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Rally held to protest state's exclusion of a local health plan

Representatives from Community Health Group are pushing back against a recent state decision to remove it from San Diego County.

Dozens turned out downtown Thursday to protest the state of California’s decision to exclude Community Health Group as a Medi-Cal provider after next year.

The group said it has been in business here for 40 years and serves 335,000 San Diegans.

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"They cut us out — which makes absolutely no sense to us," Community Health Group Chief Operating Officer Joseph Garcia said.

Garcia said the state is trying to streamline operations, going from seven Medi-Cal plans to just three. The group submitted a bid, but Garcia argues the state’s scoring system was flawed. He said Community Health Group has filed an appeal and is hoping the state will simply keep the MediCal plan.

"We’re going to try and we hope with the support of the community that you saw right now with the support of key leaders throughout California the state will reconsider," he said.

Community Health Group said its metrics show it is one of the top performing medical plans. Based in Chula Vista, supporters do not want to lose their local connection.

"Now they’re just supposed to be excluded and everybody is supposed to go out and get new insurance coverage?" asked Peter Civardi, a Chula Vista resident and Medi-Cal enrollee. "It’s terrible."

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Civardi said he has been with Community Health Group for the last decade. He said the group has saved his life and worries what will happen to low-income San Diegans.

"335,0000 insured would have to get new insurance," he said.

Even Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas is throwing her support to save the health plan.

"If the state does not add them back in our community I believe it’s going to increase the inequities of health care and worsen the outcomes in our community," she said.

KPBS reached out to the California Department of Health Care Services about its decision not to include Community Health Group in the years ahead, but did not hear back.

Updated: September 30, 2022 at 5:55 PM PDT
A spokesman for the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) said Friday the state is changing Medi-Cal by raising expectations and reducing complexity. DHCS Spokesman Anthony Cava said there was a transparent bidding process for the new Medi-Cal plans.

“Community Health Group was not among the two top scoring plans for San Diego County,” Cava said in an emailed statement. “However, as you are aware, the intended awards are currently the subject of appeals.”

Final contracts will not be awarded until that appeal process is over, Cava said. He added San Diegans under Community Health Group’s plan would not lose access to services or receive lower quality care under new plans, should the state’s decision stand. He said DHCS intends to work to help transition Medi-Cal members to new plans. The new contracts would start January of 2024.
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