On July 6, 1979, nine undocumented aliens living in New York brought a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, challenging their denial of Medicaid benefits on the basis of their alien status. Plaintiffs claimed that Medicaid regulations, 42 C.F.R. ˜ 435.402(b), issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and a companion New York State regulation, 18 NYCRR ˜ 349.3, which called for the denial of all Medicaid benefits on the basis of alienage violated equal protection and due process and were contrary to the language of the Medicaid statute 42 U.S.C. ˜˜ 1396 et seq.. They also claimed that narrower restrictions which denied prenatal care to pregnant aliens and their unborn children were invalid. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as class certification.
The case was certified as a class action on January 16, 1981, with the class defined as gall aliens residing in the State of New York who have been denied Medicaid on the basis of their alienage.h The class definition was later amended to include gall aliens residing in New York State under color of law who have applied or attempted to apply for Medicaid but have been or would be denied Medicaid on the basis of their alienage.h
The case languished for years while the parties engaged in pre-trial discovery.
On July 14, 1986, the District Court (Judge Charles P. Sifton) granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff class and held that the denial of Medicaid benefits to all aliens who were not admitted for permanent residence or not gpermanently residing under color of lawh (PRUCOL) was not authorized by the Medicaid statute. Lewis v. Gross, 663 F.Supp. 1164 (E.D.N.Y.1986). The defendants moved for reconsideration in light of a new law passed by Congress, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (gOBRAh), which contained new provisions concerning the eligibility of aliens for Medicaid benefits. The Court found that since the language of the challenged regulation, 42 C.F.R. ˜ 435.402(b), appeared verbatim in the new law (OBRA), the Court would not bar enforcement of the regulation in the future. However, the Court refused to preclude relief to aliens who had successfully challenged the regulation prior to passage of statute. Lewis v. Grinker, 660 F.Supp. 169 (E.D.N.Y. 1987).
In response to OBRA, plaintiffs and the City of New York, which joined the case as a plaintiff-intervenor, moved for a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the new law contained an impermissibly narrow definition of the phrase gpermanently residing under color of lawh (PRUCOL) and that the continued denial of Medicaid benefits for prenatal care to pregnant alien women was unlawful. The District Court granted the motion in part, and issued a preliminary injunction barring gthe denial of Medicaid coverage for prenatal care to alien women residing in New York State with a medically verifiable pregnancy if her unborn child would be eligible for Medicaid if born at the time of the application.h Lewis v. Grinker, 1987 WL 8412 (E.D.N.Y. Mar 06, 1987). The Court later made the injunction permanent. Lewis v. Grinker, 794 F.Supp. 1193 (E.D.N.Y. 1991). The defendants appealed and the Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the Medicaid statute as amended by OBRA '86 did not prevent otherwise eligible pregnant women from receiving prenatal care to benefit their future U.S. citizen children. Lewis v. Grinker, 965 F.2d 1206 (2nd Cir.1992).
In a separate order dated April 1, 1991, the District Court granted relief to plaintiffs who were sued by health care providers for unpaid medical bills incurred prior to OBRA-86, which should have been paid by Medicaid. Lewis v. Grinker, 1991 WL 338134 (E.D.N.Y. Apr 01, 1991).
The injunction regarding prenatal care remained in force until 2000, when the government moved to vacate it on the basis of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 which contained further alien eligibility restrictions for Medicaid. The Act changed the definition of gqualified aliensh eligible for Medicaid to exclude many PRUCOL aliens who were previously eligible for Medicaid under OBRA Œ86. The District Court (Judge Sifton) denied the motion to vacate, finding that the Medicaid alien eligibility restrictions in Section 401(a) of the Welfare Reform Act violated Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Lewis v. Grinker, 111 F.Supp.2d 142 (E.D.N.Y. 2000). The defendants appealed.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part. The Court (Circuit Judge Newman) held that the Welfare Reform Act's denial of prenatal care to unqualified aliens did not violated equal protection and the part of the injunction ordering prenatal Medicaid assistance to the plaintiff class was therefore reversed. The Court affirmed the part of the injunction which required the government to make automatic eligibility for Medicaid coverage available to the citizen children of the plaintiff class upon their birth. Lewis v. Thompson, 252 F.3d 567 (2nd Cir.2001). On remand, the District Court modified its injunction in accordance with the Second Circuitfs opinion and entered final judgment on June 12, 2002.
As of the date of this summary, there was no further case activity noted on the PACER docket.Brian Ponton - 08/31/2007