Friday, August 05, 2011

AHA Special Bulletin: AHA Files Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court

Case seeks to preserve providers' access to federalcourts to enforce federal Medicaid law

The AHA today filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the right of California Medicaid providers to challenge the state's decision to arbitrarily reduce Medicaid payments. The issue before the court is whether, under the Supremacy Clause, health care providers and beneficiaries can sue in federal court to enforce federal Medicaid law. The underlying case is a 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision supporting the providers' legal challenge that blocked the state's 10 percent Medicaid payment cut for hospitals and other providers. The AHA submitted the brief along with the American Health Care Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Federation of American Hospitals, National Association of Children's Hospitals, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care, and Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access.

The brief explains that Medicaid beneficiaries "rely on the program to guarantee them access to critical medical services, including preventive health checkups, specialist consultations, mental health counseling, and nursing home care," and notes that enrollees benefit "only to the extent that [Medicaid] offers meaningful access to health care services." It goes on to state that if the court rules in favor of the state of California, it would "allow not only California, but all states, to defy federal law with virtual impunity ... Those injured parties will have no avenue by which to vindicate the supremacy of federal law over inconsistent state policy. Where, as here, the state disregards the requirements of Medicaid, it is the Nation's most vulnerable citizens, including millions of seniors, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities, who will suffer most."

"This case is critical to preserve providers' access to the federal court to hold states accountable for provider payment decisions," said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. "Beneficiaries' access to health care services depends on having financially viable providers. Arbitrary spending cuts threaten access for our most vulnerable populations. Having the necessary tools to hold state governments accountable will become even more critical when the Medicaid program expands coverage to an additional 16 million as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Oct. 3. A court injunction prevents the payment cuts from being implemented. The court's decision is expected sometime in early 2012.

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