June 16, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
California lawmakers approved a $156.4 billion state budget plan yesterday that does not restore a 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal for providers – meaning that California continues to balance its budget on the backs of California's neediest and most vulnerable patients.
Thanks to California Medical Association (CMA) advocacy, in coordination with the "We Care for California" coalition, the budget does, eliminate retroactive collection of the 10 percent Medi-Cal cut that would have dated back to June 2011, saving Medi-Cal providers more than $42.1 million in retroactive "clawbacks."
“Eliminating the retroactive collection was a step in the right direction and for that, we want to 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 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 (EHR) and achieve meaningful use under the federal EHR incentive program.
“This funding will be helpful for physicians that 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 an increase in medical residency slots. The budget allocates $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-Brown program, $4 million will be specifically set aside to assist 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 budget was approved largely upon party lines in both houses. The budget now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown, who must sign it into law by the end of June.