Revive Laws Protecting U.S. Elders
Nathanson, Paul, Aging Today
Dear Mr. President:
One of the most underaddressed issues in aging is the extent to which laws protecting older people have been undermined by hostile, conservative courts. The list of federal laws affected by destructive judicial decisions includes the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Medicaid Act, the United States Housing Act, the Housing and Community Development Act, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
The analysis of the Federal Rights Project at the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC), which I direct, shows that con- servative judges have made a con- certed effort to prevent enforce- ment of these laws. NSCLC proj- ect staff has deter- mined that in many of these cases, the Bush Administration supported the denial of court access to enforce federal law.
In addition, these judges have used preemption of federal laws to prevent enforcement of progressive state laws and have twisted language in federal laws to reach the conclusion that Congress intended to preempt state consumer protection statutes and ordinary state law remedies. The Bush Administration supported overly broad preemption interpretations by federal agencies and courts that drastically undermined long-established and important state law protections for areas critical to older Americans, such as retirement security, access to healthcare, safety in drugs and medical devices, and fair lending and credit practices.
An example of these trends is the increasing inability of Medicaid beneficiaries to enforce tiieir rights under federal law to gain access to adequate healthcare. Though remethes have long been available in these cases under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the Supreme Court and lower federal courts, encouraged by the Bush Administration, have radically narrowed this Reconstruction-era statute in a way that leaves millions of low-income, elderly and disabled Americans without recourse when states improperly deny or limit tiieir access to care. …