Ansley v. Banner Health Network, 1 CA-CV 17-0075

CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona
Citation419 P.3d 552
Docket NumberNo. 1 CA-CV 17-0075,1 CA-CV 17-0075
Parties Walter ANSLEY, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. BANNER HEALTH NETWORK, et al., Defendants/Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Decision Date03 April 2018

419 P.3d 552

Walter ANSLEY, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
BANNER HEALTH NETWORK, et al., Defendants/Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

No. 1 CA-CV 17-0075

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1.

FILED April 3, 2018

Levenbaum Trachtenberg, PLC, Phoenix, By Geoffrey M. Trachtenberg, Justin Henry, Co-Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants

The Entrekin Law Firm, Phoenix, By B. Lance Entrekin, Co-Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants

Gammage & Burnham, PLC, Phoenix, By Richard B. Burnham, Cameron C. Artigue, Christopher L. Hering, Counsel for Defendants/Appellants/Cross-Appellees

Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Kent E. Cattani and Judge Jennifer M. Perkins joined.


419 P.3d 556

¶ 1 Banner Health Network and several other hospitals ("the Hospitals") separately contracted with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System ("AHCCCS") to serve AHCCCS members. In those contracts, the Hospitals agreed to accept payment from AHCCCS at rates below their customary charges and not to bill members for the balance. The plaintiffs in this case are a class of AHCCCS members ("the Patients") who received settlements or damage awards from third-party tortfeasors for the injuries that required medical treatment. The Patients sued to enjoin the Hospitals from enforcing liens on their tort recoveries for the balance between what AHCCCS paid and the Hospitals' customary charges. We hold that the Hospitals' contracts with AHCCCS incorporated federal law, which bars the Hospitals from enforcing the liens. Accordingly, we affirm the injunction the superior court entered and direct entry of judgment in favor of the Patients on their third-party claim for breach of contract.


¶ 2 The Hospitals recorded their liens pursuant to two statutes, Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") sections 33-931 (2018) and 36-2903.01(G)(4) (2018).1 The former is a general statute allowing a health-care provider to file a lien for its customary charges against a patient's tort recovery. The latter specifically applies when a hospital has served an AHCCCS member and allows that hospital to "collect any unpaid portion of its bill from other third-party payors or in situations" in which the general medical-lien statute applies.

¶ 3 The Patients alleged federal Medicaid law preempts the Arizona lien statutes in cases such as theirs, and sought an injunction barring the Hospitals from recording liens on their tort recoveries. The Patients argued the liens constitute impermissible "balance billing," a term describing a health-care provider's effort to collect from a patient "the difference in the amount paid by Medicaid, or a state plan like AHCCCS, and the amount" the provider typically charges. Abbott v. Banner Health Network , 239 Ariz. 409, 412, ¶ 9, 372 P.3d 933, 936 (2016).

¶ 4 Early in the litigation, the superior court dismissed a group of plaintiffs who had settled their lien claims with the Hospitals and entered partial final judgment as to those plaintiffs pursuant to Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Those plaintiffs appealed, arguing their settlements lacked consideration because the Hospitals' liens were preempted by federal law. We accepted that argument, Abbott v. Banner Health Network , 236 Ariz. 436, 446, ¶ 30, 341 P.3d 478, 488 (App. 2014) (" Abbott I "), but the supreme court reversed,

419 P.3d 557

Abbott, 239 Ariz. 409, 372 P.3d 933 (" Abbott II "). The supreme court ruled the settlements were valid and made "fairly and in good faith" because the validity of the Hospitals' lien rights was not settled under Arizona law. Abbott II , 239 Ariz. at 413, 414, 415, ¶¶ 12, 18, 20, 372 P.3d at 937–39.

¶ 5 Meanwhile, the superior court certified the remaining plaintiffs as a class, and both sides moved for summary judgment on the preemption issue. The superior court ruled in favor of the Patients on their claim for a declaratory judgment under the Supremacy Clause that when a hospital has accepted payment from AHCCCS for treating a patient, a federal regulation, 42 C.F.R. § 447.15 (2018), preempts the hospital's state-law right to a lien on the patient's tort recovery for the balance between what AHCCCS paid and the hospital's customary charges. The court then enjoined the Hospitals from "filing or asserting any lien or claim against a patient's personal injury recovery, after having received any payment from AHCCCS for the same patient's care." The court granted summary judgment to the Hospitals, however, on the Patients' third-party-beneficiary claim, which alleged the Hospitals breached their contracts with AHCCCS by imposing the liens. Finally, the superior court awarded attorney's fees to the Patients under the private attorney general doctrine and denied both sides' motions for new trial.

¶ 6 The Hospitals appealed the preemption ruling and injunction, and the Patients cross-appealed the judgment against them on their contract claim. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21(A)(1) (2018) and -2101(A)(1) (2018).


A. General Principles.

¶ 7 A superior court "shall grant summary judgment if the moving party shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Ariz. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ; see also Orme School v. Reeves , 166 Ariz. 301, 309, 802 P.2d 1000, 1008 (1990). We review a superior court's grant of summary judgment de novo , viewing the evidence and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Sanders v. Alger , 242 Ariz. 246, 248, ¶ 2, 394 P.3d 1083, 1085 (2017).

¶ 8 The Hospitals argue the Patients' declaratory-judgment claim under the Supremacy Clause fails because the Supremacy Clause does not afford a private right of action. See Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Ctr., Inc ., –––U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 1378, 1383-84, 191 L.Ed.2d 471 (2015). We need not address that issue, because we conclude the superior court erred in denying summary judgment to the Patients on their contract claim. In addressing that claim, we conclude that (1) federal law preempts the Hospitals' rights under Arizona law to impose liens on the Patients' tort recoveries to recover the balance between what AHCCCS paid the Hospitals and the Hospitals' customary rates, (2) the Patients are third-party beneficiaries of the contracts the Hospitals entered with AHCCCS, and (3) those contracts require the Hospitals to comply with the preemptive federal law.

B. Federal Law Preempts the Hospitals' Lien Rights.

¶ 9 Federal law may preempt state law in one of three ways: Express preemption, field preemption or conflict preemption. Capital Cities Cable, Inc. v. Crisp, 467 U.S. 691, 698-99, 104 S.Ct. 2694, 81 L.Ed.2d 580 (1984) ; White Mtn. Health Ctr., Inc. v. Maricopa County , 241 Ariz. 230, 239-40, ¶ 33, 386 P.3d 416, 425–26 (App. 2016).2 The issue here—conflict preemption—arises when state law stands as an obstacle to the achievement of Congress's full purpose, or when compliance

419 P.3d 558

with both federal and state laws is impossible. Crisp , 467 U.S. at 699, 104 S.Ct. 2694 ; White Mtn. , 241 Ariz. at 240, ¶ 33, 386 P.3d at 426. A federal regulation has the same preemptive effect as a federal statute. Crisp , 467 U.S. at 699, 104 S.Ct. 2694. Thus, a federal regulation may render unenforceable a state law that is otherwise consistent with federal law. City of New York v. F.C.C. , 486 U.S. 57, 63-64, 108 S.Ct. 1637, 100 L.Ed.2d 48 (1988).

¶ 10 Medicaid is a "cooperative federal-state program" that pays for health care for the needy and the disabled. Douglas v. Indep. Living Ctr. of So. Calif., 565 U.S. 606, 610, 132 S.Ct. 1204, 182 L.Ed.2d 101 (2012) ; 42 U.S.C. § 1396-1 (2018). A state that chooses to participate must "comply with the Medicaid Act and its implementing regulations." Rehabilitation Ass'n of Va., Inc. v. Kozlowski , 42 F.3d 1444, 1447 (4th Cir. 1994). To receive federal funds under the program, a state must create a detailed plan that, inter alia , specifies "the nature and scope" of the medical services it will cover. Douglas , 565 U.S. at 610, 132 S.Ct. 1204 ; see also 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a) (2018). The plan must be approved by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS"), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS"), which determines whether the plan complies with federal Medicaid statutes and regulations. See 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(b) (plan approval by HHS secretary); 42 U.S.C. § 1316(a) (2018) (granting HHS power to withhold funds if changes to state plan do not comply with federal law); 42 C.F.R. § 430.10 (2018) (describing contents of state plan); see also Spectrum Health Continuing Care Group v. Bowling , 410 F.3d 304, 313 (6th Cir. 2005) ("state's plan must comply with federal statutory and regulatory standards").

¶ 11 A fundamental principle of the program is that "Medicaid is essentially a payer of last resort." Kozlowski , 42 F.3d at 1447. Toward that end, patients must...

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