Why Did the ACLU Continue Its Disability Lawsuit Against Oklahoma?

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Last November, the recipients of Oklahoma’s Medicaid Advantage Waiver and Medicaid In-Home Supports Waiver received a letter from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS). In that letter, DHS notified recipients that their services would end at the end of December due to budget issues. This sent many people into a panic, and soon the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got involved. It filed a disability lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma, but the budget crisis was addressed before services were cut. Despite this, the ACLU has continued the lawsuit.

Why Continue the Disability Lawsuit Against Oklahoma Lawmakers?

When in-home services and Medicaid waivers were on the chopping block last year, the more than 20,000 participants in the program had no alternatives to fall back on. That meant that many of them would have to give up living independently and move into nursing facilities. This problem was only compounded by the fact that there just weren’t enough beds or rooms at such nursing facilities to handle such a huge influx.

As a desperate measure, the Oklahoma Disabilities Law Center joined forces with the ACLU to file a lawsuit to stop lawmakers from cutting funding to these programs. Fortunately, the Oklahoma Legislature also recognized the impending crisis, and they cleared funds to keep these waivers funded for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, this didn’t keep the ACLU from continuing its lawsuit.

These civil rights groups continued their case by saying that future funding cuts could jeopardize these program recipients’ future services. They wanted a preliminary, permanent injunction to stop DHS from cutting funding to Medicaid waiver and in-home support programs. Chief U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton disagreed.

The judge dismissed the ACLU’s case, citing that the state agency had provided funding for the programs, thus eliminating the issue. However, the judge also made it clear that if the funding of these programs were once again threatened, and state lawmakers did not have a suitable replacement for the services being cut, then a “live case or controversy” would exist and a lawsuit like this could move forward.

This story was brought to you by the disability attorneys at Troutman & Troutman, P.C.—looking out for Oklahomans with disabilities when they need help the most.


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