Justices hear arguments in Medicaid payment case
The Supreme Court justices opened their new term Monday by hearing a major health-care case that tests whether judges can stop California and other cash-strapped states from cutting payments to doctors and hospitals who serve low-income patients.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court justices opened their new term Monday by hearing a major health-care case that tests whether judges can stop California and other cash-strapped states from cutting payments to doctors and hospitals who serve low-income patients.
The case heard Monday will likely affect how much money is available to pay for medical care for more than 50 million Americans, about half of them children, who depend on Medicaid.
Since its creation in 1965, Medicaid has been a cooperative effort and jointly funded by the federal government and the states. Over the past three years, the California Legislature voted a series of cuts — up to 10 percent — in its payments to providers of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicare program.
They went to court in San Francisco, arguing California was violating federal law by imposing these cuts. They said the reduced payments were so low that patients would be denied the care they need. In response, federal district- and appeals-court judges issued orders blocking the cuts from going into effect.
Lawyers for California, backed by 31 other states, and the Obama administration argued that disputes over Medicaid funding should be resolved by health-care administrators in Washington and Sacramento, not by judges in San Francisco.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said he agreed with the state's view, because Congress had not given private parties a right to sue under the Medicaid Act.
But Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan spoke up for the medical providers who sued.
They said California was seeking to cut its reimbursements even before the state had cleared the move with federal Medicaid officials in Washington.
Muslim can sue
over her headscarf
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will let a Muslim woman sue Southern California jailers for making her take off her headscarf in a courthouse holding cell.
The court Monday refused to hear an appeal from Orange County, Calif., officials, who were sued in 2007 by Souhair Khatib.
Khatib had gone to the Orange County Superior Court to ask for more time to complete her community service. But a judge ordered her jailed, and jailers forced Khatib to remove her headscarf.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments that holding cells aren't covered by a federal law protecting the religious practices of prisoners.
It also ruled Khatib had the right to wear the scarf unless jailers could show it was a security risk.
Justices won't hear
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has passed up a chance to decide whether police need a search warrant before they look at text messages and other information on the cellphones of people they have arrested.
The justices Monday rejected an appeal from Gregory Diaz, a California man suspected of taking part in a drug deal. Police found incriminating evidence in a text message when they searched Diaz's cellphone after his arrest.
The California Supreme Court upheld the search of the cellphone because police generally are allowed to examine items they find on a person they have arrested. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled a similar cellphone search was improper, but the high court rejected an appeal of that ruling last year.
• The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of an Ohio judge wanting to display a poster of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.
• The high court Monday refused without comment to hear a challenge brought by conservative activist Alan Keyes and other members of the American Independent Party who contend President Obama wasn't eligible to be president because he was not born in the U.S., and thus was not a citizen. U.S. courts, and the Supreme Court, have previously thrown out similar suits.
• The Supreme Court will not get involved in a Massachusetts dispute over whether election officials were within their rights to block the name of the Libertarian Party's national presidential candidate from the state ballot in 2008. The court Monday refused to hear an appeal from Bob Barr and the state Libertarian party.
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