- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - An advocacy group for affordable health care has sued the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of a 21-year-old Omaha college student who was denied Medicaid benefits.

The Nebraska Appleseed Center’s lawsuit accuses department CEO Courtney Phillips and the department’s director of Medicaid and long-term care, Calder Lynch, of violating the federal Medicaid Act, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1U56wT0 ).

Appleseed attorney Sarah Helvey said Azar Webb should have been approved under a Medicaid category added by the Affordable Care Act for those up to age 26 who formerly were in foster care. HHS’ plan authorizes federal funding only until age 21.

Helvey is asking a Lancaster County judge to stop HHS from denying Webb coverage and to reimburse him or medical professionals for medical care he received after he turned 21 in September.

He has significant health care needs, Helvey said in the lawsuit.

Webb entered foster care last summer, and a Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge found it in his best interest to participate in the Bridge to Independence Program. A hearing officer later found Webb ineligible for Medicaid because he was not in foster care when he was 18.

Helvey said the case is a continuation of an appeal that started last fall.

“It’s in our client’s best interest to get this resolved as quickly as possible so he can receive coverage for the important medical treatments he needs,” Helvey said.

HHS has a policy against commenting on pending lawsuits. A department spokeswoman responded to a request for comment Sunday by providing court documents in which the department defends terminating Webb’s Medicaid benefits when he turned 21. The department says in the document that Webb was allowed to participate last year in the state Bridge to Independence program, intended to help former foster children transition into independent adulthood and that “it is not clear that participation in the BTI program under a voluntary service agreement constitutes ‘foster care’ under the responsibility of the state.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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