Court Finds Forced Institutional Care Likely Violates Federal Law

A federal court has ruled that cutting off Medicaid home care benefits to a woman with special needs, thus forcing her into an institution, likely violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The court has temporarily stopped Illinois Medicaid officials from reducing her benefits. Fisher v. Maram (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill., No. 06 C 4405, Aug. 28, 2006).

Devorah Fisher suffers from multiple disabilities and requires in-home nursing care. Through a waiver in the Medicaid law that provides funds to children for medical care, Ms. Fisher receives money that pays for in-home treatment. Illinois Medicaid officials informed Ms. Fisher that she would no longer be eligible for those funds once she turned 21. If that happened, her family would have to move her into an institution.

In a ruling issued on Ms. Fisher's 21st birthday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found that the resulting institutional care will likely be substantially less than what she would be receiving at home. Although it was not yet deciding the final outcome of the case, the court ruled that there is a good chance that the reduction in benefits would discriminate against Ms. Fisher, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The court therefore issued an order temporarily stopping Illinois from going through with the reduction. Ms. Fisher will continue to receive her Medicaid benefits – and her home care – while she proceeds with her court case.

The question remains of whether IllinoisÕ actions did in fact violate parts of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court will make that final determination at the end of Ms. FisherÕs case. Special Needs Answers will report the verdict as soon as we know it.

To download the full text of this decision, go to:>.

Article Last Modified: 10/03/2006