The Washington Times - February 17, 2012, 05:55PM

A dozen state attorneys general defended a massive Medicaid expansion that 26 other states will challenge before the Supreme Court next month, filing an amicus brief with the court on Friday.

They argued that the federal government has always had authority to require states to expand their Medicaid programs — and it is no different for the changes under President Obama’s health care law that will extend the program to Americans earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.


“Because Medicaid’s eligibility standards are a core element of the program, the government permissibly may withhold Medicaid funds from States that fail to comply,” the attorneys wrote in their brief. “By doing so, Congress is not coercing the States; it is simply defining the basic nature of the program.”

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger submitted the brief, joined by the attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Vermont, and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

They also said that states will still be allowed to opt out of the program entirely — a decision opponents charge will be virtually impossible to make given the sheer size of the Medicaid program and the need for insurance among the low-income.

Last month, Florida and 25 other states submitted their arguments for why they say the expansion is “coercive” and an overreach of federal authority.

But the attorneys general supporting the Medicaid expansion argued that it is central to the goals of the Affordable Care Act, whose chief aim is to dramatically lower the uninsured rate.

“Because the Medicaid expansion is crucial to effectuating one of the program’s core policies, a state that refused to implement the expansion would frustrate one of the basic goals of the program,” they wrote.