NHeLP “Friend of the Court” Brief Seeks to Keep the Courthouse Doors Open for Low-Income People

NHeLP “Friend of the Court” Brief Seeks to Keep the Courthouse Doors Open for Low-Income People

WASHINGTON, DC — The National Health Law Program (NHeLP), along with 42 other legal organizations, has filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski. At issue is whether provisions of statutes enacted pursuant to Congress’s spending clause authority can ever be enforced by the beneficiaries of those statutes. The specific laws at issue in this case restrict Medicaid-participating nursing facilities from using physical and chemical restraints on patients or involuntarily transferring them.

NHeLP’s brief urges the Court to allow individuals to enforce the law. Many of the signatories to the brief are Health Law Partnerships that, with NHeLP, monitor and enforce the legal rights of low-income and underserved clients in states across the country.

“For the last 40 years, the Supreme Court has recognized that individuals have the right to enforce provisions of the Medicaid Act. Working against this backdrop, Congress has amended the Medicaid Act repeatedly without taking that right away,” said Jane Perkins, Legal Director of the National Health Law Program. “It even passed a law expressly stating that individuals have access to the courts when they are being harmed by state violations of Social Security Act programs like Medicaid. Despite the unequivocal track record, this Court could issue an adverse decision—one that would slam the courthouse doors not only on Medicaid beneficiaries but also those who rely on states to properly implement housing, nutrition, education, disability, and a host of other laws. This case is no joke. An adverse decision will have huge implications for government program beneficiaries and for holding governments accountable.”

“The National Health Law Program has been working intensely on the issue of private enforcement for 30 years. While we wish it were not so, states fail to adhere to the requirements of the federal Medicaid Act. And when they refuse to correct the problems, we must go to court to stop the ongoing harm. We are talking about low-income people, whose health is deteriorating, having to fight in court for the care they desperately need,” said Sarah Somers, Managing Attorney for the National Health Law Program’s North Carolina office.

“For decades advocates in Indiana have used individual enforcement of federal spending clause legislation to ensure access to vital benefits and therapies. This includes broad access to medicines to cure hepatitis C, necessary dental benefits, and services and therapies for individuals of all ages with severe disabilities,” said Adam Mueller, Executive Director of the Indiana Justice Project. “Health and Hospital Corporation’s position that these rights are not enforceable by injured individuals is particularly shocking given its professed commitment to ‘equity, inclusion, and compassion.’”

A copy of the brief can be found here.

The case is set for oral argument on November 8, 2022.

Connecting with the Experts:

Jane Perkins is the National Health Law Program Legal Director. She leads our efforts to ensure that legally required health care protections are implemented nationally and at the state level. Jane also manages the National Health Law Program’s litigation docket. She has served as lead or co-counsel in more than 35 high-profile lawsuits across the country to protect and advance the health rights of low-income and underserved individuals. She has written and trained extensively on access to court issues, including the enforcement issue now before the Court.

Sarah Somers is Managing Attorney of the National Health Law Program’s North Carolina office. Working with health and poverty law advocates across the country, she engages in litigation, research, writing, and training on the Medicaid program, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Affordable Care Act, and court access among other issues.

Media Contacts: 

NHeLP is monitoring case developments and will be providing updates on an ongoing basis.

Andy DiAntonio, Director of Communications, National Health Law Program | [email protected] | 703.615.0786 (text for fastest response)

Jane Perkins, Legal Director –National Health Law Program, North Carolina  | [email protected] 919.968.6308, ext. 101.

Sarah Somers, Managing Attorney – National Health Law Program, North Carolina  | [email protected] | 919.968.6308, ext. 102

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