CLEVELAND (CN) - Ohio illegally seizes money from tort awards to people who received Medicaid benefits, two people claim in a state class action.
Lead plaintiffs Michael A. Pivonka and Lisa Rijos sued Michael B. Colbert, the director of Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services, and Attorney General Mike DeWine, in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
They claim Ohio's "Subrogation Statute" is unconstitutional.
The class includes an estimated 20,000 people "who were forced to forfeit a portion of their tort recovery to defendant pursuant to a demand by defendant of a right of subrogation pursuant to Section 5101.58 of the Ohio Revised Code (the 'Subrogation Statute')."
The law "purports to give defendant a right of recovery against monies recovered from a third party for the cost of medical assistance paid on behalf of a public assistance recipient or participant," the complaint states.
It continues: "Under O.R.C. 5101.58, even if a judgment or award specifically excludes the cost of medical assistance paid by defendant, the statute still grants defendant this right to recovery.
"O.R.C. 5101.58 automatically entitles defendant to one-half of the total judgment, award, settlement or compromise, after deduction of fees, costs, and other case related expenses are deducted, without regard to the amount the victim received for medical reimbursement.
"O.R.C. 5101.58 provides no mechanism for the recipient or participant to challenge the tort recovery amount attributable to defendant's medical assistance.
"O.R.C. 5101.58 violates the federal Medicaid statutes anti-lien provision, 42 U.S.C. 1396 (p)(a)(1), and is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. VI, Cl. 2."
Pivonka says the state grabbed more than $7,000 from his settlement for a car accident. Rijos claims Ohio took more than $700 from her jury award.
They seek class certification, declaratory judgment and they want their money back.
They are represented by Christian Patno, with McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal and Liffman, in Cleveland.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.