CALIFORNIA Health plan shake-up could disrupt coverage for low-income Californians

BY BERNARD J. WOLFSON

KAISER HEALTH NEWS


Almost 2 million of California’s poorest and most medically fragile residents may have to switch health insurers as a result of a new strategy by the state to improve care in its Medicaid program.


A first-ever statewide contracting competition to participate in the program, known as Medi-Cal, required commercial managed-care plans to rebid for their contracts and compete against others hoping to take those contracts away. The contracts will be revamped to require insurers to offer new benefits and meet stiffer benchmarks for care.


The long-planned reshuffle of insurers is likely to come with short-term pain. Four of the managed-care insurers, including Health Net and Blue Shield of California, stand to lose Medi-Cal contracts in a little over a year, according to the preliminary results of the bidding, announced in late August. If the results stand, some enrollees in rural Alpine and El Dorado counties, as well as in populous Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and Kern counties, will have to change health plans — and possibly doctors.


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