California Legislature Passes Their 2021 – 2022 Budget with Steps Towards A More Universal Health Care System. Deal On Final Budget Must Still Be Reached With Governor Newsom.

Yesterday, the California State Assembly and State Senate voted to pass a 2021-2022 state budget that includes funding for a more universal, equitable, and affordable, health care system. While the Legislature is in agreement on this version of the budget, negotiations continue with Governor Newsom on a final deal.

On June 1, the state legislature announced a joint budget proposal that aligned on a number of key health care proposals, which is what was passed today. It includes historic investments in our health system, including a plan for the first-in-the-nation end to the exclusion of income-eligible undocumented adults age 50 and over in Medi-Cal. The Governor’s May Revision included a proposal to end this exclusion for those 60 and over.

By ensuring Medi-Cal for all Californians age 50 and over, regardless of immigration status, California can be on the cutting edge of health care equity.

Our older immigrant communities are among the most vulnerable group currently excluded from public coverage programs, particularly at risk for COVID-19, and are most likely to have exacerbated conditions if they survived the virus.

We urge Governor Newsom to join with the California Legislature to make this vital investment in the health of our communities, to help us get out of this pandemic and create a better and more equitable health care system for the future.

In an effort to tackle the rising cost of care with a more coordinated, holistic approach, the Legislature’s budget allocates funding to establish an Office of Health Care Affordability. First proposed by the Governor in his January budget, the Legislature agreed to create this new Office in order to collect and analyze information and identify trends in health care prices. This data would be used to set enforceable cost targets and includes accountability measures for those not meeting the goals.

The legislature’s budget also improves affordability in Covered California, a much needed investment to make coverage more affordable in a high-cost state like California. The federal help in the American Rescue Plan has provided real relief to virtually all 1.5 million in Covered California and potentially hundreds of thousands more, yet many cost barriers remain including high deductibles and other out-of-pocket cost sharing. While advocates were hoping that all of the $700 million previously allocated for affordability assistance could be redirected to further subsidize the cost of care in Covered California, about $335 million is proposed to go into a reserve for a potential future affordability program. The legislative budget passed today also directs Covered California to develop options for further reducing cost-sharing, and includes funding to subsidize state-only coverage by one dollar, allowing tens of thousands of low-income Californians to get true zero-premium plans.

Millions of Californians have lost their health care coverage during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, imperiling their financial and health recovery.

This budget removes some cost barriers to care that will encourage more Californians to enroll in coverage and hope that this will be reflected in a final deal with the Governor.

In another major step towards universal and equitable coverage, the budget passed today by the Legislature eliminates the Medi-Cal asset test that has for too long prevented some Californians from accessing Medi-Cal for having a small amount of savings. This will ensure access to care for seniors and people with disabilities, and allow them to have savings needed to deal with housing and other needs and emergencies.

The antiquated asset test in Medi-Cal is burdensome and inequitable for older Californians and those with disabilities.

The Legislature is right to take this step to improve health care access for tens of thousands of Californians and we look to Governor Newsom to remove this barrier to care.

Health care advocates praise the legislature for voting to pass a budget that includes a number of important steps to improve Medi-cal and reduce health care disparities, and hope that Governor will agree to to include in a final budget:

  • Improved Medi-Cal coverage for pregnancy and post-partum to reduce inequitable maternal mortality rates for black women
  • Continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children age 0-5
  • Creating culturally appropriate Medi-Cal documents
  • Continuing Cal-AIM reforms

Additional investments in the legislative budget passed today will target inequities in our health care system, including:

  • Establishing a Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund to support community-based initiatives supporting communities of color
  • Creating a Transgender Wellness Equity Fund
  • Investments in public health infrastructure

Learn more in this Health Access Factsheet: Key Health Care & Coverage Issues in the 2021 -2022 California State Budget