The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has found merit in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) assertion that it would be nearly impossible for the department to clear the backlog of outstanding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearings by the 2021 deadline. HHS Secretary Tom Price claimed that it could not meet the deadline unless it settled outstanding appeals without a formal review—an action that violates existing law.
As a result, Judge Robert Wilkins said the task may be impossible under current law, and ordered a halt to the timeline, according to an article published online in Home Health Care News.
“If only lawful reforms were implemented, the secretary claimed, compliance with the timetable would be impossible,” Judge Robert Wilkins wrote in the majority opinion earlier this month. “And just as a court may not require an agency to break the law, a court may not require an agency to render performance that is impossible.”
Last December, the Court adopted a remedy with deadlines and mandatory percentage reductions so that the backlog would be cleared by January 1, 2021. HHS said there are over 667,000 outstanding claims and that number could climb to over one million by the end of 2021. Currently, HHS can address about 92,000 claims annually.