No New Help for Californians Accessing and Affording Health Care in Budget Deal

Last Friday, June 8th, the 2018-2019 Budget deal was released and makes no new health care investments, despite two years of discussion about universal coverage in both the Assembly and in the Senate, and a multi-billion dollar surplus. The only thing included in the budget is a commission to discuss a pathway to universal coverage. California’s budget takes no action to prevent premium increases or stabilize the health system, despite the Trump Administration’s many and new efforts to undermine our health system. The Budget includes none of the priorities of the Care4All California coalition of over 50 organizations that had championed efforts to end the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, expand Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults and seniors, and increase affordability assistance in Covered California and the individual market.

In addition to not funding the proposals to expand access and affordability of care, the budget does not restore many of the optional coverage benefits in the Medi-Cal program. These services, like audiology, podiatry, speech therapy, etc.., were cut in the recession a decade ago, and have yet to be restored.

It’s deeply disappointing that this budget makes no new investments to help Californians access and afford health care. A study is no solution for those who are excluded from or can’t afford coverage now. California has already had select committees and reports that recommended reasonable, tangible and vetted steps to cover more Californians–there’s no excuse for not using a fraction of the significant surplus to take action to help Californians access and afford coverage.

At a time when the Trump Administration is taking new steps to sabotage our health system with legal and administrative attacks, California leaders are missing-in-action in making the needed investments to keep people covered and prevent premium hikes. Without anything in this state budget to counter the federal attacks on our health system, California will likely see an increase in our uninsured rate and a spike in premiums as a result. We needed California leaders to seek a sustainable health system in addition to a sustainable state budget, and this lack of action threatens both goals.

For an overview of the proposed health care investments, and the outcome of the final budget deal, please reference Health Access’ budget scorecard.

The final budget will be in print by June 12th, voted on in the Senate and Assembly on June 15th, and the Governor has until June 30th to sign.

Below are quotes from members of the #Care4AllCA coalition on last week’s budget announcement:

“The Governor had an opportunity to change people’s lives for the better TODAY but instead, chose to pin his legacy on a large rainy day reserve,” said Kimberly Chen, Government Affairs Manager for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “Communities across California were loud and clear about what they need NOW to improve their health and well-being – including expanded access to health care and greater affordability – but those pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears.”

“Today’s budget deal is devastating for the health of California. We are overwhelmingly disappointed that low-income Californians will continue to suffer from explicit exclusions from basic health care coverage and live-saving preventative care because of where they were born. Immigration status has not defined the incredible social, economic and cultural contributions that immigrant communities have made in the state, yet the state’s policies continue to wield it as a barrier to critical health care and assistance.” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director, California Immigrant Policy Center.

“We’re tremendously disappointed that California did not take steps to finish our Medi-Cal expansion in this year of budget surplus,” said Jen Flory, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Seniors have a lower income cut-off for Medi-Cal despite their higher health needs and some immigrants are entirely locked out. The world’s 5th largest economy can afford to invest more in the health of its people.”

“Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California is extremely disappointed with the final budget because of its exclusion of the Health4All proposals to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults and elders,” said Andrew Medina, California Policy Manager for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California. “This lack of investment in our immigrant communities’ health needs will increase barriers and walls for our communities and prevent our most vulnerable from accessing health care, especially the 58% of California’s uninsured undocumented population.”

“As a community member who works with undocumented Californians, the decision to not include Health4All proposals in the budget is frustrating, said Wei Lee, ASPIRE Program Coordinator at Advancing Justice – ALC. “Those working on the budget had an opportunity to keep lives of thousands of Californians healthier, instead, they chose to deny them their human right and leave our communities who can’t access healthcare in an even more vulnerable state. Our healthy lives can’t wait, and the California Legislature decided to look the other way.”

“We are troubled that the budget agreement fails to invest in the health of California’s children and families. While we applaud the budget investments in childhood deep poverty and education, we are disappointed that our policy leaders missed the opportunity to provide health coverage for immigrant young adults and elders, connect children and pregnant women to coverage, and improve the affordability of coverage for families. We can do much more to make health care accessible and affordable for all Californians,” said Shimica Gaskins, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund – California.

“Zero investment on an equitable healthcare solution is an irresponsible response! We’ve been in good faith discussions and expecting our public officials to make the right budget choices so that folks that need health care assistance can get it. So disappointed for our communities,” said Veronica Flores, CEO, Community Health Councils.

“The senior penalty makes health care coverage unaffordable for thousands of low-income seniors who need services to remain living in the community,” said Amber Christ, Senior Staff Attorney, Justice in Aging. “We are very disappointed that the California Legislature and Governor failed to make this critical investment and others including expanding coverage to undocumented older adults to improve the health and well-being of low-income older adults.”

“The health of California cannot be separated from the health of our Latinx and immigrant populations. Our commitment to health equity and immigrant justice will continue,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynoso, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

“At a pivotal point where vital consumer protections are being threatened by wrong-headed federal proposals, it is a grave disappointment for persons with chronic health issues such as multiple sclerosis to bear witness to the Budget conferees failure to even attempt to protect vital healthcare access and services,” said Stewart P. Ferry Director, Advocacy and Activist Engagement National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“It is very disappointing to learn that California’s elected leadership did not include any funding in this year’s budget to provide access to health care coverage to our undocumented immigrant community. Undocumented families are under constant attack by the Trump Administration. Our representatives in Sacramento must do more to fight for our undocumented and immigrant communities. California did not stand up for them today,” said Arnie Sowell Jr., Vice President of California Policy for NextGen America.

“The legislature and the governor missed a crucial opportunity to lower and stabilize healthcare costs for California’s small businesses, employees and solo entrepreneurs by failing to include funding for healthcare solutions in the state budget,” said Mark Herbert, California Director for Small Business Majority. “While our state has made great strides under the ACA, we cannot ignore the fact that roughly 44% of the remaining uninsured Californians work for small employers. Increasing affordability is essential to supporting our entrepreneurs and their employees. What’s more, efforts in D.C. to undermine the ACA as much as possible are driving up premiums in state healthcare markets across the country. The only way to ensure small business owners, their employees and the self-employed have access to the affordable coverage they desperately need is by strengthening our healthcare system here at home as much as possible. California is one of the few states that can accomplish this, and we must seize this opportunity now.”

“Young Invincibles is deeply disappointed by #Health4All’s exclusion from the #CABudget. California, indeed, “sidestepped” during a critical moment to step forward and protect our vulnerable undocumented young adults and elders that are locked out of access to health care and are suffering and dying from treatable conditions. We will continue the fight to help more Californians access healthcare,” said Gustavo Herrera, Western Regional Director, Young Invincibles.

“We are deeply disappointed that this budget doesn’t do the minimum needed to protect our progress and prevent premium spikes and coverage losses as a result of Trump Administration attack on our health system, much less take the smart and sensible steps to cover more Californians,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “Despite two years of discussion about how to get to universal coverage and a significant surplus, this budget doesn’t get one more Californian covered or a dollar closer. With this Governor or a new one, our coalition’s over fifty organizations are committed to continuing the campaign to cover all Californians, regardless of age, disability, income or immigration status.”

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