The Impact of the Supreme Court Overturning Chevron on Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans

Author: Kendall Smith, MD | Chief Medical Officer & Chief Physician Advisor – PayerWatch & AppealMasters

On June 28, 2024, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision to overturn the Chevron doctrine, a principle that granted deference to federal agencies in interpreting ambiguous statutes. This decision marks a significant shift in how regulations are interpreted and implemented across various sectors, including healthcare. For healthcare executives, particularly those involved in Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, understanding the implications of this ruling is crucial as it may reshape regulatory frameworks and policy implementations in the near future.

Understanding the Chevron Doctrine

Before delving into the potential impacts, it is important to grasp the essence of the Chevron doctrine. Established in the 1984 case Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., this doctrine dictated that courts should defer to a federal agency’s reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes, provided that Congress had not spoken directly to the issue at hand. This principle aimed to uphold consistency and coherence in regulatory enforcement, relying on the expertise of administrative agencies to interpret laws within their purview.

Implications of Overturning Chevron

With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Chevron, the landscape of administrative law undergoes a notable transformation. This ruling implies that courts may no longer automatically defer to federal agencies’ interpretations of statutes when ambiguity arises. Instead, courts may now conduct their own analyses, potentially leading to more judicial scrutiny and varied interpretations of regulatory statutes.

Impact on Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans

For healthcare executives overseeing Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, the repercussions of overturning Chevron could be profound:

  1. Increased Judicial Scrutiny: Without Chevron deference, courts may take a more active role in interpreting healthcare-related statutes and regulations. This could lead to varying interpretations across different circuits, potentially creating inconsistencies in how Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs are regulated and administered.
  2. Policy Uncertainty: Healthcare policy often hinges on regulatory interpretations and guidance from agencies like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Without Chevron, the clarity and stability provided by agency interpretations may diminish, resulting in uncertainty regarding compliance and strategic planning for healthcare executives.
  3. Challenges in Administrative Rulemaking: The ability of federal agencies to promulgate regulations and establish guidelines may face new hurdles. Agencies may encounter increased challenges in defending their interpretations in court, which could slow down the rulemaking process and delay the implementation of new policies affecting Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.
  4. Potential for Industry Litigation: Healthcare providers, insurers, and stakeholders in the Medicare space may increasingly turn to litigation to challenge regulatory decisions or interpretations they find unfavorable. This could lead to a rise in legal disputes that further complicates the regulatory environment and adds to operational burdens for healthcare executives.
  5. Need for Adaptation and Advocacy: In response to these changes, healthcare executives may need to enhance their advocacy efforts and engage more actively in regulatory proceedings. Understanding and influencing judicial interpretations of healthcare statutes could become critical to shaping favorable regulatory outcomes.

Strategic Considerations for Healthcare Executives

In light of these potential impacts, healthcare executives should consider several strategic actions:

  1. Monitor Judicial Developments: Stay informed about court decisions and judicial interpretations relevant to Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Engage legal counsel to assess potential implications and strategize accordingly.
  2. Enhance Regulatory Compliance: Given the potential for increased scrutiny and interpretation variability, prioritize robust compliance programs. Regularly review policies and procedures to ensure alignment with evolving legal standards and interpretations.
  3. Advocate for Clarity and Consistency: Collaborate with industry associations and advocacy groups to advocate for clear, consistent regulatory frameworks. Engaging in policy discussions and providing input to lawmakers and regulatory agencies can help shape favorable outcomes.
  4. Evaluate Risk Management Strategies: Assess the impact of regulatory uncertainty on business operations and financial planning. Develop contingency plans to mitigate risks associated with potential regulatory changes or legal challenges.
  5. Invest in Legal Expertise: Consider bolstering internal legal resources or engaging external counsel with expertise in healthcare regulatory matters. Proactively seek legal guidance to navigate uncertainties and ensure compliance with evolving legal standards.


The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Chevron doctrine introduces a new era of regulatory interpretation and enforcement across various sectors, including healthcare. For healthcare executives overseeing Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, this ruling necessitates heightened awareness, strategic planning, and proactive engagement in regulatory and legal arenas.