5,000 Assemble at Capitol to Seek Access to Quality Healthcare for Millions of Californians

[June 2, 2015] SACRAMENTO, Calif.A broad-based coalition of more than 5,000 healthcare providers from across California assembled at the State Capitol today to urge lawmakers and the Brown Administration to take steps toward fully funding Medi-Cal in upcoming state budget negotiations.

Medi-Cal provides healthcare coverage to millions of California children – who make up more than half of all Medi-Cal patients – seniors in nursing homes, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Yet, the state ranks 48th in the nation in how much it pays doctors and other health care providers for treating Medi-Cal patients. As a result, millions of patients are forced to wait months or drive great distances to get basic healthcare, or resort to emergency rooms for primary healthcare needs.

The We Care for California coalition is urging lawmakers to restore payment cuts that were enacted by the Legislature in 2011 (AB 97) to deal with the state’s budget deficit.

More than 100 busloads of health professionals departed for the State Capitol from more than 60 cities across California, including some from as far away as San Diego and Riverside Counties. They were joined by 200 Medi-Cal patients who shared stories about their challenges accessing healthcare.

“It was such a terrible feeling to see my daughter suffer for three months from a life-threatening skin allergy that could have been easily diagnosed and treated,” said Jasmin Guzman of Fresno, whose daughter is a Medi-Cal patient. “It isn’t right. We shouldn’t have to wait so long to get access to care because anything could’ve happened during those three months.”

Last month, the state reported $7 billion more in revenue than expected just a few months ago, and the federal government recently gave California an additional $450 million for children’s health programs. Unfortunately, the Administration’s revised budget proposal released in in mid-May included no meaningful increase in Medi-Cal payments to health care providers. Under California law, legislators must pass a budget by June 15.

“As a physician in one of the most rural parts of the state, I know how limited options for care can be, especially for patients who rely on Medi-Cal for health insurance,” said Luther Cobb, M.D., president of the California Medical Association (CMA). “It’s high time the state fully funds Medi-Cal so that providers can afford to both keep their doors open and see new patients who so desperately need care.”

“Hospitals and other providers are paid by Medi-Cal at rates substantially below Medicare, placing health care providers and their patients in a precarious situation,” said CHA President/CEO C. Duane Dauner. “Priority should be given to restoring cuts made in 2011 and to bringing Medi-Cal payments up to Medicare levels.”

“We have a moral responsibility to fully fund Medi-Cal and keep California from having a two-tiered healthcare system — a broken system for poor people, and a much better system for those with private insurance,” said Dave Regan, President of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW).

To raise public awareness, the coalition last month launched a $10 million statewide paid media campaign featuring Medi-Cal patients who struggle to access healthcare. The patient stories appear at www.medi-calmatters.org/medi-cal-is-me.

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