Davis Says Healthy Families Expansion Will Go Forward This Year if Lawmakers ‘Find the Money’
Gov. Gray Davis (D) has decided to move forward with the state's plan to expand coverage to 300,000 low-income children and parents this year rather than delay the expansion until 2003, the Los Angeles Times reports (Mathews et al., Los Angeles Times, 1/26). Federal officials announced last week the approval of California's waiver, which will allow the state to offer health coverage to custodial parents, family caregivers and legal guardians of children who are eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. To be eligible, parents must be uninsured and earn no more than 200% of the federal poverty level, or $35,000 for a family of four. HHS estimates that 275,000 parents will be eligible for coverage under the expansion, and as a result of parental participation, an additional 25,000 children are expected to enroll in the state programs (California Healthline, 1/25).
California applied for the waiver in December 2000, at which point the state was running a budget surplus. Since then, however, the surplus has turned into a $12.4 billion budget deficit, prompting Davis to propose delaying the expansion until July 2003 in order to save the state $200 million. But after the federal government announced the waiver's approval last week, several state lawmakers and health advocates urged Davis to implement the expansion this year, noting that delaying it until July 2003 would cost the state more than $400 million in federal matching funds. Speaking at a Jan. 25 press conference in Los Angeles with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who flew to California to formally announce the waiver's approval, Davis said he would like to implement the expansion this summer, provided that the Legislature can find about $200 million to pay for it (Los Angeles Times, 1/26). Davis added that his proposal to delay the expansion came before he learned that the federal government had approved the waiver (Sacramento Bee, 1/26). "We'll begin enrolling parents as soon as we can ... if not by July 1, then soon after. There's a genuine desire to move this forward. The question is if the Legislature can find the money," Davis said. In response to that announcement, state lawmakers said they "would do what they could to launch the program -- perhaps in phases" (Los Angeles Times, 1/26).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.