City Attorney files suit against state health dept.

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 them reapply.

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.

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.”

— Bay CIty News

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