California: Medi-Cal avoids cuts, but it's likely temporary

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A state budget hammered out in October didn't contain cuts to the DME benefit, but stakeholders know the relief could be short-lived.

The budget was signed into law Oct. 8, nearly four months into the state's fiscal year and about a month after the state's health care fund ran out of money, halting Medi-Cal payments to providers.

"It's an overly optimistic document that will not take us through the current fiscal year," said Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Association of Medical Product Suppliers (CAMPS). "We fully expect the legislature will be back at it in November or December."

In May, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed capping DME spending to about $1,800 per Medi-Cal beneficiary per year. The plan also called for capping spending on wound care and other supplies at about $400 per year, and eliminating reimbursement for enteral nutrition.

But, with a $20 billion budget gap to close, the savings--about $3 million--wouldn't have made a dent, said stakeholders.

Providers, who stopped receiving Medi-Cal payments around the end of August, said the checks started to trickle in shortly after the budget was passed.

The stopped payments are simply part of doing business with the state, said provider Chris Rice.

"You have to plan for it every year," said Rice, director of marketing for Diamond Respiratory Care in Riverside. "California can't agree on a budget, ever." hme