California Agencies Prioritized Exchange Over Medi-Cal
California officials prioritized the state's insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act over the law's expansion of Medi-Cal, leading to a backlog of applications for the low-income health program, HealthyCal reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
By April 15, about 1.4 million California residents had enrolled in a plan through the exchange. Meanwhile, about 1.9 million residents enrolled in Medi-Cal as of March 31.
Details of Medi-Cal Backlog
According to HealthyCal, Covered California and the state Department of Health Care Services are "playing catch-up" on Medi-Cal enrollment after choosing to focus on exchange enrollment ahead of Jan. 1, the kick-off date for both the exchange and Medi-Cal expansion.
A computer program designed to confirm Medi-Cal eligibility was supposed to launch on Oct. 1, 2013, but it was not available until Jan. 21. In addition, the computer program had several glitches after it was launched and it was missing features that were included in the exchange's enrollment program. According to HealthyCal, many of the issues with the program have not yet been corrected.
The state now faces a backlog of 900,000 Medi-Cal applications.
Reasons for Prioritizing Exchange
State officials said the decision to prioritize the exchange over Medi-Cal expansion was made to comply with ACA deadlines.
DHCS spokesperson Anthony Cava said, "The need to comply with the essential requirements of the ACA open enrollment period meant that certain [information technology] projects were prioritized over others."
Exchange spokesperson Anne Gonzales said, "Now that open enrollment (in the exchange) is over, we are able to reflect and make some needed fixes for performance improvement for Medi-Cal enrollment."
Elizabeth Landsberg, director of legislative advocacy for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, said that program contractors were not given adequate time to create the programs for both Medi-Cal and the exchange. She said, "There were certain decisions that were made that advantaged the Covered California side of the house to the detriment of Medi-Cal."
Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association, said, "One group was prioritized over another, and I don't think that's good public policy" (Guzik, HealthyCal, 5/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.