New California Budget Takes Key Step to Expand Access and Increase Affordability in Health Care

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom officially unveiled his 2020-2021 State Budget, which includes major new investments in access to health coverage and to lower health care costs. The 2020-2021 $222 billion state budget ($153 billion general fund), includes first-in-the-nation investments towards universal coverage and cost containment. The budget also includes ambitious efforts to prevent inflated health care prices for public programs, private payers, and patients overall, such as a new Office of Health Care Affordability, specific initiatives on prescription drug prices and more.

The budget also includes improvements and expanded services in Medi-Cal, and the next step towards #Health4All by expanding access to Medi-Cal for all income-eligible seniors age 65 and over, regardless of immigration status. This expansion will help tens of thousands of California seniors receive comprehensive coverage, including In-Home Supportive Services. This builds on this year’s expansion to undocumented young adults up to age 26, and 2016’s expansion to all undocumented children.

Consumer advocates will strongly support these and other efforts to expand coverage to the uninsured, and other complementary efforts to address the price of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs.

If enacted, this budget will continue to expand coverage, alongside new and exciting efforts to confront the high cost of coverage, particularly of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs. Health Access will actively support these and other budget proposals to expand access and affordability, and to bring down the cost of care for consumers, taxpayers, employers, and all Californians.

COVERAGE: This budget takes another historic step to expand access to Medi-Cal with an investment to cover all income-eligible seniors regardless of immigration status. Health care is a human right, and no one should be excluded due to age, income, or where they were born. Many of these seniors have given a lifetime of contribution to California, and they shouldn’t be excluded from our public health programs. Our health system works best when more Californians are covered, getting primary and preventive care. Health Access will work with Governor Newsom and the Legislature to ensure this expansion in Medi-Cal and take other steps to the goal of Health4All.

MEDI-CAL IMPROVEMENTS: It is imperative that we make the necessary investments in more primary and preventive services, in behavioral health, and in whole-person care in Medi-Cal. We look forward not just to expanding, but improving care for the 13 million Californians who depend on the Medi-Cal program, broadening and integrating the services available.

OFFICE OF AFFORDABILITY: Californians continue to face an affordability crisis in health care, right alongside housing and other expenses. Governor Newsom’s budget proposes cutting edge reforms to prevent inflated prices, for health plan premiums, for providers, and for prescription drugs. The new Office of Health Care Affordability is a bold proposal that will help fix not just specific health care market failures and abuses, but promises to provide a comprehensive strategy to contain health care costs. It’s a big deal to set a goal to contain health care price increases–we can’t meet a goal if we don’t set it–and to have the tools and the accountability to meet these targets.

While the federal government obstructs progress on lowering health care costs, California is taking new and novel approaches to provide needed cost relief to our residents.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: This budget includes a multi-prong attack to address prescription drug prices, leveraging the bulk buying power of public and private purchasers. These actions promise to use California’s purchasing power to get the best price not just in the nation, but internationally. Contracting for our own generic drug manufacturing is an exciting effort that can provide real savings and benefit for California patients and taxpayers. From prescription drug prices to surprise medical bills, California can take action to lead the nation, and hopefully prompt federal reforms that have been stymied.