Written by Hanna Ali, Summer 2017 intern in the Health Law and Policy Clinic.
Iowa. Or rather, “aiwa.” means “yes” in Arabic. It is frequently used in casual speech, carrying undertones of understanding, common ground, and empathy. I use the word often as an Arabic speaker, but I did not expect to do so with a cab driver in Denver, Colorado.
I traveled to Denver as part of CHLPI’s impact litigation efforts to challenge the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing’s refusal to cover hepatitis C medication for all hepatitis C patients. Presently, the Department will only cover the costs of medication for patients with a liver damage score of 2 or higher (on a scale of 0 to 4). This serves as a barrier for patients with a score of 0–2. The purpose of the trip was to attend a case analysis and strategy meeting with co-counsel from other organizations, including the ACLU of Colorado. The meeting was a day-long affair and was a unique opportunity to witness the collaboration that goes into impact litigation cases, as well as the deep intellectualizing of the legal issues and jurisprudence that goes into litigation strategy. I found it to be an incredibly enlightening experience as a rising second-year law student.
Prior to 2011, hepatitis C treatment options had a cure rate less than 50 percent with many painful side effects. New medication approved for use in 2011 promises a 90 percent cure rate without the painful side effects. While over 14 thousand Medicaid members in Colorado are diagnosed with hepatitis C, only a fraction will get coverage for their treatment under the current policy. Impact litigation efforts such as this one are therefore vital to health care enforcement efforts.
On our way back from the meeting, we took a cab with an immigrant from Sudan. I chatted with him in Arabic, discussing my academic goals while learning about his family. I was reminded again of the very privileged situation I find myself in, and how I have an obligation to leave the world just a little better than how I found it.