Ohio Statute Regarding Medicaid Providers Unconstitutional

A statute in Ohio which prohibits Medicaid providers or persons with an ownership interest in a Medicaid provider from making campaign contributions to candidates for state Attorney-General or county-prosecutor is unconstitutional (Lavin v Husted, August 3, 2012, Kethledge). The ban on contributions restricts fundamental First Amendment interests and is more restrictive than necessary to achieve its goal of preventing corruption.

 First Amendment interests. Limitations on campaign contributions involve the fundamental freedoms of political association and expression and are only acceptable if the state can show they are “closely drawn” to a sufficiently important interest. While the state claimed its interest was the prevention of corruption, it could not demonstrate evidence that prosecutors abused their discretion by failing to prosecute Medicaid providers who made contributions to their campaigns and engaged in fraudulent conduct.

 Closely drawn limitations. The restriction on contributions must not unnecessarily abridge associational freedoms. Considering statistics that reveal only .003 percent of the state’s Medicaid providers committed Medicaid fraud in a one-year period, the restriction preventing of all such providers from making contributions is more broad than required.

 Standing to bring suit. The providers had standing to bring the suit despite the fact that the election year in which they wished to make campaign contributions had ended. Since they were unable to litigate the issue prior to that election, and they have indicated their desires to make such contributions in the future, the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

The case number is 11-3908. Lavin v Husted, August 3, 2012. 6th Cir.