States fight Medicaid mandate in health care reform

Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

The Supreme Court seal (source: Wikimedia Commons/Hayfordoleary)

Florida led 25 other states on Tuesday in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the health care reform law’s mandatory state expansion of Medicaid, which they argue is coercive. However, a Florida advocacy group says state officials are waging a politically motivated war against the health care reform law at the expense of Floridians.

Politico reported:

[The states] argue that the Medicaid expansion is possibly more coercive than the law’s individual mandate.

“While some individuals are exempt from the penalties designed to enforce the mandate, no state is exempt from the massive penalty — the loss of the entirety of funding under the single largest grant-in-aid programs for the states — and so Congress did not even contemplate the possibility of a state opting out of Medicaid,” attorney Paul Clement, who is representing the states, wrote in a brief to the court Tuesday.

The states argue that the law’s Medicaid expansion is an illegal “commandeering” of states’ autonomy. Beginning in 2014, Americans who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for coverage, and the states will have to cover them if they want to stay in the program.

State lawmakers have long expressed dissatisfaction with the health care reform law’s Medicaid mandate. During a debate over a required profit cap for Medicaid providers, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, said, “Essentially the way this works [is], we are beggars. … They are dictating unilateral terms of surrender. They are commandeering our budget.”

Florida CHAIN released a statement today arguing that the state’s claim that the “Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid coverage to include most Americans with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level is an illegal ‘commandeering’ of states’ autonomy” is “fueled by their political motives rather than by their obligations to protect and serve Floridians, including the 4 million lacking health insurance.”

“The real story here, tragically, is how hard our elected officials are fighting to deny access to healthcare that is so crucial to our citizens and to our economy,” the group stated, “simply in an effort to take credit for beating ‘Obamacare.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing Florida’s legal challenge to the health care reform law in March.

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