California Budget Deal Gambles with Children’s Health

For Immediate Release
June 27, 2012
For More Information Contact:
Isobel White, (510) 828-3554
Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, (510) 663-1294

SACRAMENTO, CA – A coalition of leading children’s health advocates expressed outrage with the budget passed today by the Legislature, which jeopardizes access to health care for California children. This budget will eliminate the Healthy Families Program and shift nearly 900,000 children to Medi-Cal.

“With this short-sighted decision, the Administration and Legislature are experimenting with the health of 900,000 children,” said Peter Manzo, President & CEO of United Ways of California.
“Eliminating California's popular and successful Healthy Families Program is risky. The concerns about this proposal expressed by legislators today necessitate instituting a strong oversight mechanism to make sure there actually is a doctor available before each child is transitioned.”

“The Administration and Legislature say that this move will save $13 million in the budget year – but that’s only part of the math,” said Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President of The Children’s Partnership. “The deal risks a managed care plan assessment expected to bring in $183 million in revenues. More importantly, it endangers the health of nearly 900,000 children since many will have to find a doctor in a Medi-Cal program with little time to get prepared for so many new kids.”

“For those of us in the faith community, our values teach us that a basic goal of government is to ensure that all people have access to basic health care, and this budget deal fails that test,” said Corey Timpson, Executive Director of PICO California. “We are grieved by this decision and the effect it will have on our children, families and communities.”

The budget deal to eliminate the Healthy Families Program comes in spite of a steady and vocal outpouring of opposition from a broad coalition of pediatricians, other doctors, clinics, business leaders, consumer advocates, and community and faith organizations. A coalition of more than 70 organizations recently sent a letter to policymakers demanding that Healthy Families be spared. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislative Republican Caucus, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (the original author of the program) also expressed grave concerns about the elimination of the Healthy Families Program.

“It is absolutely critical that the state significantly improve access to services in Medi-Cal so that the program is able to serve both the children currently in Medi-Cal, and those children who will be transitioning from Healthy Families,” said Jamila Iris Edwards, Northern California Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. “Medi-Cal offers a great array of benefits, but if even one child loses access to the medical care they need, we all lose.”

“Legislative leaders have promised to watch the transition of these children like hawks,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now. “Our coalition, in turn, we’ll be following the whole process with an eagle’s eye, digging through the details like gophers, and raising the alarm like watchdogs if we see disruptions in children’s access to health or dental care.”

“We call on the Legislature to immediately convene a Select Committee to ensure that substantive safeguards, vigilant oversight, and detailed monitoring of access to care is ongoing so that children’s health is not compromised during their transition to the Medi-Cal program,” added Suzie Shupe, Executive Director of California Coverage & Health Initiatives.