The process of appealing hospital administrative penalties issued by the California Department of Public Health sometimes can take years, Payers & Providers reports.
DPH levies the penalties for issues that it determines endanger the safety and lives of patients.
Details of Appeals Process for Administrative Penalties
State law requires that appeals to administrative penalties are handled by the Office of Administrative Hearings and Appeals, which sets a hearing date with an administrative law judge.
According to Payers & Providers, hearings can be set up to six months after a request is made, and the judge can take several months to hand down a decision after the hearing. Then, DPH can revise the decision, reject it, ask for more written arguments or request a new hearing.
In addition, an unfavorable ruling can be appealed by a hospital for a review in civil court, which can take several additional months.
Details of Ongoing Appeals
According to DPH data, 23 hospitals in California are in the process of appealing a total of 28 administrative penalties and about $1.84 million in fines, making up about 13% of the 224 penalties levied and nearly 25% of the fines issued since the agency began assigning the penalties in 2007.
Some ongoing appeals stem from penalties levied against hospitals five years ago.
Comments on Appeals Process
Mark Kadzielski -- a partner in the Los Angeles office of Fullbright & Jaworski, which represents hospitals appealing administrative penalties -- said, "The state has no budget to handle appeals." He added, "It's a cumbersome, unwieldy, expensive process."
Kadzielski also said that while the appeals process is stalled, DPH publicizes the cases through news conferences and press releases in an attempt to pressure hospital operators to drop the appeal and pay the penalty.
Debby Roger, deputy director for health care quality at DPH, said, "(We) do not have any control over when these hearings take place," adding, "It varies depending on the complexity of the case. The unknown factor is how quickly OAHA can schedule the hearing" (Payers & Providers, 6/14).