Protesters Swarm Sacramento to Protest Medi-Cal Cuts

The Capitol yesterday swarmed with protesters upset about a 10% cut in reimbursements to Medi-Cal providers  that has raised concerns about the state’s ability to provide access to Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Health care, especially in the hospitals, it’s not always working,” said Sonia De La Torre, a hospital worker who got on a bus at 4 a.m. yesterday in Corona (Riverside County) to attend the Sacramento rally. “When people come into the hospital with no insurance, they get basic care, at best. We want to make sure people get treatment.”

Police estimated 8,000 people gathered outside the Capitol Building yesterday. Musicians took the main stage early in the day, replaced later by speakers including event organizers and legislators.

“I’ve never seen such a large mobilization of people from all over California, and for health care!” said Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville).

Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) does not yell much, but he took a shot at it yesterday, at one point getting a call-and-response from the crowd with his repeated question, “Are you with us?”

“We’ve all been making do with these low Medi-Cal rates, and now the state wants to take back what it has already paid us,” Pan said, referring to retroactive payments the state expects for the past two years’ worth of 10% cuts that have not been collected while the issue was argued in court.

“This Scrooge-like approach endangers people’s health,” Pan said. “When we look at [how to handle] Medi-Cal, we don’t want to take away Tiny Tim’s crutches.”

Two bills had been proposed to reverse the 10% across-the-board rate cut. Both had bipartisan support when they were first introduced. But two weeks ago,SB 640 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) was put on suspense file in the Senate Committee on Appropriations and AB 900 by Assembly member Alejo was narrowed in scope to reversing cuts only for one type of provider — distinct part skilled nursing facilities.

Now most provider groups and advocates for reversing the cuts are turning their hopes and attention to budget negotiations taking place over the next few weeks.

“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 at least part of it.”

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Capitol Desk Medi-Cal