Health Plan of San Mateo Directors Consider Strategies To Continue Operations
Directors of Health Plan of San Mateo are beginning to "contemplate drastic cutbacks to keep the system alive" in the event the state does not restore $5 million in funding that had been approved by officials of former Gov. Gray Davis' (D) administration, the San Mateo County Times reports (Hay, San Mateo County Times, 1/14). Health Plan of San Mateo is managed by San Mateo County in an effort to expand Medi-Cal beneficiaries' network of pharmacies, hospitals and doctors by providing higher reimbursement rates than traditional Medi-Cal. It provides coverage to an estimated 43,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries. In October, health plan officials warned that they would be forced to cease operations unless the plan received government funding. The health plan is losing about $600,000 a month because medical inflation has outpaced state contributions to the health plan (California Healthline, 10/27/03). In November, former Finance Director Daniel Zingale pledged $2.4 million to the health plan at the request of Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo). However, the funding was "immediately nixed" when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) took office, and it remains unclear whether Legislative Director Richard Costigan will restore the funding, the Times reports. "Belt-tightening" at the health plan has ensured its future for the next six months, according to plan director Michael Murray. Speier is optimistic that the state funding will be restored. Health plan directors continue to contemplate options for maintaining the plan if the funds are not approved, including limiting the medicine available to health plan patients; prescribing more generic medications; and possibly merging with a larger health plan. According to the Times, another proposal under consideration would reduce reimbursement rates to doctors by as much as 15%, a move that could force as many as 40% of doctors in the plan to stop seeing Medi-Cal beneficiaries (San Mateo County Times, 1/14).
The Health Plan of San Mateo "will soon resemble medicine in the developing world unless ... Schwarzenegger eases up on his budget-cutting rampage," a Times editorial states, adding that Schwarzenegger should "more carefully consider where those cuts are to be imposed and at what level and speed" (San Mateo County Times, 1/15).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.