Monday, November 23, 2015

NY bills for costs of care after alleged cases of abuse

Nov 23, 12:19 PM (ET)

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 at a state-run group home. Then, after her death, he was astonished again when he received a $1.6 million bill from the state for the cost of her care.

Liblick says it was a coldhearted attempt by the state to get its hands on the money her estate eventually won in a lawsuit over her abuse.

"They were found negligent and grossly negligent and now they want to be rewarded?" said Liblick, who secured a $2.5 million verdict against New York last month for the assaults Paula Liblick endured in 2009.

At least three times in recent years, New York has pursued Medicaid reimbursement of $1 million or more from those who allegedly suffered devastating, even deadly, mistreatment while in state care. In two of those cases, the state eventually dropped its claims after the families contested them.

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."


Attorneys in two other cases said the state likewise filed liens after they sued, alleging abuse.

One involved 33-year-old Rasheen Rose, who was severely autistic and died three years ago at a group home in New York City after being held down. A medical examiner ruled it a homicide. His sister received a $2.15 million settlement. One year after the lawsuit was filed, New York officials sent her a bill for nearly $11.7 million.

That was dropped after lawyers requested and obtained an itemized list of those expenses, attorney Rob Santoriella said.

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. His family said he was systematically abused, malnourished and beaten with sticks when he crawled off a mat where the staff kept him.

The family received a $2.25 million settlement, and as part of the deal, the state dropped its lien for $2.2 million for K.C.'s state care.

"I don't think it's a valid lien in the first place," said attorney Ilann Maazel, who represented K.C. "It seems they do have a choice."

In Paula Liblick's case, she was found with bruises and blood in her diaper, and authorities determined she had been sexually assaulted at different times at her group home in Orange County.

She died two years later of cardiac arrest in a hospital after she had somehow become infected with a dangerous Caribbean parasite, her brother said. Five staff members at the now-closed group home were fired, and nobody was ever charged, he said.

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.

Said her brother: "There was never good care."

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