It’s doubtful that Governor Brown’s proposal to eliminate the Healthy Families program will accomplish the savings sought for the state budget. In addition, when transferring almost 1 million children to Medi-Cal, there’s a risk the care they receive will be negatively impacted.
Brown’s plan would eliminate funding for Healthy Families by October and transfer all children out by 2013.
As an alternative, children’s advocacy organizations recently recommended the transfer of 200,000 minors to Medi-Cal. These children would be signed up for this program with their families by 2014 anyway, under the federal health care reform that expands this benefit to households with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.
This process will provide some respite to avoid accelerating the unnecessary death of one of the most successful state programs, Healthy Families. The positive impact this program has had on participants has been demonstrated. It is estimated that 63% of children enrolled have shown improvements in school performance and paying attention in class.
During this period, the future of Healthy Families can be evaluated, and Medi-Cal can prepare to take on hundreds of thousands of new patients. At this time, system participants are already having a hard time finding doctors and dentists who will treat their children at the Medi-Cal rate.
On the other hand, a Legislative Analyst report put in doubt whether cutting Healthy Families would result in $60 million in savings, which is the main reason for Brown’s proposal.
We hope the governor reconsiders his proposal during the next budget review. Otherwise, hopefully lawmakers will find a way to avoid implementing rushed measures to save money and instead use a gradual approach that helps the state budget without putting the health care of 900,000 children at risk.