Approval of Medi-Cal Waiver Necessary To Maintain Safety-Net Hospitals, Belshe Writes
The "financial viability of [the state's] 146 safety-net hospitals will be jeopardized" if the Legislature by September does not approve a proposed agreement with the federal government to increase federal matching funds for Medi-Cal and enroll more Medi-Cal beneficiaries in managed care plans, Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshe writes in a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece (Belshe, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/6).
Under the proposal, California would receive a five-year waiver from federal rules regarding hospital payments for Medi-Cal. The waiver would increase federal matching funds for Medi-Cal by as much as $3.3 billion over five years and allow the state to continue contracting with 230 hospitals for Medi-Cal services, rather than pay the 600 hospitals statewide.
The federal government would provide the state with an additional $671 million annually for the program over five years. Of that money, $360 million would be earmarked to shift low-income beneficiaries to managed care plans.
If the plan is not approved, the state could lose $360 million in Medicaid funding over two years (California Healthline, 6/23)
The proposed agreement is the "best waiver agreement in the nation" and "is consistent" with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) "overarching commitment to protect vital health care services for the most vulnerable Californians," according to Belshe.
Belshe writes that moving away from an established funding formula "can result in some uncertainties," but she adds that the Schwarzenegger administration "will stand by the hospitals to assure that the new accounting standards are fair and equitable to California's safety net hospitals."
Belshe concludes that the funding in the proposed waiver will help keep the state's safety-net hospitals' "doors open to provide critical health care services to the most vulnerable Californians" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/6).