Shalala v. Guernsey Memorial Hospital, 514 U.S. 87, 14 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 87 (1995)

O'Connor, J., dissenting

reimbursement, to provide payment of the necessary costs of efficient delivery of covered services to Medicare beneficiaries, may not be identical to the objective of financial accounting, which is "to provide useful information to management, shareholders, creditors, and others properly interested" and "has as its foundation the principle of [financial] conservatism." Thor Power Tool Co. v. Commissioner, 439 U. S. 522, 542 (1979) (rejecting taxpayer's assertion that an accounting principle that conforms to GAAP must be presumed to be permissible for tax purposes). The Court makes this argument as well. See ante, at 100-101.

Reading the regulations to employ GAAP, even though it is possible that the relevant reimbursement standard will change over time as the position of the accounting profession evolves, does not imply an abdication of statutory authority but a necessary invocation of an established body of accounting principles to apply where specific regulations have not provided otherwise. The Secretary is, of course, not bound by GAAP in such a situation and, indeed, has promulgated reimbursement regulations that depart from the GAAP default rule in specific situations. Compare, e. g., 413.134 (f)(2) (limited recognition of gain or loss on involuntary conversion of depreciable asset) with R. Kay & D. Searfoss, Handbook of Accounting and Auditing, ch. 15, p. 14 (2d ed. 1989 and 1994 Supp.) (gains or losses are recognized under GAAP in the period of disposal of a depreciable asset, even if reinvested in a similar asset). The Secretary would also be free to devise a reimbursement scheme that does not involve GAAP as a background principle at all if she believes, as the Court argues, that use of GAAP binds her to a cost allocation methodology ill suited to Medicare reimbursement, see ante, at 101. Our task is simply to review the regulations the Secretary has in fact adopted, and I conclude that the Secretary has incorporated GAAP as the reimbursement default rule.

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