Saturday, January 23, 2016

Under Obamacare, Medi-Cal Ballooned to Cover 1 in 3 Californians

From the Los Angeles Times:
California officials never anticipated how many people would sign up for state-run health insurance under Obamacare. 
The state’s health plan for the poor, known as Medi-Cal, now covers 12.7 million people, 1 of every 3 Californians. 
If Medi-Cal were a state of its own, it would be the nation’s seventh-biggest by population; its $91-billion budget would be the country’s fourth-largest, trailing only those of California, New York and Texas. 
“When the final numbers started coming out, where a third of the population was on Medi-Cal, it went way past anyone’s expectations,” said state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), who chairs the Senate Health Committee. 
Expanding Medi-Cal was a key part of the Affordable Care Act, the national law that overhauled the healthcare system and required nearly all Americans to have insurance starting in 2014. Under the law, Medi-Cal — historically a health program for poor families and the disabled — was opened to all low-income Californians starting two years ago, with the federal government paying for those new enrollments. 
Though a surprise, the high Medi-Cal enrollment is generally hailed as a success. California’s uninsured population has been cut in half since Obamacare, in large part because so many Californians signed up for Medi-Cal, which is free for beneficiaries. 
“The Medi-Cal program continues to grow at a very substantial rate, which is great. We are very happy that we’re able to provide healthcare to getting close to 13 million Californians,” said Mari Cantwell, chief deputy director at the state Department of Health Care Services, at a hearing in downtown L.A. this month. But, Cantwell added: “Obviously with that comes cost.” 
The question California officials now face is how — and on days with a gloomier economic outlook, if — the massive health program can be sustained. Already, Medi-Cal is seen by many as underfunded, with patients struggling to find doctors and sometimes receiving low quality of care. ...