AIDS Healthcare Foundation Sues California Over Delay On Medi-Cal For HIV-Infected

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HIV and AIDS Lawsuits

US healthcare provider files superior court action to compel State to comply with landmark 2002 AIDS care billIntended to extend Medi-Cal coverage to HIV positive, non-disabled Californians.

Nearly five years after California Governor Gray Davis signed a landmark bill to extend Medicaid (Medi-Cal) coverage to HIV-positive, non-disabled individuals statewide, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the US' largest HIV/AIDS healthcare, prevention and education provider, which operates AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia -- including 12 clinics in California -- today filed a legal complaint against California's Department of Health Services to compel the state to comply with this groundbreaking legislation. Since the bill, AB 2197, was signed into law by Davis in September 2002, implementation of this potentially lifesaving measure remains at a standstill.

The lawsuit, filed earlier today in Superior Court, Los Angeles County in the State of California (BS108234) by AHF alleges that California's Department of Health Services, "...has failed to comply with any requirements contained in AB 2197. As a result, no additional Californians have received Medi-Cal coverage and the attending medical care and treatment. AHF has submitted a request to DHS under the Public Records Act for all documents demonstrating compliance with AB 2197, but thus far has received no formal response or documents."

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"AB 2197 was intended to help HIV-positive Californians access lifesaving care before they progress to an AIDS diagnosis, and it borders on criminal that almost five years later California is no closer to implementing this crucial legislation," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. "At the time of its initial passage, I noted that the bill was the most important piece of AIDS legislation in California in a decade. It does absolutely no good to have such visionary legislation if state bureaucrats are unable or unwilling implement it, so we are filing this action to compel California to comply with the law."

"We are asking the Court for a declaration that California's Department of Health Services has indeed violated, and continues to violate AB 2197," said Tom Myers, General Counsel for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We are also seeking a writ of mandate from the Court directing DHS and its Director, Sandra Shewry, to comply with all applicable provisions of the law."

"We know HIV-positive people can lead longer, healthier lives if they are in care and on treatment, so I'd urge state officials to quickly comply with and honor the intent of this legislation," said Dr. Charles Farthing, Chief of Medicine for AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

AB 2197 came about in part in response to a call by the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for states to seek waivers to extend healthcare services to low-income individuals in the early stages of HIV. As written and signed into law, AB 2197 directs California's Department of Health Services to, among other things:

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