(CN) - The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a state law requiring counties to foot portions of the state's medical costs of caring for its poor, elderly and disabled residents.
Before 1998, counties were responsible for paying part of the long-term care of indigent elderly and disabled residents.
In 1998, the Legislature passed a bill requiring the counties to pick up additional costs, including some of the medical costs for elderly people living at home. The law included a "sunset provision," which provided that the counties' earlier financial obligations would be repealed by June 30, 2003.
Since then, the state has extended the sunset provision to at least 2007 and has passed bills that gradually increased the counties' share of the costs, the New Hampshire Association of Counties claimed.
The association and 10 counties sued the state, challenging the constitutionality of the cost-shifting laws it passed.
The lower court rejected the counties' constitutional claims and sided with the state.
The high court agreed, finding that "no new, expanded or modified program or responsibility has been enacted." Instead, the laws simply shifted the state's responsibility for some costs to the counties and vice versa, the court ruled.
However, the justices did not rule out future appeals, saying the most recent law governing fiscal years 2011 to 2013 is "not ripe for review."
Justice Duggan dissented in part, arguing that the extension of the sunset provision violated the state Constitution.