Judge blocks cut to healthcare for poor Californians

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California’s budget is once again getting tied up in the federal court system.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder said Monday she will temporarily block a 10% cut in Medi-Cal payments to doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers.

In a 25-page order, the Los Angeles-based judge said she recognized the state’s budget problems but that the cuts raised the risk of “irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction.”

Advocacy groups have warned that reducing spending on Medi-Cal would make it more difficult for poor people to get healthcare. James T. Hay, president of the California Medical Assn., one of the organizations that sued the state to block the cut, called the judge’s decision encouraging.


“The state’s repeated attempt to slash Medi-Cal reimbursement rates is a short-sighted solution that balances the budget on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable Californians,” he said in a statement.

Although the federal government already approved the cut to Medi-Cal, Snyder will block it while the court case continues.

If the judge makes the block permanent, the state is going to have to cut spending elsewhere to compensate, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance.

Thanks to court orders and delays in federal approval, the state expects to shell out an extra $2 billion during the current and upcoming budget years combined. Michael Cohen, chief deputy director at the Department of Finance, acknowledged the roadblocks when testifying before the Senate Budget Committee earlier this month.

“It’s one of the main causes of our continued problems in the current year,” he said.


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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Twitter: @chrismegerian