Senate leader questions plan for childrens' healthcare
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) wants to delay shifting poor California children into a cheaper healthcare program.
In a letter Thursday, Steinberg said there are too many holes in the state's plan to ensure that children will still get adequate medical attention.
Officials had planned to begin transferring nearly 900,000 children from Healthy Families into the general Medi-Cal program, which reimburses doctors at a lower rate, on Jan. 1. The controversial change was included in the budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June and is expected to save the state $73 million annually.
Democratic lawmakers originally resisted eliminating the Healthy Families program but later agreed to the cut in a deal with Brown. Republicans also opposed the cut.
Steinberg expressed his concerns in a letter to Diana Dooley, California secretary of the Health and Human Services.
"Taking the time needed to resolve issues upfront is imperative," he wrote. "Without additional time, the likelihood of children losing health, dental and mental health care coverage and access to critical services increases exponentially.”
Healthcare advocates have already said the Jan. 1 goal is unrealistic.
"Such problems would create an unfortunate negative public perception of the state’s capacity to implement healthcare reform and also jeopardize the health of millions of children both covered by Medi-Cal and Healthy Families," they wrote in their own letter to Dooley.
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press