Revised budget proposal prioritizes health care; does not include full pay for audio-only telehealth

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Could 19, 2021
Space(s) of Curiosity: Advocacy 

On Could 14, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom launched his revised proposal for the 2021-2022 state finances. The $267.8 billion finances, contains $75.7 billion in surplus and $25 billion in new federal COVID-19 reduction funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The Could Revision protects the Proposition 56 (tobacco tax) supplemental Medi-Cal supplier funds, and continues different well being and human service packages that had been threatened by final yr’s finances reductions, together with elective Medi-Cal advantages, in-home supportive providers, and Division of Developmental Providers supplier charges. The finances additionally contains full Medi-Cal advantages for all people over 60, no matter their documentation standing; provides accelerated enrollment to all potential Medi-Cal beneficiaries; and expands post-partum Medi-Cal protection.

“On behalf of the almost 50,000 physicians, residents and medical pupil members of the California Medical Affiliation (CMA), we’re inspired by one other state finances that prioritizes well being care and expands well being care protection for California residents,” mentioned CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “General, the Could Revision makes essential investments and modifications in affected person protection and growing the well being care workforce California wants to fulfill present and future challenges. CMA appears ahead to persevering with to work with the Legislature and Administration to make sure these packages are up and operating as rapidly as potential, and that different, crucial well being care packages and insurance policies are applied.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the inequalities rampant in California. Nowhere have these inequities been on better show than in well being care. From entry to testing and hospital beds, in addition to charges of infections, it’s clear that lower-income areas of the state additionally equate to decrease entry to enough well being care.

CMA is happy to see that the Administration is making good on its promise to cut back well being disparities and improve alternatives for a lot of Californians which have historically not been recipients of high quality well being care.

CMA is disheartened, nonetheless that the Governor continues to advertise a coverage that reimburses for audio-only telehealth at solely 65%, amounting to, primarily, a price minimize to physicians offering distant well being take care of Medi-Cal sufferers. Full reimbursement is at present out there for Medi-Cal physicians for audio-only telehealth underneath the emergency COVID-19 laws. CMA believes it’s crucial to retain this essential instrument in lowering well being care disparities for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, and is working to oppose this coverage.

Overwhelmingly, Medi-Cal sufferers choose to make the most of audio-only telehealth over audio-visual telehealth. This could possibly be as a result of a scarcity of fine broadband connectivity, a have to take these telehealth visits on their cellphones which have knowledge limits, or for privateness causes. Regardless of the causes, it makes little sense to get rid of an choice for entry to care, for these people who already lack it essentially the most, additional exacerbating current inequities.

Beneath the Governor’s proposed telehealth coverage, the one Californians who will be capable to readily make the most of telehealth are these with entry to quick broadband, enough know-how and industrial well being protection.

CMA and a broad coalition of well being care suppliers and advocacy teams are additionally urging the legislature to move AB 32 (Aguiar-Curry), which provides California a telehealth answer that’s inclusive, truthful and ensures equal entry to take care of all Californians. Coverage modifications outlined in AB 32 embody: creating fee parity between Medi-Cal managed care plans and industrial plans and permitting digital enrollment for restricted scope Medi-Cal packages. Moreover, the intent of the invoice is to proceed the availability of telehealth in Medi-Cal packages, together with video and audio-only know-how, by making the telehealth flexibilities instituted in the course of the public well being emergency everlasting.

If AB 32 passes, it is going to be a crucial part of California’s telehealth coverage infrastructure and would assist pave the best way for future well being care innovation and development. 

Gov. Newsom’s proposed finances should nonetheless undergo the legislative evaluation course of. CMA will proceed to be energetic in conversations that have an effect on the finances and be certain that doctor voices and considerations are a central part in shaping the finances.

For extra particulars of the finances because it pertains to well being care, see CMA’s finances abstract (members solely).

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