A bridge to health reform?

Lots going on today. At 2pm Pacific, Senate Majority Leader Reid will unveil the new, combined version of a health reform proposal to his Democratic Senate colleagues, thus starting weeks of debate on the measure. The drama is whether all 60 Democratic-caucusing Senators will vote to allow such a debate to take place, in order to prevent a Republican filibuster. It’s an important next step in getting health reform passed.

Back here in California, health reform will be front and center in its own way. At 1:30pm, the Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator Elaine Alquist, will hold an informational hearing on “Redesigning California’s Medi-Cal Program: Examining the Potential for Cost Savings and Program Improvements.”

As we have reported before, California’s Medi-Cal waiver agreement with the federal government is up for renewal next year. A new waiver would set the rules for the program, which now covers 7 million Californians, mostly low-income children, parents, seniors, and people with disabilities, for the next five years.

Those next five years would take us into the full implementation of health reform, should any of the pending proposals in Congress pass. The waiver process poses a challenge, since consumer advocates are always wary of changes that might undermine patients’ rights or access to care. But it can be a significant opportunity to increase access to care and coverage and transition Medi-Cal to a newly reformed system.

We’ll have a full report on the hearing later, but here’s our new paper by Health Access California on a new Medi-Cal waiver for California, about what we see is the potential, and concerns, in a new waiver.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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