Feds block cuts to California's Medi-Cal program
The state’s effort to make Medi-Cal recipients dig into their wallets for co-pays was blocked by the federal government Monday.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration will appeal the decision, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Department of Finance. Unless the decision is reversed, the state will need to shell out an additional $575 million in the next fiscal year, Palmer said.
The state wanted low-income residents using Medi-Cal to pay $5 for doctor visits, $3 for prescriptions and up to $200 for hospital visits.
But the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which had to approve the change because Medi-Cal is part of the federal MediCaid program, said the state's plan would violate part of the Social Security Act.
“We recognize the needs of states to keep costs down and are supportive of the goal to promote cost-effective use of health care services," said Brian Cook, a spokesman for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of Health & Human Services. "We are denying this amendment as it is inconsistent with statute.”
The state’s efforts to trim its safety net for poor residents have often been blocked by the federal government and court decisions. This has provided victories for advocates for the sick, disabled and impoverished but given headaches to lawmakers and administration officials trying to balance the budget.
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento