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

For Immediate Release: Friday, January 10, 2020

Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California,, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California,, 916-532-2128 (cell)


  • Today 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 budget includes a historic expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status, building on several steps to #Health4All in the last year.
  • Other investments in Medi-Cal would expand access to services especially to homeless and other disadvantaged populations, with more preventive and “whole-person care” services.
  • Bold budget proposals, including a new Office of Health Care Affordability, would seek to lower the price of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs for all Californians. 
  • Consumer advocates vow to support these and other investments, including additional affordability assistance in Covered California, as well as other cost containment efforts. 

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom today officially unveiled his 2020-2021 $222 billion state budget ($153 billion general fund), which includes first-in-the-nation investments towards universal coverage and cost containment. The budget includes ambitious efforts to prevent inflated health care prices for public programs, private payers, and patients overall, including a new Office of Health Care Affordability, and 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.

“Consumer advocates are very pleased that California 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. We 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,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “While DC debates and delays relief, California has and will continue to take meaningful steps to expand coverage and deal with drug prices and other high health costs.”

COVERAGE: “We thank the Governor for including another historic step to expand access to Medi-Cal in the budget by including 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. We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Legislature to ensure this expansion in Medi-Cal and take other steps to the goal of Health4All,” continued Wright. Health Access is co-chair of the #Health4All campaign with the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Consumer advocates will also continue to advocate for additional state subsidies to help Californians sign up for Covered California, to make additional progress to the Governor’s goal of universal coverage in California.”

MEDI-CAL IMPROVEMENTS: “We appreciate the ongoing commitment to expand services and improve access to care in the Medi-Cal program. It is imperative that we make the necessary investments in more primary and preventive services, in behavioral health, and in whole-person care,” said Wright. “We look forward not just to expanding, but improving Medi-Cal for the 13 million Californians who depend on the 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. We commend Governor Newsom for proposing cutting edge reforms to prevent inflated prices, for health plan premiums, for providers, and for prescription drugs. 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,” said Wright. “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. ”

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,” said Wright. “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.”

For more information on the history or context of these proposals, or of related efforts in the recent past, or otherwise, please contact Health Access California.