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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Senator Whitehouse speaks out about important Supreme Court case

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) yesterday spoke out (.pdf link) about the upcoming Supreme Court case, Maxwell-Jolly v. Independent Living Center, a case that will have significant implications for the rights of everyday Americans. In a statement entered into the Congressional Record, Senator Whitehouse said that:
The cases come to the Court out of California. In 2008, the State announced a plan to sharply reduce the reimbursements paid to medical providers under Medi-Cal, the State’s Medicaid program. A broad range of parties – including pharmacies, medical clinics, hospitals, doctors, health care providers, senior citizens’ groups, and Medicaid beneficiaries – brought suit asking for an injunction to stop the change from going into effect. They’re not looking for money, just an order requiring California to follow federal law. . .

[T]hey took California to court to make the State obey federal law and ensure patients have access to the Medicaid benefits required by Congress.
The plaintiffs in this case have argued that the California plan conflicts with the federal Medicaid statute, which requires states to ensure that reimbursement rates are “sufficient to enlist enough providers so that care and services are available . . . at least to the extent that such care and services are available to the general population.” 42 USC 1396(a)(30)(A). The parties bringing suit in the case argue that California’s cuts will decrease Medicaid recipients’ access to medical providers.

If individuals cannot go to federal court and challenge state actions like California’s as contrary to federal law, people injured by these state laws will have no recourse or ability to curtail future injury. States will be able to violate federal laws pertaining to Medicaid, immigration, unemployment, and the environment.

Senator Whitehouse noted that the Supreme Court has repeatedly allowed corporations to bring Supremacy Clause challenges like the one plaintiffs are bringing here. For example, the Court has allowed big corporations to challenge as preempted state laws that protected unions, restricted delivery of tobacco, and regulated banks. The Court again and again allowed big business to protect their interests using a Supremacy Clause challenge, and as Senator Whitehouse remarked:
Now is not the time to inhibit the Supremacy Clause and preclude regular Americans from having their federal rights enforced in court, particularly when that privilege has been respected for corporations.
It remains to be seen whether the Corporate Court will treat everyday Americans differently than it has treated corporations and limit access to the courts. Click here to read more about Maxwell-Jolly v. Independent Living Center.

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