Calif. Turned Back on HIV-Positive Residents

LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that California failed to comply with a 2002 state law requiring it to extend Medi-Cal coverage to HIV-positive Californians, it was announced Thursday.

The Legislature passed a law in 2002 expanding Medi-Cal coverage to HIV-positive Californians who had previously been deemed not sick enough to qualify for the coverage because they had not yet been diagnosed with AIDS.

Tom Myers, general counsel for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, called the failure to provide Medi-Cal coverage on that basis "counterintuitive at best" because it delayed paying for treatment until the illness became harder -- and more costly -- to treat.

To help balance out the costs of the expanded HIV coverage, the law directed the state to encourage people who already have AIDS to enroll in managed care plans that are cheaper for the state while providing the same level of care, he said.

In his Nov. 25 decision, Judge James Chalfant said the state's Department of Health Care Services had arbitrarily failed to implement the changes.

Put simply, Myers said, "They took no steps to ever determine whether or not this law actually could work, they just threw up their hands and decided it couldn't work."

Norman Williams, a deputy director for DHCS, maintained that the department had met its statutory requirements, performing cost analysis that showed the plan to be unworkable without funding.

"We did an analysis and found that it was not responsible in a cost-neutral environment," Williams said.

The results of the court's decision remain to be seen.

"We're going to carefully review the court's decision and respond accordingly," Williams said.

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