SJ Mercury News: California’s managed care project for poor seniors and disabled faces backlash

By Anna Gorman

California’s experiment aimed at moving almost 500,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities automatically into managed care has been rife with problems in its first six months, leading to widespread confusion, frustration and resistance.

Many beneficiaries have received stacks of paperwork they don’t understand. Some have been mistakenly shifted to the new insurance coverage or are unaware they were enrolled. And 44 percent of those targeted for enrollment through September opted out.

Palo Alto resident Patricia O’Riordan, 75, said she is worried that she will lose access to her doctors and her pharmacy, the only one in the area that delivers. She has severe back pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and gets around with a wheelchair. She is also blind, which means someone will have to read her information packet to her.

“It is extremely stressful,” said Riordan, who has not yet decided whether she will opt out of the program. “There are many nights I am up with nightmares about what is going to happen next.”

Doctors have been among the most vocal critics of the switch, and the state admittedly is having trouble getting some of them to participate.

“We are concerned that (the project) is ill-conceived, ill-designed and will jeopardize the health of many of the state’s most vulnerable population — the poor, the elderly and the disabled,” said Dr. William Averill, executive board member of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, which filed a lawsuit to block the project.

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

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