LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Low-income Latinos in the Southland and elsewhere are denied access to health care because the Medi-Cal program does not pay doctors enough to treat them, according to an administrative complaint filed by a civil rights group against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The complaint, lodged with the agency’s civil rights division Dec. 14, contends the state’s Medi-Cal reimbursements are so much lower than Medicare and private insurance rates that many providers routinely decline to treat Medi-Cal enrollees, two-thirds of whom are Latino.

A request for comment left with HHS was not immediately answered.

Latinos are the largest group in the state dependant on the free or low-cost health coverage program, according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which helped fashion the complaint.

“Medi-Cal’s inadequate, extremely low reimbursement rates — in both the fee for service and managed care settings — and its failure to adequately monitor access to medical care, effectively deny the full benefits of the Medi-Cal program to the more than seven million Latino enrollees who rely on Medi-Cal for their health care,” the complaint letter states.

MALDEF’s president and general counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, said that by lowering reimbursement rates at the same time Latinos have increased their use of Medi-Cal, “California undermines strides recently made in expanding health access, and treats Latinos as second-class patients.”

Latinos on Medi-Cal, he said, “have the same basic right to access health care as others in California.”