Court Fines District over Missed Health Care Deadlines; 'Institutional Failure' to Cost City $931,050

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 23, 2008 | Go to article overview

Court Fines District over Missed Health Care Deadlines; 'Institutional Failure' to Cost City $931,050


Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A federal court has ordered the D.C. government to pay more than $900,000 in fines for failing to provide adequate Medicaid service to the District's children from low-income families, in a ruling some lawyers say shows a fundamental problem with the health insurance program.

The District is supposed to provide the children with health screening and treatment but has shown persistent and long-standing failures to meet deadlines for providing the services, said the ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The ruling is a follow-up to a class-action lawsuit filed by the D.C. law firm Terris, Pravlik & Millian and the National Health Law Program on behalf of the District's low-income residents who rely on Medicaid.

The D.C. government reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in 1999 that set standards for Medicaid services and deadlines for providing them. Among the standards and deadlines not met are failing to file a report on a children's oral health program by April 15, 2007, and failing to provide a timely plan on testing children's blood for lead.

In her ruling last week, Judge Gladys Kessler fined the D.C. government $931,050 for failing to meet deadlines for service.

What the case is about is institutional failure to provide those necessary services, Judge Kessler wrote.

The D.C. government failed to comply with Medicaid laws, court orders and with the settlement agreement which it negotiated with the plaintiffs approximately nine-and-a-half years ago, she wrote. Most significantly, it is about failure of the political leadership in the District of Columbia government to make available the resources necessary to achieve compliance with the Medicaid statute and the settlement agreement.

D.C. government officials denied any wrongdoing Friday.

We have substantial ground for an appeal and will continue to provide citizens of the District with quality Medicaid service, acting D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said.

Medicaid is a health program for low-income people funded jointly by the federal government and the states plus the District of Columbia. The states and the D.C. government administer the program.

The plaintiffs asked the court to impose fines on the D.C. government in 2006, saying Medicaid administrators did not fulfill their obligations under the Medicaid program or the settlement agreement.

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Court Fines District over Missed Health Care Deadlines; 'Institutional Failure' to Cost City $931,050
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