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Federal Courts to Medicaid Clients: Drop Dead

Federal Courts to Medicaid Clients: Drop Dead

August 16, 2005

Since Congress created Medicaid 40 years ago in 1965, clients have had the ability to sue in federal courts to enforce their rights to eligibility and benefits. This has been an essential way for poor clients to compel recalcitrant states to meet their obligations. Now, in a stunning example of how the influence of the far right is enveloping our justice system, this right is disappearing.

Yesterday's New York Times details how federal courts have decided that unless the statute explicitly contains in its language a private right to action, then more than 50 million Medicaid clients have no right to sue in court to protect their rights.

"Rulings Trim Legal Leeway Given to Medicaid Recipients" describes this disturbing evolution: "The court decisions are raising questions about what it means to have health insurance, if the terms of such coverage cannot be enforced. The rulings, in more than a dozen cases, affect millions of people and involve a wide range of services like nursing home care, home health visits and preventive care for children."

One of the pioneer lawyers who clear pioneer this new legal terrain, according to the article, is John Roberts, President Bush's nominee for the US Supreme Court, and former clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist.