Broad-based coalition ushers in health reform, works to stop Medi-Cal cuts

April 24, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy 

Marking the beginning of what was hailed as an “unprecedented coalition," a group of stakeholders gathered outside the California Capitol this morning in an attempt to halt the state’s plan to further cut Medi-Cal.

The assembly marked the public debut of “We Care for California," a stakeholder group consisting of physicians and other health care professionals, labor representatives, insurance providers and California hospitals dedicated to “smart and sensible implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said Paul Phinney, M.D., president of the California Medical Association (CMA).

While Phinney noted that the group’s mission statement applies broadly to all aspects of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) implementation, Wednesday’s assembly focused on SB 640, legislation authored by state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles) that hopes to stop the 10 percent reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates recently given the green light by a federal appeals court.

The cuts, which were originally approved by the Legislature in 2011, were challenged in court by CMA, resulting in a temporary injunction. Recently, however, an appeals court overturned the injunction and the state plans to begin implementing the cuts, both retroactively and moving forward.

Lara noted that, unless SB 640 was approved and the cuts were stopped, California would soon have the largest Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) patient population in the nation, yet offer the lowest reimbursement rates.

The problem would only be amplified when as many as 2 million Californians are added to the Medi-Cal program under the ACA, beginning in 2014.

“California cannot continue to cut provider rates to the bone and, at the same time, expect providers to take more Medi-Cal patients than they do today,” he said.

Speakers from both SEIU-UHW and the California Hospital Association echoed such comments, nothing that further reductions to the Medi-Cal program have rippled effects beyond just patients and their physicians.

Several members of the state Assembly, including CMA member Richard Pan, M.D. (D-Sacramento), Assembly member Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) and Assembly member Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego), joined Sen. Lara onstage to note that California was in a better economic condition than it was when the initial cuts were approved.

Recent budget assessments released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office have been positive, Mitchell said, and suggest that it is time to “turn back the clock” on the 2011 cuts, especially giving the expansion of the Medi-Cal program coming in roughly eight months.

“We’ve got to make sure that the core foundation, which we expect to build upon, is solid,” she said.

SB 640 is being heard in the Senate Committee on Health today at 1:30 p.m.


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