Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California

The United States Supreme Court remanded the California Medicaid challenge, Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California et al., to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, delaying a decision on whether Medicaid providers and beneficiaries can bring lawsuits against state Medicaid officials.  The Douglas case arose when California severely reduced Medicaid provider rates.  Medicaid providers and beneficiaries sued, arguing that the rate reduction violated federal law.  Since the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that California’s rate reductions did not violate federal law.  The Ninth Circuit will rehear the case to determine if Medicaid providers and beneficiaries can maintain their cause of action in light of the decision by CMS.

Oregon Class Action Lawsuit Seeks an End to Sheltered Workshops

A class action lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, charges Oregon state officials with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide supported employment services to more than 2,300 state residents with disabilities who currently work in segregated sheltered workshops. The lawsuit, Lane v. Kitzhaber, seeks an injunction requiring the state to provide “an adequate array of integrated employment and supported employment services, as to avoid unnecessary segregation” and to provide supported employment services in integrated settings for all state residents currently employed in sheltered workshops. Review the complaint.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear case regarding Medicaid rate cuts

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case on Monday, October 3, that The Arc and the disability community are watching very closely.  The case, Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, concerns whether individuals and providers can sue states to block cuts to Medicaid rates.  California maintains that only the federal government can enforce the portion of the law concerning payment rates.  The case began in California when the state planned to cut provider rates, some as much as 10%.  The Justice Department and National Governors Association filed briefs taking the side of the state in the case, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), both from California, have sided with the respondents.

Medicaid law requires states to keep their payment rates high enough to attract an adequate supply of providers.  The argument in the case before the Supreme Court involves whether individual beneficiaries and providers have the right to enforce that mandate while overriding the state law reducing provider rates.  The respondents argue that under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, individuals have the right to sue a state to ensure that provider rates are adequate.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor in 2008, blocking the cuts.

If the Court finds that individuals do not have the right to sue a state to enforce the payment provision of Medicaid law, The Arc and other disability organizations fear that the federal government alone would not have the capacity to monitor over 51 different Medicaid programs to make sure that provider rates are adequate to ensure an adequate supply of providers.  A decision could come at any time during the Court’s term, which runs until June 2012.

US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Dismisses 2 Challenges to Affordable Care Act

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed two challenges to the Affordable Care Act: Virginia v. Sebelius and Liberty University v. Geithner. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s suit claimed that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that most people buy health insurance, the so-called individual mandate, violated Virginia law. At the same time the ACA was passed, the Virginia legislature passed a law saying that state residents could not be forced to purchase insurance. The Court held that Virginia did not have the right to sue because “the sole provision challenged here — the individual mandate — imposes no obligations” on the state itself. In the Liberty case, the court said the law cannot be challenged before the mandate goes into effect. Appeals to the U. S. Supreme Court have been promised in both cases.

There is a divide among the circuit courts which most likely will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. The 6th Circuit upheld the individual mandate in a June decision, while the 11th Circuit, which heard the high-profile challenge filed by 26 state attorneys general, ruled that the mandate is unconstitutional.

Department of Justice reaches ADA agreement with Montgomery County, Maryland

Under its Project Civic Access, The Department of Justice entered into an agreement with Montgomery County, Maryland and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   Montgomery County agreed to make its facilities, program, services, and policies accessible to people with disabilities, including buildings, parking lots, 911 service, sidewalks, emergency shelters, and employment policies. Read the agreement.

Department of Justice presses charges in hate crime case in New Mexico involving individual with a developmental disability

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and local New Mexico law enforcement brought the first charges under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd J. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Three men have been charged with assaulting a 22-year-old Navajo man with a developmental disability. The defendants admitted to covering the victim’s body with white supremacist and anti-Native American symbols, including shaving a swastika in the back of his head and using markers to write the words “KKK” and “White Power” on his skin. They recorded the incident on cell phones. Learn more about the case from DOJ.

11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that the requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Americans buy health insurance – the so-called individual mandate – was unconstitutional.  The Court ruled that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but ruled that the rest of the health care reform law, including the Medicaid expansion, could remain in effect.  The suit was filed by Florida and 25 other states that argued the individual mandate set to become effective in 2014 was unconstitutional because Congress could not force people to buy insurance or face a penalty.  The Obama Administration has vigorously defended the provision which is designed to slow the rate of growth in our healthcare system, insure 30 million people who currently do not have health insurance, and stop discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Challenges to the health care reform law are pending in the 4th Circuit. The 6th Circuit ruled previously that the mandate is constitutional, thus setting up a conflict between the circuits that many expect to be settled by the Supreme Court.  The federal government has 90 days to ask the entire 11th Circuit to review the 3-panel ruling or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Arc has participated in amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in several of the cases in support of the constitutionality of the individual mandate, including the 11th Circuit case.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission Settles Lawsuit with Target

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a disability employment discrimination lawsuit against Target Corporation. The EEOC’s suit charged that an employee with cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and intellectual disability worked successfully as a cart attendant with a job coach. Target later failed to ensure the presence of a job coach during work-related and job performance meetings. Following a 2004 medical leave of absence due to a seizure, the employee’s work hours were decreased dramatically, sometimes down to only eight hours per week. Target agreed to designate an ADA coordinator in its corporate human resources department and implement a company-wide policy regarding reasonable accommodations. It also agreed to pay $160,000 to settle the lawsuit. To read the EEOC press release, go to http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-5-11a.cfm

Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Affordable Care Act

A three-judge panel of the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in finding that it is constitutional to require most Americans to buy health insurance. The panel found that the “individual mandate,” as the requirement to purchase health insurance is labeled, is a “valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the commerce Clause.”  The Arc had signed onto an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.  Download and read the entire opinion.

Department of Justice Settles Case with Child Care Facility in Connecticut

The U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement in an Americans with Disabilities Act case with Beach Babies Learning Center LLC in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.  The parents of a two-year-old child with autism alleged that Beach Babies refused to serve their son and denied them access to services that were available to parents of children without disabilities.  In settling the complaint, the child care center agreed to pay the child’s parents $7,341 and agreed to make reasonable modifications in its services whenever necessary to avoid discrimination.