Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Obama claims to champion poor people’s rights to health care, but he sent his lawyers to deny Medicaid recipients the right to sue under federal law. Taking the state’s rights position, Obama would “allow the states to keep whacking away at the rates paid to doctors and hospitals, even if it means that people are denied needed care. Then Obama can claim that Medicaid costs are going down on his watch.”

Obama Administration Obstructs Right To Medicaid

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

California Medicaid recipients said the state had no right to water down Medicaid to the point that health care providers wouldn’t touch the program.”

President Obama is even slicker than “Slick Willie” Clinton when it come to pulling the rug out from under poor people while pretending to be their champion. Obama sent his Justice Department lawyers before the U.S. Supreme Court, to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a dispute over Medicaid. Medicaid recipients had sued the state of California for making such deep cuts in the program that health care providers were refusing to serve Medicaid patients. The plaintiffs claim the state was violating federal law, which calls for state Medicaid rates to be “sufficient to enlist enough providers” so that sick recipients can find doctors, hospitals and pharmacies willing to treat them. Many states pay so little for Medicaid that very few doctors will serve recipients.

The California Medicaid recipients said that federal law trumps state law, and that the state had no right to water down Medicaid to the point that health care providers wouldn’t touch the program. That would amount to depriving recipients of “equal access to care” under the federal Medicaid law. And, under the “supremacy clause” of the U.S. Constitution, federal law has the last word.

Normally, one would expect a Democratic president to side with the supremacy of federal law. But not Barack Obama, not this time, not if it empowers poor people. The administration found a slick way to take the state’s rights side of the issue, arguing that there was no explicit federal law that allowed private citizens to sue states to enforce the standards of care called for under federal Medicaid law. In other words, the administration argued, as did the state of California, that recipients can’t sue for their rights unless the law specifically authorizes them to sue.

But the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. If states are too stingy with their payments, Medicaid recipients and health care providers could sue as a Constitutional right, for enforcement of the federal law.

The administration argued that recipients can’t sue for their rights unless the law specifically authorizes them to sue.”

Later this year, we’ll see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules. But the Obama administration and its constitutional lawyer-in-chief, have been revealed as state’s righters when it allows them to cut the budgets of poor people’s programs.

It's easy to see what Obama's up to. Rather than permit Medicaid recipients to sue, he'd allow the states to keep whacking away at the rates paid to doctors and hospitals, even if it means that people are denied needed care. Then Obama can claim that Medicaid costs are going down on his watch. Of course, this will do nothing to fix Medicaid. All that will happen is that sick people are made to go without medical care. Obama is exposed, once again, as a sneakier version of the Republicans. The GOP let's everyone know that it hates Medicaid and wants to do away with it. Obama claims he wants to protect people's healthcare rights, and will use the powers of the federal government to achieve those rights. Then he turns around and tries to deny Medicaid recipients access to federal law and the right to sue. Democrats in Congress are upset with their president, and plan to file their own brief, one that upholds the supremacy of federal law and citizens rights under the law. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20110601_gf_ObamaMedicaid.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:21pm EDT