Hearings and Appeals COVID-19 Procedures
Updated: July 20, 2020
The Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA), along with many organizations in Pennsylvania and around the country, have modified operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. BHA is making every effort to protect the health and well-being of all individuals involved in the appeals process, while still ensuring due process is served and appeals are heard in an efficient and appropriate way.
For more information on the general statewide response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, or for additional information regarding COVID-19, please visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health's website.
Telephone or Face-to-Face Hearing during COVID-19
BHA conducts many of its hearings by telephone, and did so before COVID-19. For those hearings, there is no change. BHA is open, and our Judges are conducting hearings by telephone. However, due to COVID-19, our ability to conduct face-to-face (in-person) hearings is limited. Whether your hearing will be conducted face-to-face or by telephone will be determined by your preference and the issue type as noted.
Recipient Hearings: As of July 20, 2020, BHA will conduct all recipient-type hearings, regardless of the choice that was selected on your appeal form, by telephone. The Governor's July 10, 2020 Executive Order permits agencies under the Governor's Jurisdiction to conduct telephone hearings for hearings that would normally be scheduled face-to-face (in-person). Examples of Recipient Hearing Issues:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Medical Assistance (including HealthChoices and Community HealthChoices appeals)
- Cash Assistance
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Medical Assistance Provider Hearings (expedited type): These appeals hearings are typically all conducted by telephone.
Child Abuse Expunction Hearings: Due to the sensitive nature of these hearings, these hearings will be conducted face-to-face (in-person). However, there may be some cases that may be conducted by telephone, and we are working to identify these cases. BHA is working to schedule these hearings in the coming months within the guidelines for face-to-face hearings noted below.
Licensure and other Formal Hearings: BHA is conducting pre-hearing conferences with the parties to determine whether these cases can be scheduled for a telephone hearing, or if a face-to-face hearing is absolutely necessary. At these conferences, the parties in coordination with BHA will determine whether the hearing will be held face-to-face or over the telephone.
Formal Medical Assistance Provider Hearings: After the discovery, and upon submission of all position papers, these appeals are typically scheduled for a pre-hearing conference. The BHA Pre-Hearing Judge will discuss the possibility of a telephone hearing at this conference.
BHA Safety Measures for Face-to-Face Hearings
If you are scheduled for a face-to-face (in-person) hearing at one of our BHA hearing locations (Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, Reading, Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia), you will be required to adhere to the following safety measures and guidelines.
a. Pre-Hearing Conference
In advance of a face-to-face (in-person) hearing, the BHA Judge will conduct a pre-hearing conference a few days prior to the in-person hearing in order to address many of the unique issues related to conducting in-person hearings during this pandemic.
- Your scheduling notice will indicate the date and time of this conference.
- This conference will be held by telephone.
b. Wearing of Masks and Social Distancing Requirements
All visitors, including appellants, attorneys, witnesses, court reporters and others are required to wear a mask covering the nose and mouth at all times while on BHA premises. No one will be permitted entry without a mask. Note that BHA employees will also wear masks.
- If an individual is unable to wear a mask/cloth face covering due to a disability, BHA must be notified in writing and in advance of the hearing so that accommodations can be made.
c. Witnesses Providing Testimony at the Hearing
Any witnesses who will provide testimony in-person should remain off BHA premises (but in close proximity) until it is the witness's turn to testify.
- When an attorney or unrepresented appellant is ready to call a witness, the Administrative Law Judge will direct the attorney or unrepresented appellant to call the witness's cell phone and have the witness enter the BHA facility to provide testimony.
- If any witnesses are persons not permitted to enter BHA facilities as noted below, arrangements must be made with the Regional Manager to present such witness testimony by telephone.
- Attorneys and/or unrepresented appellants are required to discuss the aforementioned prohibitions with their witnesses in advance of the hearing and inform BHA as soon as possible if any of the prohibitions are applicable.
Please note that represented appellants (by an attorney or other authorized representative as permitted by the hearing type), and the primary department representative (if the department/agency is represented by an attorney) may, but are not required to, remain for the entirety of the hearing.
Arrangements for telephone testimony must be made at least two (2) days prior to the scheduled hearing date, with notice to the court and all parties, or such testimony may not be permitted.
d. Limited Access of Non-parties and Non-Witnesses
Aside from BHA personnel, entry to BHA facilities is limited to appellants, departmental representatives, attorneys, witnesses, and/or court reporters. These individuals should refrain from bringing others to BHA for hearings. Exceptions to this policy may be made at the discretion of BHA management under certain circumstances based on requests made in writing and in advance of the hearing.
e. Persons Not Permitted to Enter BHA Facilities
The following individuals will not be permitted at BHA facilities:
- Persons, who on the day of the hearing, are self-quarantining or who have been advised to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, health agency, or public official because of:
- Exposure to COVID-19; or
- Travel to a country or region with an outbreak of COVID-19.
- Persons who, within 14 calendar days prior to the in-person hearing, traveled to any of the states or regions noted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
- Persons who reside with another who, at the time of the in-person hearing or within 14 calendar days prior to in-person hearing:
- Is self-quarantining or was advised to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, health agency, or public official;
- Was diagnosed with COVID-19; or
- Had symptoms of respiratory illness.
- Persons who, within 14 calendar days of the in-person hearing, had close contact with,
- Someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19; or
- Someone who was advised to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, health agency, or public official.
- Persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not been symptom free for at least 14 calendar days prior to the in-person hearing.
- Persons who, on the day of the in-person hearing or within the 14 calendar days prior to the in-person hearing, experienced or are experiencing any symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, severe cough, or shortness of breath.