ALEXANDER V. CHOATE, 469 U. S. 287 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287 (1985)

Alexander v. Choate

No. 83-727

Argued October 1, 1984

Decided January 9, 1985

469 U.S. 287


Faced with Medicaid costs beyond its budget, Tennessee proposed to reduce from 20 to 14 the number of annual inpatient hospital days that state Medicaid would pay hospitals on behalf of a Medicaid recipient. Before the reduction took effect, respondent Medicaid recipients brought a class action in Federal District Court for declaratory and injunctive relief. Respondents alleged that the proposed 14-day limitation would have a disproportionate effect on the handicapped, and hence was discriminatory in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 -- which provides that no otherwise qualified handicapped person shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be subjected to discrimination under any program receiving federal financial assistance -- and its implementing regulations, and moreover that any annual limitation on inpatient coverage would disadvantage the handicapped disproportionately in violation of § 504. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the 14-day limitation was not the type of discrimination that § 504 was intended to proscribe. The Court of Appeals held that respondent had established a prima facie case of a § 504 violation, because both the 14-day and any annual limitation on inpatient coverage would disproportionately affect the handicapped.

Held: Assuming that § 504 or its implementing regulations reach some claims of disparate impact discrimination, the effect of Tennessee's reduction in annual inpatient hospital coverage is not among them. Pp. 469 U. S. 292-309.

(a) The 14-day limitation is neutral on its face, is not alleged to rest on a discriminatory motive, and does not deny the handicapped meaningful access to or exclude them from the particular package of Medicaid services Tennessee has chosen to provide. The State has made the same benefit equally accessible to both handicapped and nonhandicapped persons, and is not required to assure the handicapped "adequate health care" by providing them with more coverage than the nonhandicapped. Nothing in the Rehabilitation Act's legislative history supports the conclusion that the Act requires the States to view certain illnesses, i.e., those particularly affecting the handicapped, as more important than others and more worthy of cure through government subsidization. Section 504 does not require the State to alter its definition of the benefit

Page 469 U. S. 288

it will be providing as 14 days of inpatient coverage simply to meet the reality that the handicapped have greater medical needs. While § 504 seeks to assure even-handed treatment and the opportunity for handicapped individuals to participate in and benefit from programs receiving federal financial assistance, the Act does not guarantee the handicapped equal results from the provision of state Medicaid. Pp. 469 U. S. 302-306.

(b) In addition, the State is not obligated to modify its Medicaid program by abandoning reliance on annual durational limitations on inpatient coverage. Section 504 does not require the State to redefine its Medicaid program, and nothing in its legislative history suggests that Congress desired to make major inroads on the States' longstanding discretion to choose the proper mix of amount, scope, and durational limitations on services covered by Medicaid. Moreover, § 504 does not require that federal grantees make a broad-based distributive decision always in the way most favorable, or least disadvantageous, to the handicapped. To do so would impose a virtually unworkable requirement on state Medicaid administrators. Pp. 469 U. S. 306-309.

715 F.2d 1036, reversed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 469 U. S. 289

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