State health officials have made it clear that the first phase of the Healthy Families transition to Medi-Cal managed care will go on as scheduled, beginning Jan. 1. Children's health advocates say they will do everything to support that effort while still keeping a careful eye on its progress.
The first phase of the transition will move about 415,000 children into Medi-Cal -- almost half the 860,000 children enrolled in Healthy Families. The transition is dependent on federal approval by CMS within three weeks.
"We have said consistently that the state isn't quite ready yet," said Wendy Lazarus, the founder and co-president of The Children's Partnership, a national not-for-profit children's advocacy group based in Santa Monica. "So, yes, it would be good if CMS reached the same conclusion."
Lazarus and other children's advocates have shifted their attention to facilitating the transition and to monitoring provider access, which has been their main concern.
"There will be some early indications through call centers and through community leaders if people are having problems with the transition," Lazarus said. "There will be anecdotal information we'll hear. And in a 30- to 60-day period, the Department [of Health Care Services] should have numbers in place, if kids have successfully transferred into the Medi-Cal program."
It is likely, Lazarus said, that the Legislature may take a role in oversight, if it starts to look like access concerns are becoming real problems. "Legislators may be concerned and continue the oversight they started," she said. "They may take a look at the evidence to see whether or not we should go forward with the second phase of this transition."
The second phase is scheduled to begin Apr. 1.
"The signs are the Brown Administration will proceed with this," Lazarus said, "so the attention has to be on how to monitor what's happening."