Health Advocates Say Healthy Families Shift Could Increase Costs
Health care advocates have expressed concern that a provision in lawmakers' fiscal year 2012-2013 budget deal that would eliminate Healthy Families --Â California's Children's Health Insurance Program -- would increase costs for the state, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/22).
Details of Budget Provision
The budget deal -- reached last week by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and legislative Democrats -- would eliminate Healthy Families and move the 880,000 children enrolled in the program to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program (California Healthline, 6/22).
Brown's administration expects $13 million in general fund savings in FY 2012-2013 as a result of a partial shift in the programs. The administration expects $73 million in general fund savings after full implementation of the plan in FY 2014-2015.
Managed Care Tax in Question
However, it is unclear whether the state will retain a tax on managed care plans that generates $183 million annually. The tax is set to expire at the end of June.
Nicole Kasabian Evans -- spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans -- said, "Health plans supported the (managed care) tax in prior years, and a lot of that was centered around the fact that it was tied to the Healthy Families program."
Extending the tax requires a two-thirds supermajority vote. However, Republicans might not support the tax if the health industry opposes it, according to "Capitol Alert."
Comments on Managed Care Tax
On Thursday, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and his aides indicated that they are optimistic that there will be enough votes in favor of extending the tax.
Meanwhile, Anthony Wright -- executive director of Health Access California and an opponent of the Healthy FamiliesÂ shift -- said of the recent budget deal, "[D]oes this mean we're giving up on the (managed care) tax?" He added, "At the end of the day, this may cost the state money."
Evans said, "To decouple the tax from the Healthy Families program, we'd really need to know a lot more than we know today. The details matter" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/22).
Exception for Kaiser Permanente
In related news, Toby Douglas -- director of the state Department of Health Care Services -- said lawmakers are creating an exception in the budget deal to allow Kaiser Permanente to keep its 200,000 Healthy Families beneficiaries as Medi-Cal beneficiaries through a direct contract with the state.Douglas said theÂ exception is necessary to ensure thatÂ the 200,000 children can continue to receive care through their current KaiserÂ medical providers (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 6/23). 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.