CALIFORNIA: LATINO GROUPS BLAST MEDI-CAL PROGRAM
The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California lambastedThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Medi-Cal's new managed care program, saying it was "'rife with
deficiencies' that, combined with upheaval fostered by federal
welfare reform, endangers basic health care services to
impoverished Latinos and other minorities,"
Los Angeles Times reports. The group specifically charged that
implementation of the managed care program for low-income
residents "is being hampered by a lack of community education and
outreach." In addition, the coalition said "[t]he transition to
the new Medi-Cal system in Los Angeles County, where more than
half of the 1.2 million targeted beneficiaries are Latino, is
THE COALITION'S REPORT
The coalition's 16-page critique "blasted the state's
approach to managed care for the poor, citing inadequate
translation of enrollment materials, poor or inaccurate
beneficiary education, botched or questionable patient enrollment
practices, and paltry payments and support for doctors and
hospitals that were the backbone of the old Medi-Cal system."
The report further noted that federal welfare reform, coupled
with the deficiencies of the Medi-Cal program, will make it "even
more difficult for women and children to enroll in Medi-Cal and
navigate the system."
A "TERSE" REPLY
A state health official who oversees Medi-Cal offered only a
"terse" reply to the coalition's report. "I was not provided
with a copy of this report until this morning. ... I would have
appreciated receiving (it) on a more timely basis in light of our
efforts to work with this organization," said J. Douglas Porter.
Times notes that full implementation of the new Medi-Cal program
-- which offers enrollees a choice between two HMOs -- has been
put on hold by the federal government and is not expected until
January at the earliest (Marquis, 8/26).
ANOTHER CONTENTIOUS ISSUE: PRENATAL CARE CUT
In separate news, a California appellate court ruled
yesterday in favor of Gov. Pete Wilson's (R) plan "to cut off
prenatal care for 70,000 illegal immigrant women on an emergency
basis without public hearings," Los Angeles Times reports. The
aid cuts come as part of Wilson's "aggressive" effort to deny
benefits to illegal residents and are similar to cuts proposed
under California's Proposition 187. Attorneys on both sides of
the issue "said the ruling could provide an important precedent
as the Wilson administration proceeds with ambitious plans to
deny illegal immigrants access to more than 200 other state
services, from mental health care to fishing licenses." The
prenatal care regulations are scheduled to take effect December
1; new applicants will be unable to qualify for assistance
starting November 1.
LEADER OF THE PACK
The prenatal cuts fall under last year's federal welfare
reform act, which "mandated that state and local governments end
virtually all nonemergency public aid to 'not qualified'
immigrants." Times notes that the welfare act did not stipulate
a timetable for implementing the cuts, but "[n]o other state has
moved as aggressively as California to comply with the ban."
Robert Newman, an attorney with Los Angeles-based Western
Center of Law and Poverty, said, "Once these regulations go into
effect, we're going to see untold numbers of children being born
with preventable birth defects, and that's going to cost money to
all California taxpayers." The Times reports that California's
annual costs of providing "prenatal care for illegal immigrants
is $83.7 million" a year (McDonnell/Lesher, 8/26). Click here
for a related article about Gov. Wilson's attempts to cut