Gov. Newsom’s budget offers key steps to provide help with health care access and affordability

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his first budget on Jan. 10, which includes first-in-the-nation investments for major expansions for California’s health care.
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his first budget on Jan. 10, which includes first-in-the-nation investments for major expansions for California’s health care. Vida en el Valle

Health advocates applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s key steps to ensure Californians have access and affordable healthcare.

Newsom unveiled his first budget on Jan. 10, which includes first-in-the-nation investments for major expansions for California’s health care.

“This budget takes first-of-the-nation steps to help Californians access health care and coverage, from removing exclusions in Medi-Cal to increasing affordability assistance for middle-income Californians to afford coverage,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “The governor has laid out a viable path to universal coverage; and now the coming budget debate will be how far California will go down that path this year.”

The 2019-20 budget includes a new $200 million general fund investment to expand Medi-Cal to low-income young adults up to age 26 regardless of immigration status and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market.

The budget would increase affordability assistance to middle-income Californians, from 250-600 percent of the poverty level, from money raised by instituting the state-level ACA-like individual requirement to have coverage.

“This budget is a important next step toward a more affordable, equitable, and universal health care system in California,” Wright said. “We will advocate to ensure more Californians get help to access health care regardless of immigration status or their ability to afford care.”

According to the U.S. census, California has had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, going from 6.5 million uninsured to 2.8 million, and a 7.2 percent uninsured rate.

“We applaud Governor Newsom for building on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act in his first official action,” said Peter V. Lee, Covered California executive director. “At a time of ongoing uncertainty from Washington, the governor is not only embracing policies that will lower the cost of coverage for millions in the individual market, he is also offering increased help to those who are struggling with rising costs.”

A recent UC Berkeley/UCLA report found that due to the elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate by Congress, the uninsurance rate could grow to 11.7 percent in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9 percent in 2023 (or 4.4 million people). The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.

“Children Now applauds the governor’s proposed budget which makes needed pro-kid investments in supports and services,” said Ted Lempert, Children Now president.

Lempert said nearly three-quarters of California’s 1.5 million infants and toddlers are children of color, and nearly two-thirds are born into low-income households. It is critical that we make these initial investments to support young children.

“We commend Gov. Newsom’s support of improved mental health services, establishing a longitudinal data system, greater support for special education, protecting immigrant families, improving the juvenile justice system, insuring undocumented young adults through Medi-Cal and increasing subsidies for affordable health coverage,” said Lempert.

Last year, the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 50 consumer and community groups championed similar proposals in order to protect California’s health expansion progress, while also taking steps forward to give more people access to affordable health care.

“This budget proposal is a strong signal about Governor Newsom’s intent to make Latinos a priority in California,” said Jacqueline Martínez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation. “Expanding Medi-Cal alone to undocumented residents is an indication of his commitment to ensuring coverage is available to all residents who are the heart and soul of this state’s working population, especially our large Latino population.”

“The Latino Community Foundation stands ready to help our new governor continue to support the state’s 15 million Latinos in not only health care, but also economic mobility, education, civic engagement and the coming Census count in 2020,” said Martínez Garcel. “When Latinos in California thrive, so will California. Together we can all move strongly and confidently into the future.

According to Wright, Newsom’s budget investments align with those that the State Assembly proposed last year and championed by the over 50 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign which seeks to move California towards a universal health care system without the need for federal approvals.

“CPEHN is thrilled to see Governor Newsom recognize that persistent health inequities have plagued communities of color for too long,” said Kiran Savage-Sangwan, CPEHN deputy director. “This Budget proposal acknowledges that California’s communities of color.”

“The governor is proposing historic investments to ensure that ALL Californians are able to access health care and live well,” Savage-Sangway said. “CPEHN has long championed improving the quality of care in Medi-Cal and holding health plans accountable for the care provided to low-include consumers and applauds the Governor’s proposed investment in this area. CPEHN also welcomes the proposed investments that directly target disparities by funding trauma screening, home visitation, behavioral health integration.”

Wright said further investments are still needed to meet the health care needs of all Californians, including covering all income-eligible undocumented adults, helping those affected by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, and further addressing the rising costs of care.

“We will seek additional help for our low-income families, immigrants, and seniors to access to affordable health care coverage,” Wright said. “We will seek affordability assistance from the general fund, beyond what is generated by the continuing the ACA’s individual requirement in California. We look forward to working with Gov. Newsom and the Legislature to getting to a full down payment toward universal coverage this year.”

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud