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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

California Prepares for Affordable Care Act

The Department of Health Care Services in California is making changes in their current health care programs in preparation for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Some of those changes are being met with mixed reviews, particularly the elimination of their children's health insurance program which will affect an estimated 860,000 children in California.

Healthy Families is being eliminated next year, a move that will save the state of California $73 million a year. Children currently being treated under Healthy Families will be moved over to the state's Medicaid program. The Healthy Families Program is for uninsured children under 19 from low-income families. The Department of Health Care Services is confident the children will continue to receive the same quality care under the state's Medicaid program. In addition, they feel the move will improve health care services and reduce government complexity in providing services for the children.

The big concern seems to be whether or not physicians will accept the additional children under the Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. It is estimated that health providers will receive 15 percent less under Medi-Cal. Opposers of the move fear there won't be enough physicians accepting Medi-Cal and children will end up suffering from lack of medical care.

Another area of concern is whether or not the move will save money, as the plan indicates. According to the California Medical Association, Medi-Cal patients are four times as likely to go to the emergency room for treatment rather than visit a doctor or clinic because they have difficulty accessing a primary care physician.

But saving money is not the only reason the state is eliminating Healthy Families and moving patients to Medi-Cal. The move will also represent compliance with the Affordable Care Act by expanding the state's Medicaid program, as outlined in the new health reform law, and establishing the required health insurance exchange where residents of California can purchase affordable health insurance.

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