NASHVILLE (CN) - A federal judge granted class action status to a lawsuit related to alleged delays in Tennessee's Medicaid program.
Eleven plaintiffs sued state officials for what they say are inexcusable delays associated with TennCare's application and hearing process.
In addition to granting class certification, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell also issued
a preliminary injunction Tuesday, concluding that the plaintiffs have shown a strong likelihood of success in the lawsuit.
Tennessee cannot use the Obama Administration's healthcare reforms, popularly known as "Obamacare" or the "federal exchange" as an excuse for the delays, Campbell held.
"If a state decides to participate in the Medicaid program, it is required to ensure that applications are adjudicated reasonably promptly and that hearings on delayed adjudications are held reasonably promptly," he wrote. "Despite the state's argument to the contrary, this principal is longstanding and was not altered by the Affordable Care Act."
The Tennessee district court certified the class in the lawsuit as all people who applied for TennCare on or after Oct. 1, 2013, who have not received a decision in 45 days, or 90 days for disability applicants, and who have not been given a "fair hearing" after those time periods.
"The court finds that, given the large number of persons applying for Medicaid in Tennessee, the geographic scope of the potential class, and the likely inability of the economically-disadvantaged potential class members to bring individual lawsuits, the element of numerosity is met in this case," Campbell wrote. "The alleged problem is systematic and operational, so it potentially affects all Medicaid applicants."
The plaintiff class is represented by attorneys from the Tennessee Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Health Law Program.