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Brooks v. MHIP Amicus Brief Filed

On April 27, 2009, the Public Justice Center joined by the American Cancer Society South Atlantic Division, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., Maryland Disability Law Center, Medicaid Matters! Maryland, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform, and Civil Advocacy Clinic of the University of Baltimore School of Law filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief in the case of Brooks v. Maryland Health Insurance Plan,, No. 1774, Sept. Term 2008 in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Mr. Brooks whose family has lived in Maryland since 1978 returned to Maryland permanently in 1999 to take care of his brother whose health had deteriorated.  The same year of his return, Mr. Brooks himself was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis, narcolepsy, and depression. Because he is self-employed and has no access to group-based insurance, Mr. Brooks found it virtually impossible to obtain health insurance on the private market due to his “pre-existing condition.”   In July of 2003, he became one of the first Maryland residents to enroll in the Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP), a state-controlled “high-risk” pool, which accepts enrollees who have been denied coverage by private insurers.   In 2007, MHIP terminated Mr. Brooks’ coverage even though Mr. Brooks owns a house in Columbia, pays income taxes in Maryland, has a Maryland driver’s license, and is registered to vote in Maryland.  Mr. Brooks appealed to CareFirst, which administers the program for MHIP, and then to the Executive Director of MHIP, who had also ordered the initial termination. Neither entity provided Mr. Brooks with notice as to why he was no longer considered a resident nor a meaningful hearing. MHIP’s Executive Director affirmed his initial termination decision finding that Mr. Brooks was no longer a resident due to his many work-related activities in the District of Columbia.   Mr. Brooks appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed MHIP’s decision, and then to the Court of Special Appeals.
The amicus brief drafted by Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow Matthew Hill detailed the importance of MHIP enrollment to its members and argued for a full application of due process protections that were conspicuously absent in MHIP’s decision to terminate Mr. Brooks’ enrollment. First, the brief highlighted the significant gaps in the current market schema of available health insurance for individuals who have debilitating medical conditions and no access to group-based insurance. For such individuals, MHIP is the only potential source of insurance, and therefore the only defense against enormous medical bills and the oft-resulting descent into poverty.  Second, the brief provided a historical overview of the due process significance of full notice of an agency’s position, including any evidence or criteria relied on by the agency, and a subsequent oral hearing where the affected individual can confront the agency’s case. Additionally, the brief reinforced the importance of providing an agency adjudicator free from the appearance of impropriety as well as the fact that the involvement of a private entity as administrator of the state’s program did not alter the state’s obligation to comply with traditional tenets of due process in the termination of an important property right.

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