"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Fifteen States Sue Bush over Medicare Rx Costs
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
March 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Fifteen states are urging the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of immediately intervening to resolve a dispute between states and the federal government over the costly new Medicare prescription drug program.

Justices were told Friday that states should not be forced to help fund the program, which could cost them billions of dollars over the next two years.

"The federal government has placed what amounts to a direct tax upon Texas and other states in violation of the U.S. Constitution," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the lead attorney in the case, said in a statement.

Traditionally, such lawsuits are filed first in a federal district court.

Texas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri and New Jersey asked the Supreme Court for permission to file what is called an original case to get the issue directly before the justices.

Ten states filed a brief backing the move: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Vermont. Lawyers for those states told justices that the program "establishes a dangerous precedent that threatens" states' independence.

A 2003 law added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. It went into effect Jan. 1 for those who signed up early and for millions who previously were covered by state Medicaid programs.

Gary Karr, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said states are eventually going to save billions of dollars under the new program. "That's why very few states decided to join this lawsuit, despite requests for them to do so," Karr said.

State lawsuits against each other are filed directly with the Supreme Court. State lawsuits against the federal government can be filed directly with the Supreme Court, or begin in lower court. The high court does not have to agree to resolve them.

"I don't know if the Supreme Court is going to want to be the first court to get into this dispute. It seems controversial and political," said Neil Siegel, a Duke University law professor and former Supreme Court clerk.

If the court agrees to take the case, it will appoint someone to oversee it and make recommendations.

David Frederick, a Washington lawyer and Supreme Court expert, said "the states are trading the normal tools of district court litigation" in hopes of getting a speedier outcome at the high court.

The case is Texas v. Leavitt, No. 135.

Original Text