– Members and staff from the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
(NAELA) traveled to Washington, D.C., to hear the first oral argument in the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term. The court opened its session by hearing oral arguments in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, et al.
, a critical case that will determine whether or not Medicaid beneficiaries and providers have a course of action when a state changes its Medicaid reimbursement rates.
In 2008 and 2009, the California state legislature reduced its reimbursements to Medi-Cal providers. Health care providers and Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) beneficiaries challenged the cuts, on the basis that federal law requires states to provide Medicaid reimbursements at a rate that is sufficient enough to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries have access to services. In 2010, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the beneficiaries could bring suit against the state, under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. California appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Karin Schwartz, Supervising Deputy Attorney General for California, and Edwin Kneedler, Deputy Solicitor General for the Department of Justice, argued on behalf of California. Carter G. Phillips argued on behalf of the beneficiaries and plaintiffs who brought suit.
Over 30 states joined in filing an amicus brief in support of California. AARP, Families USA, the National Health Law Program, and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, were among many organizations who contributed to an amicus brief in support of the beneficiaries and providers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also drafted an amicus curiae brief supporting the Medicaid beneficiaries and providers.
In explaining the state of California’s reason for instituting the reimbursement cuts, Mr. Phillips said, “we’re talking about a situation where the State, solely for budgetary reasons, without regard to Federal law whatsoever, simply made a slash in the reimbursements.”
“NAELA strongly supports the need to adhere to the Medicaid law in order to fully protect and provide needed services to older Americans and people with special needs. Every state is facing budgetary issues in the current economy, but a fair and equitable solution to balancing a budget should not include potentially harming two of the most vulnerable populations in the state, “ says NAELA President Edwin M. Boyer, Esq.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the matter of Medicaid reimbursements could set a significant precedent for state Medicaid law. Patricia Harrison, a NAELA member and Elder Law attorney from Columbia, S.C., traveled to Washington to hear the arguments. “If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the state, this will set the precedent for states to have cart blanche to change their Medicaid rates. If states no longer have to adhere to federal Medicaid law, older adults and people with disabilities will lack the protection they need to access quality medical care,” Ms. Harrison said.
Established in 1987, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations, and others. Members of
NAELA are attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and people of all ages with disabilities. The mission of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is to establish NAELA members as the premier providers of legal advocacy, guidance, and services to enhance the lives of people with special needs and people as they age. NAELA currently has more than 4,300 members across the United States. For more information, visit www.NAELA.org
ABOUT ELDER AND SPECIAL NEEDS LAW
Elder and Special Needs Law is a specialized area of law that involves representing, counseling, and assisting seniors, people with disabilities, and their families in connection with a variety of legal issues, with a primary emphasis on promoting the highest quality of life for individuals. Typically, Elder and Special Needs Law address the convergence of legal needs with the social, psychological, medical, and financial needs of individuals. The Elder and Special Needs Law practitioner handles estate planning and counsels clients about planning for incapacity with health care decision making documents. The attorney also assists clients in planning for possible long-term care needs, including at-home care, assisted living or nursing home care. Locating the appropriate type of care, coordinating public and private resources to finance the cost of care, setting up special needs trusts, and working to ensure the client's right to high quality care are all part of the Elder and Special Needs Law practice.