• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Two counties square off with California more than mental wellness duties


Mar 15, 2023

Sacramento and Solano counties are in a standoff with the state more than mental wellness coverage for a portion of Medicaid individuals in these counties — a dispute that threatens to disrupt care for practically 50,000 low-revenue residents getting therapy for serious mental illness.

The Division of Overall health Care Solutions, which administers Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid system, says Sacramento and Solano counties need to take more than managing and supplying specialty mental wellness care for thousands of Medi-Cal individuals enrolled in Kaiser Permanente plans. It insists on shifting the duty mainly because California’s remaining 56 counties currently operate this way. State officials argue the switch would simplify the state’s disjointed mental wellness method and is required to implement a bigger transformation of Medi-Cal, an initiative identified as CalAIM.

State wellness officials gave counties till March 15 to accept Kaiser Permanente individuals, so California can correctly transfer their specialty mental wellness care to counties by July 1. But the two counties are rebuffing the transfer, arguing that devoid of a lot more funding they cannot adequately care for a main influx of Medi-Cal individuals with serious mental wellness situations, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Medi-Cal officials, meanwhile, are threatening steep penalties or potentially terminating mental wellness contracts with these counties.

Nearby officials warn that if the state follows by way of with its strategy, about 39,000 individuals in Sacramento County and about eight,000 in Solano County could see their care disrupted and, for instance, could be forced to obtain a new psychiatrist.

“For a person who has schizophrenia or a further severe mental wellness disorder, it has taken a lengthy time to make a trusted connection with their provider, and now they are going to see that care disrupted or have to obtain a distinct provider,” mentioned Debbie Vaughn, assistant county administrator for Solano County. “There will be dangers of persons going into crisis.”

Ryan Quist, director of behavioral wellness solutions for Sacramento County, mentioned the counties want not only a lot more funding, but also a lot more time to transfer the patients’ care. “The state is playing chicken with their lives,” he mentioned.

Beneath state law, counties are accountable for administering and delivering specialty care to Medi-Cal individuals with serious mental illness. Medi-Cal managed-care insurers are accountable for supplying therapy for mild or moderate mental wellness situations, such as anxiousness or low-level depression.

But below a decades-old arrangement in between the state and the counties of Sacramento and Solano, California has been paying Kaiser Permanente to deliver all mental wellness care for the wellness care giant’s Medi-Cal enrollees. Now the state is dissolving that arrangement, forcing roughly 7,000 specialty mental wellness individuals in these two counties to move out of Kaiser Permanente and into county-run mental wellness plans.

State officials argue that the two counties are legally obligated to deliver care for Medi-Cal individuals with serious mental illness and that county behavioral wellness agencies would be the ones placing individuals in danger if the counties continue refusing the shift. Medi-Cal individuals enrolled in wellness plans other than Kaiser Permanente get their specialized mental wellness care straight from counties.

“Sacramento and Solano counties’ failure to engage in this method areas Medi-Cal members at danger of losing access to important Medi-Cal entitlement solutions,” mentioned Tony Cava, a spokesperson for the Division of Overall health Care Solutions. “DHCS will have no option but to take action if the counties continue to refuse to fulfill their obligations.”

The state is thinking about sanctions or terminating the counties’ contracts, but Cava mentioned that “contract termination is not DHCS’ preferred method.” He declined to elaborate, adding only that the agency would “recognize options to continue coverage” for Kaiser Permanente individuals.

He mentioned transferring individuals to the counties will deliver “a a lot more constant and seamless wellness method by minimizing complexity and escalating flexibility.”

Counties at the moment obtain a portion of state sales tax income and automobile license charges to fund specialty mental wellness care, but below the agreement in Sacramento and Solano, the state has been paying Kaiser Permanente from its common fund to serve a portion of the insurer’s general Medi-Cal enrollees’ mental wellness desires.

Beneath the shift, California would quit distributing common-fund dollars to the counties. Rather, counties would obtain a higher share of current sales tax and automobile license charge revenues set aside by a 2011 arrangement. But Kaiser Permanente’s specialty mental wellness individuals, the counties argue, have been not below their purview at the time that agreement was reached, underscoring their legal argument that the state really should cover the charges of their care.

The state is supplying an further $11.six million a year to Sacramento and $7.7 million a year to Solano, which would draw down further federal funding. That dollars would be siphoned from income other counties rely on for behavioral wellness therapy.

“The insult to injury is this requires dollars from other counties,” mentioned Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Overall health Directors Association, “and across California we’re seeing a higher demand for solutions, particularly following the pandemic.”

Sacramento County desires $36 million a lot more each and every year to cover a 16% improve in individuals, or four,836 persons. Solano County seeks practically $17 million a lot more each and every year for escalating its load by 50%, or two,091 individuals.

Behavioral wellness officials say counties are also struggling to recruit and retain mental wellness specialists prepared to serve Medi-Cal individuals.

“Our method is currently bursting at the seams,” mentioned Le Ondra Clark Harvey, CEO of the California Council of Neighborhood Behavioral Overall health Agencies, which represents nearby mental wellness providers.

State officials think that each counties have an sufficient quantity of mental wellness providers, with the little exception of Sacramento County’s want for two to 3 further psychiatrists to serve children.

Kaiser Permanente told KHN that it did not ask to move individuals out of its network of care and that it told the state it wanted to continue serving them. However it eventually agreed to transfer care to the counties.

“When we had expressed our preference to continue to deliver specialty care to this vulnerable population,” mentioned spokesperson Gerri Ginsburg, “we respect the state’s lengthy-term objectives.”

This story was created by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Overall health Care Foundation.

This write-up was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family members Foundation. Kaiser Overall health News, an editorially independent news service, is a system of the Kaiser Family members Foundation, a nonpartisan wellness care policy study organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.