Budget Conference Committee starts up

The budget conference committee convened today for the first time. Here’s a report from our legislative advocate Beth Capell:

The Budget Conference Committee convened to reconcile the differences between the budget adopted by the Assembly and the budget plan adopted by the Senate. As the budget co-chairs, Assemblymember Skinner and Senator Leno, acknowledged the differences between the Assembly and the Senate are smaller than the differences between the Legislature and Governor Brown’s budget.

While the differences between the Assembly and Senate budget proposals are modest in dollars and number, the health and human services budget contained the largest differences so the Budget Conference Committee started first with human services and then turned to health.

Since this was the first meeting of the conference committee, most items were left open but all of them were discussed. Key points:

  • Medi-Cal “mandatory” expansion: the costs due to the increase in enrollment of the previously eligible but not enrolled: the Legislative Analyst Office found that Governor Brown’s budget overestimated the costs associated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Medi-Cal. The conference committee adopted the Assembly version which booked $342 million in General Fund savings due to a lower per capita cost on the premise that those who were previously eligible but not enrolled are healthier than those who made it through the gauntlet of Medi-Cal eligibility and enrollment. This action provides $342 million in room for other changes.
  • Medi-Cal provider rates: the Assembly and the Senate agree that the fee-for-service provider rate cuts should be reversed but differ on the details. Held open.
  • Medi-Cal optional benefits for adults: also held open.
  • Medi-Cal autism benefits: held open.
  • Public health programs, including Black Infant Health, HIV prevention, adolescent family life program and others: also held open. The Assembly had restored many of these: the Senate had only restored Black infant health and HIV prevention.

The Administration does not include any of these restorations in its budget.