In less than a week people across the United States will head to the polls and cast their ballots in the November midterm elections. But behind the hallowed walls of the Supreme Court another battle will be brewing over the future of Medicaid.
Next Tuesday, oral arguments will begin in Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski. The case centers on whether or not the 76 million low-income Americans who currently rely on Medicaid have a legal right to bring lawsuits under federal Medicaid law.
Experts on the side of Talveski argue that without the ability to sue, tens of millions of Medicaid recipients will lose vital legal protections that help ensure they get adequate medical care.
“Over the years, Medicaid has been highly effective at improving health outcomes for millions of women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, among others,” said Lynn R. Goldman, Dean of the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health in a statement. “If these essential protections are stripped away, millions of Medicaid beneficiaries could lose the care that they depend on to stay healthy.”
The impact could be particularly pronounced for Black Americans who as of 2018, accounted for 34 percent of the Medicaid population, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
It’s worth taking a look at the man behind the case to get a better understanding of what’s at stake next Tuesday.
In 2019, the family of Gorgi Taleveski, a dementia patient and Medicaid recipient, brought a lawsuit against the Indiana health system (operated by local governments and a private management company), housing him, alleging that they had violated several provisions of federal law.
According to the lawsuit, nursing home staff administered psychotropic drugs to Taleveski in order to keep him “chemically restrained” in violation of federal law, which bans nursing homes from using psychotropic drugs for anything other than to treat “medical symptoms.”
Now, the Indiana health system is arguing that patients like Taleveski and his family shouldn’t be able to sue at all if their rights are violated.
If the Indiana health system in this case wins, they would be overturning roughly five decades of precedent that has allowed Medicaid patients to bring these types of lawsuits. It’s unclear exactly how the Supreme Court would rule. But according to VOX news, at least three of the conservative justices are likely amenable to the hospital group’s argument based on past voting records.
Based on the court’s penchant for blasting through decades of precedent, it’ll be worth keeping a close eye on the oral arguments in this case.