Watch out for the Rules of Evidence in Medicaid appeal hearings

The first level of appeal when the State Medicaid Agency issues an adverse decision is called a “Fair Hearing” and takes place at the NJ Office of Administrative law (OAL). The Judge is referred to as an Administrative Law Judge or “ALJ.” That Judge issues an initial decision that is subject to review and final decision by the NJ Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (Medicaid). The burden of proof is on the applicant, and the hearing is conducted generally like a trial — witnesses can be questioned under oath; documents can be introduced in evidence. The formal rules of evidence that govern the New Jersey courts are relaxed somewhat, but there are still requirements to prove each point of the legal case by using some non-hearsay evidence. The following case illustrates what can go wrong when “the i’s aren’t dotted and the T’s aren’t crossed,” as they say.

 B.S. v. Div. of Med. Assistance & Health Servs., was an unsuccessful appeal after an unsuccessful Fair Hearing. The 92-year-old  Petitioner lived in a nursing home and had applied for Medicaid. When her 5 years’ of financial records were submitted for the required “look-back” scrutiny, the county division for social services noticed that there were two large bank withdrawals from her account. The funds had been transferred to her daughter’s account. The daughter was told to provide proof that either (a) all of the transferred money had been actually spent for benefit of the applicant or that (b) the transfer was some kind of purchase at fair market value for goods or services. The requested proof wasn’t supplied and a 224-day “transfer penalty” was imposed. The request for Fair Hearing was then filed.

The OAL has a rule that requires a “residuum” of non-hearsay evidence for each fact to be proven. If the other party won’t stipulate to the fact, then it must be proven through what’s called “competent” evidence – i.e., non-hearsay. Here’s the rule:

1:1-15.5 Hearsay evidence; residuum rule

(a) Subject to the judge’s discretion to exclude evidence under  N.J.A.C. 1:1-15.1(c) or a valid claim of privilege, hearsay evidence shall be admissible in the trial of contested cases. Hearsay evidence which is admitted shall be accorded whatever weight the judge deems appropriate taking into account the nature, character and scope of the evidence, the circumstances of its creation and production, and, generally, its reliability.

(b) Notwithstanding the admissibility of hearsay evidence, some legally competent evidence must exist to support each ultimate finding of fact to an extent sufficient to provide assurances of reliability and to avoid the fact or appearance of arbitrariness.”

Apparently, at the hearing, her evidence was made up of  “unauthenticated bank records” and a power of attorney, ruling that petitioner had failed to submit any competent evidence. The case was scheduled for hearing three times, and neither the Petitioner (nor her attorney) presented any witnesses to testify about what had occurred or to explain any documents that were presented in evidence.  As a result, the ALJ ruled that there was insufficient evidence to show that the transfers were anything other than an outright gift — which causes a penalty under the Medicaid program. The Director affirmed (adopted the decision) and the Appellate Division affirmed.

The burden of proof rests with the applicant in Medicaid cases. Careful detailed preparation is needed to successfully prove a case at an administrative hearing.

Call us for representation on Medicaid applications and appeals of denials …. 732-382-6070

 

New guide available for appeals of Medicaid Managed Care Decisions

Medicaid services are now provided through managed care organizations (MCO’s), which are required by federal law to provide a grievance and appeal process for the enrollees. An enrollee may be dissatisfied with the number of hours of service, or the services being provided, or a host of other issues. Three major nonprofits have collaborated on a new guide for advocates to help them in efforts to advocate for good regulations or to pursue these cases.

Justice in Aging , the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and National Health Law Program (NHeLP) have produced their ” Advocates Guide to Accessibility in Medicaid Managed Care Grievances, Appeals, and State Fair Hearing.” States are in the process of developing regulations and procedures on this issue, and the Guide is designed for those who are involved at any part of the process. You can download it through the website for Justice in Aging HERE.

The Guide provides useful general guidance on the typical procedures for these appeals. Of course, individual state laws will vary, and the guide doesn’t constitute legal advice that would apply to any particular case. If an adverse decision is received from an MCO, the individual must swiftly pursue the administrative remedies, as the appeal period is short, and it can be difficult to obtain waivers of that time limitation.

Contact us for representation on Medicaid eligibility or denials of services ……. 732-382-6070

NJ 2017-18 Budget Adds Funding for Medicaid Long-Term Care

After the Governor and the Assembly leader resolved their Fourth of July Weekend Budget Kerfuffle, some positivity came out of it for Medicaid long-term care providers and beneficiaries.

Nursing home reimbursements would be increased by $10.5 million, shifting funds from Managed Long-Term Services and Supports (MLTSS). This would be $5.25 million of state funds with an identical federal match. The funds would be distributed by a per diem adjustment based on the increase. Assisted living per diems would also see a moderate increase from $73.13 for assisted living facilities, $63.13 for comprehensive personal care homes and $53.13 for assisted living programs, to $75, $65 and $55 respectively.

The legislature’s budget would also increase the minimum monthly personal needs allowance (PNA) to $50, effective July 1st, 2017. It had been $35 for a very long time.  The PNA is the amount a resident can keep from his or her income to use for monthly personal needs.  This applies to persons residing in nursing homes, state or county psychiatric hospitals, and State Developmental Centers who are eligible for Medicaid or SSI benefits.  We are awaiting a MedComm (Medicaid policy memorandum issued by the NJ Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services) to provide guidance on implementation of this increase.

Trying to pay for nursing home care? Call us to find out the real options with Medicaid eligibility … 732-382-6070

Find your parents’ Long-Term Care Policies so you can help them plan

There is plenty of debate about the benefits and drawbacks of buying long-term care insurance.  The premiums are expensive for a person in their 70’s who is first considering a purchase. Potential buyers worry that they will pay premiums for years and never have to use the policy. The industry has been in flux and there aren’t too many carriers around. What I do know is that over the years, long-term care insurance policies have been a lifesaver for many of my clients, particularly if the policy pays for in-home care. The annual premium cost has always been well less than a single month in a nursing home. So LTC policies can be an important component of long-range planning for a person who will eventually enter what I like to call “the elder zone.”

All too often, the need for 24/7 care drops on the doorstep when there’s been no prior planning, and concerned family members are faced with making arrangements without any good information. Elsewhere on this Blog I’ve written about strategies such as assembling the team, compiling your financial & insurance data,  and getting legal help for an updated estate plan and power of attorney. Today I suggest that you dig out those long-term care policies from wherever they are being stashed, read them and get familiar with what the policies provide. Contact the company for an updated statement of benefits. What’s the daily rate? Compare that to the anticipated cost of care  in a nursing home ($350+ in most places) or at home ($165 /day or more). Ask questions about what it takes to start the typical 90-day elimination period — what documentation is required? Can it start when the patient enters the hospital if s/he will then transition to long-term care? Can it start if the patient has already had an in-home Aide who was paid off the books? Find out if premium payments can be switched to auto-debit from the checking account, to avoid the risk of lapse if the policy-owner starts forgetting to pay bills.

The Medicaid home care program under MLTSS/HCBS  does not provide 24/7 full-time care. Knowing what the benefits are in your parent’s  long term care insurance policy can make a huge difference in how you approach the discharge planning from hospital or “rehab” back home for senior planning. It may be the ticket to asset preservation.

Call us for advice about long-term care planning and asset protection for peace of mind …. 732-382-6070

The Special Needs trust is funded …. now what?

Funding a first party Special Needs Trust with alimony, an inheritance, or a personal injury settlement can preserve those assets for benefit of a person who is receiving or applying for means-tested government benefits such as SSI, DDD or Medicaid/MLTSS. There is quite a process to establish the trust and then fund it with these assets. But that’s just the beginning — not the end.

The person who receives these benefits has an affirmative obligation to notify the Agency when there is a change in assets or income. This duty still applies even though the assets that are held in a qualified Special Needs Trust are not counted as the person’s assets or income. This duty still applies even though the transfer of the person’s assets into the trust may be an exempt transfer. And this duty still applies even though a Court may have reviewed the trust and entered an order allowing the assets to be transferred to the trust.

If the person receiving the benefits has a Representative payee appointed for him/her by the Social Security Administration, the duty to report rests with the Rep. payee. If the Trust document meets all of the relevant criteria, benefits should continue or be approved, as the case may be. However if it turns out that the transaction or trust are defective, there may be wrongfully paid benefits and the representative payee and disabled person could be facing a demand for repayment years later.

What should be done? A copy of the fully executed trust and its EIN# paperwork should be promptly submitted to the agency for its review, along with the relevant court order and written verifications of the transfer and funding of the Trust, such as deposit slips and bank/brokerage statements for the trust. The Trustee should then maintain the account records on an ongoing basis as well as the receipts and copies of cancelled checks so that these verifications can be produced to the agency upon demand. If no response is received from the agency within a reasonable time of when the trust was submitted, the agency should be contacted.

The burden of proving and maintaining eligibility for public benefits rests with the recipient and the representative payee. Attending to these crucial steps can prevent problems down the road.

Call for advice on preparation, funding and administration of Special needs trusts … 732-382-6070.