Thursday, July 28, 2016
Federal Judge Steps In On Outbreak Claims
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A federal judge says she wants to hear from federal officials about the delay in reaching an agreement that could free up some $200 million earmarked for victims of a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
At a hearing in her Boston, Mass. courtroom today U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel told the attorney for some of the outbreak victims to contact officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department and arrange an Aug 16 session.
"I'll rely on you to set it up," Zobel told Thomas Sobol, the lead attorney for victims of the outbreak.
Earlier Sobol had told Zobel there was an agreement in principal with the federal agencies, but final approval was still awaited.
"It's working its way up," Sobol said.
At issue is how much the federal Medicare program will be reimbursed from the trust fund for the costs it incurred for Medicare recipients who were victims. Similar agreements are needed with state Medicaid agencies and private insurers.
Because of the lack of final approval, Sobol told Zobel initial payments to victims, initially slated for August, could be delayed till September.
"I am doing what I can to push this along," Sobol said, adding that he was aware that victims felt frustrated by the delays.
It was then that Zobel suggested federal officials be convened at the August session either by phone or in person.
"That would be very helpful," Sobol said. "I would encourage the court to do that."
Sobol said a company called the Garretson Resolution Group had been engaged to negotiate with state Medicaid agencies and that agreements in principal had been reached with two major private insurance groups.
The 2012 outbreak was caused by fungus laden steroids that were shipped from a now defunct Framingham, Mass. drug compounding firm.
The $200 million trust fund was created in the bankruptcy case of the drug compounding firm, the New England Compounding Center. Former owners and employees of the firm are facing charges ranging from racketeering to second degree murder. All have entered not guilty pleas.
Some 778 patients were sickened in the outbreak and 77 died.