ACLU files suit against Ind. FSSA over Medicaid cuts

ACLU seeking class action status

INDIANAPOLIS - A lawsuit filed against Indiana's social services agency claims it wrongly barred a developmentally disabled woman from Medicaid waiver programs and left her without enough income to survive.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of 27-year-old Karla Steimel in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

The ACLU says Steimel has cerebral palsy and other medical needs. The lawsuit says changes in programs run by the Family and Social Services Administration that help disabled people live independently have significantly reduced her benefits and forced her to be institutionalized.

Attorney Gavin Rose says the programs have been underfunded for years and forced to operate with lengthy waiting lists, but he says the state is now restricting the people who can even get on the waiting list and kicking off others, including Steimel.

"What happened last year, however, is that the state simply got rid of the waiting list for that program, and instead offered persons who had been on the waiting list, sometimes for more than a decade, a spot on a smaller waiver program that offers services that are wholly inadequate to their needs," Rose said.

One program now requires clients to need skilled nursing care. The ACLU says Steimel doesn't meet those criteria, but needs daily assistance with functions like eating and bathing.

Rose says the state is violating federal rules requiring recipients to be allowed to live in the least restrictive environments.

At a minimum, the lawsuit seeks to reinstate Steimel's benefits, but the ACLU is also seeking class action status, which could mean getting benefits for thousands of other possible recipients.

An FSSA spokeswoman says the agency has no comment.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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