Santa Rosa-Area Health Care Leaders Predict No Medi-Cal Reimbursement Rate Increase in 2002
Sonoma County health care leaders said Friday during a conference on health care issues that federal and state governments will not likely boost Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for the county next year, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports. In addition, 130 health care leaders -- whose meeting Friday followed the first local health care summit in January -- predicted that employers and employees would face increased health insurance premiums next year. "The trends are continuing escalation of premiums, the shifting of costs more to patients" through increased co-payments and premiums, Dr. Bob Schultz, Kaiser Permanente's medical director and conference spokesperson, said. Schultz said that most insurers and HMOs in Sonoma County would boost premiums 10% to 15% next year after an average 9% increase last year. Conference participants had asked state lawmakers to boost Medi-Cal reimbursement rates from 60% to 80% of Medicare rates, but the Legislature did not pass the bill. Sen. Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), the summit's keynote speaker, said that the state Legislature will "try next session" to increase Medi-Cal reimbursements. In addition, Chesbro, a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, announced that he plans to hold hearings on managed care reform in Santa Rosa and Eureka in December. During the past nine months, subcommittees from January's health care summit have offered a number of recommendations, including a "controversial proposal" to expand medical savings accounts. The subcommittee that proposed the plan, chaired by Dr. Rich Powers, president of the West County Health Care Foundation, hopes to expand medical savings accounts to companies with more than 50 employees (Rose, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 9/22).
According to a Press-Democrat editorial, although conference participants did not convince legislators to boost Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for Sonoma County, they "discover[ed] what was in their control -- and what wasn't." The editorial adds that the conference "shouldn't be viewed as a failure," pointing out that participants "can focus on recommendations that can be achieved locally," such as plans to educate patients about the cost of medical treatment and inform uninsured residents about public health insurance programs (Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 9/23).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.