Vanderbilt Law Review

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After the Civil War, Congress enacted a statutory private right of action to ensure the protection of an individual's federal civil rights." This right of action, now codified at Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code, creates liability for anyone who, acting under a state law, program, or policy, infringes on an individual's federal rights. Although the authors of Section 1983 intended the statute to serve primarily as a mechanism for the protection of federal constitutional rights, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that Section 1983 is a valid tool for enforcing a wide variety of statutorily created federal rights as well. The Court has developed a three-part test to determine whether a potential plaintiff may bring a Section 1983 action under a given statute. For a Section 1983 cause of action to lie, a court must ask: (1) whether the statute in question creates binding obligations for the state or local government; (2) whether the plaintiff asserts an interest under the statute that is not too vague and amorphous to enforce; and (3) whether the statute in question was intended to benefit the putative plaintiff.

Recently, in Wilder v. Virginia Hospital Association, the United States Supreme Court held that health care providers receiving reimbursements under state Medicaid programs may bring suits in federal court challenging state reimbursement schemes under Section 1983. While perhaps unsurprising in light of the Court's decade-long expansion of Section 1983 rights, the Wilder decision does not fit neatly into the Court's prior Section 1983 jurisprudence. Wilder also appears to ignore federal legislative attempts to allow states a greater degree of flexibility in developing cost-effective provider reimbursement programs."