DOJ, Alabama Medicaid settle over hepatitis treatment sobriety mandate
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Medicaid Agency will reverse a longstanding sobriety policy that prevented recipients from getting medications to treat their hepatitis diagnosis if they also had a substance use disorder.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed it had reached a settlement with the state agency under the Americans with Disabilities Act that ensures the affected Medicaid recipients will still have access to medications to treat it.
The state agency had a longstanding policy against providing treatment to anyone with hepatitis who had consumed any alcohol or illicit drugs within six months prior to treatment. The policy also barred payments by Medicaid for medication if a person used alcohol or illicit drugs while using the medication.
“Alabama Medicaid’s reversal of its longstanding sobriety restriction will finally allow Medicaid recipients with substance use disorders to have the same access as others to a cure for Hepatitis C,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis C can result in a range of serious health conditions, many of which affect the liver. However, highly effective treatments are available, and experts note that abstaining from alcohol or illicit drugs is not medically required for a successful treatment outcome.
The DOJ said the state agency “worked cooperatively to modify its policies” and added that the agency “will engage in a robust effort to notify Medicaid recipients and Medicaid providers of these changes.”
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