Governor moves to close Fresno Medi-Cal office

Health care providers fear the closure of a Fresno-based Medi-Cal office could slow the processing of claims for thousands of San Joaquin Valley patients.

The office, which last year processed more than 130,000 claims in Central California, will close as early as November, said Michael Bowman, a spokesman with the Department of Health Care Services.

Union officials and health care providers had lobbied to keep the office open, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed budget language Friday that would have kept the department from relocating the facility.

Services will now be shifted to offices in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles, officials said.

"This move would almost certainly slow the approval of needed medical care," Assembly Member Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, wrote in a letter sent to Schwarzenegger Monday. "While the Fresno office has historically had no backlogs in processing treatment authorization requests, other offices have regularly reported backlogs of 30-60 days."

The department needs to close the office to streamline operations and save taxpayer dollars, Bowman said. Fresno-based case managers will stay on the job, and providers and beneficiaries won't notice any difference in services, he said.