New #CABudget Deal To Help Hundreds of Thousands with Health Coverage

Today, the Budget Conference Committee voted on proposed budget investments reflecting a deal between the Governor and Legislature, including investments in health and human services. 
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For immediate release: Sunday, June 9, 2019

For more information contact:
Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

IN BUDGET DEAL, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CALIFORNIANS TO GET NEW HELP TO ACCESS AND AFFORD HEALTH COVERAGE
GREATER AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE IN COVERED CALIFORNIA, MEDI-CAL IMPROVEMENTS INCLUDED

  • Today the Budget Conference Committee voted on a proposed budget deal, building on Governor Newsom’s 2019-2020 May Revision first-in-nation health investments, with additional steps to universal coverage.
  • We will update our Health Access Budget Scorecard shortly, which shows what was at stake in budget negotiations, and what is in this budget, including: increased Medi-Cal expansions for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as immigrant young adults, restored benefits in Medi-Cal, and greater investment for affordability assistance beyond the money raised by instituting the state-level individual mandate to have coverage–items sought by the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Budget Conference Committee voted on proposed budget investments reflecting a deal between the Governor and Legislature, including investments in health and human services.

“As a result of this budget, hundreds of thousands of Californians will get more help to access and afford health coverage, preventing premium increases for everyone and benefiting the health system we all rely on. This budget deal builds on some of the Governor’s first-in-the-nation proposals with important next steps to a more affordable and universal health system,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-chair of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “More Californians will get more help with health care costs and coverage under this budget.”

Health highlights include, beyond the Governor’s May Revise budget, that were sought by health and consumer advocates:

  • Additional affordability assistance in Covered California, for around those under 138% of the poverty level (below around $16,800/year for an individual, around 35,000 Californians), and especially middle-income Californians between 400-600% of the poverty level ($48,000-$72,000/year for an individual, around 190,000 Californians), beyond the revenue raised by a new state-level individual mandate.
  • The end of the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, raising the eligibility level for seniors and people with disabilities up to 138% of the poverty level, aligning with the rest of the Medi-Cal program.
  • The restoration of several Medi-Cal benefits, including optical, audiology, speech therapy, podiatry, and incontinence creams and washes, which were cut a decade ago during the Great Recession.
  • Funding for outreach and enrollment in Medi-Cal, and
  • An agreement to extend the Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax, although no revenues were allocated until federal approval.

“Low- and middle-income Californians will get more help affording insurance through Covered California, breaking new ground nationally. A state-level individual mandate will not just keep people covered and help lower premiums, will be paired with additional affordability assistance. This vital help for families to afford coverage will go beyond the revenue raised by re-instituting this key part of the ACA here in California,” said Wright. “While not all we sought, these new state subsidies make a real, tangible difference for those around or below poverty, and especially for those middle-income Californians who now don’t get any help under the federal law, despite the urgent need in our high-cost state. The ACA provides affordability assistance for folks up to four times the poverty level, but Covered California will now provide some subsidy to those up to six times the poverty level. This is a big deal to not just defray the high cost of health premiums, but to bring more Californians into coverage.”

“This budget improves Medi-Cal in multiple ways, including improving access and benefits for the 13 million Californians who depend on that crucial program. This budget removes unfair exclusions from full Medi-Cal coverage for seniors and people with disabilities, undocumented young adults, and others. After a decade since they were cut in a recession, this budget finally restores key benefits like podiatry, audiology, and speech therapy,” said Wright.

“We are pleased that Medi-Cal coverage will expand to not just all income-eligible children but young adults, regardless of immigration status, but disappointed we couldn’t make that same commitment to seniors this year. While a handful of states cover all income-eligible children and pregnant women, California will become the first state to remove the exclusion for other adults, recognizing our health system is stronger when more people can get primary and preventive care. Our push to include undocumented seniors, and ultimately to the goal of #Health4All, will continue in the months ahead.”

“We will continue to pursue steps in the next  to the Governor and Legislature’s shared goal of getting to universal coverage in the next few years, with greater affordability assistance in Covered California and further expansions of Medi-Cal.” said Wright. “With these steps and other steps in the future, California is showing the way to get to universal coverage in the short term.” Over 70 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign advocated to take additional steps to move California towards universal coverage, including the investments needed to close the remaining gaps in our system. The campaign successfully argued for more help in affordability assistance up and down the income spectrum, and those impacted by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal.

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