“Is California Really ‘Progressive’ For Low-Income Patients?”

by Lupe Rodriguez on April 9, 2014

California made front-page headlines recently for passing some of the most progressive laws in the country on issues involving reproductive rights and health. And, it’s true, we did pass a groundbreaking law that increases access to abortion services by expanding the types of clinicians who can provide them as well as passing laws to increase the medical privacy protections for people who have private insurance.

But these “progressive” laws benefit the middle class more than they do the poorest communities who need the laws most.

The truth that community advocates know is that our poorest communities are still being left behind by these laws. They do nothing to address the acute shortage of doctors and clinicians who can afford to treat low-income people on Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program. If you’re on Medi-Cal, you are probably still asking yourself “Why can’t I see a doctor?”

The reason is that Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to doctors and clinicians are some of the lowest in the country. This year, these providers’ rates were cut an additional 10 percent. That means Medi-Cal providers, including Planned Parenthood, can barely afford to keep their doors open, so many in our poorest communities can’t even get the health care they need. During this era of health care reform when millions more have joined the Medi-Cal rolls, thanks to Obamacare, California — the most “progressive state in the nation” — won’t be able to provide some of the very health services that our new laws now allow.

We cannot stand by while this happens.

At the beginning of this legislative session, Assembly members Dr. Richard Pan (D- Sacramento area) and Nancy Skinner (D- Berkeley area) introduced legislation to reverse the dangerous reimbursement rate-cuts that were implemented this year. It is great news that this issue is now out in the open. But it needs to be making front-page headlines.

With a state budget surplus exceeding $9 billion, fixing these Medi-Cal reimbursement rates has to be a priority. It’s time that legislators and the governor recognize that we can’t claim that California is a progressive state, if we constantly and systematically leave millions of our most vulnerable families behind.

Lupe Rodriguez is the Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

This piece first appeared in The Left Hook

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