Changes to California children's healthcare won't be delayed, official says
A top official in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration said Tuesday that California will begin transferring poor children into a cheaper healthcare plan on Jan. 1, despite concerns from some lawmakers and advocates that the state's plan is inadequate.
California is eliminating the Healthy Families program next year and shifting nearly 900,000 children into Medi-Cal, which reimburses doctors at lower rates, in hopes of saving $73 million annually. The transition will happen gradually, starting with the easiest cases.
Diana Dooley, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said children won't be shifted unless the state is sure they will still get healthcare under the new plan.
“If they can’t meet those conditions, we will delay the transition," she told reporters after speaking at a conference in Sacramento. "At this point, everything is on track."
Democratic lawmakers agreed to eliminate the Healthy Families program as part of a budget deal with Brown earlier this year.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) wrote in a letter to Dooley last week that he's concerned the state is moving too quickly.
"Without additional time, the likelihood of children losing health, dental and mental health care coverage and access to critical services increases exponentially," he wrote.
Norman Williams, a spokesman for Department of Health Care Services, defended the state's schedule, saying officials have "thoughtfully planned this transition."
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Diana Dooley, the secretary of health and human services appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, in her office in January 2011. Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee