Friday, November 12, 2010

Landmark Victory in Protecting Rights of Legal Residents

Federal Court Rules Claims of COFA Residents for Equal Access to Medical Care May Proceed

On November 10, the Judge J. Michael Seabright of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii ruled that COFA residents claims against the State of Hawaii, seeking equal access to medical benefits, may proceed.

On July 1, 2010, the State of Hawaii disenrolled all COFA residents (persons present in Hawaii under the Compact of Free Association) who were not pregnant and over age 19 from Med-QUEST. Lawyers for Equal Justice filed a federal lawsuit against the state on equal protection and ADA grounds, challenging this discrimination and seeking equal access to medical benefits for all Hawaii residents.

The State filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the COFA residents were not a protected class.. The court ruled that COFA residents are protected and the state's decision to treat them differently than residents was subject to strict scrutiny under the equal protection clause, a powerful ruling against invidious discrimination.

Denial of the Motion to Dismiss is a major step towards success in this crucial litigation to maintain equal access to basic heath care rights.

Read the entire decision here.

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