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I-Team: State Taking Back Money From North Andover Nurse

By Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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NORTH ANDOVER (CBS) — A nurse who works for Mass Health and accidentally let her license lapse now has another battle to fight.

Julie Frascarelli of Chelmsford, has been a nurse for 30 years but now, she cannot pay her bills.

“It is like devastating financially,” she says. “We had -$74 balance in our bank and that is when I knew they had done something.”

When she says “they” she means the State of Massachusetts.

The I-Team spoke to Frascarelli in September.

She takes care of 12-year-old Leevon Toppi of North Andover, who requires 24-hour care.

He can’t walk, see, nor speak.

While caring for him one day last year, she realized her nursing license had expired.

She quickly renewed it online and paid the $57 fine.

However, Mass Health then demanded she pay back all the money she earned for that 6-week period when she didn’t have her license. That’s $10,000.

Toppi’s father David told WBZ-TV, the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

“It’s insane. I think it’s pretty unfair to kind of diminish what she does for work, especially with a child like Leevon,” he said.

But Monday, her appeals denied, the state is garnishing 100-percent of her wages, leaving her with nothing.

“We are in stunned disbelief. We don’t know what we are going to do. How do you come up with money? We are working people like a lot of people who live pay check to pay check.”

In a statement to WBZ, Mass Health says it “has initiated a process to recover funds that were collected while the nurse was unlicensed, and has offered to set up a payment plan to resolve this issue.”

In Worcester today, WBZ-TV asked Gov. Deval Patrick if he could help.

“I am sure Mass Health will answer questions you may have …and more importantly Mass Health will work to solve whatever problem,” Patrick said.

The problem is Mass Health does not differentiate between someone who has committed fraud with no license and someone who is a long time employee whose license simply lapsed.

In both cases it is treated the same.

Mass Health released the following statement to WBZ-TV:

“This provider has received nearly $400,000 from MassHealth since fiscal year 2010 for her important work in providing care to one of our members. MassHealth has initiated a process to recover funds that were collected while the nurse was unlicensed, and has offered to set up a payment plan to resolve this issue,” said Alec Loftus, MassHealth spokesman.

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