August 21, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
SACRAMENTO — The California Medical Association (CMA), joined by several other health advocacy organizations across the state, spoke to legislators during yesterday’s Governor-ordered special session on public health, as policymakers decide how to better support and improve the state’s drastically underfunded Medicaid program, Medi-Cal.
Poor funding for Medi-Cal has resulted in decreased access to health care for patients, resulting in long wait times for appointments and long distances to access needed medical specialists. For a typical office visit under Medi-Cal, physicians are reimbursed roughly $16 — far less than the cost of providing care.
“Medi-Cal is seriously underfunded,” said Ruth Haskins, M.D., a Sacramento OB-GYN and CMA member. “With some of the lowest rates in the nation, it’s becoming more and more difficult for patients with Medi-Cal to find access to care. A tobacco tax, for example, is one option to ensure Medi-Cal is funded and the kids and seniors that depend on the program are getting the health care they need.”
California ranks 47th in the nation’s Medicaid reimbursement rate amount.Fully funding Medi-Cal will reduce overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms — and, consequently, save money — because Medi-Cal recipients will be able to schedule an office visit for routine health needs, instead of seeking treatment in more costly ERs. It will also save money by preventing diseases and conditions that are expensive to treat.
Raising the tobacco tax would help fund the widely used Medi-Cal program and serve a dual purpose: it would decrease smoking rates, while generating additional revenue for Medi-Cal provider rates.
“We urge our representatives in the state legislature to take advantage of this special session and strengthen Medi-Cal, a vital health program,” CMA President Luther F. Cobb, M.D., said. “And we strongly suggest this committee and the Legislature look at funding solutions like the tobacco tax that could help not just a specific group, but Californians across the board.”