Woman Says State's Bungled Privatization of Family Services Cost Her Her Eyes

     (CN) - As a result of Indiana's privatization of its Family & Social Services Administration, widely viewed as a boondoggle in favor of contractor IBM, a woman says her adult schizophrenic son was kicked off Medicaid. With no medication, she says, "his voices told him to gouge out her eyes, and he did."
     In her claim against Indiana and IBM, which took over the state social services agency on a $1.3 billion contract, she says her son was kicked off medical coverage despite her repeated submissions of all the documents requested. 
     Sharon Land sued Indiana's Family & Social Services Administration, its Secretary Anne Murphy and IBM in Terre Haute Federal Court.
     Seth Land is her adult son. She says he was diagnosed as schizophrenic "when he stripped naked and burned his clothes at the middle of the Earlham College campus on April 15, 2007, where he was attending as a student."
     He was committed to a psychiatric hospital, where "it was learned that Seth, without his mother's knowledge, and prior to her divorce from Seth's father, had been seriously and serially sexually molested by his father, and his paternal grandfather, who was blind in one eye," according to the complaint.
     "Since the Earlham incident, Seth has had a compulsion to strip and have sex with men. Seth has been self-destructive and violent to others when off psychiatric when off psychiatric medication. This has led Seth to extended incarceration periods, and also several lengthy commitments to hospitals. During one period of incarceration, he gouged out his eye with a toothbrush."
     Seth was released from jail on Jan. 18, 2009, and the state and IBM refused to process his request for Medicaid, his mother says. According to the complaint, under the privatized system, the Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA) and/or IBM, the state's "privatization contractor," devised and ran "an administrative system which involved one employee handling the public contact desk each day." Those "John and Jane Doe [defendants] were the daily desk officers who failed or refused to process the renewal application for Seth Land which led to the personal injuries to plaintiff herein."
     Indiana's privatization of its FSSA system led to three giant lawsuits, and several minor ones. Indiana and IBM filed dueling lawsuits against each other in May 2010, the state claiming that IBM had bungled its installation so badly that it would cost taxpayers "hundreds of millions of dollars." IBM countersued for breach of contract.
     "FSSA was left with virtually nothing of value from IBM's failed performance, and indeed is now faced with expending hundreds of millions of dollars in reprogramming and eventually entirely replacing IBM's failed systems," the state claimed, as Courthouse News reported at the time.
     Indiana added that IBM's performance was so bad it led to numerous civil lawsuits against the state.
     In April this year, Medicaid recipients filed a class action against IBM and subcontractors, claiming thousands of people were denied coverage or suffered lapses in coverage because IBM screwed up its installation so badly that the state fired it 7 years early from its $1.3 billion contract.
     All those complaints were filed in Marion County Court, Indianapolis.
     FSSA contracted with IBM in December 2006 to "privatize and modernize the public benefits eligibility determination process."
     Land says that after FSSA and IBM "refused to process Seth for Medicaid renewal" in January 2009 and "wrongfully forced the guardian [her] to reapply for Medicaid for Seth" the defendants repeatedly refused to process, or reprocess his application, "or the forced new application. This occurred despite plaintiff bringing all requested documents several times, most or all of which were already in Seth's file.
     "During the January to May period, the guardian came to the FSSA officer 2 or 3 more times each week, bringing multiple submissions of a plethora of documents requested by John and Jane Doe, including bank statements and other proofs of eligibility, only for them to be lost or disregarded by FSSA, or IBN, and/or having been lost from the file earlier.
     "Meanwhile, Seth's medications eventually wore off.
     "The guardian constantly asked for diligent processing of the claims in each of the above repeated visits to the FSSA/IBM office, but was only responded to by repeated requests for the same documents she had already submitted and/or which were already in the file. Neither entity acted despite the guardian repeatedly advising them of Seth's mental history."
     She says her son was eligible for Medicaid throughout this time, and that she "tried in vain for places to house Seth for several months, but none would place him without Medicaid payments."
     Meanwhile, his "mental condition deteriorated steadily," and she "could not afford his $800 a month anti-psychotic medicine."
     On May 15, 2009, 15 weeks after the defendants had kicked him off Medicaid and bungled and refused to accept his reapplications, after she had gone to bed, "Seth came in and said his voices had told him to gouge out her eyes, and he did, despite plaintiff's valiant attempt to protect herself. In the ensuing fight, he also broke one of plaintiff's fingers, a rib and her nose, one eye was fully gouged out and the other, and surrounding tissue, was severely damaged. ...
     "Seth was given the necessary anti-psychotic medicine once incarcerated for this incident, and has had no further incidents of violence. The state and its contractor, IBM, at all times, and at least in time to avoid the harm herein, possessed all documentation necessary to renew the Medicaid of Seth Land herein, and knew of should have known the danger of leaving him unmedicated."
     She adds that renewing Seth's Medicaid was a mere "ministerial function," and the state and IBM failed to do it, and that after she lost her eyes, "the defendants promptly approved the Medicaid eligibility of Seth Land."
     She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights and constitutional violations. She is represented by Brent Welke of Indianapolis.