Federal court dismisses Medicare lawsuit

A U.S. district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging discriminatory Medicare rates.

In dismissing the suit filed in November against the federal government and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, Judge Donald D. Alsop called for congressional action to correct Medicare injustice.

The lawsuit, filed by the Minnesota Senior Federation, Metro Region, and Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, claimed that the current Medicare program has created an unfair two-tier health care system for older Americans, based simply on where they live.

The suit charged that the Health Care Financ-ing Administration allows more than a 200% variance in Medicare reimbursement to counties around the country, making the practice biased and discriminatory.

The suit cited the case of a 72-year old Florida resident who wanted to move to Minnesota to be near her daughter but is prohibited from doing so because Medicare Part C health coverage in Minnesota is insufficient to meet her health care expenses, as compared to her Medicare managed care plan in Florida.

The court’s dismissal of the lawsuit "is not to be considered a judicial endorsement of a reimbursement system, which even the defendants concede results in gross unequal treatment of senior citizens," Alsop wrote in his decision. He called for federal officials to "promptly recognize the injustice they have created and enact legislation to correct it."