VENTURA COUNTY: Medi-Cal Enrollments Drop
For the third consecutive year, "Ventura County Medi-Cal enrollments" have fallen, the Ventura County Star reports. As of January, "59,872 Ventura County residents were enrolled in the state-funded health care program, a 10% enrollment drop from three years ago." Analysts say the decrease, "while relatively small, is significant because it reverses a decades-long climb in Medi-Cal" enrollment. California Department of Health Services spokesperson Ken August said the trend "is being duplicated across the state," and since "mid-1996, 500,000 beneficiaries have left the rolls, with 5 million remaining." August added that if the pattern continues, "it will result in lower costs to taxpayers."
Reasons For Decline
The Star reports that "the state's improved economy" and the "continuing plunge in welfare caseloads" are reasons "why fewer people are turning to publicly funded health care." Analysts say that the "stricter work rules and a new, five-year limit on receiving cash assistance" have deterred potential welfare applicants from seeking government help. "Clearly with the passage of federal welfare reform in August 1996, there are individuals who are more aggressively seeking employment," August said. According to the Star there are "24,000 county residents on welfare today, a 34% reduction from March 1995." The Star reports, however, that savings for taxpayers "from falling health care rolls hasn't happened yet," and the state's $19 billion Medi-Cal budget is the same as last year. August said, "Health care costs continue to rise even as enrollments decline ... [b]ut the state is in the process of moving Medi- Cal beneficiaries into managed care plans," which is expected "to reduce costs." Currently, there are 1.5 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries that "already have been moved to managed care plans," and the state "expects to have 3 million in HMO-like care within two years," he added (Saillant, 4/2).