In Medicaid Case, Delaware Federal Court Affirms Fundamental Right to Travel

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE 

C.A. No. 05-127 (GMS)
 

MARIANNE DUFFY, by her parents and legal guardians, Sean and Elise Duffy,  Plaintiff, 
 
v.
 
VINCENT MECONI, Secretary, Delaware Department of Health & Social Services, in his official capacity,  
 
MARIANNE SMITH, Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, in her official capacity, and
 
ELAINE ARCHANGELO, Director, Division of Social Services, in her official capacity,
 
Defendants.
 
 __________________________________________ 
MaryBeth Musumeci, Esquire, and Dan Atkins, Esquire of COMMUNITY LEGAL AID SOCIETY, INC., Wilmington, Delaware, and Jane Perkins, Esquire, and Sarah Somers, Esquire of NATIONAL HEALTH LAW PROGRAM, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Attorneys for Plaintiff. 
 
Noel C. Burnham, Esquire, and Richard M. Donaldson, Esquire of MONTGOMERY, McCRACKEN, WALKER & RHOADS, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, A. Ann Woolfolk, Esquire, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Wilmington, Delaware, and Patrick T. Ryan, Esquire, and Jessica C. Goebeler, Esquire of MONTGOMERY, McCRACKEN, WALKER & RHOADS, LLP, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Attorneys for Defendants. 
 __________________________________________ 
 
OPINION

SLEET, District Judge 
 
I. INTRODUCTION
The above-captioned action is one for declaratory and injunctive relief, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 (1994), and Fed. R. Civ. P. 57 and 65, arising from the Defendants? alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2003). (D.I. 1 ¶ 5.) The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(a)(3) and (4) (1993). Pending before the court are cross motions for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. (D.I. 50, 54.) For the following reasons, the court will deny the Defendants? (?the State?) motion for summary 
judgment and will grant the Plaintiff?s motion for summary judgment. 
II. BACKGROUND
The plaintiff, Marianne Duffy (?Ms. Duffy?), is 33 years of age and has resided in Hubert, North Carolina since 1994. (D.I. 55 at 1.) Ms. Duffy, a Medicaid beneficiary, lives in an intermediate care facility for mental retardation (?ICF/MR?)1 because she suffers from ?developmental disabilities including blindness, seizures, autism, and mental retardation.? (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.) Ms. Duffy is non-verbal and requires a highly structured living environment with constant supervision and care due to her susceptibility to seizures, falling, and self-abusive behavior. In 2001, Duffy?s parents (?the Duffys?) relocated from North Carolina to Delaware. (Id. ¶ 2.) The Duffys desire to be near their daughter and feel that it is in their daughter?s best interest to be near them. As such, the Duffys started the process of relocating Ms. Duffy to Delaware. Because they are unable to care for their daughter on their own for any significant period of time, the Duffys applied to the Defendants to obtain residential placement and services through Delaware?s Medicaid program.2 (Id. ¶¶ 2, 21.) 

 
Medicaid ?authorizes Federal grants to States for medical assistance to low-income persons who are age 65 or over, blind, disabled, or members of families with dependent children or qualified pregnant women or children.? 42 C.F.R. § 430.0 (2004). A participating state "must provide Medicaid to eligible residents of the State.? § 435.403(a). Accordingly, a person?s entitlement to benefits from a particular state depends, in part, on whether she is a resident of that state, which is determined by the State according to its own policies and procedures. ?Within broad Federal rules, each State decides eligible groups, types and range of services, payment levels for services, and administrative and operating procedures.? Id. Because Ms. Duffy is institutionalized and became incapable of indicating her intent before her twenty-first birthday, her state of residence is the same as her parents? state of residence at the time she was placed in an institution, i.e., North Carolina. § 435.403(i)(2)(ii); see also 16-5000-5100 Del. Code Regs. § 14110.7(a). Thus, in spite of the fact that her parents currently reside in Delaware, she remains a citizen of North Carolina. 
In response to Ms. Duffy?s application, Defendant Marianne Smith, Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (?DDDS?), ?determined that [Duffy] was not a [Delaware] resident and her residential placement needs were not ?urgent? according to the state registry system and therefore determined that [Duffy] would not be provided with community residential services.? (Id. ¶ 25.) 
 
At least some ICF/MR facilities require, as a condition for acceptance, some type of payment source or guarantee of payment. (See D.I. 55, ¶ 6, S. Duffy Aff., Ex. A. to Pl.?s Opening Br.) (identifying Chesapeake Care Resource, Inc. as one such facility for which a new resident must ?[h]ave necessary paperwork and obtain funding and approvals of [the] state agency?). Ms. Duffy?s primary source of income is her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, which is approximately $600 per month. (See D.I. 55 ¶ 11, S. Duffy Aff., Ex. A. to Pl?s 
Opening Br.) Ms. Duffy also receives negligible income for piecework in her vocational day program (approximately $113.00 total in 2004). (Id.) Ms. Duffy?s inability to privately guarantee payment, and the State?s refusal to process and approve Medicaid benefits, have become barriers to Ms. Duffy?s ability to be accepted and enrolled in an ICF/MR facility in Delaware. 
 
III. PROCEDURAL POSTURE 
 
Ms. Duffy filed the present action, through her parents, in which she alleges that the Defendants? refusal to provide her with residential placement and services violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV of the Constitution (Count I), the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count II), and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count III), by improperly restricting her right to interstate travel. (Id. ¶¶ 28-33.) During a teleconference on October 19, 2006, the parties and the court agreed that a trial in this case would not be necessary and that the court could decide the legal issue on summary judgment. On October 23, 2006, the court heard oral argument on the parties? cross motions. 

 
IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that a court shall grant summary judgment ?if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and 
that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.? Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment under Rule 56 is appropriate only when the court, viewing the record as a whole and drawing reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, 
determines that the Rule 56(c) standard has been met. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). 
 
V. DISCUSSION
 
The constitutional issue to be decided in this action is whether the Delaware and federal Medicaid residency rules impose an unconstitutional burden on Ms. Duffy?s constitutionally protected right to interstate travel. The right to travel from one State to another is fundamental, and the right has been firmly established and repeatedly recognized in this nation?s jurisprudence. United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 757 (1966). Because the right is fundamental, any policy that burdens or impinges upon that right is subject to strict scrutiny. In re U. S. ex rel. Missouri State High School Activities Ass?n, 682 F.2d 147 (8th Cir. 1982); In re Merrill Lynch Relocation Management, Inc., 812 F.2d 1116 (9th Cir. 1987). 
 
States may not violate the constitutional right to travel by imposing a term of residency as a condition upon the receipt of public benefits. Int?l Org. of Masters, Mates & Pilots v. Andrews, 831 F.2d 843, 846 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 962 (1988). The states may, 
however, condition nonessential benefits and rights, such as lower college tuition and dissolution of marriage, on a term of residency. Id. Likewise, states may impose bona fide residence requirements to ensure that services and benefits go to actual residents of the state. Id. at 847. Insignificant restrictions on travel, however, do not amount to a denial of the fundamental right to interstate travel. Cramer v. Skinner, 931 F.2d 1020, 1031 (5th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 907 (1991); cf. Hawaii Boating Ass?n v. Water Transp. Facilities Div., Dept. of Transp., State of Hawaii, 651 F.2d 661, 664 (9th Cir. 1981) (holding that a durational residency requirement for preferential rates for mooring privileges in recreational boat harbors did not penalize the fundamental right to travel). 
 
A state law implicates the constitutional right to travel when it actually deters such travel, when impeding travel is its primary objective, or when it uses any classification which serves to penalize the exercise of that right. Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez, 476 U.S. 898, 903 (1986) (internal citations and quotations omitted). See also Smith v. Paulk, 705 F.2d 1279, 1284 (10th Cir. 1983) (holding that where a classification operates to penalize the exercise of the constitutional right of interstate migration, the legislative classification must be justified by a compelling state interest). The federal guarantee of interstate travel protects interstate travelers against two sets of burdens?the erection of actual barriers to interstate movement and being treated differently from intrastate travelers. Bray v. Alexandria Women?s Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263, 277 (1993) (citing Zobel v. Williams, 457 U.S. 55, 60 n.6 (1982)). See also Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. 168 (1869) (holding that Art. IV, § 2, ?inhibits discriminating legislation against [citizens of other States and] gives them the right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them?); Toomer v. Witsell, 334 U.S. 385, 395 (1948) (holding that Art. IV, § 2, ?insure[s] to a citizen of State A who ventures into State B the same privileges which the citizens of State B enjoy?). 

 
 A. State?s Motion for Summary Judgment 
 
The State argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on two grounds. First, the State contends that there is no evidence of any obstacle to Ms. Duffy applying to and, if accepted, moving to a facility in Delaware. In support of this argument, the State reasons that, under the 
governing federal Medicaid regulations on residency, as well as Delaware?s Medicaid regulations, Ms. Duffy would become a Delaware resident, eligible for Delaware Medicaid if she applied to, was accepted at, and moved into an appropriate facility in Delaware. Yet, the parties do not dispute that Ms. Duffy will become a Delaware resident and eligible for Medicaid once she moves to Delaware.3  These undisputed facts don?t establish, however, that the State is entitled to summary judgment. 
 
In Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. v. Leean, the Seventh Circuit rejected a similar surface-level examination of the regulations at issue, but went on to focus on the effect of the challenged provisions: 
 
The Medicaid regulations do not forbid anyone to change his state of residence. But neither did the welfare provisions struck down in Shapiro v. Thompson. All that either set of provisions does or did is impose a severe monetary penalty on indigents who move from one state to another. 
 
122 F.3d 443, 448 (7th Cir. 1997) (discussing Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969)). Thus, because ?the power of a state to confine its public services to residents does not entitle the state to establish arbitrary barriers to a nonresident?s becoming a resident,? id., the defendants had the burden of demonstrating that the barrier could be permissibly justified. The defendants were unable to justify the erection of such a significant impediment to this fundamental right?the right to interstate travel. As a result, the federal Medicaid provisions at issue were struck down as unconstitutional. Bethesda Lutheran, 122 F.3d at 450. Here, the Medicaid residency policy at issue has the same unconstitutional effect of barring individuals who need ICF/MR services, and who cannot individually afford them, from establishing residency for Medicaid purposes in Delaware. 
 
More to the point, it is not the residency regulations themselves that frame the legal issue; rather, it is how the State applies and puts such regulations in practice. Thus, the question is whether, by requiring Ms. Duffy?who cannot afford private care, to first physically move to Delaware at her own expense, before the State determines her Medicaid eligibility, the State is violating her constitutional right to travel. 
 
The State acknowledges that it ?will not determine the Medicaid eligibility of an applicant until such time as that person is a resident.? (Transcript of S.J. Oral Argument at 30-31, Oct. 23, 2006.) It is this policy, i.e., the timing of the approval process which is not specifically dictated by regulation or statute, which has effectively prevented Ms. Duffy from moving to Delaware. The record reflects, and the State doesn?t dispute, that Ms. Duffy?s medical condition warrants intensive supervision such that even her parents are unable to physically move her to Delaware and provide temporary care while the State determines Ms. Duffy?s Medicaid eligibility. (See D.I. 54, Affidavit of Marc Goldman, Ex. D, ¶ 8.) There is no dispute among the parties as to the fact that Ms. Duffy cannot afford to pay for the care that she requires, even for a minimal time period.4  (Tr. at 36, Oct. 23, 2006.) The evidence of record also reflects that Ms. Duffy has been unable to secure placement at a facility capable of providing her care without assurance that funding is in place. (See D.I. 59-2 at 2-3, Supp Aff. of Sean Duffy, Ex. A.) 
 

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