Congressional Democrats Break With Obama, Say Patients Have Right To Challenge Medicaid Cuts In Court

As ThinkProgress reported last June, the Washington Supreme Court reversed damaging cuts to Medicaid, arguing that the cuts were made in too broad a fashion. This ruling restored care to thousands of people, mostly indigent children.

The case in Washington has become a rallying cry for health advocates, who are taking to the courts to reverse the cuts made to the program by state governments eager to close gaping budget deficits. But the Obama administration’s Department of Justice is opposing their efforts and has actually filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case “arguing against Medicaid patients and providers suing California over changes to its Medicaid program.” Obama’s position surprised many in the health care policy community, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Katheleen Sebelius, who had been working behind the scenes to head off the move.

But now the New York Times reports that health care advocates have gained powerful new allies: congressional Democrats in leadership positions have filed a friend-of-the-court brief defending the rights of Medicaid recipients to go to court to try and stop broad-based cuts to the program:

In an unusual break with the White House, the Democratic leaders of Congress told the Supreme Court on Monday that President Obama was pursuing a misguided interpretation of federal Medicaid law that made it more difficult for low-income people to obtain health care. […] The Democratic leaders said Medicaid beneficiaries must be allowed to file suit to enforce their right to care — and to challenge Medicaid cuts being made by states around the country. […] The brief was filed by seven influential Democrats, including Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, an architect of Medicaid; Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader; Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader; and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee.


A number of high-profile interest groups, such as the American Association of Retired Persons, the American Medical Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also filed briefs supporting the same position. These developments continue to isolate the administration’s position.