A federal official said Oklahoma was “not allowed” to enforce a new law that requires people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to live in the state for five years before they can apply for certain services funded by the. State via Medicaid.
In a letter sent Thursday, a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services official said the law is unconstitutional based on previous US Supreme Court rulings that determined that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires states to treat new residents the same as long-term residents.
Federal regulations also prohibit state Medicaid agencies from denying eligibility if a person has not lived in the state for a specified period, wrote Daniel Tsai, deputy director and administrator of CMS.
“Thus, the imposition of a 5-year residency requirement for receipt of HCBS waiver services (home and community services) is not permitted,” he wrote in a letter to the legal director of the National Health Law Program, which fights for access to health care for low-income and underserved people.
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The letter, provided to Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, concerned House Bill 2899 which was passed by the Oklahoma legislature in May and came into effect on July 1.
The law sought to impose a five-year residency requirement for being on the state’s waiting list for home and community services provided to adults and children with disabilities.
“OKDHS received CMS’s letter to the National Health Law Program this afternoon,” agency spokeswoman Casey White said in a statement. “We remain on track to find solutions to end the waitlist in Oklahoma. We encourage others to join us on this mission.”
White did not respond to whether the state would drop the residency requirement.
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Republican supporters of HB 2899 said the legislation was needed because heads of state plan to make a concerted effort to eliminate Oklahoma’s 13-year waiting list for disability assistance. Lawmakers have expressed fears that once the list is eliminated, people who wait years for service in other states will flock to Oklahoma for help.
The legislation sparked an uproar among the state’s disability community this spring when disability advocates said HB 2899 was likely unconstitutional.
On June 1, the National Health Law Program, the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, the Arc of Oklahoma, and the Arc of the United States asked CMS to ban the Oklahoma Medicaid agency from enforcing the residency requirement. Thursday’s letter responded to their request.
The Department of Social Services contracted with an Oklahoma company to conduct a review of the state’s developmental disorders waitlist.
Earlier this month, Liberty of Oklahoma Corp. began to assess the nearly 6,000 families on the waiting list on a case-by-case basis. The company was hired to get a better picture of individual needs and to figure out what it would cost the state to eliminate the list altogether.