December 12, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
With California looking at a budget surplus for the first time in years, the Assembly Democrats released their 2014 budget blueprint yesterday, which includes raising the state's reimbursement rate for doctors who treat patients through the Medi-Cal program. The Assembly Democratic budget plan doesn't specify how much money it would restore to the program, saying it would be a "phase in" of higher provider rates.
Currently, those rates are among the lowest in the nation and were the focus of intense Capitol debate this year, with thousands of physicians and other providers showing up on the Capitol steps to protest cuts to the program. The pool of Medi-Cal patients is expected to grow substantially in the next few years under an expansion called for in the federal Affordable Care Act.
“The forecasted budget surplus, along with today’s announcement from Assembly Democrats, gives us hope that California will stop balancing the budget at the expense of patients who need care the most but have the hardest time getting it,” said Richard Thorp, M.D., California Medical Association (CMA) president. A commitment to restore cuts made in 2011 will help increase access for the millions of new patients eligible for health care coverage under federal reform.”
The details of the budget will be worked out during public hearings following Gov. Jerry Brown's budget unveiling next month.
The announcement comes just three weeks after the Legislature's independent analysts projected multi-billion dollar budget surpluses in the years to come, thanks to an improving economy and the 2012 passage of temporary tax hikes by voters.
Assembly Democrats want to spend some $3.5 billion of California's of this surplus to restore recent program cuts — from a full roll-out of transitional kindergarten to higher reimbursement rates for doctors.
Assembly Democrats also said they want to put constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would build a rainy-day fund for the state. This would limit overspending in good years and offset cuts in bad years. The goal is to build a $8 billion reserve by 2016-17, an amount that mirrors the legislative analyst’s projected surplus that year.
Last summer, 8,000 health care workers and patients traveled to the State Capitol from across California, urging Governor Brown and the Legislature to stop the cuts to Medi-Cal. The rally was the largest health care rally to ever to be held in Sacramento.
The rally was sponsored by the We Care for California Coalition that state’s largest coalition of health care providers, including major statewide organizations representing physicians, dentists, hospitals, community clinics, first responders, health workers, caregivers and major health plans. The coalition members include the California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Primary Care Association, Dignity Health, SEIU-UHW, California Association of Physicians Groups, the California Dental Association, Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net, American Medical Response and Molina Healthcare. The coalition was formed earlier this year with the expressed mission to expand access to quality health care for all Californians and to oppose further rate cuts to Medi-Cal.