For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, email@example.com, 916-532-2128 (cell)
GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS 2021-22 HEALTH BUDGET BILL
Budget includes historic investments in California’s health care system, moving the state closer to universal health care coverage
Starting in May 2022, Medi-Cal will include all income-eligible adults age 50 and over, regardless of immigration status, providing coverage to over 235,000 Californians
FRESNO, CA – Today Governor Gavin Newsom signed one of the key pieces of the 2021-22 state budget, the health budget trailer bill (AB 133) which includes historic funding in Californian’s health system, making it more universal, equitable, and affordable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Today’s signing ensures a first-in-the-nation end to the exclusion of income-eligible undocumented adults age 50 and over in Medi-Cal. Other major initiatives improve and expand Medi-Cal, and make Covered California more affordable.
“This budget takes big steps toward a more universal and equitable health system, building on the progress California has made implementing and improving on the Affordable Care Act over the last decade,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California. “The removal of unfair exclusions in Medi-Cal, and making Covered California more affordable, will make it easier for hundreds of thousands of Californians to get on and stay on coverage. The pandemic reminded all of us of the urgency of health care and coverage for not just ourselves, but our fellow community members; this budget makes big strides toward a better health care system that we all rely on.”
Health Access joined #Health4All legislative champions Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D – Los Angeles), Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno), and Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D – Stockton) alongside Governor Newsom in Fresno today as his budget signature made California the first state in the country to remove exclusions in their state Medicaid program for those 50 and above. While Illinois had agreed to start covering those 65+ last year, California will now have the most expansive coverage, including children, young adults up to age 26, and now older Californians 50 and above. The expansion to older undocumented adults is estimated to provide health coverage for approximately 235,000 more Californians beginning in May of 2022.
“With the signing of AB 133 today, California will move closer than ever to universal health care coverage. These first-in-the-nation investments to will expand health care to hundreds of thousands of Californians, and improve our health system for all who call California home,” said Jose Torres Casillas, Legislative Associate for Health Access California, who spoke at today’s bill signing. “This means that people like my tios, my tias, and abuelos can go and access a primary care doctor and treat the variety of chronic conditions they may have as they are getting older or any issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
In another major step towards universal and equitable coverage, the final budget 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 tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, and allow them to have savings needed to deal with housing and other needs and emergencies.
The budget bill also lays the groundwork to improve affordability in Covered California, a much needed investment to make coverage more accessible to those purchasing care on their own 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 cost barriers remain for many including high deductibles and other out-of-pocket cost sharing. The budget calls for a $335 million reserve fund for a potential future affordability program in Covered California. It 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,” said Diana Douglas, Policy and Legislative Advocate for Health Access California.
Health care advocates praise a number of other important steps to improve Medi-Cal and reduce health care disparities also included in this final 2021-22 budget:
- Improving Medi-Cal coverage for pregnancy and post-partum to reduce inequitable maternal mortality rates for black and indigenous women.
- Creating culturally and linguistically appropriate Medi-Cal documents.
- Continuing Cal-AIM reforms to improve and streamline the Medi-Cal program.