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Lawmakers to probe Gov. Jerry Brown's Medi-Cal plans

March 05, 2013|By Michael J. Mishak

SACRAMENTO -- State lawmakers are set to probe Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to implement a major component of President Obama's healthcare overhaul.

An Assembly budget committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine the administration's proposal to expand Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance program for the poor.

Under the proposal, individuals earning up to 138% of the federal poverty levelĀ -- or $15,415 a year -- would be covered, potentially adding more than 1 million Californians to the Medi-Cal rolls.

While the federal government would subsidize costs for the first three years, phasing down to 90% afterward, Brown has raised concerns about the subsequent price tag -- and whether care would be administered at the state or county levels.

Currently, counties receive state funding to care for the uninsured. But Brown has said that if the state were to administer the Medi-Cal expansion it may reduce the roughly $2 billion it gives to counties each year to cover the new costs. In his proposed budget, the governor said the state might shift some state responsibilities, such as child care, to counties to offset costs.

County officials have said the governor's proposal could siphon critical dollars from their safety-net programs at time when they will still be responsible to cover residents who remain uninsured even after the federal Affordable Care Act takes effect.

In a report for Wednesday's hearing, legislative staff said lawmakers should call on the administration for more details and question whether counties should be mandated to share the costs of the expansion, given the federal subsidy.

"State costs are not projected to increase significantly for a minimum of three years, and potentially for as long as a decade or more," staff wrote. "Should the Medi-Cal expansion be derailed or even delayed as a result of self-imposed hurdles, a truly historic opportunity will have been lost."

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--Michael Mishak

twitter.com/mjmishak

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