More than 8,000 people filled the Capitol grounds yesterday to rally against a 10% reduction in the amount the state pays for Medi-Cal reimbursements. SFMS physicians also took part in the event.
The reduction would jeopardize care for the low-income patients who depend on the program, according to the California Medical Association, one of the leaders of the "We Care for California" coalition.
Ongoing cuts have left doctors with little option but to stop taking qualified patients because the reimbursements do not meet the cost of overhead and supplies to treat them.
"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).
"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," said Assembly member Richard Pan, MD, 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."
Besides physicians, the coalition urging restorations includes the California Hospital Association, SEIU-UHW, American Medical Response, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, California Association of Physicians Groups, California Dental Association, California Primary Care Association, Dignity Health, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, and Molina Healthcare.
Click here for more information on SB 640.
Click here for more information on AB 900.
Sources: Associated Press, June 4, 2013, and California Healthline, June 5, 2013.