US Supreme Court hears Medi-Cal case

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The United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC

The U.S. Supreme Court began its new term with a California case that asks who can sue when a state cuts back federal health care for the poor and disabled.

In California, the federally-funded health care program for the poor and disabled is called “Medi-Cal.” Patients sued when Sacramento cut Medi-Cal reimbursements for doctors and hospitals by 10 percent. The Supreme Court heard arguments about whether they have the right to sue.

Justice Stephen Breyer predicted a flurry of lawsuits that could stop any agency from doing its business. But attorney Carter Phillips disagreed, saying Medi-Cal patients “have a life and death problem.”

Outside, co-lead counsel Craig Cannizzo said the court’s decision will be “extraordinarily important" because, he says, "you’ll see other states emulating California in diving to that bottom with no net."

The federal government nixed California’s Medi-Cal cuts, but the state has asked for reconsideration. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that the federal government’s only way to stop California if it breaks the rules is to cut off all Medicaid funding.

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