Court Permits Lawsuits Against States for Nursing Services
Elderly and disabled people whose nursing care is stopped because of state budget cuts can sue their states under a provision of Medicaid that requires a specific level of nursing care for certain low-income beneficiaries, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In the case, seven Oregon residents sued the state after their nursing services were eliminated in 2003 because of state budget cuts.
A federal judge in 2004 dismissed the case, ruling that only the federal government and not private citizens could enforce the Medicaid law. However, a three judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the Medicaid provision was designed to protect the rights of patients, and returned the case to the lower court.
The ruling is binding in the nine states covered by the court -- including California, which has not reduced nursing care services.
Jeanne Finberg of the National Senior Citizens Law Center said reductions to Medicaid included in the federal Deficit Reduction Act could lead to future lawsuits under the ruling (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/9).