The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

California Gives Kaiser a No-Bid Medi-Cal Contract

Jun 6, 2022

The state of California is in the process of giving Kaiser Permanente a no-bid contract to provide care to Medi-Cal patients. (Medi-Cal is California’s health insurance program for the poor.) According to the proposed contract, Kaiser stands to not only increase its Medi-Cal business, but also pick patients according to its own rules.

California is giving Kaiser this lucrative contract despite two serious accusations against the company. The state of California itself has an ongoing investigation against Kaiser for not providing timely appointments to mental health patients. Already back in 2013, Kaiser had agreed to pay a 4-million-dollar fine and to provide timely appointments, but as late as 2019, state regulators found that Kaiser’s service still fell short of expectations. And secondly, the federal government is suing Kaiser for Medicare fraud—that is, for systematically falsifying patients’ medical records to overcharge Medicare.

This agreement between the Newsom administration and Kaiser, hashed out behind closed doors, has all the appearance of a sweetheart deal: Kaiser, one of the biggest health care organizations in the U.S., is also a big political donor to Newsom. So this deal has angered the state’s other Medi-Cal contractors, especially smaller local providers, who stand to lose part of their Medi-Cal business to Kaiser.

But the problem is bigger than the competition among health care companies. Kaiser, a “non-profit” company that made more than 8 billion dollars in profit in 2021 alone, is using its size and political clout to increase its Medi-Cal accounts and capture even more of the California health care market Kaiser already dominates. And under the capitalist system, this kind of monopolization generally means worse service for customers.

One reason California’s Medi-Cal program is important for Kaiser and other health care companies is because it’s so big. Medi-Cal covers 14 million people—which means more than one third of the state’s population falls under the poverty limit set for Medi-Cal! And that, in itself, shows how much the conditions have already worsened for the working class in the so-called Golden State, which likes to show off, and brag about, the fabulous wealth and luxury it offers to a handful of super-rich.