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West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. v. Rendell

November 5, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia H. Rambo


This cases arises out of a dispute over whether Plaintiff, West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. ("WVUH" or "the Hospital"), is entitled to trauma disproportionate share hospital ("Trauma DSH") payments under the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Stabilization Act, 35 P.S. §§ 6943.1 et seq. ("Trauma Act"). Defendants are certain Pennsylvania state officials-Edward G. Rendell, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Estelle B. Richman, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare; and James Hardy, Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance Programs. The State has not made Trauma DSH payments to WVUH since the Trauma Act was passed in March 2004. WVUH asserts that Defendants' failure to do so violates the Commerce Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Medicaid*fn1 statute and regulations, and this court's October 18, 1990 order, W. Va. Univ. Hosps., Inc. v. Casey, No. 86-cv-0955, slip op. (M.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 1990).

Presently before the court are WVUH's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 22) and Motion to Enforce Judgment (Doc. 25). Because the court finds that Defendants have violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Commerce Clause, summary judgment will be granted in favor of Plaintiff. However, because the type of payment at issue here was not in existence at the time of the court's previous order, the Motion to Enforce Judgment will be denied.

I. Background

A. Statutory Framework

Medicaid, in accordance with the Medicaid Act, provides for the payment of medical services to the poor, elderly, and disabled. Children's Seashore House v. Waldman, 197 F.3d 654, 655 (3d Cir. 1999). Unlike Medicare, which is administered nationally and federally funded, the Medicaid program is jointly funded by the state and federal governments and administered by the individual states that choose to participate in the program. States that seek federal Medicaid funds must submit a state medical assistance plan ("State Plan") to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. The State Plan explains the state's coverage rules and describes the methodology it will use to reimburse institutional health care providers for the services they render to Medicaid recipients. The State Plan must be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. Only expenditures made under an approved State Plan are eligible for matching federal payments.

Pennsylvania participates in the Medicaid program, and its State Plan is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare ("DPW"). Federal fiscal participation in the Pennsylvania Medical Assistance program is approximately 54%. The remaining 46% of funds come from Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State Plan for reimbursement of acute care general hospitals such as WVUH is found at Attachment 4.19A of the Pennsylvania State Plan. Attachment 4.19A provides that an out-of-state acute care general hospital that treats, in any one fiscal year, more than 400 Pennsylvania medical assistance inpatients shall be paid in accordance with methods and standards applied to in-state hospitals for acute care services.

B. Facts

The following facts are undisputed except where noted. WVUH is a university-affiliated teaching hospital located in Morgantown, West Virginia, approximately six miles from the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Hospital serves as the primary teaching hospital for the West Virginia University School of Medicine. It is a major academic medical center that devotes substantial resources to the training and education of health care workers, including health care professionals who live and work in Pennsylvania.

Due to its proximity to the Pennsylvania border, WVUH has treated, and continues to treat, more than 400 Pennsylvania medical assistance inpatients per fiscal year.*fn2 Thus, WVUH is covered by Attachment 4.19A's provision for payment of an out-of-state acute care general hospital in accordance with methods and standards applied to in-state hospitals for acute care services.

Since 1993, DPW and acute care general hospitals providing services paid by the Pennsylvania Medical Assistance Program ("the Program") have been parties to an agreement regarding rate increases for inpatient hospital services (the "Rate Agreement"). WVUH has been a signatory to the Rate Agreement since 1993. WVUH has provided, and continues to provide, a substantial amount of hospital care to Pennsylvania Medicaid recipients, including emergency and trauma care. In each of the last several years, Pennsylvania Medicaid recipients made approximately 1538 patient visits to WVUH's emergency department.

Under the Program, acute care hospitals that treat a large volume of Medicaid and low income patients can qualify for disproportionate share hospital ("DSH") payments if they meet criteria for such payments. The Program makes at least four DSH payments to acute care general hospitals: an inpatient DSH, an outpatient DSH, a community access/charity care DSH, and the Trauma DSH. DPW treats WVUH as an in-state hospital for purposes of inpatient DSH, outpatient DSH, and community access/charity care DSH payments to WVUH.

In March 2004, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Stabilization Act ("Trauma Act"), 35 P.S. §§ 6943.1 et seq., which authorizes the distribution of a new disproportionate share payment-the Trauma DSH-to hospitals accredited as a Level I, II, or III trauma center by Pennsylvania Trauma System Foundation ("the Foundation"). However, the statute limits the definition of "trauma center" to include only hospitals located within Pennsylvania. See 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6943.2 (defining a hospital as "[a]n entitylocated in this Commonwealththat is licensed as a hospital [under the] Health Care Facilities Act.") Thus, because an out-of-state hospital that would otherwise meet the criteria for a Level I trauma center cannot be certified as such by the Foundation, it cannot receive Trauma DSH payments from Pennsylvania.*fn3

Pursuant to the Trauma Act, on May 1, 2004, DPW, through the Secretary, gave notice of its intent to establish an additional class of inpatient disproportionate share payments to be distributed to hospitals located in Pennsylvania accredited as trauma centers by the Foundation. The proposed Trauma DHS payment was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and incorporated into the Pennsylvania State Plan. The Trauma DSH is allocated based on a formula, generally as follows: 90% of available funds to hospitals accredited as Level I and Level II trauma centers and 10% to accredited Level III trauma centers. Approximately $24,867,000 was allocated and paid for Trauma DSH payments to Level I and Level II trauma centers for 2005. More than half of that amount is funded by the Federal Government.

By correspondence to DPW, dated July 18, 2005, WVUH requested that DPW make the Trauma DSH funds available to the Hospital. WVUH never received a written response to that correspondence. On September 22, 2005, WVUH met with, among others, Defendant James Hardy, and reiterated its request for Trauma DSH payments. The Defendants' position is that WVUH is not entitled to Trauma DSH payments because it is not located within Pennsylvania, and they have made it clear to WVUH that any further requests or efforts on the part of WVUH to secure Trauma DSH payments would be futile. Defendants have admitted that they treat WVUH differently under the Trauma Act from similarly situated Pennsylvania Hospitals with Level I trauma centers solely because WVUH is located outside the border of Pennsylvania.

C. Procedural History

WVUH filed its complaint (Doc. 1) on January 11, 2006 seeking declaratory relief and monetary damages for its Equal Protection, Commerce Clause, Medicaid Act, § 1983, and judgment enforcement claims.*fn4 Defendants filed their answer (Doc. 17) on March 27, 2006. On May 12, 2006, WVUH filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Enforce Judgment. With permission from the court, WVUH filed one brief in support of both motions. On June 15, 2006, Defendants filed a brief in opposition that addressed some of the issues raised in the summary judgment motion (Doc. 34) and simultaneously filed a Motion for Discovery Pursuant to Rule 56(f) (Doc. 32).*fn5 On October 20, 2006, the court denied Defendants' Rule 56(f) motion*fn6 and ordered Defendants to file a supplemental opposition brief to address the remainder of WVUH's summary judgment arguments (Doc. 43). Defendants did so on November 21, 2006 (Doc. 47). WVUH filed its reply on January 10, 2007 (Doc. 54). Thus, the issues have been fully briefed and this matter is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard -- Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); accord Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a ...

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