CA Governor 2021-22 Budget Proposal Provides Urgently Needed Short – Term Help, But Long – Term Investments Needed for Care, and California’s Recovery

Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled the January proposal for the 2021-22 state budget, which provides much needed short-term investments to help Californians in crisis, but more ongoing and long-term support will be necessary to move California down the road towards health and economic recovery.
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For Immediate Release: Friday, January 8, 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 GOVERNOR 2021-22 BUDGET PROPOSAL PROVIDES URGENTLY NEEDED SHORT-TERM HELP,

BUT LONG-TERM INVESTMENTS NEEDED FOR CARE, COVERAGE, AND CALIFORNIA’S RECOVERY

  • 2021-22 CA budget proposed today by Governor Gavin Newsom provides urgently needed financial help to confront the COVID-19 crisis, including $372 million for vaccine distribution. 
  • Budget proposal makes some investments in Medi-Cal, including $1.1 billion CalAIM proposal to improve Medi-Cal, and pushes back scheduled $1.2 billion cut to Medi-Cal provider payments, and, delaying that and other benefits suspensions for one year.
  • Budget restarts or continues key health cost, quality, and equity efforts, including a new Office of Health Care Affordability to address health consolidation and set cost targets, using the state’s purchasing power to get better prescription drug prices through Medi-Cal Rx, and more accountability to health plans to reduce disparities.
  • More is needed for Californians to have access to care and coverage in this pandemic and beyond including helping laid off workers who lost health coverage, increasing affordability assistance in Covered California, and expanding Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status to the goal of #Health4All.
  • California’s recovery needs a bigger and broader investments for public health and more such as increasing taxes on the wealthy to sustain services and prevent cuts in the future.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled the January proposal for the 2021-22 state budget, which provides much needed short-term investments to help Californians in crisis, but more ongoing and long-term support will be necessary to move California down the road towards health and economic recovery.

“This budget’s immediate investments to confront the COVID-19 crisis and it ongoing improvements to Medi-Cal and our health system are appreciated and urgently needed, but we also urge the Legislature to look at what more can be done for Californians to get care and coverage that is desperately needed in this pandemic and its aftermath,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “The success of our health and economic recovery depends not just on these upfront investments, but our ongoing commitments to care, coverage and public health.”

This proposed budget includes a range of specific investments in response to the COVID-19 crisis, including $372 million to augment the over $400 million already allocated for vaccine distribution. This critical investment is a key step in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Governor’s proposed budget makes other key health investments, including a $532 million state commitment to restarting the Cal-AIM effort to improve Medi-Cal program. Of note, the budget delays suspensions and cuts from last year, such as a scheduled $1.2 billion cut to Medi-Cal, which was taken from Prop 56 tobacco tax funds that have gone as supplemental payments to Medi-Cal providers over the past several years. That cut is delayed for one year, as are other sunsets and suspensions for Medi-Cal coverage of extended post-partum coverage, and benefits like audiology, optical services, podiatry and others. The budget would also add glucose monitoring as a Medi-Cal benefit.

“This budget proposal provides much needed and urgent help for Californians who are still in the middle of both a health and financial crisis, including specific health investments for testing, tracing, treatment, and therapeutics. The augmentation for vaccine distribution is especially helpful, since shortening this pandemic by even a few weeks would save thousands of lives, and help restart our economic recovery sooner,” said Wright. “We are also glad for the delays of the cuts to health care made last year, including a scheduled $1.2 billion cut to Medi-Cal providers, many of whom are on the front lines of this pandemic.”

The budget also include key initiatives on health care costs, quality, and equity. This includes initiatives like the Medi-Cal Rx effort to use the state’s purchasing power to get better prescription drug prices, and a restarted effort to create a new Office of Health Care Affordability, to confront health care consolidation and set cost-growth targets for all sectors of the industry. Other industry accountability efforts would require health plans to meet goals regarding quality and reducing disparities, through regulation by the Department of Managed Health Care and contracting by Medi-Cal and Covered California.

While some Medi-Cal investments were made, other key expansions were not included, such as a the critical step of removing barriers to Medi-Cal based on immigration status. This is of particular need for elders in the middle of a pandemic that is disproportionately harming seniors and communities of color.

“We appreciate that the Governor has proposed a state budget that undoes some of the steep cuts of last year and makes immediate investments to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but we ask our state leaders to think bigger and bolder about how to increase revenues for our state, including ideas to increase taxes on the richest California’s, who have only grown their wealth during this pandemic,” said Wright. “Ultimately, we need major investments in health care and coverage to get out of this crisis, particularly for low-income and communities of color being especially hard hit by the dual health and economic consequences of COVID-19.”

“In order to fully address this pandemic and its aftermath, California leaders must recommit to expanding coverage and affordability assistance. We need to provide more assistance for those who have lost coverage along with their jobs and income, increase affordability assistance in Covered California, and remove exclusions in Medi-Cal based on immigration status,” said Ronald Coleman, policy director for Health Access California. “The coronavirus does not discriminate based on immigration status, and our health care system shouldn’t either. We are stronger when everyone is included getting the treatment and care they need as soon as possible, especially our seniors who are at most at-risk in this current pandemic. We will continue to fight to cover the Californians explicitly excluded from coverage because of where they were born, toward the goal of a more universal, accessible health system for all.”

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