5 Things California: Medi-Cal Rx delay, Health bills out of committee, Detailed Agenda

We are 5 weeks out from our 2021 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference, and it’s shaping up to be another very strong event. We will tell you all about the speakers lined up next week when we release the full list.

Until then, here are a few key things we are watching in California health care and health policy for the month of March, 2021.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Stakeholders react to Medi-Cal Rx delay

DHCS announced in February it was delaying the April 1, 2021, start date for Medi-Cal Rx indefinitely, citing “the need to review new conflict avoidance protocols submitted by Magellan Health” as the cause for the delay. Centene Corporation, which operates two Medi-Cal plans, announced its plans to acquire Magellan Health in January.

Following DHCS’s announcement, Senior Reporter Emily Boerger reached out to several stakeholders for their thoughts on the delay. Many offered their takes on the decision, but none were willing to speak on the record. One source said health plans have slowed down their data-sharing to Magellan following the announcement. Another said that without proper conflict avoidance protocols, Centene could be privy to data that could give them a competitive advantage in the Medi-Cal RFP process.


2. NorCal Detailed Agenda coming next week

Next week, we’ll release our Detailed Agenda for the 2021 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference. This is a curated list of over 60 speakers set to be with you on April 22. If you’re curious about what the look and feel of the conference is, particularly in the virtual space, take a look at this highlight reel from the past few years. And, if you haven’t registered to be with us yet, we’d be honored to have you join us!

We’re also excited to announce the release of our Detailed Agenda for our first national-level conference, the 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference. This two-day conference will be perhaps the single best way to interact virtually with some of the key actors shaping federal health policy in both Congress and the Biden administration. We’ll also have a state learning lab focused on elevating the most prominent lessons from health reform in various states.


3. Senate committee hears first batch of bills

The Senate Committee on Health last week heard testimony on its first batch of bills, covering legislation related to expanded coverage through Medi-Cal, overdose prevention, and workforce development. During the meeting, the committee voted SB 56, a bill to extend full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to eligible seniors regardless of immigration status, out of committee by a 9-2 vote. This bill is set for a hearing in Appropriations on March 22.

Committee members also passed SB 242 out of committee which would require health plans to reimburse providers for business expenses that are medically necessary to render treatment to patients, protect health care workers, and prevent the spread of disease causing public health emergencies. This week, committee members passed bills related to behavioral health, and next week lawmakers will take up legislation related to e-consults and health information technology.

4. Latino agricultural worker mortality jumped 59% during pandemic

study out of UC San Francisco finds that during the pandemic (through October 2020), working age adults experienced a 22% increase in mortality compared to historical periods. The study found that the rise in mortality disproportionately impacted certain occupations such as food and agricultural workers who experienced a 39% increase in mortality.

The study also analyzed rates based on race and ethnicity. Latino Californians experienced a 36% increase in mortality, with a 59% increase among Latino food and agricultural workers. In comparison, mortality for white working-age Californians went up 6%, with an increase of 16% among white food and agricultural workers.


5. Worth a read: Kitzhaber on the national health policy agenda

Hon. John Kitzhaber is the former governor of Oregon and continues to be one of the most important thinkers on state health reform in the country. He recently wrote a three-part series for State of Reform offering his take on universal coverage, equity, value, and moving the national health policy agenda forward.

In Part 1, Kitzhaber reflects on the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. In Part 2 and Part 3, he dives into the details of moving health policy forward administratively through 1115 and 1332 waivers. His ideas focus on moving the ACA individual market from fee-for-service to capitation and using the restructured individual market as a public option.