A federal lawsuit says Indiana's social services agency has made changes to Medicaid waiver programs that threaten to deprive thousands of developmentally disabled people of income they need to survive outside of institutions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration on behalf of 27-year-old Karla Steimel in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. The ACLU is asking for class-action status.
Steimel, who has cerebral palsy and requires assistance with daily tasks such as bathing and eating, works at an office but depends on state assistance to live outside of an institution, the lawsuit says. FSSA recently changed the criteria for one program to require applicants to need skilled nursing care such as ventilation or help taking medication. Steimel had been on the waiting list for another program for 15 years when the FSSA eliminated the waiting list and said only certain "priority" applicants would be accepted, court documents say.
"The bottom line is the state operates two significant waiver programs. And for various reasons, she's been told she can't reenroll in either one," ACLU attorney Gavin Rose said.
The state has offered Steimel, who lives in southwest Indiana's Knox County, the option of signing up for a third program, but without the others her income would be greatly reduced, the lawsuit filed Friday contends.
FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons said Monday that the agency hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit and couldn't comment.
For the first time in her life, the lawsuit says, Steimel faces the prospect of being forced into an institution.
The ACLU suit contends that the FSSA's new policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and asks a judge to order the agency to reinstate former requirements.