California Health Report: The Waiting Room: L.A. County’s Medi-Cal Backlog

Marady Preap of Long Beach, proudly displays his new insurance card, though he said the process of getting covered was often confusing. Photo: Jessica Portner

By Jessica Portner

As the deluge of applications for Medi-Cal continues to flood into Covered California, local health advocacy groups and providers throughout Los Angeles County say the sizable enrollment backlog is delaying health care services for needy residents.

In L.A. County, 175,000 applications for the Medi-Cal program, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, were still being processed as of mid-March, and some were filed as far back as October, according to Katie Murphy of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA). In California, 700,000 people are still awaiting enrollment in Medi-Cal, according to the state’s Department of Health Care Services. Covered California doesn’t currently collect data on how many applications statewide are still pending in the private insurance exchange.

“We are building the plane as we fly it, which is funny, but not so funny,” said Murphy of NLSLA. The legal advocacy group currently has 30 hearings underway. One or two new cases have arrived each week since the applications process opened in October. They represent residents who believe their applications were unfairly rejected or are languishing in a bureaucratic standstill. “For people going without surgeries or doctors appointment every one of these delays is meaningful,” she said, “People are struggling to get the care they need.”

Mark Chan, a self-employed 36-year-old Arcadia resident applied though Covered California at the end of January and was told he wasn’t eligible for private insurance exchange. He has yet to receive a letter confirming or denying his eligibility from Medi-Cal. “I always have allergies and that’s the main concern because it can turn into something else,” said Chan. “I am little nervous that it’s lost in a mail and it’s been a while. It’s a big question mark in my head.”

Sign-Up Struggles

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
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