NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 11, 2009

Two of the biggest concerns of those who support a federal health care overhaul are expanding availability of health care for those in need and making sure that individuals with preexisting conditions have access to affordable insurance.  It may come as a surprise to learn that California has programs in place to do just that. The crux of the problem in California is not a lack of programs, but a lack of funding, says the Orange County Register.

California already has a program for middle-class individuals with pre-existing conditions. However, California's Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP) is seriously underfunded, says the Register:

  • California's high-risk-pool policies have the lowest cap on payments of any state -- $75,000 a year.
  • It is estimated that a half million Californians are uninsurable in private markets, making them eligible for an MRMIP subsidized policy.
  • Yet, the program costs so much and offers such limited benefits that fewer than 10,000 Californians are enrolled.

California already has a program to serve residents of medically underserved communities:

  • Over 600 primary health care delivery sites serve over 1.6 million patients, with grants from the federal Health Center Program.
  • Ranked as one of the 10 most-effective federal programs by the Office of Management and Budget, the Health Center Program offers a program in place with the potential to improve access to health care.
  • However, the centers rely heavily on state funding to provide care.

California already has a program to insure individuals who are poor and disabled.  Like MRMIP, Medi-Cal is seriously underfunded, says the Register:

  • Medi-Cal spending per enrollee in fiscal year 2006 was $2,740 compared with the U.S. average of $4,575.
  • Reimbursement rates are so low that many private physicians refuse to serve Medi-Cal patients.
  • Stories abound about the lack of access to both primary and specialty care for Californians insured through Medi-Cal, and it is only getting worse.

Source: Shirley Svorny, "California Focus: Health care solutions already here," Orange County Register, November 6, 2009.

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