Suspension of Medi-Cal Pay to Health Care Providers Imminent
California's $2 billion reserve fund to pay Medi-Cal providers during a budget stalemate has been depleted after only one month, forcing state officials to discontinue Medi-Cal payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for the Department of Finance, said a Medi-Cal safety-net fund was created in 1998 to continue paying providers for up to two months during a budget stalemate.
However, Palmer said a change in Medi-Cal's accounting processes several years ago, along with inflation, has forced the state to "start tapping those funds earlier." He added, "The effect was the two-month cushion became a one-month cushion, which has led to our inability to issue checks at all this week."
California since July 1 has been without a budget for fiscal year 2007-2008. The Assembly approved a spending plan, but Senate Republicans are holding out for deeper spending cuts.
The Legislature has the option of approving emergency funding measures. However, the Chronicle reports that such an approval is unlikely because both chambers must approve the funds, and the Assembly has gone on summer recess.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Tuesday met with the Republican Senate caucus, but the Chronicle reports that there is little visible progress on a new budget.
Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) said, "Our goal is to get a responsible budget." He added, "We'd like to get it sooner than later, but I think the most important goal for the people of California is to have a budget that does not spend more than it takes in."
Lydia Missaelides, executive director of the California Association for Adult Day Services, said that some adult day health care centers are planning to close next week unless Medi-Cal payments are made. She added that the lack of Medi-Cal payments especially impacts small and independently owned facilities.
Assembly member Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) said Medi-Cal beneficiaries will begin seeking care at emergency departments, "making the health care crisis even worse ... (as) [EDs] are already stretched to the breaking point."
Evans added, "It's outrageous that in a state as rich as California, we could have people dying on the street for lack of medical care" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Wednesday reported on the effect of the budget stalemate on Medi-Cal providers. The segment includes comments from Jan Emerson of the California Hospital Association (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 8/1).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.