Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed a package of legislation that would allow California to take advantage of billions of dollars from the federal economic package. The bills are SBX3 24, SBX3 27, ABX3 20, ABX3 23 and ABX3 29.
For health and consumer advocates, SBX3 24 was a priority. It makes changes to Medi-Cal eligibility reporting for children, suspending the requirement imposed last year for status reports every six months. By reverting back to annual reporting, this meets the “maintenance of effort” requirements in the federal recovery package that enables California to receive its full share of enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funds for the Medi-Cal Program, not to mentione allow children to stay on Medi-Cal health coverage without the additional burdensome paperwork. All told, the bill enables California to receive $10.1 billion in additional federal matching funds through December 2010. The bill was authored by Senator Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), chair of the Senate Health Committee.
That said, health and children’s advocates are urging that this restoration be made permanent, to both improve the health of California’s children and position our state for additional federal funding.
It was disappointing that mid-year reports were not repealed outright. Instead, the mid-year status reports will resume in January 2011, and sunset in July 2012. If mid-year reports are not outright repealed, other federal funds are in danger: Under the recently-passed Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), federal performance bonus funds are available, but it would be hard for California to get its portion of those $4.4 billion in funds with such administrative burdens in place. Mid-year reports are estimated to cause 175,000 California children to lose their coverage over an 18-month period.
So progress with SBX3 24, but not nearly enough…