Today the Supreme Court is hearing Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski. If the S.C. overturns the 7th Circuit decision in this case, it will not be merely “earth shaking” for nursing home patients, it will be an 8.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami for all Medicaid beneficiaries. For decades, the court has upheld the right of beneficiaries of Social Security programs whose rights are violated by states to seek redress through the federal courts. Overturning this body of law has grave implications for beneficiaries of such programs as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC, replaced by Temporary Aid to Needy Families or TANF), Medicaid/Medicare funded long-term and skilled nursing care, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
In addition to the derogation of human and civil rights resulting from an S.C. reversal of a body of law upholding rights such as those delineated in Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA), the dimension of this case of major concern to me is the enhancement of states’ rights and corporate power in federally funded health and welfare programs. The nursing home industry and major corporations such as The Ensign Group, UnitedHealth Group, Molina, Centene, Anthem, and Aetna/CVS violate regulations with impunity now – imagine how they will ride roughshod over states and beneficiaries if the 7th Circuit decision goes down.
The facts of Talevski v. HHC involve an elderly dementia patient by the name of Gorgi Talevski who was managed with psychotropic drugs and transferred from a facility in violation of FNHRA requirements. Although the family fought the psychotropic constraints and transfer through state and CMS procedures and guidelines, they were frustrated by agency inaction and lack of relief. The facility, HHC of Marion County, is part of a chain of facilities owned by the State of Indiana.
Ivanka Talevski, Mr. Talevski’s wife filed a suit in federal court (their daughter Susie is the attorney in the case). The district court held that federal programs legislated in accordance with Congress spending powers do not provide for beneficiaries’ relief in federal courts and dismissed the action. On appeal, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and found in favor of Mr. Talevski.
The specific question in this case is whether patients whose FNHRA rights are violated can seek redress through the federal courts or whether their only recourse is appeal to state and federal agencies and/or through a personal liability suit. The 7th Circuit, citing precedence, decided that patients can sue a state in federal court when they incur clear violations of their FNHRA rights and reversed and remanded the case back to the district court.
It is likely that the six-member majority of extremist ideologues on the Supreme Court will overturn the opinion of the7th Circuit – a relatively conservative court with 7 members appointed by Republican presidents and 3 appointed by Democratic Party Presidents. The ideology and decisions of the S.C. conservative majority have been synchronized with the Republican Party and the reactionary conservatives now dominating the party. Extremist conservatives have been in a decades-long crusade to dismantle the administrative state. Their intention is to loosen all restraints on corporate behavior.
*6 F. 4th 7713 – Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit 2021. Can be accessed at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=10683715986232030526&q=talevski+v+health+and+hospital+corporation+of+marion+county&hl=en&as_sdt=6,26. See also: https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/health-and-hospital-corporation-of-marion-county-indiana-v-talevski/; https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/supreme-court-shadow-docket