Pilot Medi-Cal HMO Plan Postponed Until February

The starting date of the controversial Medi-Cal pilot project in the Glendale and San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley areas has been pushed back one month, to Feb. 1, to give state officials more time to plan its implementation.

The California Medical Assistance Commission decided last week that, because of its small staff, it would be impossible to start the pilot project Jan. 1, when the experiment is scheduled to begin in San Diego County, said Jim Foley, director of the Los Angeles area project.

The experiment, called Expanded Choice, will require most of the 87,000 Medi-Cal recipients in Glendale and the valleys to join a participating health maintenance organization. Enrollees will no longer be able to visit their own physicians or pharmacists.

Medi-Cal beneficiaries will begin signing up Feb. 1 and will start using the HMOs May 1, Foley said.

Foley said the delay also will allow state officials more time to meet with groups opposed to parts of the plan, and to work out problems.

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