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California primary care doctors expect to receive more than twice their current reimbursement rate for treating Medi-Cal patients next year, but those higher payments will now be delayed, according to state officials.

The change in reimbursement rates is part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The federal government has agreed to fund primary care for Medi-Cal patients at the same rate that it pays Medicare providers, hoping to expand the number of doctors willing to treat low-income patients before the Affordable Care Act kicks into overdrive in 2014.

In California, which pays one of the lowest Medicaid rates in the country, primary care physicians can expect to receive 136 percent higher reimbursements, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The state Department of Health Care Services says it intends to eventually give higher payments to doctors for treating Medi-Cal clients, including retroactive payments for treatment after Jan. 1. DHCS blamed the delay on bureaucratic reviews that are not yet final, and it suggested other states also won't be able to pay immediately.

"Since the payment increase will be retroactive to January 1, 2013, any delay in implementation is not expected to impact a provider's willingness to continue serving Medi-Cal members," said DHCS spokesman Norman Williams in a statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested in recent days that he may not embrace that expansion if it comes with higher state costs, though his argument appeared to be based on his own speculation that "fiscal cliff" negotiations may lead to a dramatic rollback in the Affordable Care Act.


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