Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are civil rights defined differently in the "separate kingdom" of Hawaii?

The Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is honoring a local law firm that is defending insurance giant UnitedHealth against allegations of potentially violating civil rights.

A division of UnitedHealth, Evercare, is one of two Medicaid managed care companies in Hawaii providing home and community based services (HCBS) to the state's aged, blind and disabled community.  Complaints alleging both companies are cutting medically necessary services have been coming in since the two companies took over the HCBS program in February 2009.

At least five complaints alleging violations of the civil rights of adults and children with disabilities have been lodged with the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health & Human Services.

Hawaii law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing is defending Evercare against these allegations.

Yet somehow Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing is also being honored by the Hawaii chapter of the ACLU.

A year ago, a Hawaii federal judge ruled that complaints against Hawaii Medicaid for violating civil rights weren't appropriate since the rights had yet to be violated.  She said she didn't have subject matter jurisdiction.  The defendants had to withdraw the case because the judge's ruling didn't even allow them the opportunity to appeal.

Meanwhile, however, judges in California, TennesseeNorth Carolina and Georgia have all heard similar cases and ruled in favor of the defendants.  None of them noted any lack of "subject matter jurisdiction", and the potential of civil rights violations were sufficient cause to issue rulings.

A history book of Kauai was published several years ago titled "A Separate Kingdom".  Apparently that attitude has permeated our state legal system, as the civil rights of adults and children with disabilities continue to be violated on a daily basis. 

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About Me

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.