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New year's 'gifts' for administrative judges

At the first of the year, up to 2,000 people with mental disabilities living in group homes may find themselves without lodging because of a change in Medicaid rules.

Gov. Bev Perdue said last week that she's working on a solution, but for now, state officials, legislators, and advocacy groups are promoting a plan to flood the administrative court system with appeals from Medicaid recipients affected by the new rule.

Recipients' benefits will continue during their appeals, and idea is that pumping thousands of appeals into an administrative court system with fewer than a dozen judges will give the legislature time to fix the Medicaid problem when it gets back to work in late January.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Julian Mann said being handed thousands of cases at once would be difficult, but the court could hire temporary administrative judges, if necessary, to help handle the workload.

The administrative court has 10 judges available to hear cases.

Mann said he could not comment on using administrative appeals as a stall tactic.

"Our responsibility is to absorb as efficiently as possible the cases and dispose of them in a timely manner," Mann said. But, "if you pour enough water into the canal, it will eventually overflow."

Adult care homes pressure Perdue

The industry group that represents adult care homes is pushing Gov. Bev Perdue to reject an agreement with the federal government on housing for people with mental illnesses if it requires a binding judicial order.

The state Department of Health and Human Services has worked out an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to move people living in adult care homes and institutions to more independent, community settings. 

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