By Tyler Prell
The U.S. Supreme Court today heard opening oral arguments in the case of Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, which will decide whether Medicaid recipients and providers can sue the state of California for reducing payments without taking into account the impact on them.
In 2008, the state of California cut its reimbursement rate to Medicaid providers in an attempt to address its budget deficit. Healthcare providers and beneficiaries argue that these cuts violate the federal Medicaid law which requires states to consider the impact of cuts to Medicaid beneficiaries and providers before cuts occur. The ruling will impact workers, and the quality of care they can provide, beyond California as other states try to find ways to trim budget deficits by cutting programs designed to provide quality healthcare to our country’s most vulnerable.
The main question the Court must decide is whether healthcare providers and beneficiaries like homecare workers and consumers have access to the courts to protect quality services and basic federal programs, or whether ordinary Americans are excluded from the courts when they attempt to pursue economic justice by enjoining preempted state laws.
“My home care client is in a wheelchair and he needs my help because he can’t do anything for himself. If the benefits that he gets through Medicaid are cut, he would have fewer hours of help provided to him, and that would be devastating.”
– Larry Burrus, Fresno County homecare provider & SEIU-UHW member
For SEIU homecare and other healthcare workers and the quality care they provide, there is a lot at stake in how the Supreme Court answers this question.