California Budget Deal Endangers Children’s Health Care

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2012
For More Information Contact:
Isobel White, (510) 828-3554 or Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, 510-663-1294

SACRAMENTO, CA – A coalition of leading children’s health advocates expressed outrage with the state budget deal announced today that jeopardizes access to health care for California children. The budget deal would eliminate the Healthy Families Program and shift nearly 900,000 children to Medi-Cal.

“The Governor and legislative leaders have struck a short-sighted deal that unnecessarily puts the health of California children at risk,” said Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President of The Children’s Partnership. “While we understand that hard budget choices had to be made, those choices should not fall on the backs of our children and their ability to get the care they need to stay healthy and succeed in life.”

“The Governor and Legislature are experimenting with the health of 900,000 children,” added Peter Manzo, President & CEO of United Ways of California. “Shifting all of those children out of a popular, successful program, with no guarantee that they’ll actually have access to providers, is an unprecedented and reckless move.”

The budget deal to eliminate the Healthy Families Program comes in spite of a chorus of opposition from a broad coalition of pediatricians and other health care providers, advocates, and community and faith groups. A coalition of more than forty organizations had endorsed an alternative proposal that would have better served children by transitioning a smaller group of children and including protections to improve children’s access to care. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office and the highly-respected research organization, the Urban Institute, also expressed grave concerns about the elimination of Healthy Families.

“This extremely disappointing decision to transition all Healthy Families children to the Medi-Cal program will severely impact access to health care for the 4.5 million children who rely on these programs, and it could ultimately keep children from receiving the preventive care and health services they need,” added Ted Lempert, President of Children Now.

“The budget deal underscores how essential it is that the state significantly improve access to health care 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. “We need to ensure that children are able to receive the health services they need in a timely way. If even one child loses access to the medical care they need, we have all lost.”

“It is clearer than ever that California needs to get its priorities straight, and move forward with revenue solutions that enable us to invest in our children and the future of the state,” said Corey Timpson, Executive Director of PICO California. “We cannot afford to keep making these devastating budget decisions that disinvest in services and opportunities for low-income children.”

Advocates emphasized the need for substantive safeguards, strong oversight, and detailed monitoring of access to care to guarantee the best possible outcomes for children’s health.

“If the Legislature approves this devastating plan, we must work hard to reduce the damage and ensure that no California children are worse off,” said Suzie Shupe, Executive Director of California Coverage & Health Initiatives.