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What started out as a garden variety Medicaid lawsuit has mutated into a potentially catastrophic Supreme Court case that has, as of Friday, attracted the attention of several high-profile congressional Democrats.
Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski comes from Indiana, and was initially centered on the alleged poor treatment of nursing home inhabitant Gorgi Talevski, now deceased. But it’s grown since then, and now HHC — plus a coterie of red state attorneys general — is asking the Supreme Court to nix the right that let the Talevskis sue in the first place.
As of now, beneficiaries of major spending programs — think Medicaid, SNAP — can sue under federal statute Section 1983 if states violate their rights and don’t adhere to the guidelines of care mandatory to receive that federal money. These lawsuits are critical because the federal government has neither the resources nor the reach to police individual cases of mistreatment.
A band of activists on the ground in Indiana has been working for months to get HHC, a municipally-owned corporation, to drop its appeal to the Court before the right-wing majority can get its hands on it. So far, they haven’t had much luck either with the HHC board members, or with the Democratic members of the county-city council who have some sway over the board.
But cracks are beginning to show.
At a hearing Thursday night, multiple councillors voiced their unease about the lawsuit, with one invoking the Supreme Court’s overturning of abortion rights as proof that the justices can’t be trusted.
And then on Friday, as amicus briefs started hitting the docket, some high-wattage national Democrats joined the fray. The group includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and a group of congresspeople and senators who head up the committees with jurisdiction over programs like Medicaid.
“Overruling this Court’s longstanding precedent would mean states, localities, and local institutions may be largely unaccountable for their actions, particularly for rights violations of the most vulnerable citizens,” they write. “Any decision altering the status quo would dramatically impede, if not decimate, the complementary oversight of these programs provided by private suits and potentially curtail future legislation that seeks to improve the lives of millions of Americans affected by federal-state cooperative programs.”
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for November 8; the activists are fervently hoping that, with this new infusion of national Democratic muscle, their efforts to get the case dropped and bomb defused will now pick up steam.
More on other news below. Let’s dig in.