California Health Advocates Commend Assemblymembers V. Manuel Pérez and Sandré Swanson as Children’s Health Care Champions

For Immediate Release
July 17, 2012
For More Information Contact:
Isobel White, (510) 828-3554

Sacramento, CA – Today, children’s organizations and Latino and black health advocates joined together to commend Assemblymembers V. Manuel Pérez and Sandré Swanson for standing up for children’s health. While many of their colleagues remained silent, Assemblymembers Pérez and Swanson stood up and urged state policymakers to protect the state’s successful Healthy Families Program, which provides low-cost, comprehensive health coverage to 900,000 California children.

In opposing the elimination of Healthy Families during Assembly floor debates in June, Assemblymember Pérez recalled the origin of the program. “In 1997… Latino Caucus members and Black Caucus members came together for self-determination, because they said that our youth need access to health care and Healthy Families is the program to make sure that they have access to health care.” Pérez added, “We’re talking about 409,000 Latino children that will no longer have access to Healthy Families. We’re talking about youth from rural areas [and] urban areas that will no longer have access to health care because of the transition from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal.”

Assemblymember Swanson rose during the floor debates to say, “It is irresponsible for us to not evaluate all the consequences that are involved here. These are our children; our most vulnerable children. So I cannot support this bill. You should not support this bill. The children affected by this, their lives will be affected by this for all of their life if they don’t get the early screening necessary to determine whether or not their predisposition for diabetes or other illnesses that now are plaguing our children. You cannot guarantee that this change will not have adverse impact.”

Assemblymember Pérez and Assemblymember Swanson joined a small handful of other courageous Assembly Democrats, including Assemblymember Tony Mendoza and Assembly Member Anthony Portantino, to vote against the Healthy Families elimination. Legislative Republicans also voted against the elimination of Healthy Families, with several Republican legislators speaking out strongly on the risks of the proposal. The trailer bill including the Healthy Families elimination passed both houses of the Legislature, with several Democratic Senators making a silent stand by not lending their votes to the transition. The budget trailer bill was ultimately signed by the Governor, leaving many concerned over how the Medi-Cal system will be able to absorb nearly one million children shifting into the program and children’s ability to find providers when they need care.

“While we are disappointed that the Governor and Legislature ultimately decided to eliminate the Healthy Families Program and transition all children to Medi-Cal, we are thrilled that California children have strong champions in Assemblymembers Pérez and Swanson,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now, on behalf of a coalition of leading children’s health advocates.

“The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California is deeply disappointed that both the Senate and Assembly voted to eliminate a highly successful program for suspect savings. More than 400,000 Latino children and families will be affected by this shift,” said Chad Silva with the Coalition. “However, we are greatly encouraged by the fortitude and integrity shown by those few who challenged the shift, including Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez, who was the first to take a stand, and Assembly Member Sandré Swanson, who was equally passionate in his defense of children and of the Healthy Families Program. They have our deepest appreciation for doing what’s right for our children, our communities."

“It is incredibly sad that the Governor and the California State Legislature have eliminated a program that will so severely impact the children in our state. Balancing the budget on the backs of youth is indeed tragic,” said B. Darcel Lee, Executive Director of California Black Health Network. “However, California Black Health Network applauds Assemblymembers Sandré Swanson and V. Manuel Pérez for taking the high road and exhibiting the courage to not only speak out on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves, but to follow that speech with his vote against the elimination of the program. Our African American children have a champion and we are pleased to call him our hero.”