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Judges send Medicaid case back for review

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The Indiana Court of Appeals remanded a Medicaid benefits denial to the Administrative Law Judge because her decision lacked findings of fact making the case mostly unreviewable by the appellate court.

Alesa Pack applied for Medicaid in 2008. Prior to her application, she had been in two car accidents, diagnosed with panic disorder and schizophrenia, and had many surgeries and treatments for her injuries from the accidents. Pack mentioned physical and psychological ailments as her reason for applying. The review team, ALJ, and Family and Social Services Administration denied benefits; the trial court ruled against Pack.

While her appeal was pending, Pack obtained Medicaid benefits, but this issue isn’t moot because the application for benefits at issue covers medical costs from a two-year period during which her newly awarded benefits don’t provide coverage, noted Judge L. Mark Bailey.

In reviewing the ALJ’s decision, the appellate court found no error in her decision regarding Pack’s physical condition. The ALJ found basic facts contrary to Pack’s assertions and concluded through a proper application of the regulations that she wasn’t substantially impaired from walking or light office work. But the ALJ barely touched upon Pack’s psychiatric conditions. The ALJ didn’t apply the functional limitation factors set forth in the state’s Medicaid regulations and her use of the record on Pack’s psychiatric conditions was selective, wrote Judge Bailey in Alesa Pack v. Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, No. 89A05-1004-PL-240.

“We are mindful here of our duty not to reweigh evidence, a function properly assigned to the ALJ,” he wrote. “Yet the ALJ’s findings here leave us without confidence that she weighed Packs’ psychiatric evidence or applied relevant law to that evidence in reaching a decision.”

The judges sent the case back to the ALJ because the decision was issued “without observance of procedure required by law.” The court also addressed the purposes, function, and proper form of findings of fact and conclusions of law in an administrative context because of the number of administrative orders issued each year.

“Yet we are at times confronted with orders that are defective because the agency’s decision lacks support in the record, that do not adequately articulate a basis for the agency’s decision, that recite the contents of evidence presented to an agency without making proper findings of basic fact, or that simply fail to adequately or rationally apply law to found facts,” Judge Bailey wrote. “Failing to follow proper procedures and form for agency orders may reflect an underlying failure to observe due process of law, whether or not due process was actually had by any or all affected parties and whether or not the agency’s ultimate decision is correct.”

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