Medi-Cal Recipients Ordered to Reapply

Times Staff Writer

Tens of thousands of people across Los Angeles County are receiving letters this month from the state notifying them that they must reapply for their Medi-Cal benefits or face losing coverage, according to the California Department of Health Services.

About 122,000 Medi-Cal recipients are expected to receive the letters out of the 2.5 million enrollees in the county. It’s uncertain how many of those will lose benefits because they no longer meet eligibility standards. But many are expected to be reinstated.

In the language of bureaucracy, the letters are part of a “reconciliation” of the Medi-Cal rolls maintained by both the state and county. The program provides healthcare coverage for the poor.


Over the last five years, the state and county lists have grown increasingly dissimilar. The reason: The state’s computer could not communicate with the county’s computer.

The net result, said state officials, was that some people who were no longer eligible for Medi-Cal kept their benefits. Recently, health officials got the two computer systems talking, allowing them to identify recipients whose personal information had not been recently updated.

“Preserving the integrity of the program ensures that those who are truly eligible will get the services they need,” said Ken August, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services.

Those who receive the letters must contact the county Department of Social Services to avoid losing their benefits.

The phone number for the agency’s central help line is (877) 481-1044. Help can be received from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Similar reconciliations have been done in other counties.

August said that many of those who received the letters would be able to reenroll in the program once their personal information was updated. Others can receive a three-month extension of their benefits while appealing their eligibility. There could be a temporary delay in benefits for some during the appeals process.


Mandy Johnson, chief executive of the Community Clinics Assn. of Los Angeles County, said she was worried that some people would not get the letters because they have moved, and would later learn that they no longer are covered by Medi-Cal.

“I’m concerned that there’s a mother, she’s low-income, has a sick kid and doesn’t have the ability to pay out of pocket for a doctor’s visit,” Johnson said. “Then she has to go back and reapply, and meanwhile, her kid is sick and needs to be treated.”

The effect of the notifications remains to be seen on healthcare clinics in the county that serve low-income populations.

The state sent Northeast Valley Health Corp. a list of about 180 of its patients who had received notices about their Medi-Cal coverage, said Vilma Champion, the director of managed care for the nonprofit that runs 10 clinics in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.

“Most of them have received a letter, and some of them don’t understand it, ignore it or throw it away,” she said.

Champion said the clinic was trying to contact everyone who received the letter and help them reenroll immediately.


With the computer issue resolved, all Medi-Cal recipients are expected to update their personal information with the program every three months, state health officials said.