By Phil Galewitz
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could block hospitals, doctors — or anyone else — from suing states over inadequate payment rates for providers who participate in the Medicaid program for low-income Americans.
Federal law requires Medicaid, which covers 70 million people, to provide the same access to care as that given to people with private insurance. But many doctors avoid seeing Medicaid recipients, saying the program pays too little. That can lead to delays and difficulties in getting care for millions of poor people.
In Armstrong vs. Exceptional Child Center, several providers for developmentally disabled Medicaid patients sued the state of Idaho after officials failed to increase Medicaid payments as required under a formula approved by the federal government. An appellate court upheld a judgment in favor of the providers last year, noting that Idaho had conceded that it held rates flat since 2006 for “purely budgetary reasons.”