On Tuesday, Diana Dooley -- secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency -- said that California will begin transferring low-income children enrolled in Healthy Families to Medi-Cal on Jan. 1, 2013, despite concerns about the timing and effectiveness of the plan, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports.
Healthy Families is California's Children's Health Insurance Program and Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Megerian, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 12/4).
In October, Dooley said that the state will shift about 863,000 children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal, which reimburses physicians at lower rates.
Dooley said that the transition will help streamline and simplify government health care programs for California children.
Eliminating Healthy Families is estimated to reduce state spending by $13 million this fiscal year and $73 million annually after the transition is finished, according to the state.
The Department of Health Care Services said it plans to move all children enrolled in Healthy Families into Medi-Cal by Sept. 1, 2013.
The beneficiaries are expected to be moved in four phases, depending on whether their physicians and health plans already accept Medi-Cal (California Healthline, 12/4).
Concerns With Transition
Last week, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) in a letter asked Dooley to slow the transition timeline. He wrote, "Without additional time, the likelihood of children losing health, dental and mental health care coverage and access to critical services increases exponentially" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 12/4).
Meanwhile, county health departments are concerned about funding for mental health services after the transition. The funding will be based on estimated mental health needs, but counties argue that the funding might not be able to keep pace with the growing need for services (California Healthline, 12/4).
On Tuesday, Dooley said that state officials will not shift children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal unless they are sure the children will receive adequate health care after the transition.
She said, "[W]e will delay the transition" for certain children if they are unlikely to receive adequate care under Medi-Cal. However, she said, "[a]t this point, everything is on track."
Norman Williams -- spokesperson for DHCS -- also defended the state's plan, saying officials have "thoughtfully planned this transition" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times