California Health Advocates recently submitted this letter in support of AB 1088 which would stop seniors and persons with disabilities from losing access to free Medi-Cal due to a confusing Medi-Cal rule that creates fluctuations in how income is counted even though a person’s actual income has not changed.
April 10, 2019
The Honorable Jim Wood
Chair, Assembly Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Support for AB 1088 (Wood)
Dear Assemblymember Wood,
California Health Advocates supports AB 1088 which would stop seniors and persons with disabilities from losing access to free Medi-Cal due to a confusing Medi-Cal rule that creates fluctuations in how income is counted even though a person’s actual income has not changed.
California Health Advocates (CHA), a non-profit organization founded in 1997, is the leading Medicare advocacy and educational voice for more than 5.6 million Medicare beneficiaries in California. And we support the work of California’s Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP).
When a Medicare enrollee applies for Medi-Cal, income counting rules deduct their out of pocket payment for their Medicare Part B premium. Once they qualify for Medi-Cal, the state pays their Part B premium as a benefit of free Medi-Cal. Because the beneficiary is no longer paying out of pocket, they no longer receive the income deduction. If their income is close to the income eligibility cap, they are become ineligible for free MediCal and are enrolled in a Medi-Cal share of cost program. Those affected end up not only with high-cost MediCal, but they must also pay their own Part B premiums again, despite no change in their actual income.
For beneficiaries facing this problem, their Medi-Cal costs skyrocket, going from free to several hundred dollars a month. For example, a senior with a monthly income of $1,300 who pays Part B premiums out of pocket, is eligible for free Medi-Cal. After the state starts paying their premium they will move to Medi-Cal with a $700 monthly share of cost. This shift can disrupt access to services and upend their financial stability.
CHA is aware of the hundreds of calls the HICAPs receive when Medicare beneficiaries receive the notice that they are now in a share of cost due to a change in how their income is counted. This causes beneficiaries’ reduced income to now cover their out-of-pocket medical expenses, forcing them to choose between rent, food, or other necessities.
AB 1088 would allow seniors to remain on free Medi-Cal despite the elimination of the payment of the Part B premium as an income deduction. Those who are eligible for free Medi-Cal when they enroll, will stay eligible when the state starts paying their Part B premiums if their income doesn’t otherwise increase. This ensures that our low-income seniors can access the medical care they need.
For these reasons California Health Advocates supports AB 1088.
Consultant & Training Specialist
California Health Advocates