PICO Launches Campaign Urging HHS to Approve Waiver to Expand Healthy Families Coverage to Parents
The Pacific Institute of Community Organization, a coalition of 16 faith-based organizations and some 350 churches, yesterday launched a statewide campaign asking the federal government to approve a waiver that would expand Healthy Families to cover parents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Through the campaign, PICO will send more than 1,000 letters and e-mails to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, "urg[ing]" him to approve the waiver. The proposed expansion would provide Healthy Families coverage to approximately 320,000 adults and 130,000 additional children by 2004. The program already covers some 440,000 children statewide (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4). California officials requested the waiver last December, and the application is "still under review," according to Robert Sweezy, director of public affairs for CMS. However, California officials have pointed out that Thompson approved similar waivers for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and New Jersey earlier this year. "California has been left in the waiting room for too long," Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) said as he helped start PICO's campaign by faxing the first letter to Thompson (Coleman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/4).
Advocates of the expansion plan face another challenge, as Gov. Gray Davis (D), faced with a looming budget deficit, has proposed delaying the expansion program until 2003 to help the state cut more than $2 billion from the budget. The Davis administration said the state "simply can't afford to expand the program now." Under the expansion, the federal government would provide $2 for every dollar the state pays. California would have to provide $160 million to cover its share of the costs. Davis spokesperson Steve Maviglio said, "We initially proposed expanding the program, but with all the budget cuts, we don't have the money." The Chronicle reports that advocates are concerned that Davis' proposed cuts could "give the Bush administration an excuse not to grant the waiver" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4). State officials had hoped to have the waiver approved by the end of February and to begin implementing it by July (AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/4).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.