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Health News Florida

Court To Move Quickly On Prison Hepatitis Case

The state may have to pay millions of dollars more in treatment costs for inmates infected with hepatitis C.
Florida Department of Corrections
A federal appeals court has agreed to move quickly in deciding a case about whether Florida should be required to provide expensive treatment to prison inmates who have been diagnosed with early stages of hepatitis C.

A federal appeals court has agreed to move quickly in deciding a case about whether Florida should be required to provide expensive treatment to prison inmates who have been diagnosed with early stages of hepatitis C.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week approved a request by the state for “expedited” consideration of the case, which is scheduled for oral arguments on June 10 in Miami.

The state asked for a decision by Sept. 8 because of the possibility that it will have to spend $28 million to address the treatment issue.

The Atlanta-based appeals court often takes longer than three months to decide cases after oral arguments.

The case centers on the use of an expensive type of medication known as “direct acting anti-virals” to treat hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease that can be fatal.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled last year that the medication should be provided to all inmates with hepatitis C, prompting an appeal by the Department of Corrections.

The state does not dispute that direct acting anti-virals should be provided to inmates with later stages of hepatitis C.

But the Department of Corrections contends that it would not violate prisoners’ constitutional rights if it did not provide the medication to prisoners in the early stages.

In a budget passed in March, lawmakers set aside $28 million in reserves to pay for treating the inmates if needed. In requesting expedited consideration of the appeal, state attorneys said they would need to meet an April 2021 deadline to carry out Walker’s order.

As a result, they said they want to be able, if necessary, to request release of the money in September from the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, a panel made up of House and Senate members that can make mid-year budget decisions.