CVS Drops Supreme Court Case Over Disability Community Concerns
CVS is backing off a U.S. Supreme Court case amid concerns from disability advocates that a ruling in the company’s favor could undermine fundamental tenets of the nation’s disability rights laws.
The case CVS Pharmacy Inc. v. Doe was set to be heard by the high court Dec. 7. At issue was a prescription drug plan managed by CVS that required people needing specialty medications to get them by mail rather than at a local pharmacy. Five people with HIV sued the company arguing that the plan rule prevented them from getting appropriate care and discriminated against them based on their disability.
CVS fought the claims arguing that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act does not protect against so-called “disparate impact,” situations where a neutral policy or practice disproportionately affects certain groups of people.
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However, advocates warned that the case was about much more, especially given than most disability discrimination is not intentional. If CVS were to prevail, it would effectively gut disability rights protections, potentially affecting not only Section 504, but also the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act, they said.
“CVS’s position is not just wrong on the law, it’s dangerous. Disparate impact claims are the backbone of disability rights litigation. If the Supreme Court agrees with CVS, disability rights could be set back decades,” Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU Disability Rights Program, said in a statement about the case late last month.
The ACLU and numerous other groups including The Arc, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the National Disability Rights Network, the American Association of People with Disabilities and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court. And, disability advocates urged people to appeal to CVS to abandon the case.
The effort appears to have gotten the attention of the drugstore chain.
“We are no longer pursuing this case in the Supreme Court,” Mike DeAngelis, senior director of corporate communications for CVS Health, told Disability Scoop on Thursday.
Further, CVS has committed to work with the disability community on “policy solutions to protect equitable access to health care for all Americans and continue to protect the fundamental rights of people with disabilities,” the company said in a statement issued jointly this week with the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and the National Council on Independent Living.
“CVS Health engaged in an honest dialogue with disability community representatives and listened carefully to our concerns about what was at stake for disabled people with the question before the Supreme Court,” said Judith Heumann, a long-time disability activist who was part of the discussions with CVS. “We look forward to continuing this important work in partnership and thank CVS Health for its commitment to preserving disability rights.”