CVS drops Supreme Court case, victory for disability rights


Photo courtesy of Olivier Douliery

CVS dropped the Supreme Court case CVS v. Doe that was to be heard on Dec. 7. The case being dropped is a victory for disability rights.

The case of CVS v. Doe was set to be heard on Dec. 7 by the Supreme Court of the United States. This case could have set back decades of progress for disability rights – specifically Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

The issue at hand 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,” reports Disability Scoop. The company was then sued by five people, arguing that the rule of this plan prevented them from getting appropriate care, and therefore, discriminating against them because of their disability. 

CVS then counterargued, claiming that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act didn’t protect against “disparate impact.” Disparate impact is often known as unintentional discrimination, where a system’s rules and practices may appear neutral, but actually disproportionately affect a group. 

If the Supreme Court was to favor CVS in this case, disability rights protections would be severely affected. This could also have the potential to affect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If Section 504 was dismantled, such protections such as 504 plans in schools, work accommodations and public service accessibility could be removed. 

CVS is trying to say “if the discrimination wasn’t intentional, it should be legal.” Society is ableist enough as it is without big companies gunning for disabled people for the sole reason of their disability. Oh wait, they do. Ever heard of Autism Speaks? How about Spectrum 10K? Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)? There are so many huge corporations out there discriminating against disabled people — prone restraint and seclusion is still a huge issue in schools across the country, not to mention eugenics-based companies like Autism Speaks and the BHARE Foundation. 

CVS has seemed to understand the monumental effects that this court case would have — at least, what the effect of going through with the case would have been on them. Since the news of the case broke, many disability rights advocates and groups have expressed their feelings on the issue, arguing people should appeal to CVS to abandon this case. These include the ACLU, the Arc, National Disability Rights Network, American Association of People with Disabilities and Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Since the backlash, CVS has dropped the case, and promised to work on listening to disability advocates. Will they? Only time will tell.  

The fact that issues like this go almost unnoticed is sick, to say the least. Outside of the disability community, no one seems to talk about these issues unless they are on the side of the very people perpetuating the harmful idea that you should face discrimination and harm because you’re disabled. The problem isn’t the disability — it’s an ableist society that would rather fight to make discrimination legal instead of putting in the work to make the world more accessible. 

While we live in an ableist society, no one wants to acknowledge it. People in the disability community are killed due to the negligence of ableism and lack of accessibility. With International Day of People with Disabilities on Dec. 3, I hope people actually take the time to listen to disabled people instead of brushing off the issues and pretending they don’t exist. 

As someone who’s faced ableism, it’s frustrating when your voice isn’t heard. Feeling isolated, like no one will listen, is a big deal. CVS dropping the case was a victory. Unlearning society’s ableism and progressing toward accessibility and acceptance is what we need to move forward.