State Senate Includes Greater Affordability Assistance in Budget

Last week the Assembly has voted on its proposed budget investments in health and human services, while last week, the Senate proposed to expand Medi-Cal and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market. Both build on Governor Newsom’s 2019-2020 May Revision that includes first-in-nation steps toward universal coverage.

After voters made health care such a priority in the next election, the health care debate in California’s budget is appropriately not just if we can take steps to increase access and affordability of coverage, but how many steps at what scale. The Senate’s budget proposal would make the most meaningful investments to help people to purchase coverage in Covered California and to expand Medi-Cal to all Californians regardless of age or immigration status. How much help Californians get accessing and affording health care is now up to the California budget negotiations between the Governor and legislative leaders. What’s at stake is the difference not just of dollars and cents but whether or not many Californians will get coverage and care. If the Senate prevails with the health budget priorities, tens of thousands of California seniors will have new access to full Medi-Cal coverage, and hundreds of thousands of families would get more affordability assistance in Covered California.

California is stronger when everyone has access to affordable health care. Too many low- and middle-income families are still living one emergency away from financial ruin, and need additional affordability assistance now. Additional investments proposed in the Governor and Legislative budgets 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. The work continues with policymakers to advocate for greater general fund investments, to have the most meaningful impact for those who don’t get ACA subsidies but still struggle with the cost of care given our high cost-of-living, and those that are locked out of care entirely due to age, income, or immigration status.

Over 70 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign will advocate to take additional steps to move California towards universal coverage, including the investments needed to close the remaining gaps in our system. Additional steps include providing more help in affordability assistance up and down the income spectrum, including to those under 200% of the poverty level, to undocumented seniors, and those impacted by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal.

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 uninsured 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.