The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dave Lemmon, Director of Communications
Geraldine Henrich-Koenis, Deputy Director of Communications
Robert Meissner, Press Secretary

Supreme Court Should Uphold Precedents Enabling Medicaid Patients to Secure Legal Remedies When Their Rights Are Violated

Families USA, a Strong Health Reform Ally of President Obama, Opposes Administration’s Position that Would Deny Medicaid Patients Their Day in Court


Today, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California. The case, brought by low-income Medicaid enrollees and health care providers, challenges a California law that reduces Medicaid payments to California health care providers, allegedly to a point well below federal requirements that would make it impossible for Medicaid enrollees to find doctors willing to treat them. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Medicaid enrollees have no right to sue to vindicate their federal rights. Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers, took the opposite position in another friend-of-the-court brief. The following is the statement of Ron Pollack, Families USA's Executive Director, about today's case:

"For almost one out of five Americans, the Medicaid program is a lifeline. That is why, when their federal Medicaid rights are violated, they must have the opportunity to ensure that those rights are enforced. Simply stated, rights without remedies are not rights at all.

"In California, more than 140,000 people with cancer depend on Medicaid for their health coverage. The same applies for more than 560,000 Californians with diabetes, more than 850,000 Californians with chronic lung disease, and 1.23 million Californians with heart disease or stroke. If these Medicaid enrollees can't get a doctor to treat them, their lifeline will be destroyed.

"Since 1965, when Medicaid was first enacted, low-income enrollees have been allowed to sue in federal court to vindicate their federal Medicaid rights. It makes little sense to overturn decades of precedent at this time, especially since Medicaid expansion is a key building block in the new health reform law's improvement of nationwide health coverage.

"If Medicaid enrollees can't vindicate their federal rights in court, there is no effective way to prevent states from violating the federal Medicaid law. This is because the only existing alternative is for the federal government to withhold funding for state Medicaid programs--an alternative that administrations have been reluctant to take.

"We hope and expect that the Supreme Court will honor decades of precedent and allow Medicaid enrollees their day in court."

Families USA is a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Working at the national, state, and community levels, we have earned a national reputation as an effective voice for health care consumers for 25 years.