On April 7, 2001, indigent lawful permanent residents in Washington filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the Northwest Health Law Advocates and the Public Interest Law Group, as well as private counsel, alleged that HCA had violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. Plaintiffs, including five named members, sought class certification, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief.
Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, the state passed a bill that restricted immigrants' eligibility for the Washington Basic Health Program, which provided state-subsidized health insurance to indigent residents and on the same day, sent plaintiffs letters notifying them that they would be de-enrolled from the program in ten days.
Plaintiffs argued that the termination notices did not provide the adequate, meaningful, and timely notice required by the Due Process Clause. According to the amended complaint, HCA did not have enough information to determine immigration status prior to sending these notices. The notices failed to inform plaintiffs why they were ineligible for their benefits or to provide any individualized explanation for the HCA's determination that plaintiffs were not legal residents. Plaintiffs also assert that HCA violated the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against plaintiffs based on their immigration status.
On September 28, 2011, the District Court (Judge James Robart) granted plaintiffs' motion to certify the Due Process class as defined by plaintiffs, with some minor revisions. Unthaksinkun v. Porter, C11-0588JLR, 2011 WL 4502050 (W.D. Wash. 2011). The Court also granted plaintiffs' motion to certify an Equal Protection class that includes individuals who were de-enrolled from Basic Health, but denied plaintiffs' request that the class also include future class members.
On October 24, 2011, the court issued a preliminary injunction, which incorporated the parties' agreed proposal for a preliminary injunction. The order required the defendant to review class member lists and identify additional members of the Equal Protection class; send notice of reenrollment rights to known class members; reinstate coverage for class members who pay premiums; follow specific protocols before seeking to de-enroll any class member based on immigration status; provide individual termination notification including specific information to any re-enrolled class member; and post information on the Basic Health web site.
On January 3, 2012, a mediator was appointed for the case. By March 15, 2013, the HCA had fully complied with the terms of the preliminary injunction and the members of the Due Process class had received their remedy according to the terms of the injunction.
The parties agreed that the claim for the Equal Protection class members would become moot in 2014 when funding for Basic Health would be eliminated, and lawfully present immigrants, currently enrolled in Basic Health, would be eligible to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The parties therefore requested to continue the trial from August 2013 to August 2014, with the expectation that the claims of the Equal Protection class would become irrelevant.
On February 13, 2014, the parties reached a final settlement, agreeing that since the protected class had already received appropriate relief through the preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs’ due process claim need not be litigated further. The defendants also agreed to pay $264,000 in attorneys’ fees. The court approved the settlement on March 6, 2014. On July 8, 2014, the court dismissed the remaining equal protection claim with prejudice.Jennifer Bronson - 10/06/2013
Allison Hight - 02/19/2016