After the NFIB decision in June, Maine tried to expand Justice Roberts’ remedy to also make the “maintenance of effort” provision optional for states. Maine was unsuccessful in the First Circuit with the argument, for procedural reasons. Prior coverage here.
The Obama Administration is sticking to the letter of the law, and announced Tuesday that it is refusing to allow cuts for Medicaid beneficiaries at or below 133% (138% after the 5% income disregard) of FPL in Maine.
Maine has not yet announced whether it will take the case back to the First Circuit. With Huberfeld & Leonard, we’ve argued at length (see esp. pp. 75-83) that Maine does not have the winning argument, in an article to be published in the BU Law Review later this month. SSRN version here. The short version is that MOE is a common tool to lock-in states during transition to a new program, was discussed in the briefing, but was not part of the coercion analysis in Justice Roberts’ plurality. The key provision was 42 USC 1396c, the Secretary’s authority to reduce some or all of the funding to non-compliant states. But we will see if Maine wants to argue the substance of this point at the First Circuit.
By Nicole Huberfeld
You may be thinking “DOMA? Hello, this is HEALTH LAW.” Please stick with me for a moment. The Supreme Court appears to be collecting petitions for certiorari regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, likely to determine which circuit’s decision is the best vehicle for considering the constitutionality of this federal law. One such petition results from the First Circuit’s decision in Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services/Hara v. Office of Personnel Management, which held that section 3 of DOMA violated the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The court reasoned that promoting marriage is not rationally related to denying federal benefits to same-sex couples, thereby avoiding the creation of a new category of suspect class. The twist is that the state of Massachusetts also claims that section 3 of DOMA, which denies federal economic benefits to same-sex couples, exceeds Congress’s Spending Clause authority and infringes the state’s 10th Amendment rights. While the First Circuit did not agree with the state on these points, it did incorporate federalism concerns into its Equal Protection Clause analysis by noting that states traditionally have defined marriage, therefore the federal government cannot protect the state of Massachusetts from its own definition of marriage by promoting heterosexual marriage. Continue reading