Although California has made progress in implementing the federal health reform law, the state is seeking to address budget issues by cutting health care funds and limiting services, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Last October, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) made California the first state to create a health insurance exchange under the reform law. The exchange will be an online insurance marketplace for those who do not have employer-sponsored health coverage.
The Obama administration also approved a $10 billion plan to help the state get a head start on extending health coverage to low-income residents.
Despite its progress on rolling out the reform law, California is thinning its health care safety net more aggressively than many other states, according to the Times.
California has faced a severe budget crisis, which prompted the state to seek $2 billion in cuts from Medi-Cal over the next two years. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program. The cuts could affect 8.5 million residents.
The state also is seeking Medi-Cal changes that would impose:
- Copayments for prescription drugs, visits to physician offices and emergency departments, and hospital stays; and
- Limits on how often beneficiaries can visit their physicians.
The Obama administration is expected to make a decision on the Medi-Cal adjustments this month.
Officials are concerned that allowing California to pare back its health care safety net could spur other states to follow suit.
Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that the reform law is "badly in need of success stories, and early success in California could add decisive momentum."
He added that "if California bogs down, or if there is an implementation failure, it would be a huge negative for the whole implementation effort nationally."
Health care providers and patient advocates also have expressed concern that additional Medi-Cal cuts could further undermine the goals of the reform law (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 9/15).