By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service
Photo: Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his $209 billion budget proposal in Sacramento on Thursday. (Flickr)
January 12, 2019 (Sacramento) - The State of California would invest hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to healthcare and health insurance under Gov. Gavin Newsom's first budget, released on Thursday.
The budget includes $200 million to allow undocumented low-income adults ages 18 to 26 to access Medi-Cal. Previously, only undocumented children have been included.
Anthony Wright, executive director of the nonprofit Health Access California, thinks it's a good step toward universal coverage.
"This budget recognizes that our healthcare system is stronger when everybody is included,” says Wright. “I think the big debate over the next several months is how far down that path that we want to go."
Conservative critics warn that the state's generous health benefits could attract more undocumented immigrants, but Wright says studies show otherwise.
Newsom's budget proposal would also reinstate the individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance. It uses the fees from the mandate to increase subsidies on Covered California plans for middle-income families, those with incomes between 250 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level.
Wright says in the future, he'd like to see the state remove what's known as the "senior penalty" that hurts lower-income people on Medicare.
"It's what people would call a 'dual-eligible,'” says Wright. “People who are seniors, people with disabilities, who are underneath 138 percent of poverty level. They should qualify for Medi-Cal, which then provides additional supplemental coverage to Medicare, which has very high cost-sharing."
The budget projects a surplus of more than $20 billion and puts a big chunk toward education and Health and Human Services, while putting $1.36 billion toward reserves, unfunded liabilities and debt.