Proposed Medi-Cal Cuts Prompt Concerns Over Access to Health Care
Medi-Cal beneficiaries and providers are concerned that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed $1.1 billion cuts to the program would impair access to care statewide, the Ventura County Star reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The governor's proposed spending plan for next fiscal year includes cuts to Medi-Cal and other services in an effort to reduce a $14.5 billion budget deficit.
If the proposed cuts win legislative approval, Medi-Cal reimbursements to doctors would be cut by about 10%. Hospitals and long-term care facilities also would see reduced reimbursement rates.
The spending plan also would require Medi-Cal beneficiaries to prove their eligibility every three months and would eliminate dental benefits for adult beneficiaries.
Ronald Thurston, president of the Ventura County Medical Association, said cutting physician reimbursement rates, which already are among the lowest in the nation, would prompt more doctors to stop participating in Medi-Cal.
The cuts also could force more Medi-Cal beneficiaries to seek care at emergency departments and could prompt closures of safety-net clinics throughout California that rely heavily on Medi-Cal reimbursements.
Joe Munso, deputy secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said state officials targeted Medi-Cal reimbursement rates because they could not alter eligibility rules or drastically reduce benefits.
Munso noted that the state has "reduced rates before, and we haven't seen a dramatic reduction in access," referring to previous cuts about half the size of Schwarzenegger's proposal (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 1/31).