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.

Department of Justice Reaches Agreement in Arkansas Accessibility Case

Under its Project Civic Access, the Department of Justice reached an agreement with Van Buren County, Arkansas.  The county agreed to make its facilities and parking lots accessible to people with disabilities, ensure equal access to its emergency management services, make its web site accessible, and install curb ramps throughout the county.  Read more about the settlement.

Department of Justice Releases New Information and Resources

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an Olmstead web site that includes information and resources about the Olmstead case and decision, a searchable map that lists ongoing Olmstead litigation in the 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals involving DOJ, guidance for states and local governments about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) integration mandate, and information about how to file an Olmstead complaint. The site allows people to sign up for email updates concerning Olmstead. To read a press release about the new web site, go to the Department of Justice website.
DOJ also issued a new technical assistance guide for state and local governments about their obligations under the Olmstead decision and the integration mandate of Title II of the ADA. The guide includes a question and answer section related to Olmstead that answers, among other questions, “What is the most integrated setting under the ADA and Olmstead?”

On the thirteenth anniversary of the Olmstead decision, DOJ asked to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed against the state of Texas that alleges nearly 4,500 nursing home residents who have developmental disabilities do not receive proper treatment or the opportunity to transfer to places better suited for their needs. To read more about the case and DOJ’s statement of interest in the case, go to the ADA web page.

Illinois Settlement in Community Integration Case

The state of Illinois reached a settlement agreement in a community integration lawsuit filed in 2005 by four individuals who lived in intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities (ICF/DD) but wanted to live in more integrated settings. Under the agreement, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that choose to move from ICFs/DD will be able to move into community homes. An additional 3,000 people living at home without services will be provided with community-based services.  Two years ago, hundreds of people opposed an earlier version of the settlement agreement fearing that their family members would be forced to move. Under the settlement agreement, those who choose to live in an ICF/DD may do so. To read more about the settlement, go to the Equip for Equality website summary.

Lawsuit to Close Facility Dismissed

A federal District Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit initiated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the state of Arkansas in which DOJ alleged that a facility for 500 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including school-age children, should be shut down. DOJ alleged that the Conway Human Development Center provided substandard care and failed to transition residents into more integrated community-based settings. DOJ went so far as allege that the center was deadly for residents whose life expectancy was significantly less than individuals in similar facilities. The judge ruled that the center is not meeting all of the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but that the state is responsible for enforcing IDEA. The judge said that DOJ failed to show that the care at the facility was inappropriate. DOJ has not indicated whether or not it will appeal the decision. To read the ruling, view the PDF on the Disability Rights Center of Arkansas website.

The Department of Justice Settles in Two Accessibility Cases

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a settlement agreement with Beginning Montessori Academy in Baldwin Park, California. The state-funded private preschool informed a parent by letter that it would not allow her 5-year old child who has autism to return the following year nor would it accept any student with autism or any specialized condition or need in the future. The preschool agreed that it would not discriminate against individuals with disabilities and that it would change its policies, practices and procedures when necessary to accommodate students with disabilities. Read the settlement agreement on the ADA website.

DOJ also entered into a settlement agreement with Megabus USA LLC and Megabus Northeast LLC located in Chicago and Elizabeth, New Jersey in which the company agreed to provide accessible transportation services.   During a trip between New York City and Baltimore in August 2010, Megabus failed to provide an accessible bus for a passenger who used a wheelchair. Megabus agreed to stop using its inaccessible vehicles and to make its entire fleet of vehicles accessible within 120 days. Megabus also will make its online reservation system available to people with disabilities equivalent to the system available to people without disabilities. See this settlement agreement on the ADA website.

Housing Accessibility Lawsuit Filed

DOJ filed a lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act against owners, developers, and design professionals involved in the building of nine multi-family housing complexes in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. The projects include over 2,000 apartments with over 800 accessible, ground-level units. The lawsuit alleges that the properties are not accessible to people with disabilities because they do not have accessible pedestrian routes or parking; have doors that are too narrow for people who use wheelchairs and inaccessible environmental controls, such as light switches; and have kitchens and bathrooms that are not accessible. Read the DOJ’s press release.