Momentum Builds As Indiana Democrats Speak Out Against Potentially Devastating Supreme Court Case

Indiana Democrats are coming out against a Supreme Court case brought by one of their own municipally owned corporations that risks hobbling critical social safety net programs like Medicaid. 

Local activists have been pressuring elected Democrats to use their influence over the Indianapolis-area Health and Hospital Corporation’s (HHC) board for months, hoping that they’ll push the board members to drop the case. 

Some members of the clunkily named Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council have already come on board. 

“As I’ve learned more, I would like us to get out of this,” Councillor Ali Brown (D) told TPM in a recent interview. “I’ve been educating other councillors.”

At a Thursday press conference, Council Vice President Zach Adamson (D) read a letter calling on HHC to withdraw its petition, or at least to narrow the scope of what it’s asking of the Supreme Court. The case initially grew from a garden variety dispute over treatment of a nursing home inhabitant, but has since swelled to include the question of whether beneficiaries of spending programs like Medicaid can sue in federal court at all when their rights are violated.

“This case is to Medicaid what Dobbs was to abortion,” Adamson read, quoting a TPM story on the case. 

The councillors, who directly appoint members of the HHC board, aren’t the only lawmakers who are coming around. 

In a Wednesday statement, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (D), who also appoints a few HHC board members, issued a declaration. 

“I agree with the position that the Biden administration has taken in its amicus brief: HHC’s adoption of this more aggressive stance on appeal is a step too far,” he said. “Like the Biden administration, I support HHC’s position on the original, core issue, but I disagree with its decision to ask the Supreme Court to go even further and undermine existing rights.”

“I call upon the Board of Directors of HHC to instruct HHC leadership to narrow its arguments before the Supreme Court to the well-reasoned position outlined by the Biden administration,” he added. 

Activists maintain that a narrowed case is not enough. Bryce Gustafson, an organizer with Indiana’s Citizens Action Coalition, told TPM that they will continue to lobby HHC to drop the case altogether at its Tuesday board meeting. 

State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D), who represents Indianapolis, joined the growing chorus calling for the case to be dropped on Friday. 

“The pursuit of HHC of Marion County v. Talevski has the potential to strip millions of vulnerable Americans of critical legal protections when their rights are violated,” he said in a statement. “For that reason, I call on the Health and Hospital Corporation to withdraw their suit. As should any citizen, the poor, elderly and disabled should have the right to protect themselves against negligence and abuse by seeking justice through the state and federal judicial system.”

The ripples have reached the state’s federal representation too, with a member of Indiana’s U.S. House delegation tweeting out a statement Thursday.

“I’m very concerned and disappointed to see a lawsuit filed that could make it harder for low-income patients to exercise their rights if they’re been mistreated,” Rep. André Carson (D-IN) said. “I will be closely monitoring this litigation and also exploring legislation to clarify our Congressional intent to preserve the ability of low-income patients to exercise their legal rights if they’ve been treated badly, particularly if they’ve relied on federal social safety net programs.” 

As TPM first reported, the case has even attracted the attention of congressional leadership, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), along with relevant committee chairs from both the House and Senate, pounding the alarm that the case could have “disastrous consequences.” 

The Biden administration also intervened, giving the Supreme Court justices an offramp where they can deal with the nursing home part of the question, but not the larger question of beneficiary lawsuits.

Oral arguments in Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski are scheduled for November 8. 

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