Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Press Release: JUDGE RULES STATE VIOLATED LAW BY CUTTING PACIFIC ISLANDERS' MEDICAL BENEFITS

HONOLULU – December 24, 2009 - Medically needy immigrants from the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia living in Hawai`i scored an important victory yesterday when Circuit Court Judge Gary W.B. Chang ruled that the Department of Human Services (DHS) illegally cut the immigrants' access to state-funded medical benefits. The ruling yesterday followed on the heels of a temporary restraining order issued by the federal court in September that temporarily halted the implementation of those rules. Yesterday’s ruling confirms the immigrants’ contention that the state violated their rights.

The plaintiffs were represented pro bono by Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing (AHFI) attorneys Paul Alston and Zachary McNish and attorney Elizabeth Dunne of Lawyers for Equal Justice.

"Public rulemaking is an important process that the state cannot ignore," said Zachary McNish.

Due to the lawsuit, the state is now required to follow procedures that will allow for pubic comment and criticism of proposed rules that will determine what level of benefits will be provided to immigrants from these Compact of Free Association states.

"Allowing public participation will help reduce the confusion and anxiety created by DHS's first, invalid attempt to suddenly eliminate lifesaving medical care in August 2009," said Ms. Dunne.

The public hearing on the new rules will be at 1:30 p.m. on January 25, 2010 at the Lili`uokalani Building. Neighbor Island residents may provide testimony by contacting the Med-Quest division on each island. For copies of the proposed rules or information, go to: http://hawaii.gov/dhs/main/har/proposed_rules or call (808) 692-8132.

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