Brown Backs State-Run Medi-Cal Expansion

By Mina Kim

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget plan is a mixed bag for health advocates and some county officials.

Brown said the state would take the lead on a key provision of the federal health law — expanding Medi-Cal to more than one million Californians. Brown scrapped earlier plans to consider a more complicated, county-based system.

But Brown anticipates recouping more than $300 million from the counties next fiscal year — money that pays for public health programs and care for the uninsured. Brown’s rationale? With the full implementation of federal health reform next year, more people will enroll in Medi-Cal and fewer people will show up to county emergency rooms.

Farrah McDaid Ting with the California State Association of Counties says Brown’s proposal makes no sense. She says plenty of people will still rely on county services in 2014.

They are “people who qualify for Medi-Cal but don’t sign up, people who have a hard time signing up or staying on programs, the undocumented in our communities and those who are in between private health plans,” McDaid Ting said. “We need to retain enough funds to serve those people.”

That could be 3 to 4 million Californians who remain uninsured even after federal health reform is fully implemented, according to projections from UC Berkeley and UCLA. Brown and state health officials say they are developing a “mechanism” that will determine county savings based on real data.

Advocates fanned out across California Tuesday holding five statewide rallies, including one in front of state offices in Oakland, where they called for a rollback of cuts to adult dental care, children’s nutrition programs and other social services.         

“I think the most important number to remember is that one in four children in California are in poverty now,” Jamila Edwards Harris with the Children’s Defense Fund said. “And that number has only risen since budget cuts over the last five years.”

Brown’s budget also continues pending cuts to Medi-Cal providers, a plan that has been tied up in federal court since it passed in 2011.