Judge blocks NC Medicaid changes

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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted a preliminary injunction December 8 to block recent state Medicaid changes that increased eligibility standards for people with disabilities seeking in-home services.

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Disability Rights North Carolina, the National Health Law Program and Legal Services of Southern Piedmont filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of North Carolina on May 31, arguing that the changes, which resulted in the termination of in-home services for more than 2,000 individuals, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Prior to June 1, when the new rules went into effect, individuals were eligible for in-home care services if they required hands-on assistance in two of five listed categories: bathing, dressing, toileting, mobility and eating. The changes increased this threshold to three categories.

To receive services at one of the state’s adult-care homes, required assistance is only needed in one of seven similar categories.

As part of his order granting the preliminary injunction, the judge said the disability advocacy groups would likely win at trial because the changes likely violated Medicaid comparability requirements, which are “violated when some recipients are treated differently than others where each has the same level of need.”

Likewise, the judge said the disability advocacy groups would likely prove that the changes violated the ADA, and the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C., which prohibits the “unnecessary segregation” of people with disabilities in isolated facilities when those individuals can live in more integrated settings in their capabilities.

“(The state was) very short-sighted in saying, ‘If we cut these services now, we can save a little bit of money.’ But in reality, it costs North Carolina taxpayers more money down the road,” Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina, told WSOCTV.com.

Disability Rights North Carolina is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.