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OKLAHOMA v. HARRIS

October 31, 1979

STATE OF OKLAHOMA et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Patricia R. HARRIS, Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In this proceeding thirteen states *fn1" challenge the constitutionality of Section 1618, the so-called "pass-through" provision of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. § 1382g. *fn2" Named as defendants are the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (Department or HEW) and other officials of that agency. Declaratory and injunctive relief is sought against the HEW officials charged with the administration of the controverted provision and other provisions of the Act related to and affected by the defendants' implementation of Section 1618.

 Section 1618 requires the states as a condition of the receipt of federal Medicaid funds to maintain certain levels of state payments to the SSI program. The plaintiffs charge that the Section presents a misuse of the federal spending power, abridges the sovereign rights of the states, and is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

 The parties concede that there are no material facts in dispute and the legal issues presented may be resolved by appropriate cross motions for summary judgment. Such motions have been filed. Amici memoranda supporting the HEW have been submitted on behalf of the National Senior Citizens Law Center, the Legal Services Corporation of Alabama, Inc., and the Legal Aid of Western Oklahoma, Inc.

 After a consideration of the parties' legal memoranda and supporting points and authorities, the Court rejects the challenge of the plaintiff states, enters summary judgment for the defendants and dismisses the complaint. The reasons for this determination are set forth in this Memorandum Opinion.

 SUMMARY OF THE STATUTORY SCHEME

 A. General Background

 The Social Security Act of 1935 *fn3" represented a response of the Congress and the federal government to the severe economic and social dislocation which affected a large segment of the country's population in the early 1930's. Within the context of this litigation, the original 1935 Act included a federal old age insurance program, grants to states for old age assistance and grants for aid to the blind. Under the grant in aid programs, a state would be reimbursed by the federal government for expenditures made for such aid by adopting and filing a plan for its assistance programs which complied with federal requirements. A state would administer its own program but in order to receive reimbursement for its expenditures, the state was obliged to conform to certain federal requirements.

 Since 1935 the Act has been amended frequently to reflect changing problems, emphasis and needs. This proceeding concerns the aspects of the Act which, through federal-state cooperation, provide cash assistance and medical care for the purpose of meeting the related economic and health needs of the poor. Two federal programs providing financial assistance to persons with low incomes are involved: the Supplemental Security Income program and the Medicaid program. Also involved in this litigation is the relation between those programs and state programs of financial assistance which supplement and augment the federal SSI program.

 The SSI program, a federally administered welfare program, provides cash assistance payments directly to needy-eligible aged, blind and disabled persons. *fn4" Enacted in 1974, it replaced a system of federal grants, under the Social Security Act, to states for use with state funds in state administered programs of cash assistance to needy adult persons. With inauguration of the SSI program, the former federal state matching fund program was terminated.

 Under the replaced state programs, the assistance payments made to the participants varied from state to state. The SSI program, however, provides the states with uniform, federally-funded minimum payment levels, available to all recipients. The federal government also determines the eligibility of recipients and administers the program.

 C. The Medicaid Program

 The Medicaid Act *fn5" established a program of federal grants to states for the purpose of providing medical assistance to the needy. Assistance is generally provided in the form of reimbursement from the state to providers of medical services, such as physicians, hospitals, nursing homes or other institutions. The federal government in turn reimburses the states for a portion of their Medicaid expenditures.

 Prior to 1965, such assistance had been administered as part of the programs of cash assistance to the needy. In 1965 it was made administratively separate from cash assistance programs. See Pub.L. No. 89-97, 79 Stat. 286.

 Medicaid is the largest federal-state matching fund program now in existence. Each of the participating plaintiff states has been in the program, since July 1, 1977, when the "pass-through" amendment took effect.

 D. State Supplement Program

 Since many state grant programs paid assistance at levels higher than those provided under the SSI program, the Congress recognized that some states might desire to supplement the uniform federal payment. Indeed, a state was encouraged to supplement the basic federal payment with state funds so as to avoid a hardship to needy recipients arising when receiving only the ...


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