Q. I heard that the proposed CA Budget cuts to the Medi-Cal program are now off the table. Is that true?
A. Yes! Some background: Faced with a proposed $54 Billion Budget Deficit, last month Governor Newsom had proposed drastic cuts to Medi-Cal and other social programs that serve low income seniors and the disabled. Fortunately, the California State Senate and Assembly just soundly rejected those cuts included in the Governor’s “May Revise” Budget. Instead, they agreed to a budget deal that would address the deficit by relying, instead, on a combination of drawing on reserves, borrowing from special funds, temporary furloughs for state workers, limiting corporate tax credits and relying upon Congress to pass a relief package for states and local governments. This is very good news. It means that the proposed cuts to Medi-Cal and most other social service programs are now off the table. However, a part of the deal was that the Governor could still make these cuts effective July, 2021, if state finances do not approve.
Here is a list of what was saved:
1) Home and Community-Based Services (aka, adult day care)
2) The Multipurpose Senior Services Program (“MSSP”)
3) The In-Home Supportive Services Program (“IHSS”);
4) SSI/SSP: Current SSI/SSP benefit levels will remain;
5) Other Senior Programs: the budget preserves senior nutrition, caregiver resource centers, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, aging and disability resource centers, and Independent Living Centers.
6) Increased Income Limits to qualify for the “Aged, Blind and Disabled Program”, slated for August 1, 2020, is still on schedule, which will permit more seniors to qualify for ‘No Share of Cost Medi-Cal’, as well as dental benefits.
7) Very important: the deal avoided reinstatement of the old, draconian pre-2017 rules, which allowed the state to recover the value of Medi-Cal nursing home benefits received during lifetime, which claims often resulted in the forced sale of homes and the displacements of low income families after the death of their loved ones.
This Budget Deal is a very big deal, as the May reductions proposed to target some of the most vulnerable seniors and the disabled.
Unfortunately, the budget did not include extending Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented senior immigrants, but it does include intent language to do so should funding become available.
Saving these programs was the result of an effort by many well community groups, citizens who called their legislators, and the good will of our Governor and Legislators. As Hilary Clinton once said, it “takes a Village” to preserve our community.
One important related event: By directive from the Governor and ruling from Medi-Cal, almost all negative actions are on hold to ensure that individuals retain coverage during the COVID-19 Pandemic emergency.
References: Justice in Aging Summary; Center for Elders Independence “Adult Day Health Centers Spared“; Governor’s Budget Summary as of 05/14/2020 (before recent compromise); Medi-Cal Eligibility Information Letter No: I 20-08 (April 10, 2020), to prioritize “eligibility determinations for new applications”, immediate need requests, restoration of benefits, and to avoid negative actions and coverage gaps.