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Judge rules AHCCCS violated rules on in-home care

A federal judge ruled that Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System violated federal law by discriminating against people who sought in-home care from the state’s Medicaid program.

U.S. District Court Judge Earl Carroll’s ruling Friday upholds an injunction that he imposed in 2004 mandating that the state must provide all critical services without gaps in coverage.

It stems from a class action lawsuit filed by the Arizona Center for Disability Law in 2000 that affects nearly 48,000 Arizonans with disabilities, including more than 7,000 in Pima County.

Jennifer Nye, a staff attorney with the center, said the state program would approve the long-term care services but did not monitor them to make sure patients were actually receiving care.

AHCCCS Director Anthony Rodgers, in a written statement, said he was “disappointed” with the decision.

Rodgers said the class action suit was based on “isolated cases from 1998 to 2001″ and does not reflect changes that have been made since then.

AHCCCS has increased its oversight and response to gaps in critical services as well as provided the court with monthly reports, Rodgers’ statement said..

The injunction’s definition of critical services included assistance with bathing, toileting, dressing, feeding and other daily needs and required that any gaps in coverage be filled within two hours.

The injunction also called for a system of backup staff to fill in for nurses and other home care providers whenever those gaps occurred.

The state appealed the decision and in 2007 the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a portion of Carroll’s ruling and overturned a portion.

The court sent the case back to Carroll to determine if Arizona violated the Medicaid Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and to review the terms of the injunction.

Carroll’s ruling on Friday determined that the state did violate the laws and a hearing has been set for June 1 to determine if the injunction will be extended beyond June 30.

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