How Will California Address Huge New Medicaid Costs?
State Decisions Contribute to Application Backlog
(Washington, D.C.) – According to information from Governor Brown's administration, nearly one in three Californians will be on Medi-Cal – the state's Medicaid program – next year. Enrollment increased dramatically in the last year as the program expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Reports indicate that about 1.4 million more people than projected subscribed – leading to $1.2 billion in unexpected new costs.
New Medi-Cal subscribers have also been frustrated by serious delays in obtaining care, due to a backlog of 900,000 unprocessed applications. This backlog was made worse by the decision of the State Department of Health Care Services and Covered California to prioritize private applications in the state's health care exchanges over participants in the taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal program. As a result, California now has the largest backlog of Medicaid applications in the country. Once those applications are processed, subscribers are likely to face longer waits for care, as less than half of all doctors nationwide now accept new Medicaid patients.
Daniel Garza, Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative, released the following statement:
"Supporters of the new health care law have said that expanding Medicaid would ensure that poor people get free, quality care. California shows it's not that simple.
State leaders made a conscious decision to focus on fixing the private insurance exchange, and not enrollment under Medi-Cal. As a result, there's a backlog of nearly one million applications, and families are frustrated at waiting for coverage. Once they do, they face a growing shortage of primary care physicians. And the state must decide how to fund an extraordinary and unexpected increase in the cost of 'free' care. This problem will grow worse when Washington ultimately confronts the enormous growth in the cost of the federal Medicaid program. Low-income families deserve better. It is time to reform the reform."