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Federal Court Orders Idaho Health and Welfare to Revisit Medicaid Rates


  • Kelsey Hawes

A federal judge ruled today that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare must develop new safeguards to protect Medicaid patients, holding that the Department "arbitrarily deprives participants of their property rights and hence violates due process."

In 2012, a group of 12 severely disabled residents sued the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, saying that IDHW wouldn't disclose its methodology of calculating benefits. The patients argued that benefits had been cut by as much as 40 percent; but attorneys for IDHW said Idaho's formulas to determine those benefits were a "trade secret."

The lead plaintiff in the suit was identified only as K.W., a 30-year-old man with severe epilepsy, thus giving the lawsuit the name of the "K.W. v. Armstrong."  Attorneys for K.W. and other plaintiffs said K.W.'s Medicaid benefits had totaled $102,000 in 2010 but those benefits were cut by approximately $20,000 the following year with no explanation. In his ruling, handed down March 30, Winmill agreed and ordered IDHW to reveal its standards for determining assistance and benefits.

"This case defends basic, fundamental constitutional rights for some of Idaho's most vulnerable," said ACLU Idaho Executive Director Leo Morales.

The order from Idaho's Chief Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill will require IDHW officials to submit details of how the department calculates payment and assistance for that care.

"Let's hope that this decision will turn its focus from fighting against constitutional protections and toward embracing them," said Richard Eppink, ACLU Idaho legal director.