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Medi-Cal works for most recipients, survey finds

Medi-Cal survey

Medi-Cal enrollees are generally satisfied with the quality of their care but have more difficulty finding primary care doctors and specialists than those with other health coverage, according to a statewide survey released Thursday. 

They also use the emergency room more frequently, and about one-third of Medi-Cal recipients reported delaying care because of cost. 

The survey — called Medi-Cal at a Crossroads — comes at a crucial time as the state continues to cut costs and simultaneously prepares for new enrollees.

"At a time when the program is being cut back, it is poised for a dramatic expansion," said Mark Smith, president and chief executive of the California HealthCare Foundation, which commissioned the survey. "Trying to figure out what it does well and where there is room for improvement is really important."

Smith said the survey highlights some of the obstacles the state will face when the coverage expansion takes effect in 2014. About 7.6 million people receive Medi-Cal services now, and if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't throw out the federal health reform law, an additional 2 million California residents could be newly eligible for enrollment.

California Department of Health Care Services Associate Director Len Finocchio said it was validating to see that Medi-Cal works well for the vast majority of enrollees. He said the department knows there are some beneficiaries who have difficulty maneuvering through the program.

"We are not shying away from the issues that we have to deal with," he said. "We are working on that all the time."

The survey highlights some of the issues the state could face as it begins to expand coverage to the newly insured. One of the biggest challenges is access to providers, who have among the lowest reimbursement rates in the country.


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-- Anna Gorman

Photo: Patients wait for service at St. John's Well Child & Family Center on South Hoover Street. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times.

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