Texas Gray Panthers v. Thompson
No. 1: 99CV01557 (D.D.C.), filed June 16, 1999; In re Texas Gray Panthers, No. 01-5095 (D.C.Cir.), filed March 26, 2001.
Last Update: September 19, 2005
Issue: Whether the Secretary of HHS and the Commissioner of SSA failed to implement various provisions of the Medicare statute which would require states to enroll certain low-income Medicare-eligible beneficiaries in so-called “buy-in programs” under which, depending on the program, premiums, part of premiums, and other out-of-pocket Medicare expenses would be paid for by state Medicaid programs.
Relief Sought: Nationwide class alleged. Declaratory and injunctive, or mandamus, relief on behalf of a nationwide class, ordering the Secretary and the Commissioner to carry out their various obligations to ensure that more low-income people are enrolled in the state buy-in programs.
Status: The complaint was filed on June 16, 1999. Plaintiffs filed their motion for class certification a few weeks later. The government filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment in lieu of an answer. Plaintiffs sought to take depositions, and the government moved for a protective order and to stay discovery. Briefing on all those motions was completed in October 1999, but there had been no action on any of the pending motions by Judge Robinson by the time of his death in February 2000. The case was then reassigned to Judge Roberts.
When Judge Roberts had done nothing on the case for about a year, plaintiffs filed a mandamus petition with the Court of Appeals, which was accomplished on March 26, 2001. On March 28, 2001, Judge Roberts ruled. 139 F. Supp.2d 66. He denied the government’s motion to dismiss, holding that the plaintiffs had standing and that the matter was subject to judicial review. But he granted the defendants= motion for summary judgment on the ground that the statute was ambiguous and therefore he should defer to the defendants’ interpretation of what was appropriate to carry out congressional intent. The other two motions were denied as moot, so that plaintiffs never had the opportunity to do any discovery.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals ordered that the district court at least rule on plaintiffs’ request for discovery. On remand, the district court denied that request, but plaintiffs’ motions for reconsideration have been partially granted, allowing them discovery on events which took place up through September 1, 1999, the date of the declaration on which the defendants originally relied. Based on depositions that were then taken, plaintiffs moved to strike the declaration on which the government’s position is based, but on May 28, 2003, the district court denied that motion.
In August 2003, the Secretary renewed his motion for summary judgment (originally filed on September 1, 1999). Plaintiffs filed an opposition to that motion, contending that, among other things, in light of recent caselaw, the court should not defer to the Secretary’s interpretation of the statutory scheme. On December 31, 2004, the Court finally ruled. Although he agreed with plaintiffs that the Secretary’s position was not entitled to deference, he concluded that the Secretary had done enough to comply with the statute and granted his motion for summary judgment. Believing that the best that could be hoped for from an appeal was another remand to provide for more discovery, and that other developments may have rendered the case less important, plaintiffs decided not to appeal.