Unlikely coalition vows joint battle against Medi-Cal rate cuts

  ·  Jim Sanders, The Sacramento Bee   ·   Link to Article

A veritable army of politically powerful but unlikely partners vowed today to jointly fight California's planned rate cut to Medi-Cal providers.

The broad-based coalition includes groups representing physicians, health plans, hospitals, dentists, first responders, and the state's largest labor union of health-care workers - Service Employees International Union.

Dr. Paul R. Phinney, president of the California Medical Association, described the gathering as an "unprecented coalition of providers of health care in our state to make sure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented in a smart and sensible way."

"Quality health care is going to be less available and less affordable in California if we continue to cut our system to the bone," Phinney said.

The coalition held a news conference near the Capitol today to support Senate Bill 640, which would bar implementation of a 10 percent rate cut to Medi-Cal providers that was approved in 2011 as a budget-cutting move but has been delayed by court challenge.

The Senate Health Committee later held a public hearing and approved SB 640, proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat who spoke at today's coalition event. The committee vote was 8-0.

The coalition's message is that a 10 percent rate cut would have a chilling impact on California's health-care system and could threaten jobs and services at a time when federal health care law is driving a Medi-Cal expansion that is expected to add more than a million people next year.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, a medical doctor who chairs the Assembly Health Committee, said the 10 percent rate cut could create a "tipping point" financially that could make many physicians reluctant to accept more Medi-Cal patients.

"We can't just have people living barely on the edge," Pan said.