California Counties Gear Up To Implement Medi-Cal Waiver
California counties have started planning for the implementation of a newly approved federal waiver that will provide California with $10 billion for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, CivSource reports.
California's waiver program will provide the state with $2 billion annually over the next five years to expand Medi-Cal coverage through its county-based Health Care Coverage Initiative and Safety-Net Care Pool.
The waiver allows all counties to participate in the Health Care Coverage Initiative, which provides comprehensive health services to low-income adults who do not qualify for Medi-Cal. The state expects the initiative to affect many as 500,000 Californians.
The waiver also allows California to broaden its Safety-Net Care Pool, which supports safety-net hospitals and provides payments for uncompensated care (McCann, CivSource, 11/4).
Los Angeles County
Funds from the federal Medi-Cal waiver are expected to help the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services reduce its debt, according to officials. The county DHS faces a deficit of $429 million for this year and $200 million from last year.
John Schunhoff, the county DHS' interim director, estimated that the waiver could increase the number of county residents covered under Medi-Cal and generate an additional $65 million in reimbursements for the county (CNS/Beverly Hills Courier, 11/3).
The Merced County Department of Public Health has received a $195,000 grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation to help the county plan for an expansion of Medi-Cal coverage.
County officials intend to use the funds to collect data and determine how many residents could be newly eligible for coverage under the federal Medi-Cal waiver.
Nicole Pollack, deputy director of the Merced County Department of Human Services, said the state is providing counties with "a lot of local control" over the implementation of the waiver. She added that county officials currently are in planning stages for the local Medi-Cal expansion (Amaro, Merced Sun-Star, 11/5).
Mike Powers, director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, said an undetermined portion of the federal Medi-Cal waiver will go toward the county's Access Coverage Enrollment program.
The ACE program is a pilot project funded partly by the state's previous Medi-Cal waiver. It currently covers health services for about 7,000 uninsured residents and is processing an additional 2,000 applications.
The new Medi-Cal waiver will allow the ACE program to expand if the county meets certain requirements involving access to care. Powers said the ACE program will meet the requirements and could begin expanding within six to nine months (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 11/4).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.