A federal appeals court on Friday ruled invalid a California law that eliminated coverage of some healthcare services for the poor, including adult dental, podiatry, optometry and chiropractic care.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the federal Medicaid program for the poor prohibits the changes imposed by the California law.
The decision could have budgetary implications for the nation's most populous state. A spokesman for Governor Jerry Brown had no immediate comment on the ruling.
Medicaid benefits are funded jointly by the federal government and individual states. Faced with a budget crisis in 2009, California state lawmakers limited a variety of healthcare services covered by Medicaid, a decision ultimately approved by the federal agency that oversees the program.
An association of rural health clinics sued to block the changes.
A lower court ruled that the limits were not in conflict with Medicaid, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court unanimously reversed that decision on Friday.
Federal law "unambiguously defines" those benefits as among the healthcare that Medicaid must provide, 9th Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote.
Recently, California lawmakers restored some of the dental benefits in a state budget that represented a turnaround from several years of cutting. More than $130 million in healthcare benefits had been eliminated in 2009. The dental benefit restorations comprise about $77 million, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, an advocacy group.
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