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Community leaders call on Marion County Hospital Corporation to drop Supreme Court case

Lucas Waterfill speaks in front of the City-County Council Building in downtown Indianapolis, demanding the Health and Hospital Corporation Board rescind their Supreme Court petition, on Nov. 14.
Sydney Dauphinais/WFYI
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Lucas Waterfill speaks in front of the City-County Council Building in downtown Indianapolis, demanding the Health and Hospital Corporation Board rescind their Supreme Court petition, on Nov. 14.

More than 30 people gathered outside the City-County Council building in downtown Indianapolis Monday to call on the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation to withdraw a petition it filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Marion County agency owns more than 70 nursing homes across the state.

In its Supreme Court petition, it’s questioning two things –– first: whether patients on federal assistance programs like Medicaid have the right to sue government agencies if they violate their civil rights, for example by denying them coverage for entitled health services; and second: whether the right to sue extends to residents at government-owned nursing homes.

During the press conference, Rev. David Greene, with the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, urged Mayor Joe Hogsett to demand that the HHC board drop the case.

“We say to the mayor that as an attorney, you know that [HHC] is providing the Supreme Court with a platform to issue a ruling that would make it very difficult to hold the government accountable for violating the rights of people who depend on federally funded safety net programs,” Greene said.

Greene said because of the number of African-American elderly living in Marion County nursing homes, the Concerned Clergy sees this “mistreatment and profiteering as a racist attack on aging African Americans and all people receiving social service benefits.”

Morgan Daly, with the Indiana Statewide Council for Independent Living, called on Hogsett to consider the needs of people with disabilities.

“We're calling on Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to stand as an ally with our disability and aging communities and demand that the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County withdraw their case in front of the United States Supreme Court,” Daly said.

Legal experts say a ruling in favor of the Marion County agency on the first question could undo half a century of legal precedent.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case last week. It seemed unlikely that the justices would side with HHC on the first question. But they seemed more open on the second, more specific question, about whether the right to sue government entities extends to nursing home residents in government-owned facilities.

The next board meeting for the Health and Hospital Corporation is scheduled to take place Tues., Nov. 15.

WFYI health equity reporter Farah Yousry contributed reporting.

Contact WFYI economic equity reporter Sydney Dauphinais at sdauphinais@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @syddauphinais.

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