Officials Tout Benefits of ‘Bridge to Reform’ Ahead of Supreme Court Ruling
State and county health officials are touting the benefits of the "Bridge to Reform" program, which aims to implement the federal health reform law's Medicaid expansion ahead of schedule, the Ventura County Star reports.
Some officials say the program still could succeed if the U.S. Supreme court rules against theÂ overhaul (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 6/23).
The Supreme Court case centers on whether federal lawmakers have the power to pressure states to expand insurance coverage through Medicaid and whether the federal government can require residents to purchase health insurance.
The court is expected to release its ruling this week (California Healthline, 6/22).
About Bridge to Reform
The reform law requires that the state extend Medi-Cal coverage to millions of additional residents by 2014. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
There are 47 counties participating in the Bridge to Reform program, which provides low-income residents with health coverage that they can use for no-cost treatments at local hospitals and public clinics (California Healthline, 2/21).
More than 360,000 Californians already are receiving coverage through the program (Ventura County Star, 6/23).
Officials Praise Program
Norman Williams -- a state Department of Health Care Services spokesperson -- said that even if the Supreme Court rules against the Medicaid expansion, building the Bridge to Reform program has been valuable for the state.
He said, "Health care delivery infrastructure at the local level is being improved as a result."
Robert Gonzalez -- director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency -- said the program "has decreased emergency room services, has decreased hospitalizations and provided medical care and preventive care to a large number of people in Ventura County."
Mark Refowitz -- director of the Orange County Health Care Agency -- said the county has been able to "establish a very effective program with an extensive provider network" in a "very short period of time."
Some Counties Reject Program
However, Fresno and San Luis Obispo counties have formally withdrawn from the program.
Officials feared that their health care systems could not accommodate the influx of new patients, according to the Star.
Implications ofÂ Supreme CourtÂ Ruling
Ventura County officials said they believe the Bridge to Reform program would succeed even if the Supreme Court strikes down the federal reform law.
Gonzalez said the county would "fight to keep this program."
However, Williams said that the state Department of Health Care Services "does not anticipate seeking other funding" if the Supreme Court rules against the Medicaid expansion (Ventura County Star, 6/23).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.