Tulare Local Health Care District et al v. California Department of Health Care Services et al

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-02711

ORDER by Judge Hamilton denying {{44}} MOTION for Leave to File Motion for Reconsideration filed by San Ramon Regional Medical Center, LLC, Doctor's Hospital of Manteca, Inc., Sonora Community Hospital, Inc., Pioneers Memorial Healt hcare District, Reedley Community Hospital, Enloe Medical Center, Placentia-Linda Hospital, Inc., Jennifer Kent, Ukiah Adventist Hospital, Willits Hospital, Inc., Adventist Health Clearlake Hospital, Inc., West Hills Hospital, San Jose Healthcare System, LP, El Centro Regional Medical Center, Tulare Local Health Care District, El CentroRegional Medical Center. (pjhlc1, COURT STAFF)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 TULARE LOCAL HEALTH CARE DISTRICT, et al., Case No. 15-cv-2711-PJH 8 Petitioners, 9 ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR v. RECONSIDERATION 10 CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF 11 HEALTH CARE SERVICES, et al., 12 Respondents. Northern District of California United States District Court 13 14 15 Before the court is petitioners' motion for leave to file a motion for reconsideration 16 of the court's September 9, 2015, order denying the motion to remand, and motion for 17 reconsideration of the order denying the motion to remand. Having read the parties' 18 papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, the 19 court hereby DENIES the motion for leave to file a motion for reconsideration. 20 This case was filed in May 2015 as a petition for writ of mandamus under 21 California Code of Civil Procedure § 1085, and for declaratory relief under California 22 Code of Civil Procedure § 1060. The petition was originally filed in the Superior Court of 23 California, County of San Francisco, and was removed to this court by respondents 24 California Department of Health Care Services ("DHCS") and Director of DHCS on June 25 17, 2015, on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. 26 Petitioners are 12 California hospitals or health care districts. They challenge the 27 implementation of statutes enacted by the California Legislature, which reduced 28 payments to certain MediCal (California Medicaid) providers. Petitioners allege that they 1 are all "non-contract" hospitals (hospitals not paid under a negotiated rate) and that 2 DHCS has imposed 100% of the burden of the MediCal rate cuts solely on non-contract 3 hospitals. 4 The federal agency that administers Medicaid, the Centers for Medicare and 5 Medicaid Servics ("CMS") ultimately approved some of the rate reductions, and California 6 withdrew others. The rate cuts were in effect for approximately a two-year period. In 7 2011, the Legislature enacted another statute, which eliminated the 2008 and 2009 8 hospital rate cuts on a prospective basis, effective April 13, 2011, but left the prior rate 9 cuts in effect. In the present case, petitioners seek to have the prior rate cuts declared 10 unlawful, and allege that they should be reimbursed for the money they lost as a result of 11 the rate cuts. 12 Petitioners allege two causes of action. In the first cause of action, they seek a Northern District of California United States District Court 13 writ of mandate for violation of "federal and state statutes and regulations." The principal 14 federal statute at issue here is 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(30) ("§ 30(A)"), which requires 15 (among other things) that Medicaid payments be "consistent with efficiency. . . and 16 economy." The terms "efficiency" and "economy" are defined under California law. See 17 22 C.C.R. § 51545(a)(30). Petitioners allege that it is impossible for the rate cuts to take 18 into account the "efficiency" and "economy" of hospitals; and also assert that the rate 19 cuts were enacted for budgetary reasons, which does not comport with the requirement 20 that the payments be consistent with "efficiency" and "economy." 21 In the second cause of action, petitioners seek a writ of mandate for "violation of 22 California and U.S. Constitutions," specifically alleging that the rate reductions 23 discriminate against non-contract hospitals in favor of contract hospitals, in violation of 24 the Equal Protection clauses of both the state and federal constitutions. They assert that 25 statewide, non-contract hospitals provide 13.9% of the total inpatient days of care 26 provided to MediCal patients, yet those noncontract hospitals are being forced to assume 27 100% of the burden of the rate reductions. 28 After the case was removed, it was assigned to Judge Samuel Conti. Petitioners 2 1 filed a motion to remand, arguing that there was no viable claim under federal law. They 2 asserted that there was no viable claim under § 30(A), based on the U.S. Supreme 3 Court's March 2015 ruling that providers do not have a private right of action to assert a 4 claim under § 30(A) in federal court, and that there is no separate right to proceed in 5 equity under § 30(A). See Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 1378 6 (2015). Petitioners also argued that there was no viable claim under the Equal Protection 7 Clause, because the Ninth Circuit has held that § 30(A) does not create an individual 8 right enforceable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by either a Medicaid recipient or a provider of 9 Medicaid services. See Sanchez v. Johnson, 416 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2005). 10 On September 9, 2015, Judge Conti issued an order denying the motion to 11 remand, finding (1) that petitioners' complaint raised a number of issues of federal law, 12 including the adequacy of MediCal reimbursements under § 30(A) and the Equal Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the fact that the federal claims 14 were raised by way of a state law cause of action did not preclude a finding that the right 15 to relief under state law required resolution of a substantial question of federal law, which 16 was sufficient to create federal question jurisdiction; (2) that Armstrong held that § 30(A) 17 does not confer a private right of action, and that the sole remedy provided by Congress 18 for a state's failure to comply with § 30(A) is the withholding of Medicaid funds by the 19 Secretary of HHS; and (3) that petitioners' claim that they lacked standing in federal court 20 because of lack of redressability was without merit, but that regardless of whether 21 petitioners had standing, the petition still asserted a claim of violation of the Fourteenth 22 Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, clearly a federal claim. 23 Two months later, on November 3, 2015, following Judge Conti's retirement from 24 the court, the case was reassigned to the undersigned. At the February 4, 2016, further 25 Case Management Conference, petitioners requested that the court stay the case 26 pending the Ninth Circuit's resolution of the pending appeal of C-08-5173-SC, Santa 27 Rosa Mem. Hosp. v. DHCS, which had previously been dismissed without prejudice, 28 based in part on the ruling in Armstrong. 3 1 Alternatively, petitioners requested that the case be "instantly remanded" to San 2 Francisco Superior Court, so it could be properly coordinated with a similar case pending 3 there, Santa Rosa Mem. Hosp. v. Maxwell-Jolly, Case No. CPF 09-509658, which had 4 been originally filed in state court in 2009, and which also sought a writ of mandamus 5 under § 1085 alleging violation of § 30(A) in connection with the MediCal rate cuts, and 6 asserted an Equal Protection claim under the state and federal constitutions. 7 The court denied the informal renewed request to remand the case to state court, 8 and alternative request to stay the case pending the Ninth Circuit's resolution of the 9 appeal of the dismissal of C-08-5173-SC. The court directed that no later than March 9, 10 2016, petitioners could file a motion for leave to file a motion for reconsideration of the 11 prior order denying remand. 12 Rather than seeking leave to file a motion for reconsideration, however, plaintiffs' Northern District of California United States District Court 13 counsel simply filed a motion for reconsideration on March 8, 2016. Petitioners argued 14 that the case should be remanded because they had a viable § 30(A) cause of action in 15 state court, and this case should be decided in state court where another § 30(A) 16 MediCal case was on the verge of being decided (referring to Santa Rosa Mem. Hosp. v. 17 Maxwell-Jolly). They also noted that under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), the court could accept 18 supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim for retroactive reimbursement, or could 19 simply remand such claims to state court; and asserted that Armstrong did not preclude a 20 remedy in state court. 21 On March 30, 2016, petitioners filed a request for leave to file an analysis of a 22 decision issued nine and a half years previously by a judge of this court, granting a 23 motion to remand in Cal. Healthcare Ass'n v. Shewry, Case No. C-06-4027-JSW, 2006 24 WL 2587123 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2006) ("CHA"). They asserted that in light of the fact that 25 counsel had become aware of the CHA remand order only after respondents had filed 26 their opposition to the motion for reconsideration, they felt that the court should consider 27 the reasoning in the CHA decision because that case "pertain[ed] to an essentially 28 identical set of facts." 4 1 In CHA, also filed as a petition for writ of mandamus under Code of Civil 2 Procedure § 1085, the petitioner challenged the method used by DHCS to calculate the 3 reimbursement rate for hospitals providing skilled nursing services to MediCal 4 beneficiaries. DHCS removed the case from San Francisco Superior Court, alleging 5 federal question jurisdiction based on allegations of violation of § 30(A). 6 The court remanded the case, based on the holding in Sanchez that § 30(A) does 7 not confer a private right of enforcement through 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and also based on 8 Grable & Sons Metal Prods. Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308 (2005), where the 9 Supreme Court held that even where the state action discloses a contested and 10 substantial federal question, the district court should be wary of finding in a removed case 11 that the claim qualifies for a federal forum, if the court finds that such a shift would upset 12 the balance between federal and state courts. CHA, 2006 WL 2587123 at *5. Northern District of California United States District Court 13 The court found that remand was warranted based on a balance of factors 14 including the fact that at that time, under Ninth Circuit authority, there was no private right 15 of action under § 30(A); the fact that the state court had invested significant time and 16 resources toward resolution of the disputed issues in other similar cases; and the fact 17 that the district courts are required to construe the removal statute strictly and reject 18 jurisdiction if there is any doubt regarding the propriety of removal. Thus, the court 19 concluded, while the claims did raise an issue of federal law, removal would "disturb the 20 sound division of labor between state and federal courts." CHA, 2006 WL 2587123 at *5. 21 In the present case, the court terminated the March 8, 2016 motion for leave to file 22 a motion for reconsideration, on the ground that petitioners had not sought leave to file 23 the motion as required by Local Rule 7-9(a), (b), (c), and also terminated the March 30, 24 2016, motion for leave to file an analysis of the CHA decision. The court gave petitioners 25 until May 2, 2016, to file a motion for leave to file a motion for reconsideration, but added 26 that given that it was likely that any decision issued by the San Francisco Superior Court 27 in Santa Rosa Mem. Hosp. v. Maxwell-Jolly, might potentially impact the present case, 28 "the court is unlikely to issue a decision with regard to plaintiffs' motion for 5 1 reconsideration until the Superior Court has resolved the issues pending in that case." 2 Doc. 41 at 2-3. 3 On April 28, 2016, petitioners filed a "motion for leave to file a motion for 4 reconsideration and motion for reconsideration" of the September 9, 2015, order denying 5 remand. Petitioners argue that they have satisfied the requirements of Local Rule 7-9(b), 6 pursuant to which "[t]he moving party must specifically show reasonable diligence in 7 bringing the motion, and one of the following" – 8 (1) That at the time of the motion for leave, a material difference in fact or law exists from that which was presented 9 to the Court before entry of the interlocutory order for which reconsideration is sought. The party also must show that in 10 the exercise of reasonable diligence the party applying for reconsideration did not know such fact or law at the time of 11 the interlocutory order; or 12 Northern District of California (2) The emergence of new material facts or a change of law United States District Court occurring after the time of such order; or 13 (3) A manifest failure by the Court to consider material facts 14 or dispositive legal arguments which were presented to the Court before such interlocutory order. 15 Civ. L.R. 7-9(b). 16 Petitioners contend that the September 8, 2006 remand order in the CHA case 17 represents "a material difference in fact and law. . . from that which was presented to the 18 [c]ourt before entry of the interlocutory order from which reconsideration is sought." They 19 assert that "both cases" involve the same statutory provision, § 30(A); that in both cases, 20 there is no private right of action in federal court to enforce § 30(A); that in both cases, 21 the monetary relief the petitioners seek can only be awarded in state court; and that in 22 both cases, the California courts have already invested substantial time and resources to 23 resolving the issues in dispute. 24 Petitioners also contend that they "did not know such fact or law at the time of the 25 interlocutory order" as required by Rule 7-9(b)(1). They provide a declaration from 26 petitioners' counsel Dean Johnson, stating that while he "conducted numerous searches 27 for relevant case law on Westlaw" while he was preparing the motion to remand, the 28 6 1 order in CHA "never appeared in the results of any of those Westlaw searches." He 2 claims that he did not become aware of the CHA remand order until March 29, 2016, and 3 it was the following day that he filed a request for leave to "file" the remand order with this 4 court. 5 The court finds that petitioners failed to comply with the requirements of Civil Local 6 Rule 7-9. The fact that petitioners' counsel did not "discover" the September 8, 2006, 7 CHA remand order in WestLaw until March 29, 2016 does not mean that there is now a 8 "material difference" in law from that which was presented to the court at the time of the 9 original motion to remand. It certainly does not represent a "change of law" occurring 10 after entry of the prior order denying remand. In light of the foregoing, petitioners' 11 request for leave to file a motion for reconsideration is DENIED. 12 Moreover, the court notes that after the CHA case was remanded, the San Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Francisco Superior Court denied the writ of mandamus. The petitioners appealed, and 14 on August 20, 2010, the California Court of Appeal reversed, sending the case back to 15 the Superior Court with instructions to issue a writ of mandate, directing DHCS to (among 16 other things) recalculate the reimbursement rate for the rate years from 2001 through 17 2006. See Cal. Hosp. Ass'n v. Maxwell-Jolly, 188 Cal. App. 4th 559 (2010), as modified 18 on denial of rehearing (Sept. 16, 2010); rev. denied (Nov. 23, 2010); cert. denied sub. 19 nom., Douglas v. Cal. Hosp. Ass'n, 565 U.S. 815 (Oct. 3, 2011). 20 Thus, in May 2015, when petitioners filed the present action in San Francisco 21 Superior Court, they could have reasonably believed they would prevail on their petition 22 for writ of mandamus as to the § 30(A) claim in state court, based on the Court of 23 Appeal's ruling in CHA. However, the court is flummoxed by the claim that petitioners' 24 counsel was unaware until March 2016 that the CHA case had been remanded in 25 September 2006, given that petitioners cited the Court of Appeal's decision in CHA (the 26 same case that had previously been remanded from this court) extensively in the original 27 motion to remand in this case, which was filed June 22, 2015, as well as in their July 25, 28 2015, reply to respondents' opposition to the motion to remand, in their March 8, 2016, 7 1 motion for reconsideration, and in their March 29, 2016, motion requesting leave to file an 2 analysis of the CHA remand order. 3 As for the question whether this case should be remanded so that it can be 4 considered in conjunction with the Santa Rosa Mem. Hospital case in San Francisco 5 Superior Court, the court notes that the issues in that case have been fully heard and 6 decided, and that the Superior Court issued an order on March 21, 2017, denying the 7 petition for writ of mandamus, based on Keffeler v. Partnership Healthplan of Calif., 224 8 Cal. App. 4th 322 (2014), and Managed Pharmacy Care v. Sibelius, 716 F.3d 123 (9th 9 Cir. 2013), and entered judgment on April 12, 2017. 10 In that case – just as here – the petitioners relied heavily on the California Court of 11 Appeal's 2010 opinion in CHA, arguing that the Superior Court should issue the writ of 12 mandamus, in line with the CHA decision. However, in between the time that the CHA Northern District of California United States District Court 13 decision was issued (2010) and the time that the Superior Court was considering the 14 merits phase of the Santa Rosa Mem. Hosp. case (2016), the legal landscape was 15 altered by the issuance of the decisions in Keffeler and Managed Pharmacy. 16 In the present case, to the extent that petitioners seek a writ of mandamus based 17 on an alleged violation of § 30(A) and related federal regulations, while they will be 18 unable to proceed on the first cause of action in this court, per Armstrong, 135 S.Ct. at 19 1385, it appears that Sanchez may not bar the second cause of action, which asserts a 20 claim of violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, not a claim 21 under § 30(A). Moreover, it does not appear that petitioners will have any more success 22 with the § 30(A) claim in the San Francisco Superior Court, given the recent decision in 23 the Santa Rosa Mem. Hosp. case. 24 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 Dated: May 11, 2017 27 __________________________________ PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON 28 United States District Judge 8