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Suit Fails Against Tobacco Makers

A conservative taxpayers' advocacy group lost its bid yesterday to force five major tobacco companies to reimburse the federal Medicare program for money spent to treat smoking-related illnesses. The group, the United Seniors Association, a conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons, sued Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other cigarette makers, claiming standing as a private attorney general under the Medicare Secondary Payer statute, which creates a private cause of action against those primarily responsible for  Medicare-covered medical expenses.

But in a decision issued yesterday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that United Seniors is without standing to bring suit under the statute because it did not allege that any of its members were Medicare beneficiaries who were treated for smoking-related injuries. In so ruling, the court rejected United Seniors' argument that the Medicare recovery statute created a qui tam cause of action authorizing anyone to bring suit as a private attorney general, even Medicare nonbeneficiaries. Where Congress has intended to create a qui tam action, it has done so expressly, such as in the False Claims Act, the court said, but this was not the case with the Medicare statute:

"No mention is made of any jointly-held cause of action by the government and the private plaintiff, or of the private plaintiff's right to sue solely in behalf of the government."

The full decision dismissing the lawsuit is available here: United Seniors Association v. Philip Morris USA.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 21, 2007 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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