Budget Wrangling Ramps Up This Week Over Children’s Health Care Programs

A number of children’s health care programs are on the cusp of being funded this week as the Legislature and governor negotiate the state budget. Some programs are funded in the Assembly version of the budget, some in the Senate budget and a few are included in both budgets.

A unified budget will be hashed out in conference committee this week.

The list of programs to be discussed this week includes:

  • The Black Infant Health Program ($3.9 million in state funds) is on the tally sheet in both houses, so it’s likely to be included — in part because of its relatively low price tag;
  • Restoring Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rates to their pre-2011 levels also landed in both budgets, but the Brown Administration previously has balked at rolling back those 10% cuts;
  • Designating applied behavior analysis therapy — a kind of autism treatment —  as a Medi-Cal benefit is part of the Senate budget. Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) previously said ABA therapy was a high priority for his health care agenda. Including it in the budget would cost the state an estimated $50 million a year.
  • Two programs in the Assembly budget but not the Senate’s — the Early Mental Health Initiative and the Children’s Dental Disease Prevention Program — would cost the state a combined total of about $18.5 million a year.

“We’re hopeful the Legislature will decide to invest in effective health prevention programs for children,” said Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, senior policy and communications associate for Children’s Defense Fund California, in a written statement. “In the grand scope of the budget, these are relatively small-ticket items that have been proven to have a big impact for kids.”

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