Today Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his first budget, which includes first-in-the-nation investments for major expansions for California’s health care. The 2019-2020 budget proposes to expand Medi-Cal and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market.
This budget takes first-of-the-nation steps to help Californians access health care and coverage, from removing exclusions in Medi-Cal to increasing affordability assistance for middle-income Californians to afford coverage. The Governor has laid out a viable path to universal coverage; and now the coming budget debate will be how far California will go down that path this year. This budget is a important next step toward a more affordable, equitable, and universal health care system in California. We will advocate to ensure more Californians get help to access health care regardless of immigration status or their ability to afford care.
These budget investments align with those that the State Assembly proposed last year and championed by the over 50 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign which seeks to move California towards a universal health care system without the need for federal approvals.
California is stronger when everyone has access to health care. Too many low- and middle-income families are still living one emergency away from financial ruin. This budget builds on California’s successes under the ACA as well efforts in California and other states to cover all children regardless of immigration status, by investing $200 million in expanding Medi-Cal to all income eligible Californians 19-25 regardless of immigration status. The budget would also increase affordability assistance to middle-income Californians, from 250-600% of the poverty level, from money raised by instituting the state-level ACA-like individual requirement to have coverage. Patient advocates will urge help for those lower on the income scale, and additional general fund dollars. These investments can provide much-needed relief to Californians, and help bring our state closer to the goal of universal health care coverage, benefiting the health system on which we all rely.
The budget still lacked the full investment needed to close all the remaining gaps in our system, and will be the focus of patient advocates this year. Additional steps needed include providing help to those under 250% of the poverty level, to undocumented adults age 26 and older, and those impacted by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal.
We will seek additional help for our low-income families, immigrants, and seniors to access to affordable health care coverage. We will seek affordability assistance from the general fund, beyond what is generated by the continuing the ACA’s individual requirement in California. We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Legislature to getting to a full down payment toward universal coverage this year.
According to the U.S. census, California has had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), going from 6.5 million uninsured to 2.8 million, and a 7.2% uninsured rate. But a recent UC Berkeley/UCLA report found that due to the elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate by Congress, the uninsurance rate could grow to 11.7% in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9% in 2023 (or 4.4 million people). The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.
The ongoing federal and judicial attacks to our health care continue to threaten to undo much of the progress California has made under the ACA. These proposed budget allocations will help prevent more people becoming uninsured in our state, as well as take first-in-the-nation steps towards covering even more Californians than before. We are encouraged that Governor Newsom is heeding the call of the voters in the most recent election and sees the imperative to make vital investments in health care to move our state forward now.