Judge Approves Agreement for State To Provide Assistive Speech Devices To Some Medi-Cal Beneficiaries
The Department of Health Services through Medi-Cal will provide speech-generating devices to 53 low-income residents with severe speech disabilities under a settlement U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell approved Tuesday, the Sacramento Bee reports (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 10/28).
A lawsuit filed in May alleged that a 20% cut in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to providers of the devices resulted in a number of beneficiaries with severe speech impediments being illegally denied aid. Prior to the rate cuts, Medi-Cal covered 100% of the cost of the devices.
The lawsuit stated that the makers of the equipment stopped delivering devices to approved patients because the new reimbursement rates are below the amounts paid by other device-funding sources in California, including Medicare, private insurance, Tricare and the Department of Veterans Affairs (California Healthline, 5/27).
The plaintiffs are expected to receive the devices Friday, Zachary Potter, an attorney representing them, said.
The devices cost $100 to $7,500, according to Lewis Golinker, director of the Assistive Technology Law Center, an advocacy group for people with disabilities.
Potter said, "After we filed the suit and brought the problem to the attention of the attorney general's office, we all worked together to find a solution. It was never adversarial." He added that DHS and the attorney general's office "recognized the emergency for what it was, and they made sure that everyone whose devices had been approved but withheld will now be getting them."
Nathan Barakin, spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D), said, "No one wants to see this type of equipment denied to the people who really need it. We're very happy we could find a resolution that will now provide them this sorely needed help" (Sacramento Bee, 10/28).