November 8thththe US Supreme Court should hear oral arguments in Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County (HHC) v Talevski. The case raises the question of whether Medicaid beneficiaries can seek help from the federal court when they believe their rights have been violated by state officials, or whether enforcement of state compliance with federal Medicaid rules should be left solely to the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) services. While the case involves Medicaid, there may be implications for other federal programs besides Medicaid, where states play a role in administration or implementation. This political surveillance explains the case and the stakes with the Supreme Court decision.
Which is Talevski Case?
Gorgi Talevski’s family filed a lawsuit against the Health and Hospital Corp of Marion County, Indiana (HHC) (a municipal corporation and political subdivision of the state that operates nursing facilities) claiming that their nursing facility such as chemical restraints, involuntary transfers, and attempted involuntary discharge into a dementia facility violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA). FNHRA sets the minimum standards of care that nursing home facilities must adhere to to participate in the Medicaid program. The Talevski family sued using a federal law known as Section 1983, which the parties have used for decades to enforce certain federal rights.
The family argues that “the FNHRA rights against chemical restraint and inadvertent discharge and relocation are enforceable under Section 1983 and that an adverse ruling would be disastrous for federal safety programs.” A federal district court dismissed the case, ruling that Medicaid enrollees cannot enforce the FNHRA. The Talevski family filed an appeal and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court, allowing the Talevski case to continue. HHC has petitioned to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. On 2 May 2022 the Court of Cassation accepted the request for certiorari and the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on November 8, 2022.
The Court will examine two issues. The first is generally whether the Court should review its long-standing position that individuals have the right to sue in a federal court to protect rights for legislation created under the constitution’s expense clause (e.g. , federal laws including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)). The second, narrower issue is to assume that individuals have executive rights, are the rights guaranteed by the FNHRA executive.
How does the enforcement of Medicaid requirements work now?
Under current law, states administer Medicaid within broad federal guidelines. There are generally two ways in which state compliance with federal requirements is enforced: through oversight of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and through litigation in federal courts.
If CMS detects that a state is not compliant with federal rules, the agency can work with the state to make it compliant. If states do not comply, CMS can provide a notice of opportunity for a hearing and then proceed to withhold some or all of the corresponding federal funds until the state is compliant. However, the authority to withhold federal funds is rarely used because it is a very broad and straightforward tool that could impede a state’s ability to comply. A recent example of a CMS working with a state: In July 2022, CMS used a mitigation plan to help address application processing times and backlog of outstanding applications in Missouri. By September, officials responded that the state complied with federal requirements for processing times. However, federal enforcement is generally not swift, and the federal agency has discretion as to when to intervene, unlike courts where a decision can result in immediate action.
While there is no private right of action in the Medicaid statute, a civil rights statute, Section 1983, has long provided a mechanism for individuals to enforce the rights provided to them under federal programs. There is a long history of litigation related to the private enforcement of the Medicaid Act. While the courts have asserted the authority for individuals to use Section 1983 to protect Medicaid rights, the Supreme Court has issued rulings restricting this authority. . There is currently a trident (according to the cases Blessing against Freestone (1997)) and (Gonzaga University against Doe (2002)) that courts use to assess whether a federal law establishes an enforceable law. The three factors that determine whether a statutory provision creates an enforceable right privately are: (1) whether the plaintiff is an intended beneficiary of the statute; (2) if the interests claimed by the plaintiff are specific enough to be asserted; and (3) whether the statute imposes a binding obligation on the state.
Federal circuit courts have generally advocated private enforcement of Medicaid enrollees rights (particularly in cases where the state has denied early and periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment benefits, enrollment, or assistance ( EPSDT) in the least restrictive area). On the other hand, the courts have also ruled that suppliers and subscribers have no enforceable rights to sue for inadequate payment rates. Appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings in patient cases contesting a state’s decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid program. The court previously refused to review multiple cases where Planned Parenthood patients had an enforceable right, but there is a petition currently pending.
In 2019, there were four judgments from region courts that all ruled in favor of beneficiaries’ right to enforce Medicaid provisions. However, during 2020, three of the four district court decisions failed to rule in favor of Medicaid enrollees, even in Greater Texas Planned Parenting v. Smith (2020), where the suit 5th The circuit overturned a previous panel decision Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast Inc. (2017) and concluded that Medicaid patients do not have the right to challenge Texas’ decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid program.
What is the risk?
Numerous amicus memoirs have been presented in support of both sides. Indiana filed a memo that was joined by numerous other states, supporting Marion County and noting that private rights of action can disrupt the dynamics of state and federal administration of grant programs. The American Health Care Association and Indiana Health Care Association also filed an amicus in support of the county, arguing that Congress did not intend to create private law action against public actors under Section 1983. The brief suggests it would create disparate treatment as private entities are not subject to harm under the laws governing the participation of nursing facilities in Medicare and Medicaid programs.
At the end of September, 25 amicus pleadings in support of Talevski were filed. The briefs were filed by the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), other advocacy organizations, professors and scholars; population groups (including AARP, American Cancer Society and Bazelon Center), supplier groups (including public hospitals and community health centers) and federal officials (former HHS officials and former / current members of Congress). Both NHeLP and George Washington University have compiled summaries of these summaries. The key points raised in these summaries include the following:
- The case could overturn more than five decades of judicial precedent and undermine Congressional intent that individuals are able to use federal courts to enforce rights under federal programs.
- If enforcement is left to HHS, millions of Americans could be at risk because federal enforcement is inadequate due to limited capacity and funding.
- A decision to limit people’s ability to sue in federal court could deprive millions of Medicaid enrollees access to care, including children who are eligible for full coverage under the EPSDT benefit and those with chronic illnesses. , serious life-threatening diseases and people with disabilities.
- The court’s ruling could affect the rights of millions of low-income Americans who rely on other expense clause programs, not just Medicaid.
The federal attorney general and the state of Indiana obtained approval to participate in the oral discussions. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in this case on November 8th and is expected to deliver a ruling by the end of the term in June 2023. Separately, the Indiana Public Access Advisor issued an advisory opinion that HHC’s decision to petition the Supreme Court violated state law of the door open because HHC did not seek public input. Morgan Daly, the director of public policy for the Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council, filed the complaint in the hope that the HHC board will hold a vote and potentially withdraw the petition. It is unclear how this will affect the case, which could have implications far beyond Marion County and Indiana.