HEALTHY FAMILIES: Amended Bill Would Use Tobacco Money to Insure Adults
Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Huntington Park) Tuesday amended a bill she had proposed so that it would use a portion of the state's tobacco settlement money to cover one million uninsured adults through Healthy Families, the Sacramento Bee reports. Escutia previously had proposed that the entire tobacco settlement be used to cover the uninsured, but Gov. Gray Davis (D) objected because he wanted the "flexibility to use the [settlement] money for other state needs." Escutia's new proposal would use part of the settlement money to expand the Healthy Families program to the parents of already enrolled children. Previously only uninsured children were eligible for the program, but "new regulations allow states to petition the federal government to enroll parents." By using the tobacco money to expand the program, the state would receive additional matching funds from the federal government, which now allocates $2 for every $1 the state contributes. The program's expansion is expected to cost between $115 and $130 million per year, while the total tobacco settlement is estimated at $450 million per year over the next 20 years.
Salvaging Lost Funds
Escutia's new proposal might solve another problem. Because of Healthy Families' low enrollment -- currently 323,000 children are enrolled -- California is likely to forfeit $590 million in "unused federal funds" next month, but Escutia hopes that by extending the program to working adults, the state can salvage some of that money. Escutia said that the bill is "just an opportunity we cannot pass up to throw away hundreds of millions of dollars while millions of California families still go without access to decent health care." While the state Department of Finance opposes the bill, a Davis spokesperson said that although the administration had not yet seen the amended bill, Davis "plans to review all options pertaining to Healthy Families money from the federal government" (Rojas, 8/24).