A time to invest in, not cut, Medi-Cal…

A three-judge appeals court today determined that the state, with federal approval, can make cuts to provider rates, paving the way for California to go forward with potentially a $623 million cut to provider rates. The cut was approved by in previous state budgets and by the federal government, but blocked by a lower court judge in December 2011.

Here’s initial coverage in the Sacramento Bee and the LA Times, and the response from the California Medical Association.

Today’s court ruling, and the further cuts of Medi-Cal it allows, will harm our health system and patients’ access to care. There is already a problem with Medi-Cal patients having a harder time getting access to providers than other insured patients.

Additional Medi-Cal provider rate cuts will not only make it harder for millions of patients to get into see the doctor or specialist they need, but will also make it harder for California to take full advantage of the new health reforms being implemented nationally.

This is a time, with the historic launch of federal health reform, when we should be investing in our health system to maximize the benefit for all Californians. For every dollar we cut in provider rates, we lose another dollar in federal matching funds. Under the Affordable Care Act now there are new opportunities for even more federal funds, but only if we maintain funding and make strategic investments. Such new opportunities include the federally-funded increase in primary care provider rates starting in 2013, and the full federal funding for the newly eligible adults without children at home in 2014.

This is the wrong time to allow additional cuts in Medi-Cal, when hundreds of thousands of children are being transitioned from Healthy Families, and when we hope that over a million more Californians will be newly enrolled in the next year under health reform. This is a time when we should be building up the capacity of our health system to finally meet the needs that have been neglected for so long, and there is finally federal help available for that effort.
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