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Why aren't Californians connecting with MediConnect?

November 30, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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California’s new state-run healthcare pilot for dual beneficiaries of Medicare and Medicaid, known as Cal MediConnect, has not exactly been a roaring success so far. In fact, the program’s opt-out rate is so high the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has received a $400,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to figure out what's going on.

The MediConnect program, which began transitioning 400,000 eligible beneficiaries in April 2014, is seeing a current opt-out rate of 45 percent—with an additional 10 percent who disenroll after being part of the program for a time. The extraordinarily high rate of refusal has state officials wondering what factors are affecting enrollment. Before the program began, the state had anticipated a 30-33 percent opt-out rate at most, notes a UCLA article on the research.

“It’s been a rocky start for Cal MediConnect, and the only way to find out why these consumers are opting out of the program is to ask them,” said Kathryn Kietzman, a research scientist at the center and principal investigator of the research project, Consumer Healthcare Options Investigating Cal MediConnect Enrollment.

Race and ethnicity may play a role in the opt-out rates, especially among beneficiaries who speak a language other than English or Spanish. In Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Santa Clara and San Diego counties, the highest opt-out rates included those who spoke Russian or Armenia, according to data quoted by UCLA.

The research project will focus on Los Angeles County, since that county alone holds almost half of MediConnect’s eligible population. Researchers, in partnership with the Westside Center for Independent Living in Los Angeles, will conduct group sessions and individual interviews with consumers and providers to unearth the ways they make healthcare decisions and how the state can communicate the mission and values of MediConnect more effectively.