Huge Coalition Launches $10M Media Campaign to Hike Medi-Cal Rates

A coalition of health care, business, consumer and labor groups will spend $10 million over the next eight weeks on a media campaign to convince state leaders to raise Medi-Cal rates.

The group wants lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to support two bills that would roll back Medi-Cal provider cuts — and, ultimately, increase rates to the same level that Medicare pays.

Senate Bill 243 by Senate Health Committee chair Ed Hernandez and Assembly Bill 366 by Assembly Health Committee chair Rob Bonta are virtually the same. The list of supporters is long. There is no opposition — but that could come from lawmakers and the governor.

With one in three Californians — more than 12 million — now covered by Medi-Cal, payment reform is a huge issue. Medi-Cal rates rank 48th in the nation. It pays about half what Medicare does for primary care. Supporters say a hike in rates would stabilize provider networks and boost access to care for people on the Medi-Cal program.

Then there’s the cost.

An analysis of AB 366 for the Assembly Appropriations Committee cites $11.1 billion in increased costs in 2016-2017. About $6.6 billion of that would come out of the state’s general fund; the rest would be paid by the federal government. There would be another $616 million in lost savings and repayment related to Medi-Cal provider cuts, half of that would have to come out of the general fund.

As urgency legislation, the bills would take effect as soon as they are approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

Assembly Bill 366 is scheduled to be heard by Assembly Appropriations on Wednesday. Senate Bill 243 is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 18.

The media campaign includes English and Spanish TV, radio, direct mail, outdoor billboards and online calls to action.

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