| OAKLAND, Calif.
OAKLAND, Calif. Dec 13 California may reduce
reimbursement rates for medical service providers in its state
Medicaid program, a federal appeals court panel ruled on
Thursday in a move that could improve the state's finances.
California's leaders last year cut Medi-Cal rates, which
cover the state healthcare program's services for low-income
residents, and the cuts were approved by U.S. Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"Congress explicitly granted the secretary authority to
determine whether a state's Medicaid plan complies with federal
law," a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals said in its decision, overturning a lower court ruling
that blocked the cuts last year.
Attorney Lynn Carman, who represents the Medicaid Defense
Fund, said the court's decision was "totally without merit."
"If it's not set aside, it will totally destroy the Medi-Cal
program," he said.
The decision came down weeks after voters approved
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's ballot measure to temporarily
increase the state's sales tax and income tax rates on wealthy
Revenue from the tax increases are expected to help
stabilize the state's finances in the near term and may help
create state budget surpluses in coming years, according to the
Legislative Analyst's Office, the state's budget watchdog.
A spokesman for Brown welcomed the ruling.
"Today's decision allows California to continue providing
quality care for people on Medi-Cal while saving the state
millions of dollars in unnecessary costs," spokesman Gareth Lacy
said in a statement.
Carman said his non-profit group would ask for a review of
the decision by the full 9th Circuit. If a review is denied, he
said he expects to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.