Court Halts Medi-Cal Pay Cut for Pharmacists During Lawsuit
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling in a challenge to Medi-Cal cuts to pharmacists and blocked the reduced payments from taking effect until at least August 11, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The cuts were scheduled to take effect on July 1 (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 7/14).
In February, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) approved a 10% reduction to Medi-Cal provider payments to help address the state budget deficit (California Healthline, 6/6). The cuts to Medi-Cal provider payments are projected to save the state $600 million in spending for the program.
The lawsuit was filed by the Independent Living Center of Southern California, several chapters of the Gray Panthers and multiple pharmacies and pharmacists. The suit sought to block the cuts and requested a restraining order to keep them from taking effect while the suit is before the court.
The Los Angeles District Court rejected the suit.
The appeals court overturned that ruling, finding that the plaintiffs could argue that the state law cutting the Medi-Cal payments violates the federal Medicaid Act. The plaintiffs maintain that the state law violates the U.S. constitution.
The appeals court directed the district court to reconsider the suit and blocked the cuts from taking effect while the matter is under consideration. Although the ruling applies only to pharmacists, it also overturns a ruling by a Sacramento district judge earlier this month (Sacramento Business Journal, 7/14).
If the Los Angeles Superior Court does not reach a decision on the case by August 11, the appeals court ruling indicates that plaintiffs can petition the appeals court for action in the matter.
The Department of Health Care Services said it would delay the pay cuts to pharmacists but said department officials believe "these payment reductions comply with applicable laws" (George, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 7/15).