LOS ANGELES -- California has mistakenly sent letters to 246,000 low-income residents, warning they may need to find new doctors next year under the state's newly expanded Medicaid program.
The error frustrated counties and community health centers, which have repeatedly assured patients they can keep their providers when the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014. The patients are part of the state's "bridge to reform" program, which was designed to cover uninsured, poor Californians until they became eligible for Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal here.
The program launched in 2011 and more than 600,000 people across the state enrolled in county-based health coverage. Many of them formed relationships with doctors and started seeking regular care. But county and clinic administrators said the incorrect mailing this month has put the counties' efforts in jeopardy.
The mix-up occurred as people are scrambling to figure out how the health law impacts them, and as private policy holders have been receiving letters canceling their insurance plans.
"The whole key to the success is that people seamlessly transition to Medi-Cal," said Sean South, an associate director at the California Primary Care Association. "It is vitally important that we don't confuse them."
But that's what happened when the incorrect letters started going out on Nov. 1, said clinic and county officials.
Patients immediately began calling and showing up with questions about the letter, said Eva Serrano, a...