NC Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Pachas

Remands Case to N.C. Court of Appeals

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s fight for healthcare access continues today as the North Carolina Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Center to vacate a North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Pachas v. NC Dept of Health Human Services.

The Court concluded that the Court of Appeals’ ruling to dismiss the case because the Center had not exhausted all the administrative remedies available was wrong and that a lower court had jurisdiction to enforce its order without exhaustion of those remedies.

The case now goes back to the Court of Appeals to rule on the merits of the case.

In 2018, attorneys argued before the Court that the state was violating federal Medicaid law in applying its definition of family size to determine eligibility for benefits. The Center brought the case on behalf of a terminally ill man, Carlos Pachas, who had been the primary provider for his wife, two young daughters, and elderly in-laws. Pachas was trying to support his family on Social Security disability benefits before eventually qualifying for Medicaid benefits that covered his medical treatment for a stroke and a brain tumor.

Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services determined Pachas’ income was above the federal poverty level based on the level of an individual, not for a family, and required him to pay a large deductible on his Medicaid benefits. Had the department applied the federal poverty level standard for a family, Pachas would have been eligible for Medicaid benefits without having to pay a deductible.

Pachas died in 2017, but the Center continued fighting his case with his wife in efforts to correct this error that has impacted the Pachas family and the thousands of North Carolinians who may have also been denied medical coverage.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s systemic work has been critically important throughout its 50-year history, impacting a wider scope of NC residents beyond the organization’s direct individual legal services.

For many families struggling to become self-sufficient, their wellbeing is dependent on maintaining access to benefits that offer health, food and income security. But for some, including disabled, elderly and non-English speaking people, systemic obstacles from government agencies often hinder access to critical services and benefits. The Center’s Family Support and Health Care Program seeks to ensure that low-income individuals and families have fair access to vital health care and public services.

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