Page:Azar v. Allina Health Services, 587 U.S. (2019) (slip opinion).pdf/11

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AZAR v. ALLINA HEALTH SERVICES

Opinion of the Court

assume that Congress silently attaches different meanings to the same term in the same or related statutes. See Law v. Siegel, 571 U. S. 415, 422 (2014).

Besides, even if the statute’s reference to “statements of policy” could bear such an odd construction, the government and the dissent fail to explain why Congress would have thought it necessary or appropriate. Agencies have never been able to avoid notice and comment simply by mislabeling their substantive pronouncements. On the contrary, courts have long looked to the contents of the agency’s action, not the agency’s self-serving label, when deciding whether statutory notice-and-comment demands apply. See, e.g., General Motors Corp. v. Ruckelshaus, 742 F. 2d 1561, 1565 (CADC 1984) (en banc) (“[T]he agency’s own label, while relevant, is not dispositive”); Guardian Fed. Sav. & Loan Assn. v. Federal Sav. & Loan Ins. Corp., 589 F. 2d 658, 666–667 (CADC 1978) (if “a so-called policy statement is in purpose or likely effect . . . a binding rule of substantive law,” it “will be taken for what it is”). Nor is there any evidence before us suggesting that Congress thought it important to underscore this prosaic point in the Medicare Act (and yet not in the APA)—let alone any reason to think Congress would have sought to make the point in such an admittedly incoherent way.

Second, the government’s reading would introduce another incoherence into the Medicare statute. Subsection (e)(1) of §1395hh gives the government limited authority to make retroactive “substantive change[s]” in, among other things, “interpretative rules” and “statements of policy.” But this statutory authority would make no sense if the Medicare Act used the term “substantive” as the APA does. It wouldn’t because, again, interpretive rules and statements of policy—and any changes to them—are not substantive under the APA by definition.

Here, too, the government offers no satisfactory reply. It concedes, as it must, that the term “substantive” in