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County gets half-million state check after lawsuit

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A $538,015 check from the state that Jefferson County received to make up for a Medicaid error on the state’s part might go toward filling gaps in programs caused by — what else? — state funding cuts.

Jefferson County officials were pleasantly surprised on June 14 when the half-million-dollar check showed up in the mail, but it was money to which the county was already entitled — and was suing to get.

“This is money that we really would have expected all along,” said Michael E. Kaskan, the deputy county administrator. “We got our money back, let’s put it that way.”

For years, New York was supposed to pay the counties for administering certain Medicaid programs. The programs were for care of the indigent mentally disabled. But it didn’t. Counties all around the state, including St. Lawrence, have successfully sued to get back the money they were owed.

Jefferson County launched its lawsuit earlier this year, and the check it received in the mail was unofficial notification that the state is giving up on its legal defense.

The money could help fill gaps in social safety net programs that the state has cut back on, said Laura C. Cerow, the county’s social services director.

“It’s not earmarked, and yet every single program that we are mandated to support, the state has reduced funding for,” said Ms. Cerow. “This money won’t mean that we’ll have extra money to spend.”

The county’s Health and Human Services Committee is expected to vote to accept the money at its meeting today.

The half-million-dollar reimbursement is only part of what the county says could be coming its way. The county had actually sued for more than $747,000, in two installments. The $538,015 was part of the first installment.

Nancy Rose Stormer, the attorney representing the county in the matter, is slated to receive nearly $250,000 for her efforts on the case, a third of what the state might finally pay back to the county. It’s possible, Ms. Cerow said, that the state will foot the bill for legal costs, too.

“Her fee is substantial but, without her, we wouldn’t have been able to get any reimbursement,” Ms. Cerow said. “She understands the process.”

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