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Healthy Families Falls One Vote Short — For Now

No one voted against it, but the bill to fund the Healthy Families program still failed in the Assembly.

ABX1 21 by Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) passed a Senate vote, and could still come up for a re-vote in the Assembly today.

The current legislative session ends tomorrow.

The bill needed a two-thirds floor vote, so the magic number for passage was 54 Assembly members. The unusual 53-0-27 vote fell one vote short of passage, with 27 legislators either abstaining or absent.

If it fails, Healthy Families officials will need to discuss how to deal with a $390 million budget shortfall for that program. That’s about one-third of the Healthy Families budget, which serves 870,000 kids in California.

One-third less money could likely mean one-third fewer kids in the program, according to officials at the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which oversees Healthy Families. Without the that funding, the state agency is looking at cutting loose 290,000 children from the rogram. Healthy Families is a federally subsidized low-cost health insurance program, including dental and vision coverage, for California children and teens who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal.

Senate member Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said there is little opposition in the health care industry to extending this tax, and that it failed to navigate its way through the budget in the spring because of politics, not merit.

“What gives me hope is that, when we dealt with this in the spring, it was part of the overall budget,” Leno said. “But now it’s more of a standalone. So hopefully we can deal with the health needs of many thousands of California children.”

If the Assembly can muster the 54th vote today or tomorrow, the bill could be reintroduced, approved by the Assembly and then go to the governor’s desk for approval.

Failing a second attempt would be the end of that bill, though there are procedural devices that could force a third vote.

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