Medi-Cal Slated for $10 Billion in Federal Relief

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, March 26, 2009

To qualify for the billions of dollars for Medicaid – or in California what’s called Medi-Cal – there are some rules. States can’t put up road blocks for people to get care either through changing eligibility or enrollment policies. But as part of California’s budget deal in September the paperwork required for families to keep their kids’ health coverage doubled. That, according to the federal government counts as a road block. And that’s why lawmakers quickly voted to suspend the bill.

“It’ll be a huge relief because children’s coverage will be protected.” 
That’s Kristen Golden Testa of the advocacy group, The Children’s Partnership. But Testa says the law is only suspended…not repealed.

“The job isn’t done. Hundreds of thousands of children still are at risk of losing their coverage since the restrictive policy is still in place.”

Testa says when the stimulus money runs out, the twice a year paperwork policy will go back into effect.

But the bigger picture is the cash influx that will help pick up more of the costs of Medi-Cal. And, H.D. Palmer with the state’s finance department says that’s good news.

“At a time when we’ve just had to close a $41 billion budget gap we’re pleased we’ll still be able to maintain the rate of services we’re providing right now.”

The stimulus funds will help prevent cuts. That’s according to Robin Rudowitz with the Kaiser Family Foundation. She says during the last economic downturn in 2003 the federal government also gave out relief aid money to state Medicaid programs.

“The additional federal dollars did help many states, either avoid, delay or postpone deeper cuts to their Medicaid programs than they otherwise would have had to make.” 
Governor Schwarzenegger says he will sign the bill and hopes California can quickly get its $10 billion for Medi-Cal.