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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Attorney Fees Awarded in Medi-Cal Case

SACRAMENTO (CN) - Attorneys who won a case accusing California lawmakers of improperly eliminating certain medical services from Medi-Cal coverage at rural and specialized health clinics will get attorney fees, a federal judge ruled.

The 9th Circuit ruled in July 2013 that California violated federal Medicaid law when it cut adult dental, podiatry, optometry and chiropractic services from its state program.

California in 2009 stopped reimbursing for these health care services, which it deemed nonessential, under the California Medical Assistance Program - or Medi-Cal - due to the budget crisis.

U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley rejected the California Association of Rural Health Clinics et al.'s challenge of the elimination of services just before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the cuts. Nunley found that the cost-saving scheme was legal under Medicaid law.

But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed, giving no deference to the agency's approval.

"Medicare unambiguously defines the clinics' services to include services performed by dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors, in addition to services provided by doctors of medicine and osteopathy," 9th Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote for the panel.

Attorneys for California Association of Rural Health Clinics and Avenal Community Health Center sought attorney fees as the prevailing parties in the case.

Judge Nunley on Nov. 6 granted fees to attorneys Kathryn Doi, Regina Boyle and Doug Cumming, as they sufficiently outlined their experience, the tasks they performed and the hours they spent on the case.

Doi is entitled to $385 to $395 per hour, Boyle to $350 per hour, and Cumming to $340 per hour, for their work on the case.

However, the other six attorneys' motions for fees must be dismissed without prejudice, as they failed to provide sufficient documentation to support their requests.

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