ST. PAUL -- Congress, not federal courts, must resolve disputes over Medicare reimbursement rates, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in throwing out a lawsuit by Minnesota's attorney general and a state senior's group.
In his ruling late Thursday, Judge Donald Alsop acknowledged unfairness in the funding formula that determines how much each state's citizens receive for health care, but he said it does not violate the Constitution.
''The court's conclusion that Medicare Choice does not violate the Constitution is not considered a judicial endorsement of a reimbursement system which even defendants concede results in gross unequal treatment of senior citizens,'' Alsop wrote. ''It is to be hoped that those with ultimate authority to remedy this wrong -- indeed those who created it -- will promptly recognize the injustice they have created and enact legislation to correct it.''
Attorney General Mike Hatch said he was not optimistic that Congress will fix the system anytime soon because states with the highest reimbursement rates have the most representation in Congress.
''It was a long shot,'' he said.
The lawsuit did not seek money. Instead, the plaintiffs wanted to force Congress to develop a funding system that will dispense equal benefits regardless of geography.
It claimed that residents of Minnesota and other small states are discriminated against because they pay higher premiums and receive fewer benefits than Medicare enrollees in more populous states.
Hatch estimates that the current system costs the state $1 billion every two years.
Medicare, which was created in 1965, is funded through payroll taxes. To be eligible, permanent U.S. residents older than 65 must have worked or had a spouse work for 10 years. Nationwide, 39 million senior citizens and people with disabilities are served by the program. Minnesota has approximately 600,000 Medicare recipients.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.