FINAL ACTIONS TAKEN BY SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE

  • Action not taken: Senate committee fails to include ANY funding for Medicare Part D copay
    • Assembly Budget Subcommittee to take final actions Monday 5/22/06
    • ACTION ITEM: Urge Nunez, Laird, DeLaTorre, Hancock and Mullin to include $76 million funding for Medicare Part D copes in budget. • Tentatively approves state interpretation of new federal rules on documentation for Medi-Cal beneficiaries
  • Approves governor’s plan to cover some uninsured children
  • Approves plan allowing state and advocates to continue hammering out new Medi-Cal documentation requirements
  • ACTION ITEM: Urge your Assemblymember to support AB2281 on high-deductible health plans by May 25

Budget subcommittees are winding up their work for the year. The Senate budget subcommittee on health finished up on Friday, May 19, 2006. The Assembly subcommittee is expected to finish on Monday, May 22, 2006.

That means Monday is the last chance for advocates to have money put into the budget for their priorities in order for the topics to advance to conference committee, when both houses convene to reconcile differences in their budgets.

LAST CHANCE TO FIGHT FOR MEDICARE PART D

The Senate subcommittee on health Friday did not include any mention of funding that would cover Medicare Part D copes for dual eligible seniors and people with disabilities.

Such a decision could devastate the 1.1 million Californians who were enrolled in both Medi-Cal and Medicare. In January, these so-called “Medi-Medis” were shifted to Medicare Part D and forced to come up with $1-$5 co-pays for each medication, or a pharmacy can refuse to fill their medications.

Previously Medi-Cal covered the full cost of their drugs, with no copays.These are the poorest and most vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities who live on $834 a month or less and who can ill afford to pay $20, $30 or $50 a month for prescriptions.

ACTION ITEM: Monday, the Assembly subcommittee on Health wraps up its work. It’s imperative that funding for Medi-Cal co-pays be included in at least this initial version of the budget so discussions may continue.

Please urge the following key members for support in providing co-pays for dual-eligible seniors and people with disabilities:

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.319. 2050. Fax: 916.319.2150

The Honorable John Laird
Chair, Assembly Budget Committee
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.319. 2027. Fax: 916.319.2127

The Honorable Hector DeLaTorre
Chair, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.319. 2050. Fax: 916.319.2150

The Honorable Loni Hancock
Member, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.319. 2014. Fax: 916.319.2114

The Honorable Gene Mullin
Member, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.319. 2019. Fax: 916.319.2119

SENATORS AGREE TO PALTRY HEALTH COVERAGE EXPANSION

The health budget subcommittee Friday also approved Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to give $23 million to extend county health coverage to up to 24,000 children on waiting lists to receive services.

While the governor’s proposal would cover only 3 percent of the uninsured children, advocates agree it’s a small, but good first step.

This item will likely come in the budget conference committee later this month. The Assembly budget committee approved a slightly more generous proposal, which would give counties $40 million.

Additionally, the Assembly budget proposal instructs the state to begin work to cover all of California’s 800,000 children, at 300% of federal poverty or below by July 2008.

Sen. Dave Cox, a Republican from Fair Oaks, complained that such an expense would amount to a continuing expense for the state, with no guarantee that Google executives will continue to cash out their stocks. Such reliance on one-time funds is what lead the state into deficit in recent years.

Sen. Wes Chesbro, a Democrat from Arcata, countered however, that “sick kids make for big deficits too.’’

ADVOCATES FIGHT TO ENSURE MEDI-CAL RECIPIENTS RECEIVE UNINTERRUPTED SERVICES

Among the most difficult issues Friday was how California would implement a provision in the federal Deficit Reduction Act, aimed at weeding out undocumented immigrants from using public services.

As a condition of receiving aid, the provision requires that recipients present either a passport, or a birth certificate combined with a photo ID.

Ironically the proposal is expected to have the greatest impact on U.S. citizens, particularly those born prior to World War II when birth certificates were not universal or those born outside the US (to American parents) in countries where it may be difficult to obtain documentation. It will also affect children and persons with disabilities who have had no reason to obtain a photo ID.

Advocates fear that families who don’t have passports and cannot locate birth certificates would lose benefits, putting millions at risk. A group of advocates met with the Department of Health Services on Monday to discuss how the federal law would be implemented here.

The state agrees that the new federal law will create problems for existing Medi-Cal recipients. However, the state could also risk losing $15 billion (the federal Medicaid match) if it doesn’t follow new federal guidelines, which take effect July 1, 2006.

The Senate subcommittee voted on placeholder language that would enable the state and advocates to continue exploring how to implement the new law, while doing the least harm.

Remedies being considered include:

  • DHS automatically crosschecking eligibility in other programs such as SSI and CalWorks that already require proof of citizenship.
  • Allowing parents, who are citizens, to vouch for their children.
  • Keep children in the program on a provisional basis if parents can show they’re trying to obtain their birth certificates from out of state.
  • Work with other states to share documents

Those who have been actively involved in monitoring the Deficit Reduction Act documentation requirements include: Children’s Defense Fund, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Children NOW, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, California Budget Project, California Medical Association, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, The Children’s Partnership, County Welfare Directors’ Association, Health Access, Latino Issues Forum, Planned Parenthood, National Health Law Program, California Primary Care Association, The California Partnership, California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative and Asian Pacific Islander American Health forum.

For questions or information on this issue, please contact Elizabeth Abbott, project director at Health Access. 916.497.0924 x 201 or eabbott@health-access.org

OTHER BUDGET ITEMS

Senators also:

  • Approved Schwarzenegger’s proposal to repay $65 million to managed care plans, which had endured a 5 percent rate cut earlier this year.
  • Doubled to $50 the payment made to application takers to successfully enroll a recipient onto Healthy Families or Medi-Cal.
  • Rejected an additional $25 incentive to encourage application takers to use an electronic application.

ALSO NEXT WEEK: As early as Thursday, May 25, the full Assembly could take up AB2281, which would restrict annual out-of-pocket costs to $5,250 for an individual.

  • ACTION ITEM: Please contact your Assemblymember and encourage them to support this legislation.

For information or questions about state budget, legislative issues, or a sample letter of AB2281, please contact Hanh Kim Quach, Policy Coordinator, 916.497.0923 x 206 or hquach@health-access.org.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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