December 21, 2014

Tenth Circuit: State Medicaid Program Did Not Discriminate Against the Severely Disabled

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Bass v. New Mexico Dep’t of Health on Monday, May 9, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner sought funding through New Mexico’s Mi Via Waiver program, a Medicaid program offered by the state “that offers a home and community-based alternative to institutional care for qualifying individuals.” Although Petitioner was qualified and submitted budget requests, the requests were granted in part and denied in part; Petitioner unsuccessfully filed an administrative appeal, and was equally unsuccessful in her suit against Respondents, in which she claimed that the administration of the Mi Via Waiver program discriminated against the severely disabled, including herself. However, the Court found that the excess in the budget requested by Petitioner was not discriminatorily denied by Respondents, due to the nature of her condition; the Court reasoned that Petitioner was treated as any other program applicant and it “is not required that any benefit extended to one category of individual with a disability also be extended to all other categories of individual with a disability. Thus, any class so excluded is not denied benefits solely on the basis of disability.” Additionally, the risk/safety limitation on funds available “does not facially discriminate against the severely disabled even if it may affect the severely disabled with higher frequency because of the costs needed to address their needs.”

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