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ACLU Wins Appeal in IN Medicaid Waiver Case

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ACLU Wins Appeal in IN Medicaid Waiver Case

May 16, 2016

On May 10, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana on behalf of several plaintiffs with disabilities who had challenged the state agency's changes to Indiana's Medicaid waiver programs. The plaintiffs argued that the changes limited their ability to lead active lives in the community and increased their risk of being institutionalized. 

A spokesperson for the ACLU, Gavin Rose, said, "The U.S. Supreme Court long ago recognized the harm that unnecessary segregation causes people with disabilities, and this harm exists whether they are segregated in a formal institution or in the restrictive environment of their own homes. Right now, Indiana is not living up to its duties under the Americans with Disabilities Act or to its responsibilities to people in our society who truly need our help."

The lawsuit was brought in 2013, arguing that the changes in the Medicaid program went against the state's obligations under the Olmstead mandate within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that requires that people be served in the least restrictive setting appropriate. The appeals court reversed a lower court ruling, saying that the state "may not, by invoking the rules of its waiver program, limit qualified persons to only 12 hours in the community each week." It further held that the state may not limit services to an extent whereby people with disabilities are placed at risk of unnecessary institutionalization. 

This case is different from the Supreme Court of Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Inc., where the court determined that providers did not have standing to sue a state over inadequate rates, and thus never got to the merits of the case. Lack of standing was not an issue in this more recent case brought on behalf of individuals receiving services.

The court opinion is available here.

Sources: WBAA and ACLU