Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

No-Bid Medicaid Contract for Kaiser Permanente Is Now California Regulation, however Key Particulars Are Lacking

[Editor’s note: KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.]

California lawmakers have permitted a controversial no-bid statewide Medi-Cal contract for HMO big Kaiser Permanente over the objection of county governments and competing well being plans. However key particulars — together with what number of new sufferers KP will enroll — are nonetheless unclear.

On June 30, with little fanfare, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the invoice that codifies the deal, regardless of issues first reported by KHN that KP was getting preferential remedy from the state that will enable it to proceed enrolling a more healthy pool of Medi-Cal sufferers, leaving different well being plans with a disproportionate share of this system’s sickest and costliest sufferers. Medi-Cal, California’s model of Medicaid, the government-funded medical health insurance program for folks with low incomes, covers practically 14.6 million Californians, 84% of whom are in managed-care plans.

Now that the talk is over, opponents of the KP deal are wanting forward.

“We look ahead to working with the state on implementing the statewide contract, and we’ll proceed to advocate the worth and significance of native plans in offering care to their communities,” stated Linnea Koopmans, CEO of Native Well being Plans of California, which spearheaded the opposition.

Kaiser Permanente is a big participant in California’s medical health insurance market, protecting practically 1 / 4 of all Golden State residents. However its barely lower than 900,000 Medi-Cal enrollees are solely about 7% of that program’s complete managed-care membership.

Kaiser Permanente has lengthy been allowed to restrict its Medi-Cal membership by accepting solely individuals who have been KP members within the latest previous — primarily in employer-based or Inexpensive Care Act plans — and their instant members of the family.

Underneath the brand new legislation, the variety of Kaiser Permanente enrollees in this system “can be permitted to develop by 25%” over the five-year lifetime of the contract, ranging from its degree on Jan. 1, 2024, when the contract takes impact, stated Katharine Weir-Ebster, a spokesperson for the Division of Well being Care Companies, which runs Medi-Cal. However that 25% determine just isn’t within the textual content of the legislation — and the exact magnitude of the supposed enrollment improve for KP stays unclear.

Presently, most of KP’s Medi-Cal members are lined by subcontracts with native, publicly ruled well being plans across the state. Underneath the brand new legislation, these members can be lined immediately by Kaiser Permanente beneath its statewide contract. Proponents say the change will improve effectivity, cut back confusion for customers, and make Kaiser Permanente extra accountable to the state.

Opponents have argued that having a nationwide behemoth compete with native plans — particularly in locations resembling Orange, Ventura, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties, the place county-operated plans have been the only real Medi-Cal choice — might weaken neighborhood management over well being care and compromise the security internet system that serves California’s most susceptible residents.

The brand new legislation commits KP to rising its footprint in Medi-Cal by accepting sure classes of recent enrollees, together with present and former foster care youths, children who’ve acquired providers from one other baby welfare company, seniors who’re eligible each for Medi-Cal and Medicare, and enrollees who fail to decide on a well being plan and are assigned one by default.

Practically half of Medi-Cal enrollees in counties with multiple well being plan are assigned by default, Weir-Ebster stated. The legislation, nevertheless, doesn’t specify what number of default enrollees Kaiser Permanente will settle for, saying solely that the quantity can be primarily based on KP’s “projected capability” in every county or area.

One other vital supply of enrollment development for Kaiser Permanente can be sufferers — and their members of the family — transferring out of KP business plans in counties the place KP can be a Medi-Cal choice for the primary time.

Some distinguished client advocacy teams argue that any improve in Kaiser Permanente’s Medi-Cal inhabitants is a constructive growth, particularly because the HMO will get excessive marks for the standard of its care.

“We expect that system is one thing that extra Medi-Cal members ought to have entry to, and this invoice is a step in that route,” stated Kiran Savage-Sangwan, government director of the California Pan-Ethnic Well being Community, which advocates for fairness in well being care.

Kaycee Velarde, head of Medi-Cal contracting for KP, stated by way of e-mail that the deal will give extra folks “entry to our high-quality Medi-Cal managed care plan” and permit for higher collaboration with the state “to enhance high quality for a broader variety of Medi-Cal enrollees.”

However precisely how the brand new association will work stays unclear.

The specifics — together with the enrollment development determine — are anticipated to be enshrined in a memorandum of understanding separate from the contract. That has raised some eyebrows, since MOUs aren’t usually binding in the identical means contracts are. Neither is it clear when the small print will come.

“Our expectation is that the Division of Well being Care Companies is growing the MOU,” Velarde stated. The division doesn’t have an estimate of when a draft can be issued, Weir-Ebster stated.

Many skeptics of the deal stay involved about its influence on the safety-net inhabitants. The legislation says Kaiser Permanente will present the “highest want” specialty providers to non-KP members in sure areas of the state. However it doesn’t specify which providers or the place they are going to be supplied. These particulars, anticipated to be within the MOU, haven’t but been determined, Weir-Ebster stated.

Leslie Conner, CEO of Santa Cruz Group Well being, which runs three clinics in Santa Cruz County, stated entry to specialty care is a problem for sufferers. “That’s going to be a remaining drawback that I hope Kaiser would work with the neighborhood to deal with,” she stated. “If we don’t all determine it out collectively, there’s going to be winners and losers, and, truthfully, the losers are all the time the low-income folks.”

Lawmakers did make a small variety of adjustments to the unique invoice supposed to deal with opponents’ issues. Considered one of them, geared toward native well being plans’ concern of getting a sicker pool of Medi-Cal enrollees, says all Medi-Cal managed-care plans needs to be paid in “an actuarially sound method” according to the medical danger of their enrollees.

One other one directs the state to evaluate, earlier than the contract begins, whether or not KP is satisfactorily complying with behavioral well being protection necessities. The well being care big has come beneath fireplace in recent times for offering insufficient psychological well being providers, and the state Division of Managed Well being Care is investigating the HMO’s psychological well being program after a pointy improve in complaints, stated Rachel Arrezola, a division spokesperson.

Sal Rosselli, president of the Nationwide Union of Healthcare Staff, which has waged a pitched battle in opposition to KP over psychological well being care, stated the supply within the new legislation to evaluate compliance is inadequate. The union had needed KP to endure an annual certification course of that will have barred it from enrolling new Medi-Cal enrollees in any 12 months it wasn’t licensed.

“Are you able to think about any well being plan can be granted such a big growth of its Medi-Cal contract if it couldn’t present remedy for most cancers or cardiac care?” Rosselli stated.

Finally, KP’s contract creates extra alternative for the Medi-Cal inhabitants, stated Linda Nguy, a lobbyist with the Western Heart on Regulation & Poverty. However the group, which advocates for folks with low incomes, pledged to control how the brand new legislation is rolled out.

“We can be monitoring it and definitely elevating points as issues come up,” Nguy stated.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially impartial service of the California Well being Care Basis.

Associated Matters

Contact Us

Submit a Story Tip

Comments are closed.