Judge denies HHS' request to tweak Medicare backlog deadlines

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A federal court has shot down the Department of Health and Human Services' request that it reconsider an early December ruling requiring the agency to clear its backlog of Medicare appeals by the end of 2020.

HHS filed a motion late last month stating the court-ordered deadlines for remedy the backlog would be impossible without additional resources, and leave health officials to “pay pending claims without regard to their merit.”

In an opinion published Wednesday, Judge James E. Boasberg, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, noted that HHS' arguments that it won't be able to meet the deadlines while maintaining Medicare funds “is not new; it was twice urged in prior briefing.”

Boasberg adds that the court is “not unsympathetic” to the agency's perceived struggles, but must follow previous court decisions that the appeal reductions deadlines are “the most appropriate” way to clear the backlog.

HHS must reduce the current backlog of more than 700,000 pending cases by Dec. 31, 2017, followed by reductions of 60% and 90% by the ends of 2018 and 2019, respectively.