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Capitol Correspondence - 11.15.21

CVS Drops Supreme Court Case CVS v. Doe, Which Could Have Broadly Impacted Disability Rights

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This week, disability rights groups are celebrating the announcement from CVS Health that it has dropped its case, CVS v. Doe, which was set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7.

CVS v. Doe centered on a challenge to a CVS-managed prescription drug plan that required people who need “specialty medications” to receive them by mail, instead of at their local pharmacy, where they would be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the medication. The policy was challenged by individuals with HIV, who argued that it effectively prevented them from receiving needed health care and represented discrimination based on their disability. 

The impact of the case would not have been limited only to those individuals affected by CVS’ policy; it could have established far-reaching precedent beyond pharmacies and other health care providers limiting the options for treatment available to people with disabilities. As part of its defense, CVS claimed that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act does not protect against claims of disparate impact (i.e., where neutral policies or practices have disproportionate impacts on a protected class, such as people with disabilities). A win for CVS would have gutted Section 504, allowing for discrimination against people with disabilities in which they make claims of disparate impact. Disability rights advocates claimed that it could have affected not only Section 504, but also the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Disability rights groups, including 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 cheered CVS’ decision and announced they were working together with CVS “to seek policy solutions to protect equitable access to health care for all Americans and continue to protect the fundamental rights of people with disabilities.”