NCLEJ Joins Michigan Medicaid Lawsuit on Behalf of Adults with Developmental Disabilities

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice announced today that it had joined with Legal Services of South Central Michigan, The Michigan Poverty Law Program, and Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc. in filing a lawsuit in Michigan federal court challenging Medicaid budget reductions imposed on adults in and around Ann Arbor who have developmental disabilities.  The new action expands on a previously filed attack on the same reductions.

The Medicaid waiver program involved is designed to assist such individuals in integrating into the community and avoiding institutionalization; consistent with those goals, participants in the program have a right to “self determination” in hiring staff and obtaining other needed services and supports.  In 2015, however, the mental health authority for Washtenaw County, Michigan (Ann Arbor area) sought to address its own budget problems by changing the way the amounts available for self-determination Medicaid clients were calculated.  The new method was completely unrelated to any changes in the clients’ medical circumstances, yet it sharply reduced the clients’ ability to hire staff and, as well, the availability of necessary non-staff services. One severely autistic plaintiff can now no longer get out into the community on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, due to lack of staff; he is effectively institutionalized in his own home as a result of the benefit reductions, and his condition has taken a serious turn for the worse.

As alleged in the Complaint in Waskul, et al. v. Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, et al., No. 2:17-cv-12355-LVP-EAS, this benefit reduction violated a number of provisions of the Medicaid Act, as well as the specific promises the State of Michigan made when it applied for, and obtained from the federal government, a waiver of certain otherwise-applicable Medicaid rules.  The benefit reduction was effected without proper notice to the affected participants and violates the “most integrated setting” requirement of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, as applied by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.

NCLEJ’s clients include six adult residents of Washtenaw County with developmental disabilities and the Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy.  In announcing the filing, Marc Cohan, Executive Director of NCLEJ, said, “Like many state and local Medicaid officials these days, Washtenaw County mental health officials have sought to balance their own budgets by cutting benefits to those they are duty-bound to serve. NCLEJ looks forward to working with its Michigan partners to restore these much needed benefits to the developmentally disabled community in Michigan.”