On Monday, December 14, 1987, the Los Angeles Times' editorial, "Medi-Cal Under Fire," grimly described the sad state of our once laudable Medi-Cal Program, with particular reference to the plight of the obstetrical services covered (or not covered) by the program. The Times pointed out that current rates of reimbursement are approximately 50% of prevailing fees which severely limits access of the needy to the care they so badly need. This is, of course, not only in the area of obstetrics but in all specialties of medical care. What is importantly noted is the fact that for every dollar spent by the state, the federal government provides the same in matching funds. Also noted, is that if access is denied, "postponing timely care is to invite medical complications that ultimately cost far more to treat. That is most measurable in denying prenatal care, with resultant premature births and costly neonatal services." It is not uncommon for one such infant to require costs of $500,000 or more.
On the heels of this revealing editorial comes the unbelievable story reported on the front page of The Times (Part I, Dec. 18). In it we learn that the state is trying to recover millions of Medi-Cal dollars from the very hospitals that attempt, often at a loss, to take care of the state's needy. The total funds sought approximate $100 million, or less than 2% of the funds spent on this program in the past four years. This small percentage, however, has huge financial impact on the hospitals delivering care to the needy, and may cause some to close their doors.