Projected Deficit Could Freeze New Healthy Families Enrollment
At a board meeting on Wednesday, California's Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board is scheduled to discuss a proposal to cap enrollment for Healthy Families, California's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Sacramento Bee reports.Â MRMIB administers Healthy Families.
Record-high enrollment in the program is projected to result in a deficit of $17.2 million (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 11/14).Â Currently, 883,589 children are enrolled in the program, and about 27,125 additional children join the program each month (Fresno Bee, 11/13).
Healthy Families is open to children from households with annual incomes that exceed Medi-Cal eligibility levels but are not greater than 250% of the federal poverty level.Â Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
If enrollment is not capped, MRMIB Executive Director Lesley Cummings said that the state could be pushed to drop children from the program later.Â
The board is expected to vote on the measure on Dec. 17.Â If approved, the enrollment freeze and waiting list would begin the next day (Sacramento Bee, 11/14).
According to a memorandum from Cummings, the waiting list could include as many as 162,750 children within six months.
Kristen Golden-Testa -- health director of Children's Partnership, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group -- said her organization is hoping that the Legislature will appropriate more funds for the program while it is meeting in special session to address the state budget deficit, now estimated at $27.8 billion over the next 20 months (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 11/14).
However, Cummings noted that the state budget that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed in September also called for closing enrollment in Healthy Families in December.
Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who will take over as president pro tempore of the state Senate on Dec. 1, said that he has discussed the situation with First 5 programs and some foundations. First 5 administers proceeds of a state tobacco tax increase to fund early childhood health and education programs.
Steinberg said, "I would urgeÂ [MRMIB] to hold up" on a vote to close enrollment.Â He added, "There are a lot of moving parts, including a new administration in Washington and a Congress committed to putting children's health at or near the top of the agenda" (Sacramento Bee, 11/14).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.