When the budget for a hugely successful program called Healthy Families was slashed by $178 million last April during the state budget revisions, it was beyond devastating for many of us. It was as if the last bit of air had suddenly whooshed out of the tires of the directionless big rig that is California.
What had we become? Could our state’s inability to govern itself really have put us in a position where we could no longer prioritize the health of our state’s children?
That sense from last spring is why it was a great relief, last week, to finally see California legislators do an about-face, push aside partisan politics and fully fund the Healthy Families program by passing Assembly Bill 1422. The new funding mechanism will work by creating a 2.35 percent tax on the gross premiums of companies that manage Medi-Cal insurance plans. Also, the bill increases the premium payments for parents and requires higher co-payments.
Now 600,000 kids of working families—the ones whose employers do not offer family coverage—will not be disenrolled from the low-cost health-care program.
It is true that this fix is just a small thing in the face of the overall wreckage the state’s new patchwork budget has made of crucial social and educational programs. There is no doubt: California is still in need of a major overhaul regarding how it governs itself.
But we’re thankful that the legislators came together on this bill. We’re particularly pleased to praise the three Republicans who ultimately joined the Democratic majority and supported the bipartisan vote. And we’ll hold it out as hope that there may be more bipartisan reason on the horizon in the year upcoming.