An End to the Healthy Families Saga

This afternoon, the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB), which administers the Healthy Families Program, voted to resume enrolling children for the first time since July 16 and to reverse its prior decision to remove tens of thousands of children from the program every month beginning November 1. The board was able to take these actions largely because alternative sources of funding were identified to plug the $196 million General Fund shortfall (primarily caused by state budget cuts) that Healthy Families faced in 2009-10:

  • As we reported in August, the state First 5 Commission voted to provide $81.4 million in tobacco-tax revenues to support enrollment of children through age 5 in Healthy Families.
  • Last week, the Legislature sent the Governor AB 1422 (Bass), which will raise an estimated $97 million in 2009-10 for Healthy Families by imposing a gross premium tax of 2.35 percent on Medi-Cal Managed Care plans. The Governor said in a recent press release that he would sign the bill.
  • The remaining shortfall ($17.5 million) was closed by shifting costs to families – specifically by increasing families’ premiums and copays for certain services – and restricting children’s access to higher-cost dental plans for their first two years on the program.

MRMIB’s action means that the nearly 90,000 children who were on the waiting list as of September 14 will gradually be shifted to Healthy Families. However, MRMIB staff reported that it could take 20 business days to work through the backlog. In the meantime, the waiting list will continue to operate until the applications of all children on the list are processed. Applications submitted during the next few weeks, as the backlog is whittled down, will go to “the bottom of the pile,” according to MRMIB staff – meaning they won’t be processed until the applications for kids currently on the waiting list have been reviewed.

— Scott Graves

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