The Assembly this week passed a measure (SB 18) to require the state to accept a $6 million grant from the California Endowment — a sum that would total $12 million when matched with federal funds.
The money would be used for a program to assist Medi-Cal enrollees through the renewal process, which has caused some confusion among beneficiaries partly because of new renewal forms this year.
SB 18 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has passed floor votes in both houses. It now needs only Senate concurrence to officially send it to the governor’s desk.
The state rejected the California Endowment grant in May at the conclusion of budget negotiations.
Stakeholders were at a loss to explain why the state would reject grant money and federal matching dollars, since there would be no cost to the state to use the grant.
But yesterday Leno made it clear. He said the state Department of Finance wanted to limit Medi-Cal renewals to cut costs.
“[Department of] Finance did admit they were concerned about [encouraging renewals], and said there would be hundreds of thousands of people who, without the grant money and matching funds, would likely not continue to be Medi-Cal enrolled,” Leno said, “thereby saving the state millions of dollars.”
The Legislature agreed to reject it as a budget concession, but Leno said he never thought it was an idea that held water.
“We did advocate for it during conference committee and Finance did argue against it,” Leno said. “We did relent. Upon further reflection, however, we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
After so much work by state agencies, county workers, community health advocates and others to enroll people in Medi-Cal during implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Medi-Cal expansion, it was unfortunate to send the opposite message just when many were celebrating their success, Leno said.
“People were rightfully confounded,” Leno said. “It’s counter-intuitive to accepting the federal government’s offer of expanding Medi-Cal to so many more people. We participated in the expansion for a reason.”
Officials from the Department of Finance were reached too late in the day yesterday to respond to Leno’s comments for this story.
Enrollment renewal this year has been a little more confusing because of the new forms and for other reasons, as well, Leno said.
“The complexity of enrolling is exacerbated by the fact that children are eligible at 266% of federal poverty level, while adults are eligible at 138% of federal poverty level,” Leno said. “So that means many families will have to fill out two forms for different members of the family.”
All’s well that ends well — if it ends well, Leno said.
“So we will have $12 million in non-state taxpayer dollars to assist us, and that’s good for public health,” Leno said.
Of course, the measure still needs a governor’s signature to become law. “That I can’t address with any authority,” Leno said, “but we’re hopeful our ardent advocacy for this money will be enough to sign it.”