Saturday, October 4, 2003

Lawsuit seeks to block Kentucky Medicaid cuts

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Advocates for the elderly and disabled filed a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking state Medicaid cuts that are forcing hundreds of people to lose nursing home care and other services.

Legal Aid lawyers filed the suit Thursday on behalf of 10 elderly or disabled people being cut from the state Medicaid program.

The suit alleges the cuts violate federal law that requires states to set "reasonable standards" for providing Medicaid services.

It also alleges the state has violated rights of Medicaid clients by providing inadequate or confusing and conflicting notices that they are being terminated from Medicaid.

"We should all feel shamed in this state - the governor, the legislature, all of us - about how we are taking care of the elderly and frail," said Anne Marie Regan, a lawyer with the Office of Kentucky Legal Services Programs. "If it takes a lawsuit to change things, then so be it."

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, asks Judge Joseph Hood to order the state to stop the cuts and rescind all previous cuts it began in April to help eliminate a shortfall in the Medicaid budget.

It also asks that he authorize the lawsuit to proceed as a class-action case on behalf of thousands of Kentuckians likely to be affected.

Named as defendants are Health Services Secretary Marcia Morgan and Medicaid Commissioner Mike Robinson, the officials who are carrying out the new rules.

"We deny the claims and we will defend the lawsuit," Cabinet for Health Services spokesman Gil Lawson said Friday.

The new rules, adopted on an emergency basis by Medicaid, have generated growing concern among lawmakers as those being cut off, their families and advocates for the elderly and disabled have flocked to recent meetings in protest.

Last month the joint House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted to ask Gov. Paul Patton to withdraw the new rules, but the governor rejected the request, saying lawmakers had failed to provide sufficient funding for Medicaid.

The committee members are to formally review the rules this month and could reject them by finding them deficient.

The lawsuit's plaintiffs include three women in nursing homes, six people getting home health or adult day care services in the community and one in a personal care home who left her nursing home after she was cut from Medicaid.

Seven have appealed and have kept services while the appeals are pending but three were cut off and lost Medicaid services.

The lawsuit alleges that Medicaid's new rules are too rigid and are cutting people with serious medical needs who are entitled to services.

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