On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown will release his proposed budget for the 2015-16 state budget, which has major implications for California’s health care system. The health care budget expected to have high estimates due to Medi-Cal expansion and strong enrollment, but also include some key policy decisions Health Access is closely monitoring.
BUILDING ON PROGRESS? California has made dramatic progress under the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage, and the question under this new budget is whether we continue that momentum or not. Can we remove barriers to coverage, ensure those covered in Medi-Cal get access to care, and extend coverage to the remaining uninsured?
For example, enrollment estimates expected to include those newly eligible under President Obama’s order to extend “deferred action” immigration status–people excluded from federal Medicaid but not state-only Medi-Cal. California should be proud of our long history and policy of covering immigrant populations excluded from federal programs, and that policy should be reaffirmed and extended in this year’s budget. Immigrants are a vital part of our community and economy and should be fully included in our health system.
WILL CUTS CONTINUE?: The big question is whether the California comeback extends to the health and human programs so many Californians rely on, or whether the Governor proposes to continue the cuts made in the recent recession. Public health programs, Medi-Cal benefits, and provider rates were all proposed for restoration in the Legislature last year, and should be considered again by legislators if the Governor doesn’t himself. With many more Californians covered under Medi-Cal now, we should restore cuts to Medi-Cal providers, to bring in enhanced federal matching funds, and to ensure millions of Californian have better access to the doctors and specialists they need. California has reduced the wall of debt but needs to do more to dismantle the wall of poverty in our state. We should remember that the surplus was created in part out of $15 billion in cuts to health and human services–cuts that continue today and into the future. Ultimately, the level of services for California should not be set at the level of resources available during the worse recession since the Great Depression.
KEY HEALTH POLICY DECISIONS: Bills from last year highlight budget debates that are coming this year. Last year, the Governor vetoed a bill to limit Medi-Cal estate recovery, arguing the policy change should be done in the budget instead. We will vigorously pursue this change, so some Californians don’t fear that their loved ones lose the family home as a result of signing up for coverage. (This year’s version of that bill is SB33 by Sen. Hernandez.)
Our biggest priority is SB4 by Sen. Lara, taking the momentum of the Affordable Care Act, and the President’s recent executive actions, to ensure coverage for all Californians, regardless of immigration status–which would yield positive benefits for the health system we all rely on. California has been a leader in including immigrants in our society and investing in our future–the next and most vital step is in health care.
We look forward to the Governor’s announcement at 10am, and for HHS Secretary Dooley’s budget debrief call at 2pm:
Date: Friday, January 9, 2015
Time: 2 p.m. Pacific Time*
Call-In Number: (888) 658-8648
Passcode Phrase: CHHS Budget