U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman, Texas stopped the rule
from taking effect Friday as planned. The decision is a victory for
dialysis providers Fresenius Medical Care, DaVita Inc and U.S. Renal
Care Inc, which filed a lawsuit to block the rule last week.
The order is temporary, preserving the status quo while Mazzant
considers the merits of the lawsuit. Mazzant said the companies had
shown a reasonable probability that they would succeed.
The rule, announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services on Dec. 14, would require dialysis providers to disclose to
insurers any charitable assistance their patients are receiving for
their care. The providers said insurers would use that information
to refuse coverage to their patients.
Because of the high cost of dialysis, which treats end-stage kidney
disease, many patients receive financial assistance from charities,
most prominently the American Kidney Fund.
Fresenius, DaVita and U.S. Renal Care all donate to AKF, according
to their lawsuit. Fresenius and DaVita both revealed last week that
they had received subpoenas from federal prosecutors about their
ties to the organization.
In announcing its rule, HHS said it believed financial assistance
was being used to steer patients eligible for Medicare or Medicaid
to sign up instead for private insurance on the federal Affordable
Care Act's marketplaces, which pays providers more.
Such steering could harm patients by making it harder for them to
get kidney transplants, the ideal treatment in many cases, HHS said.
Charitable non-profits like AKF do not pay for transplants or
post-transplant care, the agency said.
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The agency also said steering could hinder the functioning of the
But the dialysis companies said in their lawsuit that many patients
prefer private insurance because it provides better coverage, and
that the new rule would let insurers discriminate against them.
They said HHS's true motive was not to protect patients, but to
entice insurers to stay on the ACA exchanges, which some have fled
due to rising costs.
The companies said HHS violated federal law by rushing the rule
without a required public notice and comment period so it would take
effect before Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who has
promised to repeal the ACA, takes office.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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