Health Rights Law Clinic helps 10-year-old Xavier Smile Brighter with Legal Victory for Braces

June 2, 2023

Headshot of a Teenage Boy stock photo

The Health Rights Law Clinic, led by Professor Drake Hagner, recently achieved a victory for their client, 10-year-old Xavier, whose orthodontist ordered treatment to correct a jaw deformity. Despite Xavier's mother, Ms. Williams, being a persistent advocate, she could not overturn a denial of orthodontic treatment issued by Xavier's Medicaid managed care health insurance company. Seeking free legal help, Ms. Williams turned to the Health Rights Law Clinic in the fall of 2023, where student-attorneys Kelsey Kerr (Class of ‘24), and Sehar Jamal (Class of ‘24) worked closely with her.

The two student-attorneys conducted fact investigations, legal research and analysis, and represented Xavier in several status hearings before an Administrative Law Judge over the course of their semester in clinic. When the spring semester began, new student-attorneys Deja Williams (Class of ’23) and Winnie Zhong (Class of ’24), took over Xavier's representation. Despite Medicaid urging Xavier to withdraw his appeal and ask his doctor to request approval for a less expensive treatment, Deja and Winnie doubled down.

The student-attorneys worked closely with Xavier's health providers to build a strong record of support for Xavier's need for braces, including uncovering the treating doctor's opinion that Xavier would need a major jaw surgery in adulthood if Medicaid did not approve payment for braces now. Deja and Winnie drafted a persuasive letter to opposing counsel with the strong medical evidence they had gathered and a new legal argument they identified and honed. The health insurance company conceded the error, reversed the prior denial of coverage, and granted treatment within days.

One week later, Ms. Williams sent a photo of Xavier smiling with his new braces on! Congratulations to Ms. Williams, Xavier, and all four student-attorneys who worked on this case.