June 16, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
Sacramento – The California Medical Association (CMA) responds to the Legislature’s passage of the 2014-15 budget after lawmakers approved hours before deadline.
In January, Governor Brown presented a budget that included the elimination of a retroactive collection of a 10 percent cut to California Medicaid (Medi-Cal) reimbursements that would have dated back to June 2011. While the retroactive collection continued to be left out of the budget that was approved Sunday, the cut was not restored moving forward, meaning that California’s neediest and most vulnerable patients will continue to bear the burden of balancing the state’s finances.
“Eliminating the retroactive collection was a step in the right direction and for that, we thank the Governor and lawmakers. Unfortunately though, passing a budget that does not restore the cuts to Medi-Cal moving forward will result in decreased access to care for patients that need it most,” said Richard Thorp, M.D., CMA president. “With some of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the country, these patients already have a tough time finding access to care. Roughly one third of patients in California will be on Medi-Cal; we must make restoring those rates a priority moving forward, or care will be nothing more than an empty promise of an insurance card.”
While Medi-Cal reimbursement rates were regrettably not restored moving forward, the budget did include $41.3 million ($3.75 million in state funds and $37.5 million in matching federal funds) to provide technical assistance to Medi-Cal providers to implement electronic health records (EHRs) and achieve meaningful use under the federal EHR incentive program.
“This funding will be helpful for physicians who otherwise would not have been able to implement electronic health record systems in their offices,” added Dr. Thorp.
For the first time in recent history, California will fund increased medical residency slots. The state will spend $7 million to expand the Song-Brown program, which has traditionally supported family medicine training programs but will be opened up to all primary care specialties. While approximately $3 million of the appropriated fund will goes towards increasing the whole of the Song-Brow program, $4 million will be specifically set aside to assist residency programs seeking to increase the number of residents in training, with a priority given to programs that have graduates from California-based medical schools.
“Increased funding to expand residency programs in California will be a huge relief to patients looking for care. Each year, the state is forced to send hundreds of fully trained medical school graduates out of state to begin their careers as physicians,” said Dr. Thorp. “With more residency slots in state, California can keep our doctors here and work to expand team based care led by a physician to help treat patients that need care.”
The 2014-15 budget now heads to Governor Brown’s desk for signature.