Judge Refuses to Reverse Cuts in Medi-Cal Reimbursements

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There's more bad news for doctors and hospitals that treat Medi-Cal patients. An L.A. judge says cuts in Medi-Cal reimbursements will stand. KPCC's Julie Small says health care providers went to court to block those cuts, but lost.

Julie Small: Early this year, state legislators voted in favor of a 10 percent cut in reimbursements to doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others who treat Medi-Cal patients. Ned Wigglesworth with the California Medical Association says the doctors he represents already struggle with the state's low reimbursement rates.

Ned Wigglesworth: Doctors get paid less than the cost of a large pizza for seeing a Medi-Cal patient for a regular office visit, and frequently lose money on patients. That has meant that doctors have been participating in Medi-Cal already less and less and these cuts are just going to exacerbate that flight.

Small: Hospitals and pharmacists also struggle to serve Medi-Cal patients. They formed an alliance with physicians and sued the state to block the cuts. They argued that cuts in reimbursement rates would discourage drive away healthcare providers from treating Medi-Cal patients – and that would violate patients' rights to equal access to care.

But L.A. Superior Court Judge William Highberger denied their motion for an injunction, saying he lacked the authority to do it. But in his written ruling, the judge acknowledged that healthcare providers had shown plenty of proof that the cuts are hurting Medi-Cal patients. The California Medical Association's Ned Wigglesworth says it's only going to get worse.

Wigglesworth: I mean, already people are having a hard time getting prescriptions filled, particularly people with HIV and cancer – and some of the really expensive medications. This is bad stuff.

Small: Ned Wigglesworth says the alliance of medical providers likely will appeal the court's decision. They'll also keep pressuring state lawmakers to undo the cuts.