5 Things California: CHCF report, Health data, Medi-Cal food benefit


Eli Kirshbaum


Health plans are currently gearing up for Medi-Cal managed care reprocurement, which is now slated to open Feb. 9 after DHCS pushed the date back a week. You can view the RFP schedule here.

Keep reading for highlights from CHCF’s recent statewide health policy survey, an op-ed from Manifest Medex’s Mimi Hall about health data, and a conversation with a food policy expert about the medically tailored food Community Support.

Thank you for reading!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform 


1. 83% of Californians worried about health care costs

Californians’ top health care concerns for 2022 include preparedness for public health crises, ensuring there are enough providers across the state, and granting health care access to all Californians. The 2022 CHCF California Health Policy Survey, released late last month, includes detailed data on Californians’ experience with the health care system and what they want to see policymakers focus on this year.

The survey reveals that 83% of Californians are concerned about health care costs, with 25% saying they or someone in their family had struggled to pay at least one medical bill in the last year—a 5% increase from last year’s survey. 83% of Black respondents and 58% of Latinx respondents said they have a harder time receiving health care than white Californians. The majority of survey respondents believe not enough is being done to to address racial and ethnic inequality in the health care system.


2. Topical Agenda for 2022 Northern California State of Reform now available!

We’re thrilled to have recently released the Topical Agenda for our upcoming 2022 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference on March 23. We are planning for this event to be in person with proof of COVID-19 vaccination required for all attendees.

Panel topics include funding health equity, managing newly eligible CalAIM populations, Community Supports, and Medi-Cal Rx. If any of the panels peak your interest, you can register here! We hope to see you there in March.

3. What They’re Watching: Sheree Paloutzian, Quest Diagnostics

Sheree Paloutzian, Ph.D., senior director of health plans and payer markets in the west region for Quest Diagnostics, says her organization is primarily focused on reducing the cost of health care. In this edition of “What They’re Watching,” Paloutzian explains that Quest is working with health plans to implement value-based contracts that aim to achieve its goal of lowering the cost of care.

By directing health plans to cost-effective data hubs like Quest, Paloutzian says she’s already seeing 10-15% savings in lab spend among these plans. “[We are implementing] strategies that use our data to help impact the treatment of members in a more cost-effective way,” she said.


4. Op-ed: Health equity in California must start with health data

Years of disinvestment in health data infrastructure has rendered health departments incapable of collecting adequate health data, according to Manifest Medex’s Mimi Hall. In a recent op-ed for State of Reform, Hall discusses how this lack of sufficient data collection is directly related to poor health equity outcomes—and what California can do to fill some of these gaps.

As an example of data’s utility in reducing disparities, Hall points to her tenure as Santa Cruz County’s health director, during which time the county used vaccination data from the California Healthy Places Index to target undervaccinated regions of the county. She also emphasizes the importance of AB 133, a bill recently signed by Gov. Newsom that requires county health, public health, and social health to engage in real-time data sharing by Jan. 31, 2023.

5. Food policy expert praises Medi-Cal food benefit

The medically supportive/medically tailored meals benefit of CalAIM’s Community Supports is critical in supporting food-insecure Californians—particularly during a pandemic, according to SPUR‘s food and agricultural policy manager Katie Ettman. She told State of Reform her organization has been advocating to designate medically supportive food and nutrition services as a covered Medi-Cal benefit since 2019.

Ettman says California’s food insecurity rates have nearly doubled since 2018. With 18 of California’s 22 Medi-Cal MCOs having so far elected to cover medically supportive food services, SPUR is working to get more carriers to cover the optional benefit. Ettman also says SPUR is working to make the benefit permanent before it ends when the CalAIM waiver expires at the end of 2026.