House Democrats Raise Concern Over Proposed Medi-Cal Cuts

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More than a dozen House members from California recently met with CMS Administrator Donald Berwick and said proposed Medi-Cal cuts would significantly harm beneficiaries and health care providers, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is seeking federal approval to cut Medi-Cal by $1.4 billion (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/12).

Background

In late June, Brown signed a state budget package that includes changes to health and human services programs. For example, the budget aims to reduce state spending by:

  • $623 million by cutting health care providers' reimbursements for Medi-Cal by 10%;
  • $511 million by requiring Medi-Cal beneficiaries to pay $5 copayments for physician visits and $50 copays for emergency department visits; and
  • $41 million by imposing a soft cap of seven physician visits annually and placing a dollar limit on hearing aids for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

Federal officials must approve the Medi-Cal adjustments and have asked California to provide data on the cuts' possible effects on access to care (California Healthline, 10/4).

Details of the Meeting

A spokesperson for House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, "The meeting was to get an update and to make sure folks were aware of concerns that people have real access to the Medicaid program."

According to staffers familiar with the meeting, CMS officials were asked to make sure California shows that beneficiaries would be able to access services if the Medi-Cal cuts are approved.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) said the proposed cuts are "untenable." However, she acknowledged that if the state's request is rejected, budget cuts would have to be made elsewhere.

Congressional staff said a decision from federal officials could come at any time ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/12).

James Roache PharmD
The medical literature is repleat with credible articles by experts on the effect of introducing co-pays for prescriptions. Drug utilization and compliance suffers greatly, resulting in ER visits and hospitalizations, under co-pays for those who have to chose between buying their prescriptions or buying food and paying the rent. We commend Walgreens for their $4.00 per month supply of the most common generic prescriptions. This is a perfect example of how the American Free Enterprise system works when the Government is not involved. With so much credible information available, it is disheartening to see the decision makers in SAC making these short-sighted decisions and causing far more harm than good for their beneficiaries. Let's get back to making cuts in the administrative folks and their costs in CA Government who is responsile for such poor decision-making.

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