CT women with disabilities sue feds over Trump Medicaid cut after 2020 election

Two Connecticut women with disabilities have sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the loss of Medicaid coverage due to a Trump administration rule change released the day after the 2020 election.

As the country focused on counting votes, Medicaid administrators in every state were being ordered to cut people’s benefits, the lawsuit charges.

One of the plaintiffs, Brenda Moore, a 57-year-old grandmother from New Haven, fears she will be placed in a nursing home when her home support benefits end on August 31. Moore relies on assistance for about 40 hours a week because she has difficulty walking or moving due to severe vascular disease.

“I’m housebound,” Moore said in an interview with Hearst CTInsider on Friday. “I can’t go out, so it’s really difficult.”

Moore said she never received a letter about her benefits change. She discovered that Medicaid had cut off payments to the home care company that employed her aide.

“I got a call and they told me,” Moore said. “And I tell them no. I did not receive a letter. Nobody told me anything.”

Moore, who cannot cook for herself, said she resorted to cold spaghetti when her help stopped coming. One day, her aide came to see her in her free time to find Moore on the floor, unable to get up.

Medicare, commonly known in Connecticut as HUSKY, is jointly funded by the states and federal government under federal rules. The Trump rule change required states to cut off Medicare coverage for certain groups of people, including those who had Medicare Savings Program accounts, like Moore.

In February of this year, Connecticut began notifying people electronically that they were on the cutting block.

“The notice said the feds had changed the rules, so now we’re cutting you off,” said Sheldon Toubman, lead attorney for Disability Rights Connecticut, which filed the suit with two national groups and Stinson LLP, a law firm. attorneys with offices in nine states and Washington, DC “There’s a whole new exception, that’s all. Shame!”

Toubman, a prominent advocate for Medicaid services for decades, estimates that at least 6,600 people in the state have been cut off during the pandemic. He didn’t know how many other people had been cut in the Conneticuit or nationwide. Toubman said the Trump administration created these exceptions as a pretext to deny people the care they were entitled to under the 2020 Coronavirus Response Act.

“There is no textual basis for inventing new exceptions to the law,” Toubman said. “They said they found an ambiguity without saying what the ambiguity was.”

HHS has been warned

This situation, in which people would lose necessary medical assistance during the pandemic, has been pointed out by political observers and advocacy groups. The National Health Law Program submitted more than 4,000 public comments urging the administration ?????????? to change your mind.

Families USA, a nonprofit health advocacy group, called the rule change “bad policy on substance and procedure” that “must be reversed” in a briefing released at the time of the change.

“The reinterpretation, which allows states to reduce benefits and increase cost sharing, will have a devastating impact on millions who rely on Medicaid,” Families USA wrote in its brief.

Elliot Fishman, senior director of health policy for Families USA, explained that the rule was rushed under emergency rulemaking provisions, but there was no political urgency to justify it.

“The only urgency that was involved here was that the Trump administration was coming to an end,” Fishman said. “I don’t know why the [Biden] the administration has maintained it, but that goes against the intent of Congress which was that as long as we have a public health emergency, and we have several at this point, we strongly urge states not to not reduce Medicaid benefits.

In the rule change, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of Health and Human Services, acknowledged that these rule changes could result in the transfer of people with chronic conditions to Medicaid programs that did not cover medical care. chronicles. CMS, as the agency is known, wrote that this could “negatively impact the recipient who loses full Medicaid coverage” and “also undermine states’ COVID-19 response efforts.”

“I think there’s a potentially significant legal liability for HHS,” Fishman said. “I think they should take it seriously as a matter of law and as a policy.”

Moore, the disabled New Haven grandmother, and Toubman hope that in an upcoming appeal with a judge, the state will be prevented from withdrawing her benefits at the end of the month.

“I think what they did was totally wrong,” Moore said. She said she had trouble getting from bed to her bathroom, that if she could pay for help herself, she would. “If they did this to me, how many other people did this to?”

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