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Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services (11-400)

Oral argument: Mar. 28, 2012

Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Aug. 12, 2011)


Congress established Medicaid in 1965 as way to provide health care to needy individuals in the United States. The program set forth several categories into which potential enrollees could fall. The categories took into account income level, existing medical conditions, and various other factors. The federal government imposes certain conditions on individual state-run Medicaid programs in exchange for federal funding for those programs. In 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will expand Medicaid to cover all persons below 133% of the poverty line, regardless of other factors. Florida and several other states filed a lawsuit arguing that this expansion represented an unconstitutional act beyond the scope of Congress’s spending power. Florida argued that the size of the program and lack of a specific alternative to participation effectively coerces states into complying with federal government’s conditions to funding. The Department of Health and Human Services argues that each state has the legal right to abstain from the program, and that the size of the program and the amount of funding involved should not determine whether the conditions are coercive. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will affect access to health care for needy individuals, the expansiveness of state sovereignty, and the financial burden imposed on the states. Continue reading »