fbpx
Connect with us

Kaiser Health News

California’s $12 Billion Medicaid Makeover Banks on Nonprofits’ Buy-In

Published

on

Angela Hart
Thu, 16 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

TURLOCK, Calif. — For much of his young , Jorge Sanchez regularly gasped for air, at times coughing so violently that he'd almost throw up. His mother whisked him to the emergency room late at night and slept with him to make sure he didn't stop breathing.

“He's had these problems since he was born, and I couldn't figure out what was triggering his asthma,” Fabiola Sandoval said of her son, Jorge, now 4. “It's so hard when your child is hurting. I was willing to try anything.”

In January, community workers Sandoval's home in Turlock, a city in California's Central Valley where dust from fruit and nut orchards billows through the air. They scoured Sandoval's home for hazards and explained that harsh cleaning products, air fresheners, and airborne dust and pesticides can trigger an asthma attack.

Advertisement

The team also provided Sandoval with air purifiers, a special vacuum cleaner that can suck dust out of the air, hypoallergenic mattress covers, and a humidity sensor — goods that retail for hundreds of dollars. Within a few months, Jorge was breathing easier and was able to run and play outside.

The in-home consultation and supplies were paid for by Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid health insurance program for low-income residents. Gov. Gavin Newsom is spearheading an ambitious $12 billion experiment to transform Medi-Cal into both a health insurer and a social services provider, one that relies not only on and nurses, but also community health workers and nonprofit groups that offer dozens of services, delivering healthy meals and helping homeless people pay for housing.

These groups are redefining in California as they compete with businesses for a share of the money, and become a new arm of the sprawling Medi-Cal bureaucracy that serves nearly 15 million low-income residents on an annual budget of $158 billion.

But worker shortages, negotiations with health insurance companies, and learning to navigate complex billing and technology have hamstrung the community groups' ability to deliver the new services: Now into the third year of the ambitious five-year experiment, only a small fraction of eligible have received benefits.

Advertisement

“This is still so new, and everyone is just overwhelmed at this point, so it's slow-going,” said Kevin Hamilton, a senior director at the Central California Asthma Collaborative.

The collaborative has served about 3,650 patients, including Sandoval, in eight counties since early 2022, he said. It has years of experience with Medi-Cal patients in the Central Valley and has received about $1.5 million of the new initiative's money.

By contrast, CalOptima Health, Orange County's primary Medi-Cal insurer, is new to offering asthma benefits and has signed up 58 patients so far.

“Asthma services are so difficult to get going” because the nonprofit infrastructure for these services is virtually nonexistent, said Kelly Bruno-Nelson, CalOptima's executive director for Medi-Cal. “We need more community-based organizations on board because they're the ones who can serve a population that nobody wants to deal with.”

Advertisement

Newsom, a Democrat in his second term, says his signature health care initiative, known as CalAIM, seeks to reduce the cost of caring for the state's sickest and most vulnerable patients, including homeless Californians, foster , former inmates, and people battling addiction disorders.

In addition to in-home asthma remediation, CalAIM offers 13 broad categories of social services, plus a benefit connecting eligible patients with one-on-one care managers to help them obtain anything they need to get healthier, from grocery shopping to finding a job.

The 25 managed-care insurance companies participating in Medi-Cal can choose which services they offer, and contract with community groups to provide them. Insurers have hammered out about 4,300 large and small contracts with nonprofits and businesses.

So far, about 103,000 Medi-Cal patients have received CalAIM services and roughly 160,000 have been assigned personal care managers, according to state data, a sliver of the hundreds of thousands of patients who likely qualify.

Advertisement

“We're all new to health care, and a lot of this is such a foreign concept,” said Helena Lopez, executive director of A Greater Hope, a nonprofit organization providing social services in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, such as handing out baseball cleats to children to help them be active.

Tiffany Sickler runs Koinonia Family Services, which offers California foster children mental health and other types of care, and even helped a patient pay off parking tickets. But the program is struggling on a shoestring budget.

“If you want to do this, you have to learn all these new systems. It's been a huge learning curve, and very time-consuming and frustrating, especially without adequate funding,” she said.

Advertisement

Brandon Richards, a Newsom spokesperson, defended CalAIM, saying that it was “on the cutting edge of health care” and that the state was working to increase “awareness of these new services and .”

For nonprofits and businesses, CalAIM is a money-making opportunity — one that top state health officials hope to make permanent. Health insurers, which receive hefty payments from the state to serve more people and offer new services, share a portion with service providers.

In some places, community groups are competing with national corporations for the new funding, such as Mom's Meals, an Iowa-based company that delivers prepared meals across the United States.

Advertisement

Mom's Meals has an advantage over neighborhood nonprofit groups because it has long served seniors on Medicare and was able to immediately start offering the CalAIM benefit of home-delivered meals for patients with chronic diseases. But even Mom's Meals isn't reaching everyone who qualifies, because doctors and patients don't always know it's an option, said Catherine Macpherson, the company's chief nutrition officer.

“Utilization is not as high as it should be yet,” she said. “But we were well positioned, because we already had departments to do billing and contracting with health care.”

Middleman companies also have their eye on the billions of CalAIM dollars and are popping up to assist small organizations to go up against established ones like Mom's Meals. For instance, the New York-based Nonprofit Finance Fund is advising homeless service providers how to get more contracts and expand benefits.

Full Circle Health Network, with 70 member organizations, is helping smaller nonprofit groups develop and deliver services primarily for families and foster children. Full Circle has signed a deal with Kaiser Permanente, allowing the health care giant to access its network of community groups.

Advertisement

“We're allowing organizations to launch these benefits much faster than they've been able to do and to reach more vulnerable people,” said Camille Schraeder, chief executive of Full Circle. “Many of these are grassroots organizations that have the trust and expertise on the ground, but they're new to health care.”

One of the biggest challenges community groups face is hiring workers, who are key to finding eligible patients and persuading them to participate.

Kathryn Phillips, a workforce expert at the California Health Care Foundation, said there isn't enough seed money for community groups to hire workers and pay for new technology platforms. “They bring the trust that is needed, the cultural competency, the diversity of languages,” she said. “But there needs to be more funding and reimbursement to build this workforce.”

Health insurers say they are trying to increase the workforce. For instance, L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest Medi-Cal insurer in California, has given $66 million to community organizations for hiring and other CalAIM needs, said Sameer Amin, the group's chief medical officer.

Advertisement

“They don't have the staffing to do all this stuff, so we're helping with that all while teaching them how to build up their health care infrastructure,” he said. “Everyone wants a win, but this isn't going to be successful overnight.”

In the Central Valley, Jorge Sanchez is one of the lucky early beneficiaries of CalAIM.

His mother credits the trust she established with community health workers, who spent many hours over multiple visits to teach her how to control her son's asthma.

“I used to love cleaning with bleach” but learned it can trigger breathing problems, Sandoval said.

Advertisement

Since she implemented the health workers' recommendations, Sandoval has been able to let Jorge sleep alone at night for the first time in four years.

“Having this program and all the things available is amazing,” said Sandoval, as she pointed to the dirty dust cup in her new vacuum cleaner. “Now my son doesn't have as many asthma attacks and he can run around and be a normal kid.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

——————————
By: Angela Hart
Title: California's $12 Billion Medicaid Makeover Banks on Nonprofits' Buy-In
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/newsom-medicaid-12-billion-dollar-makeover-nonprofits-bureacracy-calaim/
Published Date: Thu, 16 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Advertisement

Kaiser Health News

Indiana Weighs Hospital Monopoly as Officials Elsewhere Scrutinize Similar Deals

Published

on

Samantha Liss
Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Locals in this city of 58,000 are used to having to wait at railroad crossings for one of the dozens of daily cargo trains to pass through.

But a proposed merger between the two hospitals on either side of the city could exacerbate the problem in emergencies if the hospitals shut down some services, such as trauma care, at one site, which the proposal cites as a possibility. Tom High, fire chief of a nearby township, said some first responders would be forced to transport critical farther, risking longer delays, if they become what locals call “railroaded” by a passing train.

That's just one of the fears in this community as Indiana officials review whether to allow Union Hospital, licensed as a 341-bed facility, to purchase the county's only other acute care hospital, the 278-bed Terre Haute Regional Hospital. The proposed deal also raises concerns about reduced tax revenue, worsening care, and higher prices.

Advertisement

Within the next few months, the Indiana Department of Health must find “clear evidence” that the proposed merger would improve health outcomes, access, and the quality of care. Those benefits must “outweigh any potential disadvantages.”

As the nation's industry has become more concentrated amid a steady clip of mergers in recent decades, it's common for one large system to dominate a market. In this case, the deal would be Indiana's first merger under the COPA , short for Certificate of Public Advantage, that the state enacted in 2021. Such laws allow deals that the Federal Trade Commission otherwise considers illegal because they reduce competition and often create monopolies. To mitigate the negative effects of a monopoly, the merged hospitals typically agree to conditions imposed by state regulators.

Union Hospital leaders said it's time to move “beyond competition” for the sake of the region, which has struggled to keep and raise life expectancy rates. Hospital spokesperson Neil Garrison said the merger would ultimately improve care, increase access, and cut costs. Leaders of Regional Hospital, which is owned by for-profit chain HCA , did not respond to questions about the proposal.

One unusual implication arises, though: If the merger is approved, the surrounding county would lose tax revenue from one of its larger businesses. Union Hospital, which as a nonprofit is exempt from paying taxes, would be acquiring tax-paying Terre Haute Regional, which paid roughly $508,000 in county taxes for 2023, said Vigo County Auditor Jim Bramble. That's the equivalent of the starting salaries of about nine sheriff's deputies, per the county's $83 million 2024 budget.

Advertisement

Garrison said the hospital system is aware of the tax implications for the county and is “exploring opportunities” to address it.

Meanwhile, Roland Kohr, formerly a pathologist at Regional and a county coroner, frets about erasing competition that forced the hospitals to add services or match the other. “The push to introduce new technologies, to recruit more physicians, that may not happen,” he said.

The FTC has urged states to avoid COPAs, pointing to research that found they “have resulted in significant price increases and contributed to declines in quality of care.” The fallout of similar mergers has triggered federal sanctions in North Carolina and pushback from locals and legislators in Tennessee.

“A merged hospital system that faces little remaining competition after the merger usually has little incentive to follow through with its promises because patients have no other choice,” wrote Chris Garmon, a University of Missouri-Kansas City economist who has studied COPA mergers, in a warning to Indiana health officials about the proposed merger.

Advertisement

Indiana already has among the highest hospital prices in the country, according to a study by the Rand Corp. research organization. The Indiana Legislature spent the past year trying to rein in prices. Gloria Sachdev, CEO of Indianapolis-based Employers' Forum of Indiana, which pushed for those pricing limits on behalf of frustrated business leaders, is worried a Union-Regional merger would undo those gains and raise prices further.

Indiana's COPA restricts how much the hospital could increase charges, Garrison said.

Elsewhere, the largest COPA-created hospital system in the country, Ballad Health, has reported that the time patients spend in its ERs in Virginia and Tennessee before being hospitalized has more than tripled, reaching nearly 11 hours, in the six years since that monopoly of 20 hospitals formed. Still, Tennessee has awarded Ballad top marks even when certain quality metrics, including its ER speed, fall below established benchmarks.

Ballad Health spokesperson Molly Luton said the system's performance has improved since those statistics were gathered.

Advertisement

Last fall, some Tennesseans unsuccessfully urged a county board to call on the state to better regulate the hospital system. This spring, state lawmakers refused to hear testimony from residents who drove five hours to Nashville to testify for a bill that sought to limit future COPA mergers in the state — which ultimately didn't make it to a full vote.

Problems have also occurred when a COPA — and its oversight — are , leaving the merged hospital system as an “unregulated monopoly.” After North Carolina repealed its COPA in 2015, a subsidiary of HCA Healthcare bought Mission Health, a COPA-created monopoly in Asheville, for $1.5 in 2019. The monopoly in Asheville remained but none of the COPA's conditions applied to the new owner.

Last year, government inspectors found “deficiencies” at Mission Health that contributed to four patient deaths and posed an “immediate jeopardy” to patients' health and safety, according to the 384-page federal inspection report. North Carolina Attorney General Joshua Stein sued HCA's subsidiary last year, alleging the ER was “significantly degraded,” and that the company failed to maintain certain critical services, including oncology care, a violation of a purchase agreement Stein's office negotiated with it because the company acquired a nonprofit.

HCA said it promptly addressed the issues and denied Stein's allegations in its legal response to the ongoing , arguing it has expanded services since its purchase. HCA also argued that the agreement is silent about maintaining the quality of care.

Advertisement

Back in Indiana, Union Hospital laid the groundwork for its merger more than three years ago when its leaders provided the language for COPA legislation to then-state Sen. Jon Ford, a Republican in Terre Haute, believing he would be “the best champion for this proposal,” according to legislative testimony from Taylor Hollenbeck, an RJL consultant on the merger. Ford, listed on the legislature's site as the bill's co-author, did not respond to requests for comment.

Union CEO Steve Holman testified in the bill's hearings that the county's public health rankings — with an average life expectancy ranking 68th out of 92 counties in the state — should be a “call to action” to do something “big and bold.”

Terre Haute Mayor Brandon Sakbun agrees the merger could help what he called the county's “abysmal” public health statistics. Last year, he was elected the city's youngest mayor at age 27 on a promise to “turn Terre Haute around.” The region's workforce has steadily declined and local leaders have pinned their hopes on a new casino and a manufacturer of battery parts for electric vehicles to reverse this trend.

Sakbun's father is an OB-GYN at Union, but the mayor said that doesn't color his opinion and that he supports the hospital merger despite the loss of the tax base. He believes it will help recruit medical and other professionals to an area that has struggled to attract top talent.

Advertisement

“Do I believe that this is the one that bucks the research?” Sakbun said. “I truthfully do.”

KFF Health correspondent Brett Kelman contributed to this article.

——————————
By: Samantha Liss
Title: Indiana Weighs Hospital Monopoly as Officials Elsewhere Scrutinize Similar Deals
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/indiana-copa-hospital-monopoly-scrutiny/
Published Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://www.biloxinewsevents.com/california-lawmakers-preserve-aid-to-older-disabled-immigrants/

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Kaiser Health News

California Lawmakers Preserve Aid to Older, Disabled Immigrants

Published

on

Vanessa G. Sánchez
Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

California lawmakers on Thursday passed a 2024-25 budget that rejected Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposal to cut in-home supportive services for low-income older, blind, and disabled immigrants lacking legal residency. However, the Democratic governor has not said whether he'll use his line-item veto authority to close the state's $45 billion deficit.

The , controlled by Democrats, passed a $211 billion general fund spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 by drawing more from the state's rainy-day fund and reducing corporate tax deductions to prevent cuts to and social services.

“Our legislative budget plan achieves those goals with targeted, carefully calibrated investments in safety-net programs that protect our most vulnerable,” said Assembly member Jesse Gabriel, chair of the Assembly's budget committee, in Sacramento.

Advertisement

Newsom and lawmakers are expected to continue talks.

“What was approved today represents a two-house agreement between the Senate and the Assembly – not an agreement with the governor,” said state Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer. “We've made good progress, but there's still more work to do.”

Newsom had proposed eliminating the new in-home benefit for qualified immigrants to save nearly $95 million in the next fiscal year, with no plans to bring it back. Lawmakers not only rejected Newsom's cut to the in-home services program; they also refused the governor's proposal to slash $300 million a year from public health agencies. However, they accepted delaying food assistance to low-income older immigrants without legal residency.

The In-Home Supportive Services program helps low-income older, blind, and disabled individuals receive care in their homes, which helps keep them out of more costly nursing and residential facilities. The program works by paying $16 to $21 an hour to caregivers, many of them family members.

Advertisement

Advocates applauded lawmakers for rejecting the cut. They had urged the governor to adopt the legislature's budget, arguing the state could end up paying more in the long as Medi-Cal recipients tap nursing services. The state has estimated the annual per-person cost of nursing homes is $124,189, with the roughly $28,000 average cost for people without legal residency in the in-home services program.

“These individuals would need to essentially go into costly hospital or nursing care,” said Ronald Coleman Baeza, managing policy director at the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “It's not only cruel for undocumented immigrants, but it doesn't make sense as a fiscal either.”

The governor has said he's trying to maintain fiscal discipline while preserving Medi-Cal benefits for immigrants. California was the first state to expand Medicaid eligibility to all qualified immigrants regardless of legal status, phasing it in over several years: in 2016, adults ages 19-26 in 2020, people 50 and older in 2022, and all remaining adults this year.

“It's a core of I think who we are as a state, and we should be as a nation,” Newsom said in May.

Advertisement

As part of the Medi-Cal expansion, the state authorized nearly 3,000 older, blind, and disabled immigrants without legal residency to access paramedical services and care, including meal preparation, bathing, feeding, and transportation to medical appointments. Advocates estimate 17,000 immigrants qualify.

“Fixing California's deficit means making tough choices, so the Assembly came to these negotiations focused on preserving programs that matter most to Californians,” said Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, a Central Coast Democrat, in an earlier statement.

Lawmakers did agree to Newsom's proposal to delay around $165 a month in food assistance to low-income immigrants without legal residency ages 55 and older. Lawmakers had approved the benefit two years ago, but the governor proposed delaying it by two fiscal years to 2027.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

Advertisement

——————————
By: Vanessa G. Sánchez
Title: California Lawmakers Preserve Aid to Older, Disabled Immigrants
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/california-lawmakers-aid-immigrants-in-home-services-budget-newsom/
Published Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Kaiser Health News

KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’: SCOTUS Rejects Abortion Pill Challenge — For Now 

Published

on

Thu, 13 Jun 2024 18:50:00 +0000

The Host

Julie Rovner
KFF


@jrovner


Read Julie's stories.

Advertisement

Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent and host of KFF Health News' weekly health policy news , “What the Health?” A noted expert on health policy issues, Julie is the author of the critically praised reference book “ and Policy A to Z,” now in its third edition.

A unanimous Supreme Court turned back a to the FDA's approval and rules for the abortion pill mifepristone, finding that the anti-abortion doctor group that sued lacked standing to do so. But abortion foes have other ways they intend to curtail availability of the pill, which is commonly used in medication abortions, which now make up nearly two-thirds of abortions in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is proposing regulations that would bar credit agencies from medical debt on individual credit reports. And former President Donald Trump, signaling that drug prices remain a potent campaign issue, attempts to take credit for the $35-a-month cap on insulin for Medicare beneficiaries — which was backed and signed into law by Biden.

This 's panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News, and Emmarie Huetteman of KFF Health News.

Advertisement

Panelists

Anna Edney
Bloomberg


@annaedney


Read Anna's stories.

Emmarie Huetteman
KFF Health News

Advertisement


@emmarieDC


Read Emmarie's stories.

Rachana Pradhan
KFF Health News


@rachanadpradhan

Advertisement


Read Rachana's stories.

Among the takeaways from this week's episode:

  • All nine Supreme Court justices on June 13 rejected a challenge to the abortion pill mifepristone, ruling the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue. But that may not be the last word: The decision leaves open the possibility that different plaintiffs — including three states already part of the case — could raise a similar challenge in the future, and that the court could then vote to block access to the pill.
  • As the presidential race heats up, and former President Donald Trump are angling for health care voters. The Biden administration this week proposed eliminating all medical debt from Americans' credit scores, which would expand on the previous, voluntary move by the major credit agencies to erase from credit reports medical bills under $500. Meanwhile, Trump continues to court vaccine skeptics and wrongly claimed credit for Medicare's $35 monthly cap on insulin — enacted under a law backed and signed by Biden.
  • Problems are compounding at the pharmacy counter. Pharmacists and drugmakers are reporting the highest numbers of drug shortages in more than 20 years. And independent pharmacists in particular say they are struggling to keep drugs on the shelves, pointing to a recent Biden administration policy change that reduces costs for seniors — but also cash flow for pharmacies.
  • And the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest branch of Protestantism, voted this week to restrict the use of in vitro fertilization. As evidenced by recent flip-flopping stances on abortion, Republican candidates are feeling pressed to satisfy a wide range of perspectives within even their own party.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF president and CEO Drew Altman about KFF's new “Health Policy 101” primer. You can learn more about it here.

Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: HuffPost's “How America's Mental Health Crisis Became This Family's Worst Nightmare,” by Jonathan Cohn.

Advertisement

Anna Edney: Stat News' “Four Tops Singer's Lawsuit Says He Visited ER for Chest Pain, Ended Up in Straitjacket,” by Tara Bannow.

Rachana Pradhan: The New York Times' “Abortion Groups Say Tech Companies Suppress Posts and Accounts,” by Emily Schmall and Sapna Maheshwari.

Emmarie Huetteman: CBS News' “As FDA Urges Crackdown on Bird Flu in Raw Milk, Some States Say Their Hands Are Tied,” by Alexander Tin.

Also mentioned on this week's podcast:

Advertisement

Credits

Francis Ying
Audio producer

Emmarie Huetteman
Editor

To hear all our click here.

And subscribe to KFF Health News' “What the Health?” on SpotifyApple PodcastsPocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

——————————
Title: KFF Health News' ‘What the Health?': SCOTUS Rejects Abortion Pill Challenge — For Now 
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/podcast/what-the-health-351-supreme-court-abortion-pill-mifepristone-june-13-2024/
Published Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2024 18:50:00 +0000

Advertisement

Did you miss our previous article…
https://www.biloxinewsevents.com/funding-instability-plagues-program-that-brings-docs-to-underserved-areas/

Continue Reading

News from the South

Trending