- Associated Press - Monday, June 4, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A lawyer who the state says was responsible for missing a deadline to appeal a costly Superior Court decision resigned Monday amid mounting criticism.

Gregory Hazian, a lawyer for the Office of Health and Human Services, resigned after the agency said he failed to notify his bosses about a court decision and its deadline for appeal.

The decision means the state agency could have to pay about $24 million in Medicaid payments to dozens of nursing homes. The state missed a May 23 deadline to appeal the decision and asked for more time Friday.

In a statement, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would hold “the people who put us in this position” accountable.

“I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by this development. It is unacceptable,” she said.

Raimondo later said in a news conference that she had asked the attorney general to investigate Hazian.

Hazian had been placed on leave pending an agency investigation before he quit. His boss, Deborah George, has also been placed on leave.

In a court affidavit, George said Hazian did not tell the agency about the court’s decision or the deadline. Hazian was the agency’s only counsel of record on the case and therefore the only one notified about the decision.

George also said Hazian was removed from the state’s attorney rolls in January. He didn’t tell the agency about that either, George wrote.

WPRI-TV reports Hazian was removed because he failed to complete continuing education for 12 straight years. He also did not show up to a Dec. 14 court hearing to explain the missed sessions.

Hazian declined to comment to WPRI-TV and has not responded to a request from The Associated Press.

The case involves a state law that calls for a two percent reduction in Medicaid payments provided by the state to nursing homes. The court sided with the nursing homes, which would require the state to pay roughly $8 million annually for three fiscal years.

The state believes it could win the case if the court allows it to appeal.

“That’s bologna,” said Virginia Burke, the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, an association of nursing facilities. Burke said the case was rightly decided, and the state made an unauthorized rate cut regardless of Hazian. “This case should never have happened.”

The potential liability comes as lawmakers prepare to unveil their budget proposal. Larry Berman, a spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, said it was “another moving piece” to consider.


Information from: WPRI-TV, http://www.wpri.com

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