On Thursday, May 17th the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services voted on a proposal that would expand access to Medi-Cal for low-income seniors, restores important Medi-Cal benefits, and increases funding for preventative services. Most notably, the Senate invested $225 million to cover undocumented adults, age 65 and over, in Medi-Cal. This moves comes on the heels of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee vote last week to include $1 billion in new spending for health care investments.
The prioritization of #Health4All expansions in Medi-Cal to cover undocumented young and older adults builds on the work in previous years to ensure that all eligible children are covered by Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration. Expanding access to care is a key pillar of the Care4All California campaign which seeks to advance our state towards universal health care without the need for approval for the federal government. More than half of the remaining uninsured are those who are unfairly barred from accessing health care due to their immigration status. The Senate committee’s budget action removes this barrier, allowing undocumented seniors – a population with increasing health needs – to afford urgently needed care.
Unlike in the Assembly’s proposal, the Senate did not include investments in individual insurance affordability assistance, as the Assembly did, despite new data analyses released today by Covered California showing rising premiums and lower enrollment as a result of the Trump Administration’s attack on our health system. With the Trump Administration attacks on our health system expected to lower enrollment and raise premiums, it’s more urgent than ever to increase affordability assistance for Californians, especially in our high cost-of-living state. Increasing affordability assistance in Covered California and beyond would not just provide direct help to many families, but stabilize the individual insurance market, keeping more Californians enrolled and helping mitigate premium increases.
Beyond preserving the Affordable Care Act, California has the opportunity this year to further fill in the gaps that too many Californians fall through, especially in our high cost state. The more people who are covered, the more California can prevent premiums increases and help stabilize our health system on which we all rely. California can and should take decisive steps toward a more universal, affordable and accountable health system. We are glad California legislators are taking pro-active steps to improve our health care without waiting for a new federal government. Building on the progress under the Affordable Care Act, California has a visible and viable path to get to universal coverage, and create a stronger health system. California consumers can’t wait for a new federal government for the relief that these budget investments would provide.
The Assembly and Senate budget committees will close out their individual proposals this week. Use Health Access’ budget scorecard to compare the Assembly and Senate budget proposals. Next week, the Assembly and Senate will enter into a Budget Conference Committee, ahead of negotiations with Governor Brown. The final budget deal must be in print by June 12th, before a vote in both chambers on June 15th. The Governor will have until June 30th to sign a final budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
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