Calif. judge moves to block dental Medi-Cal cuts

A federal judge has tentatively blocked California from reducing Medi-Cal reimbursements to dentists, physicians, emergency medical workers, and other healthcare providers.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder ruled on January 30 that the state cannot reduce Medi-Cal reimbursements by 10%, according to a story in the Sacramento Bee.

In her ruling, Snyder wrote that California's fiscal crisis "does not outweigh the serious irreparable injury plaintiffs would suffer absent the issuance of an injunction," according to the Bee.

The 10% Medi-Cal rate reduction – which officials said would save the financially troubled state $623 million -- was authorized by California Assembly Bill 97, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in June 2011 but required federal approval.

In October 2011, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the rate cut, retroactive to June 1, 2011.

The state implemented the proposal in December despite a motion for the preliminary injunction filed on November 21 by the California Dental Association (CDA) and coalition partners, including the California Medical Association, California Pharmacists Association, and National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Their lawsuit challenged the adequacy of the information provided by the state to support the cuts.

"CMS' decision simply defies reason and logic," the lawsuit stated. "It strains credulity to its breaking point to accept that a 10% cut to rates that have already caused significant gaps in access for Medi-Cal beneficiaries will not have any adverse impact on provider participation levels in Medi-Cal."

The state's elimination of adult dental services in 2009 was devastating to low-income Californians, according to Dan Davidson, DMD, president of the CDA. "More cuts to children's services are unconscionable," he said in November when the lawsuit was filed.

According to a statement issued on January 31 by the CDA, the final order for a preliminary injunction will provide for prospective relief only. This means that providers may not be reimbursed for the difference in any payments made by the state since December15, 2011, that included the 10% cut.

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