Davis Administration Presses HHS to Approve Healthy Families Expansion
The administration of Gov. Gray Davis (D) is growing "increasingly angry" with the Bush administration's failure to approve a proposed waiver that would expand Healthy Families to cover an estimated 450,000 additional low-income adults and children, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. While President Bush last weekend announced a new initiative to give states more flexibility in administering their CHIP and Medicaid programs without long waits for approval, California officials say approval of the Healthy Families waiver, which would expand the program to cover low-income parents, "remains stalled with no solution in sight." Glen Rosselli, undersecretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, said, "If [the Bush administration] really supported expansion, they would have approved our waiver when they walked in the door. We have the capacity to expand coverage to parents now. We just need permission."
The main disagreement between the state and HHS lies in how parents' income would be used to determine eligibility in Healthy Families. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has proposed that child support money be included in income determinations, but state officials say that this policy would prevent many deserving parents from entering the program because their income would then exceed the threshold. While state officials were "encouraged" by Bush's announcement on "streamlining" the waiver approval process in general, HHS spokesperson Mary Kahn said she did not think that California will be affected by the new procedures. "It's a policy issue. California is saying 'A' and we're saying 'A and maybe B.' This is a waiver request that was already in the fray" (Salladay, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).
By failing even to "formally respond" to the state's waiver request to extend Healthy Families to low-income parents, the Bush administration has "left out" California in its plan to reduce the number of uninsured, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. The state budget, signed by Davis two weeks ago, earmarks $820 million for expanding Healthy Families; all "that is needed" now is for Bush to "give the OK." However, according to the editorial, Davis officials have said that Dennis Smith, who oversees CHIP at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (formerly HCFA) has "not even explained why the state's request is being delayed." Meanwhile, the editorial says, that when Bush last weekend announced the plan to give states more flexibility in their Medicaid and CHIP programs to lower the number of uninsured, he touted the administration's approval of waiver requests from New York and New Jersey, which both have Republican governors. But in "holding up" New York's plan as a "national model," Bush "ground salt into California's wounds," as its waiver request is "similar in all the essentials." Stating that California's "health care woes," which include the fourth-highest rate of uninsured in the United States and an emergency care crisis, "affect Republicans [and] Democrats alike," the editorial concludes: "Expanding Healthy Families is at least a partial solution to the crisis. President Bush could have no reason beyond partisan politics to block California's compassionate and well-crafted plan" (Los Angeles Times, 8/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.