ActivePaper Archive Lawmakers question lien note sent to ex-state ward - The Providence Journal, 9/29/2012


Lawmakers question lien note sent to ex-state ward

Officials say attempt to recoup money spent on medical care is required by federal, state law

PROVIDENCE — Two state lawmakers are asking why a former ward of the state received a letter regarding a lien for medical care he received while in the custody of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.

State Representatives Michael W. Chippendale and Doreen Costa, both Republicans, appeared Friday with Nicholas Alahverdian, 25, at a State House news conference about a notice seeking reimbursement in the event of a legal settlement for $206,918 in medical assistance for Alahverdian dating back to 2002.

Alahverdian is suing the state alleging he was abused while in DCYF care. (At the time, his legal name was Nicholas Rossi.) The suit is pending in U.S. District Court, Providence.

The lien pertains to any possible settlement that could come out of that suit.

State officials said Friday the lien refers to Medicaid funds spent on behalf of Alahverdian which, by law, the state is required to attempt to recoup if he obtains a settlement.

“It just really smacks of some sort of retaliatory action being taken against him,” said Chippendale, R-Foster. “I really don’t fully understand the motivation behind it.”

The Sept. 4 letter from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services was sent to the lawyer representing Alahverdian.

Jacqueline G. Kelley, legal counsel to the executive office, said the notice was sent in response to a request by Alahverdian’s lawyer for information about outstanding liens. Such notices are routinely requested by lawyers, she said, when they are trying to assess the amount the state might be entitled to recoup for medical expenses from court judgments or settlements.

Federal law requires that states attempt to recover from liable third parties any Medicaid funds expended on behalf of their residents, David Bur-nett, the executive office’s associate director, said.

“We are mandated by state and federal law to recoup this money,” Burnett said. “There’s really no choice in it.”

Kelley added: “If no money comes in we don’t pursue it. We’re never actually billing our client for the money.”

Alahverdian, however, maintained that the state has no right to recoup any funds for what he called “unconstitutional, abusive, and negligent services.”

His lawyer, Matthew L. Fabisch, of Warwick, did not return a call seeking comment. (401) 277-7335