Three Medicaid recipients filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday, accusing the state of denying them access to urgently needed medical equipment.

The lawsuit was filed against Department of Social Services Commissioner Patricia Wilson-Coker in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

The three plaintiffs alleged that hundreds of other Medicaid recipients, including many with low incomes and disabilities, also need the equipment they were denied.

Their lawyers claimed that denial of equipment is illegal and results in higher costs to the state.

–Associated Press

Kevin Brophy, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, said that if people are denied medical equipment, “they will most likely be forced into nursing homes at a far greater cost to the state’s Medicaid program. Does that make any sense for the taxpayers?”

The lawsuit says the equipment denied to the plaintiffs included a stair glide for an elderly man who has to crawl up the stairs of his apartment to get to the bathroom.

Wilson-Coker did not immediately return a telephone message left at her office Wednesday night. Her home phone number was not listed.

David Dearborn, a spokesman for the Social Services Department, said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not immediately comment Wednesday night. He said the department may comment after reviewing and researching the allegations.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs criticized the department for denying Medicaid recipients the equipment based on a manual used for the Medicare program. They said Medicare, a supplemental health insurance program, is not designed for low-income people and has more limited benefits than Medicaid.

Sheldon Toubman, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said, “It is most unfortunate that low-income elderly people and disabled folks would have to file a lawsuit just to gain access to urgently needed equipment which the federal government already instructed the department to provide, and which the department already agreed to provide in new regulations.”

The plaintiffs are seeking an immediate injunction for themselves and, if the class action is approved by a judge, an injunction on behalf of all other low-income and disabled people who are being denied the equipment.