New York's Medicaid program won't be forced to return $2.6 billion to the federal government after the Supreme Court last week struck down the president's line-item veto authority.
In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled the 1996 line-item veto law is unconstitutional. The law gives the president the authority to strike down individual tax and spending items in bills passed by Congress.
Clinton's first line-item veto was on provisions of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. He vetoed part of the law that would have deemed New York's provider taxes, which fund charity care and bad debt, in compliance with a 1991 law restricting states' ability to tax providers and use the proceeds to increase their Medicaid grants. If New York's taxes were ruled out of compliance, the state said it would have to repay the federal government up to $2.6 billion.
Now New York appears to be in the clear again. "The Supreme Court's decision to declare the Federal Line Item Veto Act unconstitutional eliminates that liability and is a decisive victory for the New York healthcare community and the patients it serves," the Greater New York Hospital Association said in a statement.
The suit against the federal government was filed in October 1997 by the city of New York, along with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, the GNYHA, and chapters of the National Health and Human Service Employeees Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The case reached the Supreme Court under expedited review. Last year U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled the line-item veto law unconstitutional.
The ruling essentially forces Congress and the states to amend the constitution in order to authorize the line-item veto, which is used to halt specific spending projects.
"If the Line Item Veto Act were valid, it would authorize the president to create a different law-one whose text was not voted on by either house of Congress or presented to the president for signature," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion.
"If there is to be a new procedure in which the president will play a different role in determining the final text of what may become a law, such change must come not by legislation but through the amendment procedures set for in . . . the Constitution," Stevens wrote.
Dissenting, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote he does not believe the line-item veto represented new power that conflicts with the Constitution.
"There is not a dime's worth of difference between Congress' authorizing the president to cancel a spending item and Congress' authorizing money to be spent on a particular item at the president's discretion," Scalia said.
In a second case with implications for providers, the court last week ruled that HIV-infected people are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The case stemmed from a dentist's refusal to fill the tooth of a woman infected with HIV. The court did not rule on whether the dentist violated the law, however, and it ordered the appeals court to reconsider its ruling that the dentist discriminated against the woman.