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Birth Injury Case May Affect Medicaid Recipients

Updated March 26, 2021 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a heated case between a Medicaid recipient and the State of North Carolina. In Delia v. E.M.A., a child born in February 2000 suffered extensive damages including blindness, deafness, and cerebral palsy in connection with her birth. According to her parents, the child, Emily Armstrong, was the victim of medical negligence.

Doctor Sued for Medical Malpractice

The obstetrician who delivered Emily, Dr. James A. Barnes Jr., reportedly had a history of prescription drug abuse and he voluntarily gave up his license to practice medicine three months after Emily was born. Due in large part to the severity of Emily’s medical needs following her birth, she became a recipient of federal Medicaid insurance administered by the State of North Carolina.

In 2003, Emily’s parents sued Barnes, the hospital at which Emily was born, and a number of other entities for medical malpractice. In 2006, the family settled the case for $2.8 million. Officials in North Carolina subsequently placed a lien on one-third of the settlement pursuant to a state law. The state placed the lien in an effort to recoup a portion of the estimated $1.9 million North Carolina purportedly spent on Emily’s medical care prior to the award. Emily’s family then challenged the North Carolina law by stating it conflicted with a federal Medicaid law that forbids a state government from placing a lien on a recipient’s property.

Medicaid and Medical Malpractice

Previously, the Supreme Court held that the federal Medicaid Act’s property protections only apply to those portions of a medical malpractice settlement that are not meant to reimburse a patient’s medical costs. Unfortunately, the settlement in Emily’s case failed to specify what portion of the funds were based on the child’s medical expenses and what monies were awarded for other damages such as pain and suffering. According to North Carolina officials, the state should be allowed to determine how much of the settlement may be taken for Medicaid reimbursement.

The outcome of the case could have a dramatic effect on how states may claim money awarded to Medicaid beneficiaries following medical malpractice injuries. North Carolina and other state officials are reportedly concerned that if the case is decided in Emily’s favor, future medical malpractice settlements may be structured in a way that prevents states from seeking any reimbursement from Medicaid recipients. Eleven states have purportedly filed a formal brief in support of North Carolina’s position. The United States Department of Justice and AARP have reportedly sided with Emily’s family.

Contact a Birth Injury Attorney Today

Every year, thousands of Indiana residents suffer tragic injuries as a result of physician negligence. All medical professionals who treat patients in our state must provide a level of care that meets or exceeds the accepted standards of practice for their profession. When a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider fails to meet that standard of care and a patient is harmed, a medical malpractice claim may arise.

If your child suffered a devastating birth injury due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Birth Injury Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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