NY bills for costs of care after alleged cases of abuse

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

First the abuse, then the bill: NY seeks to recoup costs after disabled are mistreated.

ALBANY, N.Y. – At least three times in recent years, families whose disabled loved ones allegedly suffered devastating mistreatment while in state institutions were later billed at least $1 million by the state of New York for the cost of the patient’s care.In this undated photo provided by Bill Liblick, David Liblick, left sits with Mollie Liblick, center, and Paula Liblick at Letchworth Village in Rockland County, New York. Bill Liblick was shocked to learn that his sister, a disabled woman with the mind of a 1-year-old, had repeatedly been sexually assaulted in a state-run group home.

National experts say New York’s pursuit of such claims appears to be highly unusual and is a misapplication of the 1993 federal law that requires states to recover, or “claw back,” certain Medicaid costs from people’s estates after their death. “It’s serious overreaching to attempt to recoup funding from people who have been abused in the system,” said Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, a nonprofit group in New York City. “It’s very cynical, to say the least.” New York’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities declined to comment on any cases in particular but said that it is mandatory under the law to file claims for reimbursement against a patient’s lawsuit proceeds and the estates of those who were over 55 or were receiving chronic care under Medicaid. But other experts said states have wide discretion in deciding whether to pursue such claims, noting the law contains exceptions for various hardship situations.

And they questioned the ethics of clawbacks for care that was abusive or deadly. “Those particular facts are not something I’ve heard about in other states,” said Michelle Lilienfeld, senior attorney in Los Angeles with the National Health Law Program, which works for health care access. Wayne Turner, an attorney with the program in Washington, recalled a 1996 case where the District of Columbia’s Medicaid agency clawed back part of a $350,000 settlement from a woman who died of AIDS from a blood transfusion, money that could have helped her three children go to college.

After lawyers’ fees, the family was left with $114,267, according to the federal appeals court ruling that upheld the claim. “State Medicaid agencies have discretion to recoup funds,” Turner said. “However, so often these anonymous decision makers can’t see beyond written policies to consider the real-life impact on people’s lives.” OPWDD said information on how many claims it has made against abuse settlements over the past five years was not readily available. The state agency wrote to her brother last year, extending its condolences while also informing him: “The full amount of $1,629,440.24 is now justly due and owing.” His attorney has asked the state to detail its claim and substantiate the lien. Paul Castellani, a former top official at OPWDD’s predecessor agency, said liens in such cases appear to be a recent phenomenon and weren’t pursued at the time he left state employment in 2005.

Another was the case of a 22-year-old man, autistic, mentally disabled and non-verbal, identified in court papers only as K.C., who was taken unconscious in 2011 from an institution near Albany to a hospital, where he died a month later of pneumonia. Liblick said the situation was particularly tragic for his sister, who was seen in a 1972 documentary at another state facility, on the floor, in her own urine and feces.

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