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Justices’ ruling on Indiana nursing home case could change how Medicaid works

Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation Center, 606 Wall St. in Valparaiso, Indiana, is shown in June 2019. (Provided Photo/Google Street View)

WASHINGTON (WISH) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is scheduled to hear a case that some argue could restrict Americans’ chances to sue over Medicaid decisions and, perhaps more concerning, cause millions of people to lose access to Medicaid programs.

The case involves Gorgi “Jorgo” Talevski. He’d been living with dementia. The longtime Valparaiso resident died Oct. 6, 2021 at age 85 in a nursing home in Bremen, Indiana, his obituary says.

Talevski entered a Valparaiso nursing home in January 2016. His wife, Ivanka Talevski, sued the nursing home in September 2016, arguing it was not providing proper care. The nursing home then tried to move Gorgi to another facility two hours away. An administrative law judge ruled for the move to be stopped, but Gorgi was never returned to the Valparaiso nursing home.

Ivanka in January 2019 sued again, claiming Valparaiso Care & Rehabilitation, a facility of the Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County, Indiana, did not provide adequate care and moved her husband to another facility. A federal district court threw the case out because it believed federal law does not allow people receiving Medicaid to sue for damages. An appeals court later ruled the district court was wrong to throw out the case, questioning the use of drugs to restrain him due to discipline or staff convenience, and his move to another care facility.

The Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County says it properly restrained and medicated Talevski. The Marion County government agency operates the Marion County Public Health Department, Eskenazi Health, Eskenazi Health Foundation, Indianapolis EMS, and more than 70 skilled nursing facilities for long-term care in Indiana.

In response to the appeals court ruling, the Health and Hospital Corp. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether Americans have the right to sue states operating of a program funded by the federal government.

Opponents say if the Supreme Court favors the Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County, the decision would hurt Americans with disabilities, and patients who have low incomes. A ruling for Health and Hospital Corp. could also affect other federal-state programs, including food stamps, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Justices have scheduled 65 minutes for the oral arguments, according to Tuesday’s Supreme Court schedule. The audio will be livestreamed at The case is Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, et al., v. Ivanka Talevski, personal representative of the estate of Gorgi Talevski.

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