ACLU, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Reach Landmark Settlement in Medicaid Class Action

Agreement calls for multi-year development of program changes for adults with developmental disabilities

Affiliate: ACLU of Idaho
October 24, 2016 2:00 pm

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BOISE, Idaho- Marking a major turning point in litigation that has spanned nearly half a decade, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the ACLU of Idaho, along with co-counsel James Piotrowski, received preliminary court approval Friday for their settlement in a class action about Idaho’s Medicaid program for adults with developmental disabilities.

Under the settlement, the Department of Health and Welfare must work with program participants and an outside expert in a multi-year process to develop changes to the program. The Department will overhaul its model for setting service levels for individuals and commit to a plan to regularly verify the new model’s accuracy. In the meantime, the Department must also make immediate changes to protect participants’ due process rights. Those immediate changes will include training and reimbursement for advocates to help participants appeal their assistance levels. The settlement will impact about 4,000 people across Idaho, plus all future program participants.

“We are pleased to see a new era on the horizon for Idahoans with developmental disabilities, as well as their families and advocates,” said ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Leo Morales. “Hopefully this settlement will bolster the voice of these Idahoans, while also permanently protecting their constitutional rights.”

The lawsuit began in 2012, after many adults in the Idaho Medicaid program for community-based services for developmental disabilities saw massive cuts to their service levels. The cuts were computed using a formula that the Department of Health and Welfare refused to disclose, claiming it was a “trade secret.” Judge B. Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge of Idaho’s federal district court, enjoined the cuts, restoring roughly $30 million in Medicaid assistance annually. The Department appealed, but in 2015, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction.

The ACLU of Idaho and Piotrowski, representing all adults in the program in the class action, pressed on to challenge the previously secret formula itself. Earlier this year, Judge Winmill struck down the formula together with other aspects of the program, concluding that they were unconstitutional because they “arbitrarily deprive[] participants of their property rights and hence violate[] due process.” The court ordered the Department to make systemic changes to the program. The settlement preliminarily approved yesterday addresses those court-ordered changes.

“We have reached a critical juncture in this case, but the work is far from over,” Richard Eppink, ACLU of Idaho Legal Director said. “Now it is up to Idahoans with developmental disabilities, and those who love and advocate for them, to mobilize as the State works on these important changes. The Department of Health and Welfare must engage with you under this settlement, but it is so very important that you get involved so that your voice is heard.”

The ACLU of Idaho has established a website,, for those impacted by the settlement to keep informed and involved.

“The proposed settlement marks an important step forward in enforcing the Constitutional rights of Idahoans who otherwise might not have been heard by government. We look forward to continuing our work on behalf of Idaho’s most vulnerable citizens.” said Piotrowski, of Herzfeld & Piotrowski, LLP.

More information about the settlement, including a copy of the settlement agreement itself, is available on the ACLU of Idaho website at The court will hold a hearing to decide whether to grant final approval to the settlement on January 12, 2017.

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