CA Senate Budget Committee Votes to Prioritize Expansions to Medi-Cal; Covered CA Releases Data Showing Need for Affordability Assistance

Earlier today the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health Human Services voted on a proposal that would expand access to Medi-Cal for low-income seniors, restores important Medi-Cal benefits, and increases funding for preventative services.
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For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 17th, 2018

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

SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES KEY EXPANSIONS TO MEDI-CAL, SETTING UP BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS ON HEALTH INVESTMENTS;

ALSO: COVERED CALIFORNIA RELEASES ANALYSES ABOUT PREMIUM AND ENROLLMENTS, BOLSTERING CASE FOR ADDED AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE AND INDIVIDUAL MARKET

  • Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services voted to expand access to Medi-Cal and restore important benefits cut during the Great Recession. More details described in Health Access’ updated Budget Scorecard.
  • The largest investment, $225 Million, was made to expand Medi-Cal to low-income elders, regardless of immigrations status, building on the work done to expand #Health4All for children.
  • No action from Senate Budget committee on increasing affordability assistance in our state’s individual market–an Assembly $500+ million priority, that would mitigate the impacts of higher premiums and lower enrollment from Trump Administration attacks, as detailed by new Covered California analyses.
  • Senate steps taken today and by Assembly were identified and championed by the 50+ consumer coalition #Care4AllCA as part of an aspirational and achievable path to a universal and affordable health care system, without the need for federal approval.

Sacramento, CA – Earlier today the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services voted on a proposal that would expand access to Medi-Cal for low-income seniors, restores important Medi-Cal benefits, and increases funding for preventative services. Most notably, the Senate invested $225 million to cover undocumented adults, age 65 and over, in Medi-Cal. This moves comes on the heels of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee vote last week to include $250 million to cover undocumented young adults, ages 19-26, along with other investments to increase affordability assistance in our state’s individual market.

MEDI-CAL: The prioritization of #Health4All expansions in Medi-Cal to cover undocumented young and older adults builds on the work in previous years to ensure that all eligible children are covered by Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration. Expanding access to care is a key pillar of the Care4All California campaign which seeks to advance our state towards universal health care without the need for approval for the federal government.

“More than half of the remaining uninsured are those who are unfairly barred from accessing health care due to their immigration status. Today’s Senate budget action removes this barrier, allowing undocumented seniors – a population with increasing health needs – to afford urgently needed care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health consumer advocacy coalition. “Many of our undocumented immigrant seniors have been working and contributing to our community, economy, and state for decades, and yet are excluded from basic access to needed care. Our health care system is better off when everyone, especially seniors, can get the ongoing care they need to prevent and manage conditions, rather than for them just to get care in the emergency room when it’s most expensive.”

AFFORDABILITY IN COVERED CALIFORNIA: The Senate proposal did not include investments in individual insurance affordability assistance, as the Assembly did, despite new data analyses released today by Covered California showing rising premiums and lower enrollment as a result of the Trump Administration’s attack on our health system. At today’s meeting there was a discussion of the impacts of federal efforts to undermine the health system, and how to potentially mitigate the negative implications. 

“With the Trump Administration attacks on our health system expected to lower enrollment and raise premiums, it’s more urgent than ever to increase affordability assistance for Californians, especially in our high cost-of-living state. Increaseing affordability assistance in Covered California and beyond would not just provide direct help to many families, but stabilize the individual insurance market, keeping more Californians enrolled and helping mitigate premium increases.” said Wright. 

OVERALL BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS: The pieces of the budget will need to be decided in the next few weeks through negotiations between the Assembly, the Senate and ultimately Governor Brown. 

“Beyond preserving the Affordable Care Act, California has the opportunity this year to further fill in the gaps that too many Californians fall through, especially in our high cost state. The more people who are covered, the more California can prevent premiums increases and help stabilize our health system on which we all rely. California can and should take decisive steps toward a more universal, affordable and accountable health system. We are glad California legislators are taking pro-active steps to improve our health care without waiting for a new federal government,” said Wright. “Building on the progress under the Affordable Care Act, California has a visible and viable path to get to universal coverage, and create a stronger health system. California consumers can’t wait for a new federal government for the relief that these budget investments would provide.”

In addition to the budget requests, the seventeen new bills supported by the Care4All California have now been approved by policy committees in each legislative house in the last month. The Senate’s action is related to these pending bills increasing universality and affordability:

* #Health4All: Ending the unfair exclusion of California’s low-income undocumented population from Medi-Cal (SB 974, Lara; AB 2965, Arambula)

* Medi-Cal Aged and Disabled program: End Medi-Cal’s senior penalty by aligning income limits for seniors with younger adults (AB 2430, Arambula)

In addition, the Assembly’s action last week also align with other pending bills, including:

* Streamline and encourage enrollment: Institute express lane enrollment for those in the WIC program (AB 2579, Burke)

* Increasing affordability in the individual insurance market

1.Provide a tax credit to those who are above 400% FPL so they only spend up to 8% of their income on premiums (AB 2459, Friedman).

2.Lower deductibles and cost-sharing in Covered California (AB 3148, Arambula)

3.Increase subsidies in Covered California for people up to 400% FPL (AB 2565, Chiu)

4.Provide additional affordability assistance in Covered CA on cost sharing and premiums, prioritizing people who currently spend more than 8% of income on premiums (SB 1255, Hernandez)

All of these bills, as well as others on stabilizing the health system and containing health costs, can be moved forward without the need for federal sign-off. “With the Trump Administration unwilling to work on expanding access to care, California must forge ahead with a plan that can be passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in order to protect patients and consumers now,” said Wright.

Learn more about Care4All California here: www.care4allca.org