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Consumer Voice Praises SCOTUS Ruling on Affordable Care Act with Caution

One of the nation’s leading elder care advocacy groups, Consumer Voice, recently praised the decision by the United States Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Each Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm understands the significance of the decisions for all Americans–including seniors and those in nursing homes.

As we’ve previously shared, in a close 5-4 decision, the high court found that the “individual mandate” portion of the law was constitutional as a tax–not pursuant to the commerce clause. The only portion of the law that the court limited was the federal government’s power to terminate state Medicaid funds if they did not enact certain changes to facilitate the law.

The Consumer Voice issued a statement praising the decision but cautioning supporters on the implications of the part of the bill which limits federal powers regarding Medicaid. The group is concerned about the implications of the ruling for those needing Medicaid services in states that might try to circumnavigate the spirit of the Affordable Care Act.

The group explains that the ruling leaves millions of Americans at risk who otherwise would qualify for coverage under the Medicaid expansion program. This is because while the court ruling did not strike down the expansion, it limited the federal government’s ability to enforce the law. As with most policy areas, the federal government’s ability to influence states to act in certain ways involves the power of the purse. States received federal funds for a wide range of services–from roads to health care programs. By threatening to withhold funds, states have clear incentives to abide by federal rules. Without that power, the federal government cannot penalize states for noncompliance.

But our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers know that that is exactly the power that the high court took away with this ruling. This means that residents of some states may not receive benefits of the program if elected officials in their state fail to properly implement the law.

One one hand it seems like common sense for state leaders to participate in the expansion. Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that provides services to those with financial needs. Most nursing home expenses are covered by Medicaid. If states participate in the program they receive matching funds from the federal government. For example, Texas officials explain that their state alone would receive upwards of $27 billion in federal matching funds. Yet the leaders may turn that down, leaving their residents high and dry, in order to make a political point.

The Chicago nursing home attorneys at our firm appreciate the role that Medicaid changes have on the quality of care provided to all those in these long-term care facilities. The fact remains that when insufficient resources are provided to the homes, corners are cut and resident suffer. A fully fleshed out Medicaid system that demands adequate resources and provides support to those who need it is crucial. It will be interesting to see how this issue shakes out in the months to come as each state decides how to respond to the law.

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