The D.C. government lost the latest ruling yesterday in its ongoing quest to pull the city's agencies out from under court supervision when a federal judge declined to release the city from requirements to provide dental services to poor children.
Senior U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia refused to vacate a 1999 order enforcing a class action settlement between the District and families who sued over its delivery of children’s health services guaranteed under the Medicaid program. The particular order covered dental care and set ambitious targets for participation rates in preventative care programs.
The District asked the judge to vacate the dental services order in May 2006, arguing that it wasn’t designed to cure a specific violation of the law and that the District should not be required to make sure every child eligible for the preventative care services actually used them.
After acknowledging her “very lengthy delay” delivering the opinion, Kessler wrote that the District had failed to show her any reason to strike the order. She said that, although the federal government did not require any specific participation rates for Medicaid dental services, the District had entered the settlement willingly, and there had been no change in circumstances since.
“[T]here is no justification – no change in the law or the facts, no unforeseen obstacles which have made the Order unworkable, and no evidence that its enforcement would be detrimental to the public interest – that would support vacating the Dental Order,” Kessler wrote.
D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said his office plans to appeal the decision. “It goes to the larger issues of whether the city is going to be held to standards beyond federal law,” Nickles said.