Open Discussion: Medi-Cal cuts threaten patient care and community pharmacies

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Joselito Pablo Marco is owner of Marco’s Farmacia in East Los Angeles. His opinion piece on the impact of Medi-Cal cuts on patients and independent pharmacies is part of a nationwide coalition organized by community pharmacies. Consultants with the coalition worked with Marco on the opinion piece.

By Joselito Pablo Marco

What do budget cuts mean for California?  Perhaps you have heard Governor Brown’s call for higher taxes, or maybe even of his executive order to eliminate half of all state employee cell phones to save money.

While some budget cuts make perfect sense, some cuts would have devastating effects on California businesses and Medicaid patients, resulting in little to no true savings for the state.

California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, has been subject to large cuts, as officials search for ways to close our $10 billion dollar budget shortfall.  Currently, a 10% cut from 2008 in Medicaid provider reimbursement rates is being litigated in before the U.S. Supreme Court, because of the potential damage it may cause to the Medi-Cal program.  Making the situation even more frightening for Medicaid patients is the additional 10% reimbursement cut that was recently voted for by the California Legislature.

As a pharmacist and the owner of Marco’s Farmacia in East Los Angeles, I care for and provide service to Medi-Cal patients on a daily basis.  In fact, 95% or more of the patients I see are serviced by Medi-Cal.

Many of my patients are Spanish-speaking, elderly and/or disabled and rely on the hands-on, personalized care that only a community-based pharmacy like mine can provide.

The reimbursement cuts proposed by lawmakers could make it impossible for pharmacies like mine to serve Medi-Cal patients in my community.  Denying access to basic medical care for those who need it the most should not be the policy of California.  Our leaders need to make sure that reimbursement rates make it possible for community-based pharmacists to continue to serve patients.  In addition, they need to ensure that a move to managed care does not restrict patient access to the care they need.

Californians deserve more than short-sighted, costly solutions from those we elect to represent us.

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