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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
OHIO: Judge Sides with AIDS Patients, Puts New Rule on Hold
Alan Johnson
December 6, 2011
Columbus Dispatch (12.01.11) - Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A preliminary injunction issued Nov. 29 by a Franklin County judge temporarily blocked the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) from revising the eligibility standards of the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program (OHDAP).

The change, which was to have taken effect in November, would cut the maximum income allowable for eligibility from the current 300 percent of the federal poverty level to 100 percent. OHDAP, Ohio's Ryan White program, uses nearly $25 million in funding to assist 5,588 people.

Three patients filed the lawsuit, alleging that ODH had failed to follow its own rules, including notifying the public of the proposed changes. In his ruling, Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy S. Horton agreed, saying, "Individuals with AIDS and HIV-related diseases rely on medical treatment to survive. Changes to the Ryan White program will undoubtedly affect access to treatment." "Failure to grant a permanent injunction in this case would invite statewide agencies to conduct meaningless public hearings only to substantially alter the rule at a later date," Horton said.

ODH spokesperson Tessie Pollock said OHDAP had eliminated its waiting list in September, and that the change was meant to kick in only when a list was active. Rather than restricting access to treatment, she said, "These rules were meant to do just the opposite. If there is a waitlist again, we want to move the sickest people who need the medication immediately into the program."