Letters to the Editor: Kids can’t get care under Medi-Cal. Are private insurers the problem?

A pediatrician examines a baby in her clinic in Chicago in 2019.
A pediatrician examines a baby in her clinic in Chicago in 2019.
(Amr Alfiky / Associated Press)

To the editor: Blame for California’s poor performance regarding young children’s access to preventive care falls largely on the Medi-Cal program. (“Hours on hold, limited appointments: Why California babies aren’t going to the doctor,” Feb. 26)

In 2021, 85% of Medi-Cal enrollees were in managed-care plans sold by private insurance companies. Making money is a major goal of these insurers, and it is accomplished by limiting access through narrow networks and pre-authorizations that lead to delays.

Time and money are spent by the state to monitor and levy fines on managed-care plans that don’t provide the services they are paid to coordinate and deliver.


Perhaps we should look to Connecticut as an example of how our Medi-Cal program can reduce administrative costs and provide better access to care. In 2012, Connecticut ended private insurance in their Medicaid program and implemented an effective and efficient public program, resulting in improved access to services.

Carol Fodera, La Crascenta


To the editor: Your article highlights the access crisis in Medi-Cal. But as a physician treating kids, I believe it’s important to know there is a solution on the horizon that should give us all hope.

California has made significant strides in expanding Medi-Cal coverage, but the crucial piece of the puzzle — access to care — has not been realized. The problem stems from a severe, decades-long underfunding in the program that insures more than 15 million Californians.

Thankfully, an upcoming ballot measure will help patients get the care they need.

The initiative is expected in the coming weeks to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. It will ensure healthcare programs for low-income families, the elderly and children are finally funded, which is important, considering a looming state budget deficit.


We look forward to finally bridging the access gap for all Californians.

Shannon Udovic-Constant, MD, San Francisco

The writer is president-elect of the California Medical Assn.


To the editor: Community health centers can improve access to and compliance with preventive care for children on Medi-Cal.

Venice Family Clinic has special initiatives specifically designed to reach children, including an Early Head Start program in which 97% of children are current on immunizations and 87% are up to date on well-child visits.

A recent partnership brought this comprehensive program for children up to age 3 to families at HomeLight Family Living, a Midnight Mission program in Inglewood.

We also provide comprehensive care at five different school campuses. That is in addition to a network of sites in nine L.A. County communities that offer a wide range of services.


Providing this type of comprehensive care where families are — and ensuring easy access to extensive services in one visit — is just what the doctor ordered to improve our children’s health.

Mitesh Popat, MD, Venice

The writer is chief executive of Venice Family Clinic.


To the editor: I’m trying to figure out how California can brag that 97% of its children have health insurance, while at the same time being ranked 46th out of 50 states for providing preventive care for children 5 and under.

If the state is failing to provide basic preventive care such as vaccines and screenings to young kids, then I’m sorry, those kids don’t have health insurance. They have a useless card with their name on it that does nothing for them.


Do better, California.

Terri Fox, Torrance