Newsom’s budget to signal direction on health policy

This Friday, Governor Newsom is expected to release his budget for the new fiscal year starting in July. After mixed reviews on health in his first year, some observers are wondering if there might be more ambition from the governor with this week’s budget.

According to some health industry insiders, Governor Newsom’s budget will push health care forward, fueling anticipation toward taking the next steps to reach universal coverage. While there might still be a ways to go before the state covers all Californians, people in this camp believe last year’s investments laid the groundwork for new legislation this year centered around access and affordability. 

Investments we made in the final budget [last year] were important steps in the goal of expanding access and affordability to all Californians,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “They are a portion of the way of getting to full universal coverage. We made hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that can improve access and affordability and if we can take steps of at least that size, we can get to universal coverage by the end of the governor’s first term.” 

Contrary to what some said are firm steps forward towards ensuring health coverage for all Californians, other insiders said they’re not expecting any concrete push forward this year.

In the typical schizophrenic fashion of this town, no one expects much significant change to occur this year given the impending presidential election,” one seasoned capitol insider said. “In other words, lots of meetings, lots of hearings, lots of talk, not a lot of definitive action.” 

This insider signalled that the upcoming presidential election would likely be a deterrent to making significant changes this year.

 

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Among the insiders State of Reform spoke to, there was bipartisan consensus that Democratic legislators would take steps to expand Medi-Cal to undocuments residents.

The big health-related thing we’re expecting is another attempt to expand Medi-Cal to more undocumented adults. There have been two state auditor reports (2018-111 & 2019-105) which unequivocally found that millions of children are not getting required preventative health services and screenings,” said Republican Caucus Press Secretary, Jim Stanley. “Before we further expand Medi-Cal to anyone, we should ensure that California’s children are getting the level of care they deserve and are legally entitled to.”

Anthony Wright conveyed the position that immigration status should not preclude any Californians from receiving coverage.  

We are hopeful that California can take additional steps toward the goal of covering all Californians. We made major steps last year and hope that we can continue to implement this year in this budget cycle, such as expanding Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians regardless of immigration status,” Anthony Wright continued. 

Democratic legislators are already out with a call to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented residents over 65. 

Based on the information provided to State of Reform, there is likely to be a push towards greater accountability on housing and mental health funds in the session as well, something we may hear Governor Newsom speak to this week.