A coalition of 40 groups opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) proposal to shift nearly one million children from subsidized private insurance into California's Medi-Cal program have given their support to an alternate plan, HealthyCal reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The groups include Children Now, the Children's Defense Fund, the California Medical Association and PICO. The alternate plan likely will be supported by more Democrats in the Legislature, who will write the final version of next year's spending plan.
As part of his fiscal year 2012-2013 budget plan, Brown proposed cutting payment rates to Healthy Families, California's Children's Health Insurance Program, in October and then moving all children out of the program by the middle of 2013.
Brown is hoping that the state would save about $64 million next year by implementing the changes because Medi-Cal payment rates are lower than rates in the Healthy Families program.
Potential Barriers to Brown's Plan
However, an analysis by the Legislative Analyst's Office suggested that Brown's budget could estimate too much revenue and questioned whether the state can accomplish the switch without disrupting children's care.
In addition, managed care plans participating in Healthy Families might leave the program if faced with Brown's proposed pay cut, which would leave children without any coverage until they are fully transitioned into Medi-Cal.
There also might not be enough physicians participating in Medi-Cal to provide care for all of the children who would be transitioned under Brown's proposal.
Alternate Plan Details
The coalition supports a plan to preserve Healthy Families and move about 200,000 children between the ages of six and 18 into Medi-Cal in 2013. Those children already are expected to move into Medi-Cal in 2014 under a provision in the federal health reform law that expands Medicaid to families with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.
Kelly Hardy of the not-for-profit group Children Now said, "We're concerned that the governor's proposal is being driven by questionable estimates of budget savings, rather than ensuring that these children get the best health services possible."
Hardy said it would make more sense for the state to begin shifting children between the programs slowly, starting with children already scheduled to be transitioned to Med-Cal.
She said, "Then we need to do some rigorous evaluation about Medi-Cal's capacity to handle an influx of new kids, and sign up adequate networks of providers to handle those kids" (Weintraub, HealthyCal, 5/8).