Court Orders California To Implement Program Providing Care to HIV-Positive People
A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles late last month ruled that the California Department of Health Care Services must provide medical care to low-income state residents living with HIV in compliance with a 2002 state law, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced, Bloomberg reports (Pettersson, Bloomberg, 12/23/08). The ruling follows a Dec. 5 decision by the Los Angeles County Superior Court that said DHCS failed to enact the 2002 state law (AB 2197) that calls for the implementation of a program to provide medical care to low-income HIV-positive people. The Dec. 5 ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed last year by AHF claiming that DHCS failed to expand coverage under Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, to HIV-positive residents who had not developed AIDS.
The law, signed by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) in September 2002, calls for the state to provide full Medi-Cal benefits to HIV-positive people who already are enrolled in the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, "who are not disabled and who would otherwise qualify for benefits under the Medi-Cal program." Before the law was passed, only people with an AIDS diagnosis who were considered disabled were eligible for benefits under Medi-Cal. To fund the program's expansion, the law suggested moving Medi-Cal beneficiaries with AIDS from the current fee-for-service system to a less expensive managed care program. The money saved would go toward financing the expansion of Medi-Cal benefits to people with HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5/08).
In a statement, AHF President Michael Weinstein said, "Despite an excellent record on AIDS issues," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "has been ill-served by his administration, which for six years has failed to enact this crucial -- and ultimately cost-saving -- health care legislation." DHCS spokesperson Anthony Cava said it was not possible to implement the law in a "cost-neutral environment" and that the law was "very clear that it should not be implemented if the costs could not be offset by savings." Cava added that DHCS "will continue to work with its partners to implement the law in a cost-neutral manner, just as the legislature intended" (Bloomberg, 12/23/08).