When prominent Democratic politicians like Rep. Henry Waxman, House Minority Leader Nancy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sen. Max Baucus voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last year, they voted to fund roughly half of the law's $940 billion price tag through cuts to Medicare. More than $200 billion of those cuts don't come through any attempt to reform the way Medicare works; instead, they're quality-blind reductions in the reimbursement rates that the government pays health care providers.
By voting for the law, they also voted to require states to maintain existing eligibility within Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program that's currently the number one total budget item across state budgets. Faced with massive budget deficits, then, states that might otherwise have adjusted Medicaid's eligibility rules had little choice but to cut provider payments.
And now those same Democratic leaders who voted to cut provider rates within Medicare have signed a letter supporting the right of Medicaid patients and health service providers in California to push state courts to block cuts in Medicaid payments. The New York Times reports:
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 Obama administration maintains that beneficiaries and health care providers cannot sue state officials to challenge cuts in Medicaid payment rates, even if such cuts compromise access to care for the poor.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the lawmakers said the administration's position "would undermine the effectiveness of Medicaid." In addition, they said, it conflicts with more than a century of court precedents that allow people to sue to block state actions that are inconsistent with federal law.
Last week's debt deal calls for further reductions in Medicare provider rates should the super committee assigned to come up with a deficit reduction package fail.
Link via Cato's Michael Cannon.