Officials of the Arkansas Department of Human Services face a new federal lawsuit over treatment of disabled people in a Medicaid program meant to allow care at home rather than nursing homes.
The crux of the lawsuit is a constitutional complaint: the state’s failure to provide an appeals hearing required for those denied services. The suit also says DHS workers have encouraged such people not to exercise appeal rights.
That’s an administrative issue with serious human consequences. They are illustrated by Legal Aid of Arkansas in a complaint for a Craighead County woman, Ginger Elder, 71. Her medical needs are many. The loss of Medicaid coverage has left her struggling.
The suit is also filed on behalf of others who’ve faced similar obstacles.
On account of actions by a department nominally said to provide “Human Services,” the lawsuit details results for Mrs. Elder:
Since March 25, 2019, due to ADHS’s termination of her ARChoices Medicaid,
Ms. Elder has not received any home-delivered meals, attendant care, or state plan personal care.
Vilas Elder, Ms. Eider’s 73 year-old husband, attempts to meet her care needs but
is not physically able to fully do so. In addition, Mr. Elder works part-time at a movie theater andoccasionally does long-distance driving to earn money. He is often gone as much as seven hours at a time. Since March 25, 2019, he has had to work more often to earn money to attempt cover costs previously covered under ARChoices Medicaid.
As a result of the termination of AR Choices Medicaid, Ms. Elder has had to stay
in one place more than she did prior to March 25, 2019, has fallen several times, has not been able to be fully changed or cleaned when needed, has stayed in her own waste longer, and has eaten less than she wants to.
As a result of the termination of AR Choices Medicaid, Ms. Elder is no longer
receiving mental health treatment. As a result, she is experiencing greater depression and anxiety, which have caused her increased suffering.
As a result of the termination of AR Choices Medicaid, Ms. Elder must now pay
out of pocket for pull-up diapers previously covered. Since March 25, 2019, she has incurred at least $500 in costs for pull-up diapers. She uses approximately 12 pull-up diapers per day and expects to continue to incur costs in order to purchase them.
As a result of the termination of AR Choices Medicaid, Ms. Elder must now
purchase more food to compensate for the daily home-delivered meal provided under
ARChoices. Since March 25, 2019, she has incurred at least $400 in additional costs for food.
As a result of the termination of ARChoices Medicaid, Ms. Elder has been denied
medically necessary vision care and services that would be covered under Medicaid. The medical provider is unwilling to see her without active insurance or prepayment for services. She cannot afford to prepay the cost for these services.
As a result of the termination of ARChoices Medicaid, Ms. Elder has received a
bill for $960 for dental services rendered that would be covered under Medicaid.
There’s more, but here’s the full lawsuit. It’s hard not to view it as a piece with other efforts by the Hutchinson administration to squeeze health coverage for the poor, whether through computer-driven assessment models or work requirements.
The suit names as defendants DHS Director Cindy Gillespie, recently named a cabinet secretary and given a pay raise by Hutchinson; Craig Cloud, director of the Division of Provider Services and Quality Assurance; Richard Rosen, managing attorney in the office of chief counsel, and DHS general counsel David Sterling, an unsuccessful candidate last year for Arkansas Supreme Court.