California gets OK for large cuts to Medi-Cal
By Anna Gorman
Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2011
The Obama administration will allow California to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Medi-Cal, a move doctors and experts say will make it harder for the poor to get medical treatment.
California plans to reduce rates by 10% to many providers, including physicians, dentists, clinics, pharmacies and most nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday.
Cindy Mann, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters the action gives California the flexibility it had requested to address its budget shortfall. “We know that the reductions that are being approved today will have significant impact on affected providers, and we regret the very difficult budget circumstances that have led to their implementation,” she said.
California, which already spends less per beneficiary than any other state, has led the way in aggressively slashing its programs. Now the government’s decision to allow California to move forward with its plans sets a precedent for other states seeking to reduce their Medicaid bills.
The California Medical Assn. expressed frustration over the new cuts, saying that physicians could receive as little as $11 a visit. Doctors will have no choice but to stop seeing Medi-Cal patients, said CEO Dustin Corcoran. “You can’t pay the bills at these rates,” he said. “They are unconscionably low.”
Federal healthcare reform, which includes a massive expansion of Medicaid, also could be seriously hampered by this new round of cuts, Corcoran said.
“They built federal healthcare reform on the foundation of Medi-Cal, and they just destroyed that foundation,” he said. “We have a hard time seeing how healthcare reform has a chance of being successful in the state of California after these cuts are implemented.”
Comment: One of the most important components of the Affordable Care Act is the expansion of Medicaid coverage for uninsured, low-income individuals. Does the Obama administration seriously believe that this will be an effective step toward bringing affordable health care to everyone?
Look at what they just approved for California. The state already spends less per Medicaid (Medi-Cal) beneficiary than any other state, yet the Obama administration has approved another 10 percent reduction. Just wait until the budget cutters in other states get wind of this!
Theoretically, drastic payment reductions are met by further ratcheting down overhead expenses. At $11 per office visit, only a fraction of expenses can be covered, no matter how stringent the budgeting. In essence, the government is asking providers to help finance Medicaid through their own personal charity. Trying to cover 7.6 million Medi-Cal patients in the state by depending on provider charity is asking more than the system can bear.
Two quotes above need to be repeated.
Cindy Mann, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: “We know that the reductions that are being approved today will have significant impact on affected providers.”
Dustin Corcoran, CEO of the California Medical Association: “They built federal healthcare reform on the foundation of Medi-Cal, and they just destroyed that foundation.”
And the other major component of the Affordable Care Act? A mandate for individuals to purchase inadequate coverage by paying unaffordable premiums.
The Obama administration officials and their co-conspirators in Congress could not have been serious about bringing us real reform. If they were, we would have an improved Medicare covering everyone.
Physicians for a National Health Program and the American Public Health Association are currently holding their national meetings in Washington, D.C. We need to go to Freedom Plaza and join the Occupy Movement.
Source: Quote of The Day by Don McCanne
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