Healthcare Coalition Joined by Sen. Hernandez, Assemblymember Bonta to Reignite Medi-Cal Legislation, Reduce Healthcare Inequality

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coalition Seeks to Increase Medi-Cal Rates to Medicare Levels

Sacramento – Preceding today’s joint legislative informational hearing to address pitfalls within California’s Medicaid system (Medi-Cal), Senate Health Committee Chair Ed Hernandez and Assembly Health Committee Chair Rob Bonta joined healthcare providers, patients and advocates on the steps of the Capitol. Newly introduced, legislation to restore a 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal reimbursement goes a step further than in past efforts by proposing that Medi-Cal payments to providers be on par with what Medicare pays for the same services.

 “Expanding access to health care coverage, as we have done under the ACA, is a significant accomplishment but in order to truly be revolutionary that coverage must be accompanied by meaningful access to a provider,” said Senator Hernandez. “Unfortunately, millions of Californians in the Medi-Cal program lack that access because we pay providers an embarrassingly low rate. A Medi-Cal card needs to be more than an empty promise.”    

In 2011, Medi-Cal payment rates to doctors, hospitals, dentists and other providers were cut by 10 percent as a way to balance the state’s budget. California now has one of the lowest payment rates in the country. h At the same time, the Medi-Cal program now covers more than 12 million patients, one in three Californians, as a result of expanded eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)..

“While I was growing up, I watched my dad as he set up health care clinics for farmworkers and other vulnerable communities throughout the state. I witnessed first-hand the importance of protecting and providing services to the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta. “I believed then and I believe now that health care should be a right and not a privilege. AB 366 and SB 243 are critical steps toward ensuring that the health care coverage millions have signed up for is meaningful and actually provides real access to quality health care.

“As physicians, we want to provide care to patients and especially to the poorest and most vulnerable among us,” said Luther Cobb, MD, CMA president. “With primary care reimbursement rates as low as they are, many physicians are forced to stop taking new Medi-Cal patients as they simply can’t keep their doors open. In areas like rural, northern California where I practice, that can mean patients have longer wait times or have to drive further to get care.”

SB 243 and AB 366 would not only repeal prior year rate cuts to Medi-Cal, but would increase payments rates for inpatient hospital services and most outpatient services.

“Medi-Cal reform is the most important health care issue facing California in 2015. Hospital officials appreciate a thoughtful discussion with legislative leaders and the Governor to ensure Californians who today have coverage also have access to medical care,” Coalinga Regional Medical Center Sharon A. Spurgeon said.  “Governor Jerry Brown has demonstrated extraordinary leadership to help address California’s budget challenges, and hospital leaders look forward to working constructively with him to address this significant challenge.”