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U.S. Supreme Court

Justices Appear Closely Divided over Private Suits to Stop California’s Medicaid Cuts

Posted Oct 4, 2011 11:28 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court considered Monday whether Medicaid providers and patients may sue to stop California’s cuts in reimbursement rates.

No clear consensus emerged during oral arguments, report USA Today and the Washington Post. The Los Angeles Times agreed that the justices appeared closely divided, but said several appeared to support a middle ground position. It would allow judges to temporarily block state cuts, but only until federal officials could review them.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco had allowed the private parties to sue, citing the supremacy clause, the New York Times reports. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expressed concern with that justification, saying it could lead to “a complete end run” around barriers to private lawsuits in other situations, according to the Times account.

“We have wasted a lot of time trying to figure out whether there’s an implied right of action under a particular statute,” Roberts said, “if there has always been one under the supremacy clause.”

Three cases were consolidated for the oral arguments, including Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California.

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