EL CENTRO – Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors spoke about the impending changes in the California legislative. They referred to the large turnover of seats in the November election and the democratic super majority. Retiring Supervisor Gary Wyatt said that would make for an interesting year for rural counties.
There were also major changes in healthcare.
Wyatt said California is leading the way, as usual, on medical coverage. Several years ago the California legislature moved to put all counties under managed care to control rising costs. The Imperial Valley had been one of only two counties exempt from the medical care laws governing California. The valley was exempt due to its geography; the state plan didn’t “fit” the valley due to distances to other hospitals and alternatives.
“We were geographically separate, the valley didn’t fit into a typical plan the state had laid out.” Wyatt said.
However, that changes with the new laws and the valley must conform to the rules, there are no longer any exemptions.
The county has the largest percentage of Medi-cal and Med-icare patients in the state. The under-insured and the uninsured will now add to those large rolls.
Superintendent John Renison explained that the new rules were only 13 months away.
“This will mean a drastic change; we’ll have a heck of a learning curve. We will have to figure out how to manage and pay for it. The doctors are fighting the change. Presently, they are paid a fee for the service they provide, now they will receive a flat fee, they will get paid per person.”
As of now, there are approximately 52,000 Imperial County residences on Medi-care/ Medi-cal in the valley, this will not affect them. However, the number of the underinsured and uninsured will rise up to 72,500 and that is a 72 % increase. Their inclusion onto Medi-care or Medi-cal will be mandatory. Renison said that what the state doesn’t pick up the county must. He said this will have a big impact on the General Fund in the very near future.
Renison went on to say that the two hospitals and doctor medical groups are working to fit into the law. He reiterated that the health care law meant a big change for the valley, it would be a big deal.
Incoming board member for District 4, Ryan Kelley attended the last meeting with the county and the medical community involved with implementing the change.
Bob Ham, retiring Imperial County‘s intergovernmental relations director, who keeps the Imperial County Board of Supervisors informed about what is going on in the federal and state governments and oversees lobbying for the county in both, suggested the board use their legislature lobby to soften the impact. He proposed trying to obtain a federal waiver. He reminded the board that Imperial County borders another state and another country. He said to remind the Washington contacts that the Imperial Valley is a lot different than rest of state.
Ham said there are a number of residence who prefer to get medical attention south of the border, the facilities are good, and it benefits us who are paying for it because the costs are less.