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The Importance of Deadlines in Fair Hearing Cases: An Example Out of Alabama

A recent case out of Alabama illustrates just how important the procedural rules are to the fair hearing process. The case also serves as a prime example of why an elder law attorney should be involved throughout the Medicaid application process. In this article, we analyze the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Case Ex Parte Alabama Medicaid Agency (Ala. Civ. App., No. 2190092, Jan 10, 2020).

 

While cases that discuss procedural issues are not necessarily the most exciting pieces of jurisprudence, they are consequential and should be viewed with a heightened sense of impact. In fact, for a Medicaid applicant, certain procedural rights are extraordinarily important and implicate due process considerations. For example, the right to notice of a Medicaid denial, the right to adequate explanation and authority for a denial of benefits, and the right to a fair hearing are all procedural in nature.

 

In Ex Parte Alabama Medicaid Agency, the Applicant filed a Medicaid application which resulted in an award of benefits subject to a transfer penalty period. The pertinent facts before the court were that the Applicant received notice of denial on October 30, 2018 and filed a request for a fair hearing that was not received by the state agency until March 14, 2019 – more than sixty days after receiving notice. The Alabama Code requires that a request be filed within thirty days after receipt or other notice of a final agency decision, such as the imposition of a penalty period.

 

The state agency declined to award the Applicant a fair hearing and the Applicant filed a complaint with the trial court seeking an order that a fair hearing be granted. In response to this complaint, the state agency filed a motion to dismiss the Applicant’s complaint. The trial court stayed the matter pending a fair hearing on the merits of the contested case. After additional procedural steps, the state agency filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy where a higher court issues an order to a lower court or government body to perform an act or duty they are obligated to perform under the law.

 

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found in favor of the state agency and issued the writ of mandamus. In issuing the writ, the Court cited the section of the Alabama Code implementing the thirty-day period in which an applicant can appeal an agency’s final decision as well as the lack of authority in the trial court to extend that deadline. Because the Applicant did not satisfy the procedural requirements under the Alabama Code, the Applicant effectively waived their right to appeal. Accordingly, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found that the trial court lacked the authority to order a fair hearing and issued a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to issue an order granting the state agency’s motion to dismiss the Applicant’s complaint.

 

Deadlines are extraordinarily important in the legal field, and the appeal of a Medicaid denial is no exception. Ex Parte Alabama Medicaid Agency illustrates the importance of deadlines and further demonstrates the need for a well-versed elder law attorney familiar with the Medicaid application process. At Krause Financial Services, we understand the urgency when applying for Medicaid, which is why we work diligently to complete our part of the process in a timely manner. Contact our team if you’d like additional information on how to best avoid fair hearing issues in the future.

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