Legislature Passes Healthy Families Money, Mulls DMHC Move

Among the raft of bills that floated through the Legislature in the final days of session were two big health-related ones:

• The Assembly, after trying and failing by one vote to pass ABX1 21 by Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), yesterday took up the measure again and this time passed it, 61-9; and

• An Assembly bill, AB 922  by Bill Monning (D-Carmel), is designed to expand and move the Office of the Patient Advocate. It took on an amendment that also moves its parent agency, the Department of Managed Health Care. Those agencies currently reside under the Department of Business, Transportation and Housing.

ABX1 21 is designed to fund a large chunk of the Healthy Families budget by extending by a year a tax on Medi-Cal managed care organizations. Those MCOs actually support the tax extension.

“This is a bill with industry support, so we’re in the rare situation of not taxing anyone who is not wanting to be taxed,” Blumenfield said when he introduced the legislation.

ABX1 21 was approved by the Senate earlier, and now moves to the governor’s desk. It missed approval previously on the Assembly floor by one legislative vote. If the bill had not passed, the state was contemplating a massive shift of children off the Healthy Families program.

“We finally reached a bipartisan breakthrough to narrowly avert disaster,” Blumenfield said. “Low-income parents across California have been sick with worry for months, not knowing if at any moment the state would revoke their children’s insurance. This has been a very scary situation with a simple solution. By signing this bill, the governor can alleviate the fears of these parents.”

The bill to move the Office of the Patient Advocate under the umbrella of the California Health and Human Services Agency makes sense, Monning said, because of pending implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which the OPA will be involved in.

That same reasoning was applied to the parent agency of OPA, the Department of Managed Health Care, according to the floor analysis.

“The move is meant to create a clear internal chain of command for the Administration,” according to the floor analysis. “DMHC’s actions should be vetted through the Health and Human Services Agency, which is focused on consumers and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (along with other aspects of healthcare delivery and regulation), rather than BT&H, which has no expertise in federal health care reform and its requirements.”

Monning, who is chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, said that the request for the amendment to also move the DMHC came from the Brown administration.”The request was made to transfer the department,” Monning said. “It has been one of the interests of the [CHHS] Secretary and the administration, that we have a more accountable and streamlined system.”

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