Members of the legislative Latino Caucus on Tuesday laid out their agenda that includes some form of reversal of the 10% reduction in payments to Medi-Cal providers.
The Legislature passed the 10% cut in 2011, but it was delayed until a federal appeals court ruling upheld the reduction two weeks ago. State officials said the bulk of the cutbacks will begin in September.
Although the case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal appeals court ruling May 24 puts pressure on the Legislature to come up with an alternative. Some lawmakers — including the Latino Caucus — have been working to craft a legislative answer. Two members of the Latino CaucusÂ in particular have been front-and-center in efforts to reverse the rate cuts.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) authored bills designed to rescind the provider rate reduction. But two weeks ago, legislative leadership nixed both in slightly different ways. Lara’s SB 640 ended up stranded on the Senate Appropriations suspense file and Alejo’s AB 900 was stripped to reversing cuts for just one type of Medi-Cal provider — distinct-part skilled nursing facilities.
“We’re hoping for some solution now in the budget process,” Lara said.
A budget proposal is due from the Legislature on June 15. Members of the Latino Caucus are pushing to amend it to include the rate reversal.
“We’re very hopeful we can find some kind of solution,” Lara said. “It may not be the whole rate reduction, but we think we can do something in the budget process and reduce part of it.”
Alejo said it could take a different form in a last-week, gut-and-amend bill. “It could be in the budget, and it could be legislative, in a bill,” he said. “There can be a legislative or budgetary solution, still, in this session.”
“This affects all of our districts,” Lara said, sweeping his hand to include other members of the caucus. “This affects so many people in California.”
The Latino Caucus mentioned several other efforts in its agenda, including health-related ones. The caucus is supporting the optional Medi-Cal expansion, for one, and it wants to utilize existing programs to cover about one million residually uninsured — those Californians who won’t be covered under the exchange or Medi-Cal.
“We’re working with the exchange to make it culturally conscious and sensitive,” Lara said. “We want to make sure the rollout is appropriate, that we’re getting to those folks who are the most impacted [by health reform and the Affordable Care Act].”
First on the list, though, is to push for rescinding the provider rate cut. Assembly member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) asked if providers can’t afford to take new Medi-Cal patients, where does that leave all of the new beneficiaries from Medi-Cal expansion?
“It doesn’t make sense that people have some kind of health care insurance coverage, but they still can’t get access to a doctor,” Eggman said. “So it’s a huge issue.”
“These are some of the core tenets of our caucus,” Lara said. “These are some of the key issues affecting Latinos and other Californians. We’ve had a great relationship with the Speaker [of the House], the [Senate] Pro Tem and the governor, and we think we can make big changes this year.”