gave HHS until tomorrow to respond.

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