Yesterday, the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School, in partnership with My Brother’s Keeper, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and Dr. Michael Saag, M.D., filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that Mississippi’s Medicaid program is illegally denying lifesaving treatment for hepatitis C (HCV) to people with substance use disorder. Mississippi Medicaid has a policy of denying lifesaving treatment to people with HCV if they have used illicit drugs in the past six months, and imposes additional restrictions based on alcohol use.
The complaint against Mississippi Medicaid builds on CHLPI’s novel legal theory—which saw recent success in Alabama—that sobriety-based restrictions on access to health care violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects people who are disabled due to substance use disorder. HCV is the deadliest bloodborne illness in the U.S. Effective and curative direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatments have been available for nearly a decade, but a dwindling number of state Medicaid programs still restrict access to HCV treatment in conflict with the medical standard of care.