Medi-Cal clinics on shaky ground amid state deficit

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Families with little or no health insurance soon might find it more difficult to get care at community clinics. State money that supports the clinics is frozen until lawmakers hash out a new budget. KPCC looks at what will happen if that budget slashes Medi-Cal programs in the process.

The Northeast Valley Health Corporation has 13 community clinics in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys.

This facility in San Fernando provides primary care to more than 60,000 patients a year.

Dr.Elissa Einhorn advises a patient how to stay healthy.

Such conversations could disappear for low-income families that rely on Medi-Cal.

Last week, Sacramento sent out Medi-Cal checks to health care providers. But no more money will go out until lawmakers agree on a budget. For the Northeast Valley Health Corporation, that means a weekly deficit $300,000.

Kim Wyard says the clinic is cobbling together federal money, loans and credit to stay afloat.

She oversees the Northeast Valley Health Corporation. Wyard says once Medi-Cal money starts flowing again, community clinics will be reimbursed back to the July 1 start of the fiscal year. Be she also says lawmakers might cut programs during budget negotiations.

“Such as the expanded access to primary care program," Wyard says. "The governor has threatened to cut that program. He’s threatened to cut the rates to the state family-planning program. He’s threatened cuts to the ‘Every Woman Counts.’”

That’s a cancer-screening and detection program for low-income women. Wyard says if budget negotiations stall much longer, she might have to cut clinic hours and services. That would put a bigger strain on emergency rooms and the Southland’s healthcare “safety net.”