Supreme Court Hears Medicaid Case At issue is whether doctors, hospitals and patients can go to court to challenge cuts in Medicaid. The case is from California, which cut the amount it pays health providers without seeking approval from the federal Medicaid agency as required by law. Health care providers sued.
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Supreme Court Hears Medicaid Case

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Supreme Court Hears Medicaid Case

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Supreme Court Hears Medicaid Case

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

GUY RAZ, Host:

We begin this hour with the Supreme Court. It opened a new term today with a raft of hot-button issues headed its way. The biggest, of course, is the legal challenge to the Obama administration's health-care law. The case is almost certain to be heard this term.

BLOCK: As NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports, the issue is whether doctors, hospitals and patients can go to court to challenge state cuts in Medicaid.

NINA TOTENBERG: Seeking to stop this downward spiral, doctors, hospitals and patients went to court and won a temporary injunction to freeze the status quo pending a trial. The state, backed by the Obama administration, appealed. Today, California's deputy attorney general, Karin Schwartz, told the justices that doctors and patients have no right to bring a court challenge because the Medicaid law does not explicitly authorize such suits. Justice Ginsburg observed that the government doesn't have injunctive power to stop the rate cuts, even if it thinks the state is violating the Medicaid law.

BLOCK: But the government can cut off all funds to the state. Justice Ginsburg, dryly: But that's a rather drastic remedy that's going to hurt the people that Medicaid was meant to benefit. Answer: Well, that's the only remedy provided by law. Most states resolve these issues in consultation with the federal Medicaid agency.

J: The legal worm turned, however, when attorney Carter Phillips got up to argue on behalf of the Medicaid providers and patients. Chief Justice Roberts repeatedly asked why Phillips' clients can sue when Congress did not authorize lawsuits. Phillips repeatedly answered that his clients are not asking for damages. They're just suing to prevent irreparable harm under a state law that violates a federal law.

J: The agency always has the ultimate authority to step in and take action. But here, the state tried to put into effect unlawful rate cuts without even notifying the agency, and then made no response when the agency asked for information. Without court action, these illegal cuts would have gone into effect for years and indeed, would still be in place.

J: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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