SACRAMENTO, CA – In spite of a chorus of opposition, Governor Brown released a May Revision budget proposal today that continues to put the health of California’s children at risk by eliminating the Healthy Families Program. Leading children’s health advocates expressed disappointment that the Administration maintained the proposed cuts and dramatic changes to children’s health care that have come under fire from a broad coalition of health leaders, pediatricians and other health care providers, and community and faith organizations.
The Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Healthy Families Program and transition nearly 900,000 children to Medi-Cal would disrupt care and undermine access to needed health care services for hundreds of thousands of children. A coalition of more than forty organizations has endorsed an alternative proposal that will better serve California’s children. This proposal was adopted by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
“Given the broad consensus around this common sense alternative, we are extremely disappointed that the Governor continues to risk the health of California’s children,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now. “The Governor’s proposal would severely impact access to health care for the 4.5 million children currently enrolled in Healthy Families and Medi-Cal, and ultimately keep children from receiving the preventive care and health services they need.”
The May Revision projects that the actual budget savings from the proposal to eliminate Healthy Families and a related proposal to reduce the rates paid to Healthy Families plans would be $15.8 million less than expected. “It simply does not make sense to eliminate the Healthy Families Program and put children at risk given that these dramatic changes would not even produce significant budget savings,” said Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President of The Children's Partnership.
The alternative proposal favored by children’s advocates and health care providers would move only the approximately 200,000 children enrolled in Healthy Families who are required, under federal law, to be enrolled in Medi-Cal by January 2014. Those children, known as the “bright-line” population because their transfer would create a clear eligibility line between the two programs, are from families with incomes at or below 133% of the FPL.
“As part of this more gradual shift, state leaders should take steps to ensure there are sufficient doctors and dentists to provide meaningful access to care through Medi-Cal,” added Lazarus. “Then, based on evidence of what is working best for kids over the next few years, well-informed decisions can be made about where the rest of the Healthy Families kids should get their coverage as health reform is implemented in California.”
“We are disappointed that the Governor continues to pursue questionable budget savings at the expense of children’s health. California needs to get its priorities straight, and move forward with revenue solutions that enable us to invest in our children and youth, and the future of the state,” said Corey Timpson, Director of PICO California. The potentially unachievable savings attributed to the elimination of Healthy Families come from a corresponding proposal to reduce the rates paid to Healthy Families plans by nearly 26 percent, which would limit the willingness of health plans and providers to continue to provide care to Healthy Families and Medi-Cal children.
The revised budget proposal would extend the assessment on Medi-Cal managed care plans, which provides critical funding for the Healthy Families Program. This revenue stream has supported children’s coverage since 2009, and would provide $168 million during the fiscal year.
The revised budget proposal released today also maintains a number of concerning proposals that would have a detrimental impact on the health coverage of low-income children. For example, one proposal would cut $75 million from the Medi-Cal program through a vaguely defined “value-based purchasing” strategy that could undermine access to services, tests, or hospital care for our state’s most vulnerable children. The May Revision also seeks to impose co-payments for some services for Medi-Cal enrollees, including children, and would divert $80 million from the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, which provides a range of important services for young children.
“The Governor’s proposal to restrict eligibility for the California Children’s Services’ Medical Therapy Program will prevent nearly 5,000 special needs children from receiving physical and occupational therapy services critical to their development,” said Jamila Edwards, Northern California Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. “Budget cuts like these mean that children won’t have opportunities to get the services they need to develop skills. This will hurt children like Nyah, a two-year-old from San Francisco with cerebral palsy who learned to walk with a walker thanks to services through the Medical Therapy Program.”
“As advocates for children’s health, we stand ready to work with the Administration and Legislature to find budget solutions that will protect and strengthen health coverage for children in California,” added Edwards.