Leading Democrats in Congress, many of whom hail from California, were also aggrieved. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), one of the architects of Medicaid, told the New York Times, “I am bitterly disappointed that President Obama would . . . file a brief that is contrary to the decades-long practice of giving Medicaid beneficiaries and providers the ability to turn to the courts.” Waxman, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and four others filed their own brief in the case, arguing that “California has failed to adhere to its obligations.”
And that brings us to the Supreme Court, which heard oral argument for the case on Monday, the opening day of the new term. According to Mark Sherman of the Associated Press, Chief Justice John Roberts appeared skeptical of the providers’ claims, stating that the legislature “intended to deprive [providers] of the right to sue under the statute.” Elena Kagan took the other side, accusing California of evading federal law.
It’s the kind of lose-lose case that is the inevitable result of government-run health care. If the State of California wins, doctors and hospitals who treat Medicaid patients will be forced to choose between dumping those patients and bankruptcy. If the providers win, California won’t be able to balance its budget, driving the entire state over the fiscal cliff.
Unlike in Hollywood movies, two plus two never equals seven in real life. The implosion of Medicaid in California is a tragedy that affects the lives of millions. But if Obamacare remains the law of the land, Medi-Cal is only the trailer.
— Avik Roy is author of The Apothecary, a blog on health-care and entitlement reform, and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at @aviksaroy.