SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento and Solano counties are in a standoff with the state over psychological well being protection for a portion of Medicaid sufferers in these counties — a dispute that threatens to disrupt look after almost 50,000 low-income residents receiving remedy for extreme psychological sickness.
The Division of Well being Care Companies, which administers Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, says Sacramento and Solano counties should take over managing and offering specialty psychological well being look after 1000’s of Medi-Cal sufferers enrolled in Kaiser Permanente plans. It insists on shifting the accountability as a result of California’s remaining 56 counties already function this fashion. State officers argue the change would simplify the state’s disjointed psychological well being system and is required to implement a bigger transformation of Medi-Cal, an initiative often called CalAIM.
State well being officers gave counties till March 15 to simply accept Kaiser Permanente sufferers, so California can correctly switch their specialty psychological well being care to counties by July 1. However the two counties are rebuffing the switch, arguing that with out extra funding they’ll’t adequately look after a significant inflow of Medi-Cal sufferers with extreme psychological well being situations, similar to schizophrenia or bipolar dysfunction. Medi-Cal officers, in the meantime, are threatening steep penalties or probably terminating psychological well being contracts with these counties.
Native officers warn that if the state follows via with its plan, about 39,000 sufferers in Sacramento County and about 8,000 in Solano County might see their care disrupted and, as an illustration, could also be pressured to discover a new psychiatrist.
“For somebody who has schizophrenia or one other severe psychological well being dysfunction, it has taken a very long time to construct a trusted relationship with their supplier, and now they’re going to see that care disrupted or should discover a completely different supplier,” stated Debbie Vaughn, assistant county administrator for Solano County. “There will likely be dangers of individuals going into disaster.”
Ryan Quist, director of behavioral well being companies for Sacramento County, stated the counties needn’t solely extra funding, but in addition extra time to switch the sufferers’ care. “The state is enjoying rooster with their lives,” he stated.
Beneath state legislation, counties are liable for administering and delivering specialty care to Medi-Cal sufferers with extreme psychological sickness. Medi-Cal managed-care insurers are liable for offering remedy for gentle or reasonable psychological well being situations, similar to nervousness or low-level despair.
However underneath a decades-old association between the state and the counties of Sacramento and Solano, California has been paying Kaiser Permanente to offer all psychological well being look after the well being care big’s Medi-Cal enrollees. Now the state is dissolving that association, forcing roughly 7,000 specialty psychological well being sufferers in these two counties to maneuver out of Kaiser Permanente and into county-run psychological well being plans.
State officers argue that the 2 counties are legally obligated to offer look after Medi-Cal sufferers with extreme psychological sickness and that county behavioral well being companies can be those placing sufferers at risk if the counties proceed refusing the shift. Medi-Cal sufferers enrolled in well being plans aside from Kaiser Permanente get their specialised psychological well being care instantly from counties.
“Sacramento and Solano counties’ failure to have interaction on this course of locations Medi-Cal members prone to dropping entry to vital Medi-Cal entitlement companies,” stated Tony Cava, a spokesperson for the Division of Well being Care Companies. “DHCS may have no alternative however to take motion if the counties proceed to refuse to meet their obligations.”
The state is contemplating sanctions or terminating the counties’ contracts, however Cava stated that “contract termination shouldn’t be DHCS’ most well-liked method.” He declined to elaborate, including solely that the company would “determine options to proceed protection” for Kaiser Permanente sufferers.
He stated transferring sufferers to the counties will present “a extra constant and seamless well being system by lowering complexity and rising flexibility.”
Counties presently obtain a portion of state gross sales tax income and automobile license charges to fund specialty psychological well being care, however underneath the settlement in Sacramento and Solano, the state has been paying Kaiser Permanente from its basic fund to serve a portion of the insurer’s total Medi-Cal enrollees’ psychological well being wants.
Beneath the shift, California would cease distributing general-fund cash to the counties. As a substitute, counties would obtain a higher share of current gross sales tax and automobile license price revenues put aside by a 2011 association. However Kaiser Permanente’s specialty psychological well being sufferers, the counties argue, weren’t underneath their purview on the time that settlement was reached, underscoring their authorized argument that the state ought to cowl the prices of their care.
The state is providing an extra $11.6 million a 12 months to Sacramento and $7.7 million a 12 months to Solano, which might draw down further federal funding. That cash can be siphoned from income different counties depend on for behavioral well being remedy.
“The insult to damage is that this takes cash from different counties,” stated Michelle Doty Cabrera, govt director of the County Behavioral Well being Administrators Affiliation, “and throughout California we’re seeing a higher demand for companies, particularly after the pandemic.”
Sacramento County needs $36 million extra every year to cowl a 16% enhance in sufferers, or 4,836 individuals. Solano County seeks almost $17 million extra every year for rising its load by 50%, or 2,091 sufferers.
Behavioral well being officers say counties are additionally struggling to recruit and retain psychological well being professionals prepared to serve Medi-Cal sufferers.
“Our system is already bursting on the seams,” stated Le Ondra Clark Harvey, CEO of the California Council of Group Behavioral Well being Businesses, which represents native psychological well being suppliers.
State officers imagine that each counties have an satisfactory variety of psychological well being suppliers, with the small exception of Sacramento County’s want for 2 to 3 further psychiatrists to serve youngsters.
Kaiser Permanente instructed KHN that it didn’t ask to maneuver sufferers out of its community of care and that it instructed the state it wished to proceed serving them. But it finally agreed to switch care to the counties.
“Whereas we had expressed our desire to proceed to offer specialty care to this susceptible inhabitants,” stated spokesperson Gerri Ginsburg, “we respect the state’s long-term targets.”
This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially impartial service of the California Well being Care Basis.
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