Budget Conference Committee Holds Open Key Health Items

Yesterday, the Budget Conference Committee discussed whether to restore key health and human services in this year’s 2013-2014 State Budget–but made no conclusive decisions.

The members are of the Budget Conference Committee are Democratic Senators Mark Leno, Sen. Kevin De Leon and Loni Hancock; Republican Senator Bill Emmerson; Democratic Assemblymembers Bob Blumenfield, Holly Mitchell, and Republican Assemblymember Jeff Gorell.

They made a first pass through 28 Health and Human Services items–areas where the Senate and the Assembly have different proposals. They resolved differences on minor items, but “held open” big decisions on what to restore–as is typical on a first pass. Even decisions made at this stage are not final until a budget is passed and signed into law by the Governor. .

Health items of specific interest discussed include:
The Senate budget proposes (but the Assembly did not include):
* Restoring dental benefits for the 3+ million adults with Medi-Cal coverage, a benefit that was eliminated in 2009; ($131 million general fund)
* Adding Applied Behavioral Analysis services to Medi-Cal managed care plans for children not eligible for regional center services; ($50 million general fund)
* Restoring distinct part nursing facilities rates from the 10% Medi-Cal provider rate cut made in 2010. ($32 million general fund)
The Assembly budget proposes (but the Senate did not include):
· Restoring Medi-Cal enteral nutrition benefits for patients who cannot chew, to reverse a 2011 cut; ($13.6 million general fund)
· Covering former foster youth up to age 26 with Medi-Cal until January 1, 2014 when the Affordable Care Act kicks in. ($3 million general fund)
The Brown Administration testified in opposition to these and other restorations, such as those to CALWORKS and SSI/SSP that were in the Assembly budget.

Decisions that were made included making the Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax permanent, and officially eliminating the limit of seven doctor visits passed in 2011, which the federal government had never approved and never went into effect.
There are some items that are not in either budget, but that there are active efforts around, such as the push to cancel the 10% Medi-Cal provider rate cut.

The Budget Conference Committee may complete its work as early as this week, sending its combined proposal to the Assembly and Senate floors next week. The constitutional deadline for passing budgets is June 15, the end of next week. Those interested can listen on the Internet, or on the California Channel.

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