Sep 21

Medicaid Applicant Not Required to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Before Filing § 1983 Claim


An Ohio appeals court rules that a Medicaid applicant who filed a § 1983 claim in state court was not required to exhaust her administrative remedies before filing the claim, but her claim is dismissed because the state did not violate her due process rights. Rodefer v. McCarthy (Ohio App. Ct., Dist. 2, No. 2015-CA-1, July 31, 2015).

Velma Rodefer transferred a life estate in property to her son for $22,000. When she applied for Medicaid, the state found that the life estate should have been valued at $117,012 and assessed a transfer penalty. Ms. Rodefer challenged the way the penalty period had been calculated and her appeal was denied (Rodefer v. Colbert, Ohio Ct. App., Dist. 2, No. 2014-CA-3, May 22, 2015). 

Ms. Rodefer appealed the decision assessing the penalty period and requested a hearing. At the hearing, the state informed her that her appeal had been dismissed and that the only issue being discussed was a hardship waiver. The state eventually agreed to hold a hearing on the original appeal, a hearing that affirmed the penalty period. Ms. Rodefer filed a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of due process, among other things. (Ms. Rodefer died while the trial court case was pending.) The trial court dismissed her claim, holding that she needed to exhaust her administrative rights and that the state did not violate due process. Ms. Rodefer’s estate appealed the trial court’s decision.

The Ohio Court of Appeals, 2nd District, affirms, holding that while Ms. Rodefer was not required to exhaust her administrative remedies before bringing a § 1983 claim, her claim for violation of due process should be dismissed. According to the court, “the existence of an administrative appeals system does not preclude [Ms. Rodefer’s] ability to bring her § 1983 claim in state court.” But the court also holds that “although the hearing officers might not have addressed her specific arguments in its decisions, the complaint reflects that [Ms.] Rodefer was provided adequate notices and opportunities to be heard.”

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