Judge Orders County to Halt Unlawful Practice of Terminating Patients from Medi-Cal
Children, pregnant women and people with serious conditions and disabilities will no longer be left without medication and care simply because the county failed to process their Medi-Cal renewals
LOS ANGELES, CA – A judge ordered Los Angeles County to halt its unlawful practice of terminating Medi-Cal recipients from critical coverage after failing to process their annual renewal forms. The ruling Thursday is the result of a 2016 lawsuit accusing the county’s Department of Public Social Services of failing to timely process renewal applications and then terminating Medi-Cal—leaving people without the health care they need and lawfully deserve—in clear violation of state law.
The lawsuit—filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Western Center on Law & Poverty—demonstrated the harm suffered by sick and disabled Medi-Cal recipients who were unexpectedly cut from life-sustaining medications and care.
“We are relieved the county will no longer be allowed to leave people stranded without care,” said Neighborhood Legal Services attorney David Kane. “These unlawful policies were putting lives on the line.”
More than three million L.A. County residents depend on Medi-Cal to access medical care. Among them is Thaddeus Moncrief, a plaintiff in the case who suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed in 1989. When he was cut off from coverage, he could no longer get his medication, colostomy bags and catheters. Hilda Rodriguez, also a plaintiff, depends on Medi-Cal to cover the dialysis that’s keeping her alive. Carol Northern, another plaintiff, has a heart condition and depends on oxygen and nitric oxide to breathe. Like thousands across the County, they lost their coverage and their care, despite submitting their forms on time.
“In the time since we filed this lawsuit, more than 20,000 people have been unlawfully dropped from Medi-Cal coverage in Los Angeles County,” said Kirkland & Ellis partner Sharre Lotfollahi.
California law provides Medi-Cal patients with the right to continue their health insurance coverage while the county completes its processing of paperwork. But L.A. County has been terminating Medi-Cal coverage for thousands of patients each month in violation of state law The judge’s order prohibits the county from continuing this harmful practice, and requires the county to remedy systemic issues that have long-plagued the Medi-Cal renewal and eligibility process.
“We look forward to working with the county as it addresses these systemic issues,” said Western Center attorney Mona Tawatao.
Jim Mangia, director of plaintiff St. John’s Wells Child and Family Center, agreed. “I think the court’s order will help ensure the county’s Medi-Cal process is working for the families we serve,” he said.
Press coverage of the decision: