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National News

California STD Benefit Plan Is Rejected by US

March 12, 2002

The federal government has rejected a California proposal to provide antibiotics to treat the sexual partners of Medi-Cal beneficiaries infected with chlamydia. The move by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (USMMS) could impede the state's effort to reverse recent increases in the STD. Because the state and federal governments jointly fund Medi-Cal, the state proposal to treat sexual partners not enrolled in the program was subject to approval by USMMS. The state's request was the first of its kind in the nation.

In rejecting the request, Associate Regional Medicaid Administrator Linda Minamoto cited rules governing the health program for low-income people. Minamoto said "our bottom line was that we could not define the treatment of the partner as a service to the eligible [person], which is what we would have to do in order to pay for it." She said officials were also concerned about a state law that allows antibiotics for chlamydia to be dispensed without a doctor's exam. "Typically, we wouldn't consider that to be good medicine."

"Of course we're disappointed," said Ken August, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health Services (DHS). Reaching out to the sexual partners of Medi-Cal enrollees makes medical and financial sense, public health officials said. If doctors treat only an infected woman -- and not her sexual partners -- she has a 15-30 percent chance of becoming reinfected with the disease within six months, research shows. Women who repeatedly are infected with chlamydia face possible infertility, scarring and ectopic pregnancies.

State officials said they don't have the legislative approval to pay for partner treatments with state-only funds. As a result, people with limited income will be forced to seek care at free clinics or through other subsidized programs. "It certainly puts a roadblock into payment, but not for treatment," said Gail Margolis, deputy director of medical care services at DHS. Public health experts have found that the partners of people infected with chlamydia often would not seek care on their own but would take the prescribed drugs if they didn't have to visit the doctor.

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Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
03.12.02; Charles Ornstein



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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