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Judge Says Hospital Lawsuit Against State Has Legal Standing

Veterans in Coos County deserve a medical clinic in Colebrook, according to a letter sent to the Department of Veterans Affairs by Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Charlie Bass.

The ten New Hampshire hospitals suing the state over Medicaid reimbursement rates do have a legal basis for their lawsuit. That’s according to an order issued today by a federal judge. 

The hospitals argue that the State’s slashing of more than $250 million in Medicaid funding in the last budget violates Federal guidelines. Those guidelines are meant to ensure adequate quality and access to health care for Medicaid recipients.

The State argues that if anyone can afford cuts, it’s the hospitals, which are known to pay executives high salaries. And the State says hospitals don’t even have the legal right to sue over the issue.

But Judge Steven McAuliffe disagreed with that argument, and has said the lawsuit can proceed.

Assistant Attorney General Nancy Smith is defending the State.

"I have to say, we are still reviewing it. This is somewhat of an unusual order. And so, I don’t know that we understand that fully yet, either."

Some of the confusion is over the Judge’s request for Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, to appear in New Hampshire Court on November 1st to help explain the state’s legal obligations. Smith says it is rare for a judge to ask for input from someone who isn’t party to a lawsuit.  

Lawyers for the hospitals say today’s ruling is a clear victory for their side.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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