State Medi-Cal Patients Won’t be Charged: Obama

Federal health officials reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget cut to Medi-Cal patients

By Lauren Steussy
|  Monday, Feb 6, 2012  |  Updated 5:27 PM PDT
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Federal Court Bars Medi-Cal Cuts

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California Governor Jerry Brown has a lot of work ahead.

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed plan to charge Medi-Cal patients for care was overturned Monday by the Obama Administration.

The federal ruling is a victory for low income seniors, children in foster care, single-parent families and the disabled.

The cuts to Medi-Cal were proposed to help seal the $9.2 billion state deficit. Gov. Brown’s office estimated that they would have raised $300 million by charging these patients copays.

However, the cuts placed a substantive financial burden on the low-income patients who rely on Medi-Cal support. These patients would be required to pay $5 for doctor visits and $3 for prescriptions. Hospital visits could potentially cost them up to $200.

In a letter to the Capitol acquired by the Sacramento Bee, an administrator with the federal Department of Health and Human Services said it would not sign off on the state’s request to fund. Approval from that department was necessary in order to go forward with the cuts.

Also, in addition to Monday's letter, just last week, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder issued a final ruling blocking the state from making a 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal reimbursement rates.

In the administrator's letter dated Monday, he said the cuts may be in violation of the Social Security Act, which requires that the government support the kinds of patients that Medi-Cal represents.

The governor’s office stated that it will attempt to appeal the decision, H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the California Department of Finance told the Los Angeles Times.

San Diego activist Raul Carranza is one Medi-Cal patient. Last month, he and a group of Occupy San Diego supporters held a rally to raise awareness for the cuts.

In a speech at the rally, he said because of the Medi-Cal cuts, he was forced to drop out of school at UCLA to pay for the 24-hour per day care his Muscular Dystrophy requires.

Monday's letter was a small victory for him and patients like him, he said. However, he would like to see some of the funding restored.

"There's still a long way to go," Carranza said. "I'm happy that Obama did that, but it's just the first step on a very long journey." 

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