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No Major Bump For Medi-Cal, Covered California in Governor’s Revise Despite Push From Lawmakers

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown presents his May revision to the state budget, detailing a plan to place the bulk of an $8.8 billion surplus into rainy-day reserves and one-time investments.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Updated 2:29 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown opted not to include major long-term investments in public health insurance programs in his budget revision on Friday, citing a preference for one-time spending measures.

“I’m going to be reluctant to embark upon programs that will continue and will grow into the future,” he said. “They all have some merit to them, but we’re already over-extended.”

The governor said he will “certainly look at any measure” that expands health care access.

The announcement comes after an ambitious request from an Assembly health committee last week: $1 billion from the general fund surplus to make a number of investments.

Their proposal is part of a package of new bills and includes expanding Medi-Cal to adults up to age 25, increasing subsidies and tax credits for Covered California consumers, streamlining the Medi-Cal enrollment process for low-income women and children, and increasing the number of doctors in rural areas.

“We continue to be disappointed by the lack of investment our Governor has made in improving health care in this state,” said Democratic Assemblymember Jim Wood in a statement. “The Assembly, on the other hand, has made health care a priority and we will continue to fight for our $1 billion funding package as budget discussions continue in the coming weeks."

Wood led a special group of Assembly members that met regularly over the last few months to discuss ways to reach universal coverage, or health care for all Californians. It was the continuation of earlier discussions about single-payer health care, which Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved due to a lack of a concrete funding source.

A small group of Assembly members met several times this year to discuss ways to reach universal coverage, or health care for all Californians. It was the continuation of earlier discussions about single-payer health care, which Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved due to a lack of a concrete funding source.

The number of Californians on Medi-Cal grew rapidly during the Obamacare expansion and the Covered California marketplace gained 1.4 million enrollees. But there are still about 2.8 million Californians without health insurance, and advocates say it’s time to close the gap.

“Especially when our federal government continues to undermine our health system … California can and should make a meaningful down payment to the goal of universal coverage,” said Anthony Wright, director of consumer group Health Access, in a statement. 

Health care costs rose for some marketplace customers when the federal government cut cost-sharing reductions for premiums in October.

Brown’s budget does include $55.3 million to “support new growth in Medi-Cal” in 2018-2019. It maintains a previously announced $163 million investment in physician payments and $70 million allocation for dental payments.

But much larger swathes of funding announced in the May revise are going toward mental health care for homeless individuals, assistance for housing-insecure people in the CalWORKS program and medical services in the state justice system.

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