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Report Finds Medi-Cal Expansion Strains San Diego’s Safety Net

Photo caption: A doctor holds a stethoscope, March 25, 2012.

Photo by Alex Proimos / Flickr

A doctor holds a stethoscope, March 25, 2012.

Report Finds Medi-Cal Expansion Strains San Diego's Safety Net

GUEST:

Kenny Goldberg, health reporter, KPBS

Transcript

The expansion of the Medi-Cal program has exposed some gaps in San Diego County’s safety net, according to a new analysis from the California Health Care Foundation.

San Diego's health care safety net is showing signs of strain, primarily due to the major expansion of the Medi-Cal program.

That's according to a new analysis of San Diego's health care market from the California Health Care Foundation.

The report found that over the last two years, the number of San Diegans with Medi-Cal coverage has nearly doubled to 700,000.

Ha Tu, senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, co-wrote the report. She said by and large Medi-Cal recipients have gotten access to primary care at San Diego's community clinics.

“But I think the area where the San Diego safety net has faced more severe challenges have been in access to specialty care and behavioral health care," Tu said.

Some community clinics now offer access to mental health providers on site. But providers in many other specialties decline to treat Medi-Cal patients because of low reimbursement rates.

The analysis also examined the state of San Diego's hospitals and health care systems, and finds a mixed bag.

For instance, Kaiser Permanente has been making major gains in San Diego. One in five insured residents now have Kaiser coverage.

Sharp Healthcare and UC San Diego Health have also gained market share over the last couple of years, while Scripps Health has lost a bit of ground.

The report finds most of the county’s smaller independent hospitals have been losing patient volume and struggling financially.

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