- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new lawsuit says Iowa’s privately run Medicaid program is violating federal laws and a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that disabled Americans have a right to live as independently as possible.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by six Iowa residents named Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state Human Services Department director, The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2s9UdvH ) reported. It said the companies running Iowa’s Medicaid program have “engaged in a pattern and practice” of cutting payments to care providers without regard to whether those cuts ultimately will reduce services that people with disabilities rely on.

“They are violating very basic human rights, but also very basic Medicaid law, rules and regulations. They’re just totally disregarding them,” said Roxanne Conlin, a Des Moines civil rights lawyer who helped write the lawsuit. “It’s kind of amazing to see how callous they are toward Iowa’s most vulnerable people.”

Advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa organized the lawsuit and hopes a federal judge will order the state to halt cuts in services which affect around 15,000 Iowans with serious disabilities. The lawsuit asks for no monetary award beyond attorney’s fees.

The state shifted to a private management of its $4 billion Medicaid program in 2016 while Gov. Terry Branstad was in office.

Neal Siegel of West Des Moines is one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. The 54-year-old suffered a brain injury in a 2013 bicycle accident which left in him a wheelchair, barely able to speak and in need of constant supervision. AmeriHealth Caritas, which oversees his Medicaid benefits, slashed monthly payments for his in-home care by more than half in march, from about $7,200 to about $3,000.

Reynolds’ spokeswoman Brenna Smith said on Tuesday that the governor’s office had not yet reviewed the lawsuit. A Human Services Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the legal matter.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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