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SCOTUS Takes Up Idaho Medicaid Case

(CN) - The Supreme Court said Thursday it will decide whether private sector healthcare providers can force states to raise Medicaid reimbursements to keep up with the rising costs of care.

More than a dozen private healthcare providers sued Idaho in 2009, claiming the state had kept Medicaid reimbursement rates flat despite recommendations by its own health department directors for substantial raises to combat rising costs.

Both a federal judge and the 9th Circuit agreed that the providers are entitled to "reimbursement rates that bear a reasonable relationship to provider costs," and ordered Idaho lawmakers to kick down more money - about $12 million in 2013 alone.

But state officials say that the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause bars private groups from meddling with the state's delicate task of providing services on a tight budget. In fact, the groups' lawsuit undermines Congressional intent to allow states to administer their Medicaid programs with minimal interference, the state claims.

Idaho has the backing of 27 other states, and point to the fact that circuit courts are split on the private sector-Supremacy Clause issue - which the 9th Circuit admitted in its 2012 opinion.

The high court heard a similar case from California in 2012, but its 5-4 decision danced around the Supremacy Clause after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved state reimbursement rates before the court had a chance to rule.

But in a stinging dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said the court should have rejected the attempt to sue under the clause.

The Supreme Court will hear the Idaho case in 2015.

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