Disabilities Case Waits on Supreme Court Ruling

by David Gorn

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A federal judge last week issued a stay of a court case challenging the freezing of some provider reimbursement rates for services for the developmentally disabled in California -- effectively putting off the case until February or March, after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in a similar case it is currently hearing.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. denied the state's request to dismiss the case. He also denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction on the rate freeze.

He cited a pending CMS ruling on health care provider costs that could also inform the court case. But the big one to wait for is the Supreme Court case, Douglas v. Independent Living Center, according to Tony Anderson of the Arc of California, which brought the case for the developmentally disabled.

"We will all be waiting for the Supreme Court decision," Anderson said. "So yes, probably March, if not sooner."

The Supreme Court is hearing a California case that addresses whether low-income people can sue states over federal Medicaid requirements, in the same way that businesses can sue states over consumer protection laws. That affects the disability case on one level, because Arc is claiming that the state should have asked for and received federal approval before instituting the rate freeze.

"We also have a state claim, as well," Anderson said, "that says the rules of the Lanterman Act can't be implemented anymore [with the provider rate freeze]. So even that piece is being held up, waiting for the Supreme Court decision. But they're going to hear the case, no matter what happens in the Supreme Court. So that's good news."

State officials have declined comment on all pending legislation.

According to the developmental disabilities lawsuit, the state gets federal funding under the Home and Community Based Services waiver for services for the developmentally disabled, but it has cut those services, even as the state has continued to collect federal money for them.


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