State budget includes Medi-Cal expansion

After months of talks about the California state budget and the Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for the expansion of Medi-Cal, health advocates concerns about the expansion took a break when the state legislature passed the $96.3 billion budget on June 14.

The budget, which was approved a day earlier than the constitutional deadline of June 15, expands the state’s Medi-Cal program to 1.4 million uninsured low-income people in the state under the Affordable Care Act which will be implemented Jan. 1, 2014.

Under the state budget, Medi-Cal expansion will provide health coverage to those adults whose income is less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — approximately $15,900 for a single adult or $32,500 for a family of four.

The entire cost of the expansion will be pay by the federal government for the first three years of its implementation under President Barack Obama’s health care reform. Starting in 2017, the federal government will reduce its funding to 90 percent.

“We expand healthcare coverage for more than one million Californians,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Ángeles of the passing of the state budget.

In January, Pérez introduced Assembly Bill 1X-1 during a special legislative session on health care called by Brown. The bill, which would provide health coverage through Medi-Cal to single, childless adults whose income is less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level — or approximately less than $15,400 per year — was approved by the Legislature on June 15.

Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, called the passage of the state budget a “historic day” for the state for many reasons, including the state providing health coverage to uninsured low-income Californians.

“This budget expands Medi-Cal to cover some 1.4 million Californians starting next year,” Lara said.Health Access executive director Anthony Wright said the state budget “includes historic expansion of Medi-Cal to over one million Californians under the Affordable Care Act.”

“The budget allows California to take advantage of federal funds to expand Medi-Cal,” Wright said.

Beside the Medi-Cal expansion, the budget allows for some improve benefits in the Medi-Cal program, such as the restoration of most adult dental care services to 3 million Medi-Cal adults recipients starting in May 2014. Those services were cut in 2009.

Dental care includes preventive care such as examinations as well as dentures.

While these are major and important improvements, Wright said legislative debate continues about the need to improve Medi-Cal provider rates, which are currently among the lowest in the nation.“There’s more work to do,” Wright said.

The budget was passed 54-25 in the Assembly, while it was approved 28-10 in the Senate.

The budget awaits Brown’s his signature.