Court Overturns Medicaid Provider Contributions Ban

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a group of physicians in an August 2 decision that overturns an Ohio statute prohibiting Medicaid providers from contributing to the campaign of any candidate running for Attorney General or county prosecutor in the State of Ohio. 

The Ohio Osteopathic Association, Academy of Medicine of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, and the Ohio State Medical Association joined together in filing  an amicus brief suporting the position of the plaintiff physicians.  Although the opinion does not expressly mention the amici in its brief, attorneys involved in the case believe the associations' support helped illustrate to the justices just how overbroad the law’s effect was.

The Ohio statute in question makes it a crime for state Attorney General or county prosecutor candidates to accept campaign contributions from Medicaid providers or any person with an ownership interest in a Medicaid provider.

The plaintiff physicians were all Medicaid providers who attempted to contribute to Richard Cordray’s 2010 campaign for reelection as Ohio Attorney General. When the campaign learned that the plaintiffs were Medicaid providers, however, it refused to accept their contributions, citing Ohio law.

The plaintiffs subsequently brought a lawsuit against Ohio’s Secretary of State on September 3, 2010, claiming that § 3599.45 is unconstitutional, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. After discovery, both sides moved for summary judgment.

On July 22, 2011, the district court denied the plaintiffs’ motion and granted the Secretary of State's  motion. The court reasoned that § 3599.45 was supported by a general interest in “preventing corruption” and that the court should not “second guess” the Ohio Legislature’s means of furthering that interest. The District Court appeal followed.

The Appeals Court concluded  contribution limits are permissible only if “the Government demonstrates that the limits are ‘closely drawn’ to match a ‘sufficiently important interest.’”  It ruled that the Secretary of State presented no evidence to support that § 3599.45 prevents actual or perceived corruption among prosecutors in Ohio.

The court referred to affidavits from three former Ohio Attorneys General, each of whom said that “decision making in the Attorney General’s office regarding Medicaid fraud would not have been influenced by their campaign committee’s receipt of campaign contributions from individual Medicaid providers. 

Finally, the Appeals Court stated the ban is vastly more restrictive than necessary to achieve its stated goal, since only 316 (.003% ) of Ohio’s Medicaid providers were implicated in Medicaid fraud in a one year period (2009); while the statue prevents all 93,000 of Ohio’s Medicaid providers from contributing to candidates for Attorney General or county prosecutor.  The court therefore ruled the statute restricts the First Amendment rights of nearly 100,000 Medicaid providers who do not commit fraud.

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