Newsom vetoes bill that would reimburse street medicine workers


Soraya Marashi


Sen. Sydney Kamlager’s Assembly Bill 369 was one of the several bills vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom at the conclusion of his 2021 legislation signings. The bill would have allowed for persons experiencing homelessness to be deemed eligible for Medi-Cal benefits.


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In his veto statement, Newsom said that programs already in place address the concerns referenced in the bill.

“From day one, my Administration has made treating and housing those experiencing homelessness a top priority. Understanding that homeless individuals face unique challenges in receiving the health care they need, California designed its Presumptive Eligibility program so that individuals experiencing homelessness can easily enroll in Medi-Cal and access timely health care. In addition, enrolled Medi-Cal providers can be reimbursed for street-based medicine or services provided outside the office to their patients. Additionally, Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans are responsible for coordinating and providing health care services to their members, including beneficiaries experiencing homelessness.”

Newsom added that the CalAIM initiative, which will start being implemented next year, will provide better services and care for individuals experiencing homelessness than those offered under AB 369.

“We can and must do much better than today. To that end, the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) initiative, authorized in the 2021 Budget, will provide a whole-person approach to care and include expanded benefits to address clinical and non-clinical needs of Medi-Cal beneficiaries. A new enhanced care management benefit and housing support services, delivered by community-based providers, will provide needed services to individuals experiencing homelessness. Creating a “carve out” for persons experiencing homelessness, on the eve of the CalAIM transformation, will cut out these patients from services that are being created specifically to support their health, housing stability, and overall well-being.”

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D – Culver City), told State of Reform her office is dismayed at Newsom’s decision to veto the bill.

“I am deeply disappointed and saddened that the Governor was advised to veto this bill rather than to sign it into law and incorporate it into CalAIM. In the meantime, I’m looking towards the Governor’s office to see how he makes good on his promise to address the immediate health and well-being of California’s unhoused communities.

I think the Governor is leaning on the belief that CalAIM, which has not yet been implemented, will address this issue. The challenge is that CalAIM does not yet exist. Waiting for it to get up and running and to iron out its kinks means that we are kicking the proverbial can down the road, as it relates to addressing street medicine for the unhoused. AB 369 would have reimbursed street medicine providers, eliminated barriers like ID requirements, and support different avenues to access care. It would have offered real, tangible solutions to real problems.”

Kamlager went on to emphasize her commitment to supporting access to affordable medical care for California’s homeless communities.

“Skid Row is in my district, so this fight is one I’ll continue to carry. Health care is a right. Ultimately, I will continue to listen to patients and providers in my district to determine what’s needed next to provide compassionate and comprehensive care in a way that meets patients where they are, especially when that’s on the street.”

Kamlager maintains that she will continue to have conversations with street medicine providers, as well as the bill’s 70 supportive organizations and entities, to decide on next steps. She stated that a reintroduction of AB 369 was certainly being considered.