City Attorney files lawsuit
against State Department of Health Care Services
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera
Photo by Luke
By Maya Strausberg
October 18, 2007
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Wednesday filed a
suit against the State of California that could impact medical
benefits for youth in state custody.
Herrera's suit alleges that the California Department of Health
Care Services illegally denies minors their Medi-Cal benefits
while they are in the custody of a public institution and immediately
following their release.
Under the state's Termination/Nonrestoration Policy, Herrera
said the minors lose their federally mandated Medicaid program
health care. Minors who enter detention centers are prevented
from receiving coverage for inpatient psychiatric hospital services,
which are required by state and federal law.
When the minors are released, the policy does not immediately
enroll them back into the Medi-Cal program, but instead makes
Under state and federal law, the Medicaid programs protect economically
disadvantaged individuals. When the benefits are revoked the responsibility
for providing medical services falls on the county, according
to the city attorney's office.
The issue was brought to Herrera's attention by an affirmative
litigation working group from the University of California, Berkeley's
School of Law.
"By denying Medi-Cal benefits to underprivileged youth in
custody, and by increasing their vulnerability by not restoring
coverage to them upon their release, state administrators are
betraying the promise of a federal program intended to ensure
medical coverage for our most vulnerable residents," said
Herrera's lawsuit points out that youth placed into detention
centers are more likely to suffer from medical conditions such
as substance abuse or severe mental illness.
"At a time when California is trying to secure health care
coverage for all children, it makes no sense to terminate eligible
youth from the Medi-Cal program," said Carole Shauffer, executive
director of the Youth Law Center. "We are glad that San Francisco
is taking action to ensure vulnerable youth have the health care
coverage they need."
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