Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up California's proposed Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts today, with the top court hearing arguments in a high-stakes matter that could affect millions of patients as well as the doctors who treat them.

As Michael Doyle reported last week, one of the Obama administration's top lawyers will help argue on the state's behalf in three related cases being closely watched nationwide.

The state has proposed to cut doctor reimbursement for Medi-Cal patients, limit the times patients can see a doctor each year, and require patient co-pays. The administration contends that those challenging the cuts don't have the authority to do so. Medi-Cal is California's version of the federal program Medicaid.

Lyle Denniston of the Scotusblog reports that Karin S. Schwartz of San Francisco, a senior deputy state attorney general, will represent the state during the hourlong argument. She'll share 10 minutes of a 30-minute slot with Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler. Carter G. Phillips of the Sidley Austin law firm is representing health care providers.

Click here to read Denniston's background and analysis. Here's what he writes about the possible impact: "These three cases may be of most immediate consequence for the massive federal Medicaid program, but their potential looms very large, indeed. ... The outcome has the promise of producing one of the new Term's most important decisions for the structure of government, and for the future of the social 'safety net.' "

Thirty-one states, several associations representing governors and other state and local officials, and the public policy advocacy group APA Watch have backed California in the matter, Denniston says.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to work through the bills that legislators sent him last month. This means lawmakers' lobbying window is closing as well.

Brown's office estimated that, as of Friday, the mountain of measures on the governor's desk had shrunk but was still no molehill, with about 440 bills to go.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, turns 61 today.


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