Latest California Healthline Stories
One of a few bills still making its way through the committee process at the end of the California Legislature session seeks to bring a higher level of transparency to the Department of Health Care Services.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, considered a champion in many health care camps, acknowledged this year’s state budget fell short in a couple health care arenas, but he said the plan puts the state in a good position to increase health care spending in the future.
Several health care provisions were conspicuously absent from the Legislative Budget Conference Committee’s budget agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown announced yesterday. The plan has no mention of repealing a 10% Medi-Cal provider rate cut nor a plan to fund autism services.
The agreement omitted a proposal to set aside $50 million in general fund money to pay for autism services. When matched with federal dollars, the state would have had $100 million to help pay for autism treatment, including applied behavioral analysis therapy, known as ABA therapy.
Whether ABA therapy will be covered as an essential health benefit starting in 2014 is still up in the air, but yesterday advocates were assuming the worst.
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.
The optional expansion of Medi-Cal will be administered using a state-based approach rather than the county-based plan being considered by California officials, the governor said yesterday when he proposed his May revise, the mid-year revision of the state budget.
That comes as welcome news to county health officials who have cautioned for months that a county-based system would be more confusing and costly than a state-based approach.
Gov. Jerry Brown listened, apparently.
“We want to do it generously, and boldly,” Brown said of the optional expansion. “There are some questions out there, so we want to do it prudently. It’s a matter of equity, and it’s something we’ll work out over the next few years.”
A federal judge is “about to decide” a case with large ramifications for the developmentally disabled community. William McLaughlin, an attorney representing The Arc of California, a national disabled-rights group, said a final ruling from U.S. District Court judge Morrison England is coming “any time now.”
In a Jan. 24 hearing, McLaughlin argued for a preliminary injunction to halt the rate reductions. He contends a decision is overdue.
“We have not obtained any injunctive relief so far,” McLaughlin said, though a federal judge had issued a stay for a period of time. That stay was lifted by Judge England in August, which means providers have been absorbing the cuts since then. And not very well, McLaughlin said.
The California Legislature yesterday returned to work after a 10-day spring recess. A small mountain of bills is in front of lawmakers who have until May 31 to pass bills off the floor.
Health care legislation up for discussion includes:
California’s health care system is undergoing its biggest changes in almost 50 years. Toby Douglas, director of the agency at the eye of the health care storm, updated legislators on the progress of some of the changes in a hearing last week in Sacramento.
Health care providers in California are waiting for judicial rulings to see if they will be hit by a 10% cut in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates as a result of a law passed in 2011 and currently tied up in federal appeals court.
Ambulance service providers are among those who would be hit by the cut but they say they shouldn’t be included for one large and simple reason: Unlike physicians, ambulance providers are required by law to transport Medi-Cal beneficiaries. They’re not allowed to refuse them.
“We cant say ‘no’ like everyone else. We’re required by law to provide those services,” said Klark Staffan, vice president and chief operating officer for Sierra Medical Services Alliance in Lassen County. “And so we’re stuck. We have to provide the service, but we lose money with every Medi-Cal transport. We’re the only type of medical provider who can’t say we wouldn’t accept [Medi-Cal] patients. We think we’re unfairly treated.”
Two reports released yesterday by the Legislative Analyst’s Office analyzing Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed health care budget for 2013-14 found a number of points of concern, according to Mark Newton, deputy legislative analyst at the LAO.
“What we wanted to do is lay out that there are some budget risks here,” Newton said. Many of those risks, he said, should still be in the budget, but they remain important fiscal unknowns, rather than dependable income sources.
“[Some of this] is not meant so much to be a critique, but more a recognition of budget uncertainty,” Newton said.