CA Legislature Passes a 2020-21 State Budget That Protects Most Health and Human Services Programs – For Now

Today, the California State Senate and Assembly passed a budget preserving most funding for vital health and human services programs, which are even more important as our state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
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For Immediate Release: Monday, June 15, 2020

CONTACT:
Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

CA LEGISLATURE PASSES A 2020-21 STATE BUDGET THAT PROTECTS MOST HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES PROGRAMS – FOR NOW

Deal with Governor Still Being Negotiated–Federal Funds and New State Revenues and Taxes Needed to Stop Trigger Cuts

  • Today the California State Legislature passed a 2020-21 state budget that largely protects the health of California’s vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color all of whom have struggled disproportionately during this COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Legislative Budget rejects many of Governor Newsom’s May Revise proposals which included cruel and counterproductive cuts to our health system.
  • Negotiations continue, but there are signs that some cuts are particularly inequitable, and the final deal may not include reinstating the “senior penalty” which would have kept thousands of seniors out of Medi-Cal coverage. Yet without revenues, all these cuts will still be on the table, either this year or in the future.
  • Health care advocates roundly rejected these cuts which would only exacerbate the public health and economic emergency stemming from the pandemic, and are urging state leaders to focus on better budget solutions that raise revenue to invest in our communities.
  • Health Access is constantly updating our Budget Scorecard which tracks the specific health care changes as negotiations continue with the Governor.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California State Senate and Assembly passed a budget preserving most funding for vital health and human services programs, which are even more important as our state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget passed by the California Legislature meets the constitutional deadline for passage, even as negotiations continue with Governor Newsom on a final budget.

Those negotiations show signs that a deal to reject the worst of these health care cuts might be reached, but that would depend on new revenues, from federal funds or new state revenues. If the Governor adopts the Legislature’s version of the budget, it would rely on federal funds to help keep commitments. Without enough federal funds, the budget would trigger cuts to Medi-Cal that will impact millions and their ability to continue to access coverage and benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for California’s seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color. Health care advocates continue to call on the Federal Government to step in with aid to help ensure that these cuts are not made, while also calling on state leaders to raise state revenue to ensure that these cuts are not part of budget proposals now and into the future.

The Legislative budget rejects the Governor’s proposed budget cuts to deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, and thus would not reinstitute the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility fixes approved in the past several years. The Legislative budget does delay for one year, to January 2022, the expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status. Of particular note, the Legislative budget also preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including vision, audiology, podiatry, and some dental, and programs and services, like Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and Multipurpose Senior Services Programs (MSSP) which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent.

As we get more information, Health Access is updating its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track specific health care items in the various state budget proposals.

OVERALL BUDGET: “No legislator wants to vote to make cuts to health care programs serving seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color, especially in the middle of a pandemic that is particularly targeting these populations. We are glad the Legislature is fighting to preserve these health and other vital programs, while negotiating with the Governor over better budget solutions. The cuts would make California less able to help families connect with needed care and coverage, hinder economic recovery from the pandemic, and exacerbate long-standing racial and other inequities,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California will ultimately need both federal funds and additional state revenues to sustain these essential services, including health care and coverage for millions. Our California legislators have appropriately prioritized protecting our health care system and safety net from cuts that are not only cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of this economic and public health crisis. We now need them to raise the revenue to make these health services sustainable.”

NEGOTIATIONS WITH GOVERNOR: “It would be good news if the proposed cuts to deny health coverage for low-income seniors were taken off the table, but other cuts limit benefits and access to care for millions on Medi-Cal. None of these cuts are truly rejected unless they are replaced with the revenues needed to sustain these programs not just this year but into the future,” said Wright.

CUTS MADE: As the Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, the Legislative budget does make some cuts, including delaying a proposed expansion of Medi-Cal, and reducing the allocation for affordability assistance in Covered California, which could have been used to further lower premiums for the growing number of people purchasing health care as individuals during the economic crisis. “The millions of Californians who have lost their jobs and coverage recently should be better protected in a pandemic. Folks losing coverage should have access to Medi-Cal, or be shielded from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage as an individual. During this coronavirus, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright. “Our undocumented seniors, who have made a lifetime of contributions to California, can’t wait another year and a half for coverage. Now more than ever, we must be expanding access to affordable health care, not cutting or delaying coverage.”

REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. We need real, systematic change to our budget and tax structure that puts more onus on the wealthy, who have benefited during the pandemic, to invest in our struggling communities and improve equity in public programs and systems,” said Wright. “Our leaders must take a stance with their votes, tackling head on the systemic inequality oppressing Black and brown people, and funding bold changes to lift our communities.”

More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Budget Cuts

Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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